All posts by John Foley

About John Foley

Director, London Chess Conference Secretary, Education Commission, European Chess Union Director, ChessPlus Ltd Promoting chess as a way to develop thinking skills

Chess and Books

by Yaroslav Gaveiko, regional co-ordinator, youth organisation “Restart.lv”

Nowadays, children and teenagers pay less attention to reading books. Inevitably, this has led to a debate about the impact on their intellectual development.  Children and teenagers have less free time for exploring imaginative hobbies and spend almost all their free time on digital activities. Unusual steps are necessary to change the situation. Chess clearly has a positive effect on the development of mental abilities. Our education system must use ever more creative methods for children and teenagers to raise and maintain their thinking skills. Our idea is to pick up where Lewis Carroll left off –  a chess game through the plot of book. 

The Latvian youth organisation “Restart.lv”  conducts a wide range of public-spirited initiatives for children and young people. Of course, Latvia is a small country disproportionally famous regarding chess having produced Aron Nimzowitsch Mikhail Tal, Alexei Shirov not to mention Dana Reizniece-Ozola, our Finance Minister who happens to be a grandmaster. The branch of “Restart.lv” in Jekabpils , a small Latvian city, has developed an interesting  approach which has attracted the interest of children for both reading and chess.

The approach combines in one event books and chess using a large “garden” size set which allows children to be physically active. We successfully implemented in a modern theatrical production with “quest games” based on a book’s plot. We conducted the event in several libraries: to plunge into the fantastical world of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Alice through the Looking Glass” with children and teenagers.

Lewis Carroll’s Looking  Glass concept is interpreted by literary scholars as an allegory but we using it as an experimental theatrical experience. Within the framework of the “Alice Through the Looking Glass” event, children could play chess whilst enacting the book’s plot. Each child faced the paradoxes so beloved by the real-life Oxford logician.  The kids had to overcome these difficulties and they enjoyed it!

Indeed, there are many different books and films where chess is part of the story. Harry Potter is another source of inspiration for young people. Why not use the synergy of chess and reading, to develop scenarios for future quest games? In our experience, using large chess pieces on a non-standard chess table attracts attention. Children with individual characteristics will be able to complete a specific task and achieve their first successes. It is sweet to feel the taste of victory and socialise in a group.

Chess through the Looking Glass

How to proceed? It is necessary to develop scripts based on books containing the content of the chess game itself. This is an opportunity to effectively present chess and thus stimulate the intellectual environment of young people. Another bonus – the budget does not have to be high.

The ability to participate in a chain of initiatives or in a centralised event will allow children to test out their abilities in a fun game-based environment. Chess should not be heavy but presented in a natural way, enriched by combinations with other intellectual domains such as literature and drama. The objective is that all the participants should feel interested and get an emotional connection. No need to force your child to play chess  just give her or him the opportunity to find the game for themselves. Probably this will encourage more children to play chess.

Playing game and reading books can work together in a complementary way if we have enough imagination. The impact on the younger generation can be quite positive.  

Yaroslav Gaveiko mail

International Day of Human Abilities

An opportunity to promote soft-skills training in school and society

By Giulio Frasson, Centro Studi Podresca

In October 2017, Centro Studi Podresca, an Italian research institute for the development of human abilities, started a campaign for the creation of an International Day of Human Abilities under the United Nations in keeping with their Sustainable Development Goals. 

But what is it all about and what does it have to do with chess?

Society is rapidly changing, there is an ongoing technological revolution, educational systems need to adjust to provide the necessary skills to face the challenges to come. 

The McKinsey Global Institute report of January 2017 stated that “half of today’s work activities could be automated by 2055, but this could happen up to 20 years earlier or later depending on the various factors”. Basically, all the jobs that are knowledge-based will be easily replaced by machines, robots and AI. We need to rethink the concept of work and education.

In this framework, the development of  “human factors” becomes crucial. Schools, and also life-long learning programmes for adults, are currently focused on technical skills. But they should introduce a new field of learning – to improve the development of human abilities. 

Human abilities are the personal and relational skills, such as creativity, problem-solving, co-operation, lateral thinking, systems thinking, understanding, ethics, purpose, awareness, and so on, – the things that make us unique and keep us together as human beings. Human abilities are the base on which to build the society of the future. 

The remarkable “Chess in Schools” work, carried out by many national chess federations and scholastic chess organisations around the world already serves this purpose. This movement is perfectly aligned with the activity of other organisations that train soft skills in schools and work environments using other methods. Chess is not only taught for sports and recreational purposes –  it can be and is used as a tool to develop a variety of different personal and social skills such as focus, fair play, patience, co-operation, acceptance and many others, depending on how the activity is designed. There are many practices that have achieved considerable results in this field that should be better known and disseminated.

Centro Studi Podresca has been conducting scientific research into Human Abilities for 30 years and has developed a comprehensive method to train human abilities. Despite the fact that many good things are done, awareness on this topic needs to be raised significantly. The typical attitude towards human abilities is that they are part of one’s character and therefore are fixed.  The importance of social confidence and self-esteem for the quality of life is largely underestimated. Even where there is sensitivity, there is little knowledge on how to train these factors.

An International Day of Human Abilities established by the United Nations would be the most appropriate means to increase understanding and actions on the importance of developing skills to express ourselves and interact correctly with others in our daily lives. An International Day can stimulate much-needed debate and communication on a topic. It can lead to  the organisation of international summits of experts; conferences can emerge on the national and local level. It is an opportunity to provide information activities in schools, which is what happens with other topics that have international days named after them.   Hopefully, we will see reforms to educational systems and to the funding of innovative projects such as chess projects.

In this initial phase, the aim of Centro Studi Podresca is to gain support from authoritative governmental and non-governmental bodies, as well as from private citizens, towards a common document inviting the United Nations to designate a specific day to the promotion of human abilities. We would like the chess world to be part of this social enterprise.

8 and 9 December set for our 2018 Conference

We are pleased to announce that the 6th London Chess Conference will take place on the week-end of the 8th and 9th December. It will take place at the Irish Cultural Centre, Black’s Road, Hammersmith, London W6 9DT

The leading conference on chess and education is jointly sponsored by Chess in Schools and Communities, the European Chess Union, and Erasmus Plus. Attendees will be able to spectate at the nearby 10th London Chess Classic and to participate in its FIDE rated Open (which will overlap only with the final conference session). Please save the dates in your calendar.

The theme of the conference this year is “The Future of Chess in Education”. We invite all major chess and school chess organisations to present their vision and discuss the way forward and how we can work together. We want to publish a preliminary programme in the end of September. If you want to give a presentation or organise a session write us at info@chessplus.net

London Chess Conference Themes
2013 Chess and Education
2014 Chess and Mathematics
2015 Chess and Society
2016 Didactics of Chess
2017 Scholastic Chess
2018 Future of Chess in Education

School chess is evolving. The European Chess Union has launched its School Chess Teacher Training Course on didactical techniques ECU Course details. Chess in Schools and Communities is growing steadily and is now reaching close to 50 000 students in the UK. Its Danish counterpart Skoleskak has become a force in the education sector of Denmark by deploying chess as an educational tool to teach primary mathematics. This is also the theme of a grant by Erasmus Plus to a consortium of organisations to develop material for primary schools. The CHAMPS (CHess And Mathematics in Primary Schools) project brings together the Slovak Chess Federation, CSC, the Chess Observatory of the University of Girona and the Portuguese Mathematics and Games organisation Ludus. The outputs from the CHAMPS project will be presented at the conference.

Presentation videos from the 2017 Conference

Psychologist Karel van Delft, a chess education expert from the Netherlands (Chess Talent), recorded several presentations from the conference. You can also follow the actual slides.

In alphabetical order:

Maurice Ashley: School Chess, Research and Curriculum
www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOA6UTfRU-I&feature=youtu.be

William Bart: Making School Chess Research Relevant
www.youtube.com/watch?v=bY9DmrduE-g&feature=youtu.be

Reinaldo Golmia Dante: Research
www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvqEv0aq-Ko&feature=youtu.be

Leontxo García: Chess Across Subjects
www.youtube.com/watch?v=ho1jSN1SwP8&feature=youtu.be

Fernand Gobet: Chess and Intelligence – Lessons for Scholastic Chess
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hq6rbC4aiHU&feature=youtu.be

Jesper Hall: Does Scholastic Chess Need a Code of Conduct?
www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULU8AgaGFx4&feature=youtu.be

Mads Jacobsen: What is Scholastic Chess?
www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHnNGmEDE9c&feature=youtu.be

Ebenezer Joseph: Thinking Outside the Box – Enhancing Creativiy with Chess Instruction
www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmSlqVksqTQ&feature=youtu.be

Brian Kisida: School Chess, Research and Curriculum
www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoJaPMYcm4M&feature=youtu.be

Jakob Rathlev: What Everyone in Scholastic Chess Should Know about Evaluation
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ix4bs5gRWD4&feature=youtu.be

Sunil Weeramantry: A Blended Learning Chess Course
www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYPCv8dIUq8&feature=youtu.be

 

Conference Now Full

We have reached the maximum number of registrants for the 2017 Conference.  We thank all those who registered and we look forward to seeing you at the Hilton London Olympia at the weekend.

This is a highly professional and international event with  72 people from 24 countries. Participant statistics: 85% have experience of teaching chess in schools, 30% women, 30% British, 12 chess tutors, 8 professors, 8 international masters, 8 teachers, 6 Doctors, 5 from each of Slovakia, Spain and USA, 2 grandmasters.

We are grateful to those organisations who have made this event possible: Chess in Schools and Communities, European Chess Union, Erasmus Plus CHAMPS project.

The Impact of the London Chess Conference

It is useful to retread the history of the conference themes. The inaugural conference on Chess and Education in 2013 uncovered a considerable number of projects that had arisen independently around the world. It became clear that many teachers, pedadogues and tutors were working in parallel on the same issues. In the previous few years there had been an upsurge of chess activity in schools not restricted to after school clubs but also within the school timetable. To need for co-ordination and leadership in the field was recognised with the creation of the Education Commission of the European Chess Union in autumn 2014.

The connection between chess and mathematics was recognised by many educationists. Such was the level of interest that the theme of the next conference was Chess and Mathematics. This brought together experts in chess, games and mathematics in 2014 for a seminal conference. The mathematicians were positive about games as a teaching tool. It cannot be ignored that chess also brought an element of fun into the classroom. We began see that teaching chess in new ways, more specifically oriented towards educational purposes, could be productive for subjects such as mathematics.

Chess is part of our social history but the social benefits of chess have often been overlooked. Our theme in 2015 was Chess and Society. Major conflicts that year caused people to flee to Europe in large numbers. We heard about how chess, which crosses language and culture barriers, was being used for refugee integration projects, with Roma communities in Eastern Europe, with excluded children, with prisoners, for children with ADHD and Aspergers, for older people and so on. People attending the conference found spirited fellow travellers with whom they could share their ideas and enthusiasm.

The quest for new methods of teaching chess for these educational purposes led to the 2016 theme of the Didactics of Chess. Finding the best way to teach chess is a considerable challenge. The Soviet Union produced a cohort of grandmasters from the 1930s. With the breakup of the Soviet Union, the methods of the Soviet chess school were spread throughout the world. A highly structured training programme with focused study from a young age was the key to their success. However, this approach is unsuitable for general education where the purpose is to provide a balanced set of mental skills. Speakers at the 2016 event explained the value of teaching games in general. Other games than chess, such as go, backgammon and bridge, can also be valuable for intellectual development. One of the objectives of teaching games is for the children to become fully engaged in experience so that they achieve the full cognitive benefits. It is not necessary to play chess to a high level to obtain the benefits. This implies that we should deconstruct and isolate those elements which give rise to specific problem solving opportunities.

The theme of the 2017 Conference is Scholastic Chess. The purpose is to explore, explain, connect and co-ordinate the way in which chess is used for educational purposes in schools. The term “scholastic chess” implies the scholarly nature of the approach to chess i.e. it is chess for educational purposes. Sometimes the term is used as a shorthand to refer to chess in schools but it is necessary to distinguish between two forms of chess in schools: scholastic chess and competitive chess. The traditional approach to chess in schools has been to get the children to compete, with educational attainment being a hoped-for by-product. The modern approach is to adapt chess so that it is easier to teach and easier to learn and delivers educational benefits. Scholastic chess is taught by regular teachers rather than relying upon chess experts.

Connecting partners for co-operation in scholastic chess is one of the motivations of the London Chess Conference. We have never been particularly interested in featuring speakers who promote teaching competitive chess in schools. We strive to attract experts and educational activists who are open-minded about didactics and are prepared to learn from others and develop together. This spirit of co-operation has attracted the Education Commission of the European Chess Union to use the event as meeting venue. At this year´s Conference they have an important gathering with the recently formed Academic Advisory Board.

Grand projects have been also born at our series. The biggest Erasmus+ sponsored school chess project CASTLE (2014-2017), which has recently been successfully completed, was first presented in a side meeting at our inaugural 2013 edition. The partners of the recently approved Erasmus+ project CHAMPS (CHess And Mathematics in Primary Schools) first met together at our conferences in 2015 and 2016. Their new project will be officially launched at this year´s edition. The partners will not meet only among themselves but also with stakeholders such as the ECU Education Commission and with specially invited experts.

Co-operation was also key to a “chess in education” wiki. This was proposed by Kevin O’Connell, chair of FIDE Chess in Schools Commission. Luis Blasco de la Cruz, a school chess activist and IT professional from Madrid, is now co-ordinating the development effort. Luis will present the current state of the project and hopes to find contributors at our conference.

Our keynote speaker, Professor William Bart from the University of Minnesota will make the constructive proposal that there should be international centre for scholastic chess research to improve its quality, push its relevance and pool resources. Bringing together teachers and social scientists who study the effects of chess in education has always been a part of the London Chess Conference. The research statistician Giovanni Sala joined the psychology department under Professor Fernand Gobet at Liverpool University where he has been evaluating the impact of chess. Reinaldo Golmia Dante, an associate professor of education from Brazil, whom we connected with our conference speaker and neuroscientist Michelle Ellefson, is shortly starting to work with her at Cambridge University. We look forward to learning more about their exciting project and earlier school chess research in Brazil.

The ECU recently launched its new certification scheme for School Chess Teachers. The first training course was held in Madrid in July and the second course will be held in London in mid-October. The course was conceived and developed by Jesper Hall and John Foley who first met at the London Chess Conference and who are both on the Education Commission of the European Chess Union. They will present the course concept at the Conference.

Many other events happened as a result of connections made at the London Conference e.g.  Chess in School conferences  in Poland and Norway, and the Baltic Summer Chess Camp. If you made some special connections please let us know.

Join us to find and meet the best co-operation partners for your project! We are happy to include your call for partners in the programme.

2017 Conference Announced

We are pleased to announce the fifth edition of the London Chess Conference. This popular event is held at the London Hilton Kensington Olympia. It coincides with the London Chess Classic tournament when the world’s top players descend on London to battle for supremacy. The theme of the conference this year is Scholastic Chess i.e. using chess for educational purposes. Registration

We have invited keynote presentations on the themes of:

  • What is Scholastic Chess.

  • Chess and Intelligence

  • A Centre for Chess Education Research

We are planning workshops on:

  • Chess and Primary School Mathematics,

  • Evaluating Chess Education Projects,

  • Settings Standards in Chess Education and

  • Quality and Certification of Teacher Training.

We have invited a range of international experts in various aspects of chess education.  Confirmed speakers include William Bart (University of Minnesota), Agnieszka Bron (Stockholm University), Fernand Gobet (University Liverpool), Jesper Hall (ECU Education Commission), Jakob Rathlev (Dansk Skoleskak) and Jorge Nuno Silva (University of Lisbon).

We invite presentations on the above-mentioned topics, suggestions for additional sessions, debating topics and calls for co-operation. Please write to us at info@chessplus.net

The London Chess Conference remains the world’s foremost meeting point for co-operation, the exchange of ideas and networking with like-minded people. Ancilliary events include the first meeting of the Academic Advisory Board of the ECU some of who will share their research wisdom.  Also taking place will be the kick-off meeting of the CHAMPS Erasmus Plus project.  The CHAMPS (Chess and Mathematics in Primary Schools) Project is a new educational research and development project funded by Erasmus Plus led by a strategic partnership between educationists from the UK, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia and Hungary.  The results of the project will be presented at the 2018 Conference.

We are continuing to develop the conference programme. Regarding the schedule we can announce that the formal duration of the conference will be from Saturday, 2 December, 12.00 to Sunday, 3 December, 16.00. The conference will be a plenary event i.e. there will be one session thread which will enable attendees to listen to and interact with all the speakers.

Registration is available only through EventBrite.

The conference fee has been significantly reduced to £65 for both days, which includes refreshments and access to the London Chess Classic. Unlike in past conferences, there will be no waivers with the exception of CSC tutors.

Please book your travel soon.

Sponsors

The event is sponsored by Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC) and the European Chess Union (ECU). Erasmus Plus contributed towards CHAMPS project members attending the conference.

The Effects of Chess Instruction

Three of the people who have been involved with the London Chess Conference since the beginning have written a paper summarising the state of research into the effects of chess instruction.  Giovanni Sala, John Foley and Fernand Gobet have summarised the state of the art and theoretical challenges. The paper, which is an opinion piece in the the online journal Frontiers of Psychology, places the recent EEF study in a broader context. The EEF study was a large study in England conducted by the Institute of Education and funded by the Educational Endowment Foundation. The study found no long term effect of chess on academic performance. This study finding was regarded as disappointing by many in the chess community. However on closer inspection it turns out that the study had some serious weaknesses.

A major problem is the use of public examination results to indicate whether any intervention has an impact. The trouble arises because mathematics exam results in primary school in England appear to have been getting better and better over the last two decades. This may be because children are getting smarter or it may be for other reasons to do with school league tables and teaching to the test.

ks2mathsimprovement

In the upper diagram we see the latest results for KS2 mathematics (children aged around 11). Rather than the expected Normal distribution, we find what can only be described as a Half-Normal distribution.  Half the children have scored 75% or more. This is an extraordinary result because our traditional experience with children is that some are good at maths but most struggle. The skewed shape of the exam results deserves some explanation.

The lower diagram shows how the shape of the exam results distribution has shifted over the past two decades. What we are witnessing is the accumulation of effects of educational policies which produce good results irrespective of the underlying differences in personal ability of the children. Finally, in 2015, we see that the shape has shifted so far to the right (called negative skew) that the results in maths cannot be regarded as very helpful in representing the underlying reality.

The technical term for this artefact is the “Ceiling Effect”. If examinations produce an artificial limitation on the distribution of results then we cannot distinguish those children who might have done much better.  If most children are doing great, then how can an educational intervention such as chess make any noticeable difference? More generally how can any educational intervention be detected?  This is a wider issue for the mathematics education research community to resolve.

 

 

 

National Mind Sports Centre

Plans are afoot to establish a National Mind Sports Centre where chess and Go and other strategy board games can be played.  The project is a joint venture between the English Chess Federation and the British Go Association. It has long been desired to find a place to play league games and competitions and to hold gaming events.  Teaching and training would be part of the mix to encourage the next generation into the boardgame realm.

The latest initiative arose from Go player T Mark Hall who left a substantial legacy for the establishment of a centre in London.   He fondly remembered the place where he played go as a youngster and wanted others to revive the concept.  We are all familiar with the problem of finding a space for community activities.  Pubs and church halls serve the purpose but are not ideal.

The original National Chess Centre was in the John Lewis department store in Oxford Street.  John Spedan Lewis was a devotee of the game.  Unfortunately the Centre was bombed during WW2.  After the war,  a number of coffee houses, such as the Prompt Corner in Hampstead, open from 10-midnight, kept the spirit alive. It was popular with intellectuals such as George Orwell and European emigrés but eventually all these unique places disappeared.

A recent trend is the rise of board game cafés in which patrons pay a board fee and are expected to buy some drinks and maybe a meal. These are popular with young adults who are to be found socialising in fashionable places like DraughtsLondon in Shoreditch.

Casual Chess Cafe
Casual Chess Cafe London

Chess and Go have traditionally been played in relative silence, certainly at the higher levels. This factor has made it more difficult to find suitable venues and to attract people to clubs. Bridge, being an inherently social game, does not suffer the same problem. The Casual Chess Club which is held daily in the BFI bar off Tottenham Court Road shows that playing chess in a bar with chatter and music in the background are not always incompatible. There is scope for more than one type of playing area within a venue.

The latest plan is to concentrate all the activities related to mind sports into one place and to combine flexible game playing spaces with in a cafe and a merchandising outlet. The revenues generated from the commercial activities will help to defray the cost of the game activities.  Fundamental to this plan is the acquisition of a property which will cost at least £3 million. There are many issues to be resolved regarding funding options, corporate structure and charitable status.

Amanda Ross, who runs the Casual Chess Cafe, has been commissioned to conduct a feasibility study on the National Mind Sports Centre. She will outline her current thinking in a presentation at the London Chess Conference on Monday 12th December 2pm – 4pm. This session is open to all and does not require registration at the conference. Please come along if you would like to share your ideas and enthusiasm about how to achieve this laudable objective.

 

 

Special showing of the Magnus film documentary

We are delighted to announce that there will be special showing of Magnus for those attending the London Chess Festival (including the Conference and the London Chess Classic).  The film is being shown at the Bertha DocHouse, the home of documentary based inside the Curzon Bloomsbury.  The film will be shown on Sunday 11th December at 8.30pm.

Magnus Carlsen
Magnus Carlsen, London, England 31 March 2013 FIDE Chess Candidates Tournament Foto: Morten Rakke / NTB scanpix

Magnus  is a delightful documentary following the emergence of the greatest chess champion of modern times, Magnus Carlsen.  Watch the TRAILER.

The film lasts one hour and 18 minutes.  The adverts at the Bertha are short so you should be away by 10pm.  Even if you know the story of Magnus (and who in the chess world does not) there are some new images and videos from Magnus’s childhood which are worth seeing.

The Bertha DocHouse has a bar on each level of the cinema; the one on the ground floor is a nice meeting area, comfy sofas etc.  Travelling to the cinema by public transport from Olympia, go to Hammersmith (bus or walk) and then take the Piccadilly Line to Russell Square, the nearest tube stop.

To book tickets directly BOOK HERE (go to non-members on the left)

There is a concessionary rate available (£7 instead of £9) for advanced group bookings provided you email  Agnieszka by Friday 9th December. The cinema only has 55 seats and may get full.  You must go via Agnieska to get the concessionary rate – you cannot obtain this deal by booking direct.

Agnieszka