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

The Name of the Chess Queen in Different Languages

In accordance with the theme of the Conference, a closer look at the chess queen is essential. Why does the most powerful piece on the chessboard have a female identity? Chess is an abstract strategy game, so the naming of the pieces should be arbitrary – merely a polite fiction. Yet the name of the chess queen, seen in a historical and geographical context, reveals some fascinating aspects of European culture. Arguably, we are given the story of the emancipation of women.

Name of the chess queen in different languages

The “queen” was not always the queen. Asian and Eastern European languages refer to the queen as the “vizier” – a high ranking government officer – not necessarily female. Russian (ferz’) and Turkish (vezir) retain this derivation. The original vizier piece could move only one square in each direction.

As chess moved to medieval Europe the piece became more powerful – it could move any number of moves in any direction. During this period, it acquired a new identity – it became a queen, perhaps inspired by the powerful Eleanor of Aquitaine. Norway, Denmark, the British Isles and Iceland use the terms “king” and “queen”, easier perhaps having lived under monarchies since the Vikings.

The most common name for the piece in Western Europe is “dame” (or its cognates). As in the musical South Pacific, there ain’t nothing like a dame. In French, the piece is called the “dame”. This change in terminology happened centuries before the unfortunate Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France – who might otherwise be blamed for depriving chess of its noble character.

Most European languages use more than one word for the piece – not only “queen” but also “dame” or “lady”. The subtle linguistic differences between queen and dame would require a more extended exploration of aristocratic and political history beyond the scope of this article.

However, we should not overlook one simple explanation. The advent of chess notation brought about the need to distinguish between pieces. In many languages, the word for king and the word for queen have the same root. For example, in Spanish, the word for king is “rey” and the word for queen is “reina”. Chess notation requires clarity and so a word with a different initial letter meets this requirement.

The Queen Names map is not intended to be definitive. It illustrates that chess terminology imports the history and culture of the world. Long live the queen, the lady, the dame and the vizier.

Two cultural groups held out against foreign influence and retained their own words to refer to the queen: Estonia (Flag) and Georgia (Jackal). The Flag and Jackal – a tempting title for a book on chess name history – or a club for the independent-minded.

Announcing a new Chess Journal

This year’s London Chess Conference will feature a presentation on a new journal for the field of chess in education. The session will feature editorial board members, offer an overview of the journal’s scope, and provide an opportunity for questions and feedback.

Jerry Nash

Chess: Education and Science is the official journal of the Chess Scientific Research Institute (CSRI) at the Kh. Abovyan Armenian State Pedagogical University. In 2019, Jerry Nash from the USA was selected as Editor in Chief and the journal’s Editorial Board was expanded. The Editorial Board anticipates the release of the first issue during the first half of 2020. 

Chess: Education and Science will include news in the field of Chess in Education, pedagogical issues in chess education, chess-related research, and literature reviews.

Journal articles will include emphasis on the following areas:

  • Psychological (cognitive processes, intelligence, psychological conditions and phenomena, etc.)
  • Sociological (the educational potential and possibilities of chess and social attitudes towards chess as an educational innovation)
  • Pedagogical (aspects of teaching chess, interdisciplinary interconnections and issues of professional training)
  • Chess (research based on the essence and uniqueness of chess in the context of education).

Contributions are being accepted for upcoming editions of the Journal. For additional information, contact Jerry Nash.

A journey for a fairy tale

Tatyana Ogneva

When I started teaching chess to primary school children after all the basic lessons, I had to face the problem of children’s fatigue. Tired children and chess are incompatible. Taking into account that chess lessons are conducted in the afternoon, some children tend to sleep. Other children are too tired to keep their temper in line, and they are not able to sit quietly at the table. In both cases, all these conditions hinder chess teaching since children’s attention is distracted. 

I started searching for a resource that would open up a source of energy for children. Finally, I found it. It turned out to be children’s imagination. I animated chess pieces and pawns, endowing them with aspirations and goals that children were able to understand. In this chess kingdom, pawns were children, and chess pieces were adults taking care of these children. Once upon a time, the pawns-children came up with a cunning plan, which resulted in a chain of events. When I told these stories to pupils, I noticed that their fatigue disappeared without a trace. Their faces brightened up, there was interest in their eyes and their only desire was to get to chess as soon as possible and play these stories themselves. They turned into characters of these chess stories and were completely immersed in the game activity. I was very surprised by the fact that children who had just got to know the rules of moves played the game very reasonably. It was obvious that they did it mindfully, with an awareness of the purpose that they understood through the image that lived in their imagination. However, the surprises did not end there. In addition to playing out these stories, pupils solved chess problems presented in the form of a hunter’s struggle with a monster trying to take possession of a treasure chest. The biggest challenge for me was to make children walk and not run when they went to the classroom. The children, burning with impatience, often broke into a run.

Since then, working with children’s imagination has become my main method for teaching chess to beginners.

Once, I saw on the FIDE website an announcement about a chess conference in London dedicated to chess and mathematics. The organizers of the conference arranged a competition for the best chess mini-game. I sent my game called “chess football” and a description of the exercise about the hunter and the monster to take part in this competition. John Foley sent me a letter with his comments about “the hunter and the monster”. The point was that to fight for treasures is very mercantile and is beneath a real hero. One must save the princess; this is the mission the hunter must fulfill. John Foley, the organizer of the competition, invited me to the conference. As a result, my game “chess football” won the competition. I was happy to personally attend this event and receive congratulations from the audience.

Football Chess

John Foley’s remarks haunted my mind. I started thinking about the princess. At first I was confused: “Where did she come from and how did she find herself in the monster’s cave?” I thought. The more I thought about the princess, the more I began to imagine the circumstances leading up to this sad event.

Eventually, she was rescued and it ended well. As a result of these reflections, the fairy tale “The Adventures of Alex in the Chess Kingdom” was born. The idea of the fairy tale unfolded in front of me in its entirety, but there was one problem. I did not know how to start it. The main character’s motivation to learn the chess game was not clear for me. “Why will he do it? What will be the driving force behind his intention?” I asked myself and could not find the answer.

I received the answer to this question when I took part in a Skype conference organized by the Nizhnevartovsk Methodological Center where I presented a report about my trip to London. Vladimir Poley from Belarus, who now works in Sweden, also was among the speakers. He spoke about the annual school championship of classes, where everyone’s participation is valuable, as it can have a decisive influence in the fight for the title of the champion of school teams. This information helped me to understand what could be the driving force for the hero of my fairy tale to learn chess. He did not want to let his classmates down, because they prepared for this competition. So he decided to learn to play chess.

The Prince’s Adventures

Last year I submitted this fairy tale to the competition among chess teachers of Russia and became one of the winners. This year I published a textbook on teaching chess to children, which included this fairy tale. To date, I have written four educational chess fairy tales with beautiful illustrations by the talented artist Tatyana Bogacheva. I am very grateful to John Foley for the incentive that I received when I took part in the conference in London.

London Chess Conference 2019

Our 2019 Preview Video

7th Annual London Chess and Education Conference on 30 Nov – 1 Dec, Irish Cultural Centre, Hammersmith

The theme of the 7th Annual London Chess and Education Conference on 30 Nov – 1 Dec is “Chess and Female Empowerment”. The conference examines the involvement of women and girls in chess and presents insights into how to improve the gender balance. The conference will be of interest to women chess players, organisers and educators.  Primary and secondary school teachers will learn how to make chess a more engaging activity through its social and collaborative modes.  The conference will also provide ideas and initiatives for those striving to improve the engagement of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

The Conference will present new findings from two major surveys on women and girls in chess.  A large study conducted by the European Chess Union presents statistics on women and girls in national federations throughout Europe. A study conducted through the US Chess Federation will provide qualitative insights into chess and gender issues. An analysis of online play in the Netherlands will provide details of how boys and girls compare.

The conference comprises plenary sessions interspersed with parallel streams comprising presentations, workshops, discussions, debates and demonstrations. Several speakers will relate their own personal experiences as a woman in a male environment whether playing, arbiting or organising. 

A wide range of issues will be covered including:

  • creating a safe and welcome environment for women   
  • successful women who played chess
  • why do girls give up chess?
  • how to make chess more accessible to women
  • challenges for women officials
  • lessons from other sports

Those expected to attend include:

  • Janton van Apeldoorn (NED)
  • Rita Atkins  (HUN)
  • Lorin d’Costa (ENG)
  • José Antonio Coleto Calderón (ESP)
  • James Conlon (ENG)
  • Julie Denning (ENG)
  • Alessandro Dominici (ITA)
  • Dr. Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni (ENG)
  • Chris Fegan (ENG)
  • John Foley (ENG)
  • Tania Folie (BEL)
  • Fernand Gobet (SUI)
  • Ljubica Lazarevic (SRB)
  • Alice O’Gorman (IRL)
  • Maureen Grimaud (USA)
  • José Manuel González Guillorme (ESP)
  • Jesper Hall (SWE)
  • Alexis Harakis (ENG)
  • Jovanka Houska (ENG)
  • Sarah Hurst (ENG)
  • Jo Hutchinson (ENG)
  • Mads Jacobsen (DEN)
  • Ilaha Kadimova (AZE)
  • Stefan Löffler (GER)
  • Smbat Lputyan (ARM)
  • Sean Marsh (ENG)
  • Carol Meyer (USA)
  • Etienne Mensch (FRA)
  • Jerry Nash (USA)
  • Vince Negri (ENG)
  • Mikkel Norgaard (DEN)
  • Brigitta Peszleg (HUN)
  • Marcel Pruijt (NED)
  • Sophia Rohde (USA)
  • Jonathan Rowson (SCO)
  • Agnieska Sapkowska (POL)
  • Vahan Sargsyan (ARM)
  • Pep Suarez (ESP)
  • Mark Szavin (HUN)
  • Malcolm Pein (ENG)
  • Mike Truran (ENG)

We will also continue our focus on chess in education with parallel sessions.

In the week which follows, 2nd-6th December, there will be professional teacher training courses at the venue certificated by the European Chess Union. The courses cover Teaching Chess in Primary School (ECU101) and Learning Mathematics through Chess (ECU102). Further details can be found here.

Registration  

The conference fee is £65 for one day and £95 for both days. Participants of the London Chess Classic Open or Week-ender can take part on both days with a one-day-ticket. Female members of the English Chess Federation are eligible for free entry by sending an email in advance to conference@chessplus.net with your membership number. 

Lead Sponsors

The event is lead sponsored by FIDEChess in Schools and Communities (CSC), the European Chess Union (ECU) and the English Chess Federation (ECF).

Photo from Michal Vrba

Chess and Female Empowerment

Join us on 30th November and 1st December

Please save the date of the next London Chess Conference. Our seventh edition will again coincide with the start of the London Chess Classic on the weekend of 30th November and 1st December 2019. The Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith proved to be a popular venue last time and so we will be there again. The theme this year is the topical – “Chess and Female Empowerment”. More information on this will follow soon.

We will also continue our focus on chess in education with parallel streams of presentations, workshops and debates. We are also planning side-events including displays and an exhibition. In the week which follows, 2nd-6th there will be professional training courses certificated by the European Chess Union on Teaching Chess in Primary Schools and on Teaching Mathematics through Games on the ChessBoard.

We are delighted to announce that the Conference is being sponsored by the World Chess Federation (FIDE), the European Chess Union (ECU), Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC) and the English Chess Federation (ECF).

Please contact us if you want to suggest a workshop session or debate. If you want to give a presentation please send a title and summary (max. 100 words) by 15 September latest to conference@chessplus.net

See also London Chess Classic

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.