“Chess and libraries are an excellent fit”, says Dan Staples, coordinator of library chess at Chess in School & Communities (CSC). “CSC has helped over 267 libraries and community groups across the UK set up and run chess clubs (some are listed here) – and we are keen to help more.” Similarly, in Norway already 150 libraries have signed up for the “Chess and Society” project that was launched a few weeks ago.
Chess has a huge number of books written about it – a recent search of Amazon produced over 20,000 results. CSC provides equipment and has trained DBS checked volunteers. “We would also be very happy to provide our curriculum for libraries to stock in their catalogue and workbooks for the children to use. CSC has supported libraries to provide chess clubs for juniors, for adults and for both”, says Staples, who will Chair the Chess in Public Spaces Workshop at the conference.
International Games Week is an initiative run by volunteers from around the world to reconnect communities through their libraries around the educational, recreational, and social value of all types of games. During International Games Week in early November CSC has helped many libraries.
On Saturday 9th November Staples ran a workshop at the IGW Game Library Camp held at Leeds Central Library. Leeds Central Library has daily giant chess sessions at the entrance come rain or shine. On Fridays a CSC tutor is there to play and teach. There was great interest at the workshop in the CSC way of teaching chess. Staples met librarians from Bournemouth, Calderdale, Stockport and Stockton among many others. There was interest in having clubs for juniors and courses for older people.
Mary Rudge (1842-1919), who had been called the women´s world champion before the title existed, died today 100 years ago. She played her first competitive games by correspondence. This was no unusual start at chess for a woman in the 19th century. Rudge became Bristol Chess Club´s first female member after the club decided in 1872 to accept women.
was the youngest daughter of a medical doctor who taught his children to play
chess. She did not marry and worked as a teacher for some years. When she was
without income, friends remembered her chess prowess and organised exhibitions
for her to raise money. Rudge was most likely the first woman to give simuls.
The exclusion of women from clubs and competitions was still widespread when the first Ladies Chess Club was founded in London in 1895 and the first Ladies Chess Congress took place in London in 1897. Rudge who was already 55 years old won the main competition of the congress. The British Chess Magazine went on to refer to her as women´s world champion.
Rudge died in 1919 nearly two years before Vera Menchik and her mother and sisters moved from Russia to England. Soon afterwards the world chess federation FIDE was founded and introduced official women competitions. Menchik won all championships until she was killed in a German air raid in 1944.
Here are some tips to make the best out of your forthcoming trip. Bring your teaching materials to show around, and donot forget your business cards. If you make a presentation, please send it to us in advance (firstname.lastname@example.org) and consider a one page hand-out. We welcome posters about gender-related issues and projects. We cannot help with the lay-out but with editing and printing (email@example.com).
Our conference venue, the Irish Cultural Centre at 5 Black´s Road, is just two minutes from the underground at Hammersmith in proximity to restaurants and coffee shops. An M&S food store is just opposite the street. Hammersmith is located in West London on a direct underground connection from Heathrow. For other connections check Transport for London.
for wet, windy and cool, but not freezing weather. UK power plugs are different,
so don´t forget to pack the adaptor from your last visit. You can use your
wireless bank or credit card on public transport and you get exactly the same fares
as with the Oyster Card (paper tickets are much more expensive).
After the Saturday sessions you are invited to our special movie night (30 November): Join your peers and watch the acclaimed French movie Fahim on the true story of a talented refugee kid bringing out the best of a misanthropic chess teacher (Gérard Dépardieu at his best) and becoming a champion. The cinema inside the Lyric Hammersmith is just two minutes away from the conference venue, and the screenings will start at 7.15 and 9.15.
If you will still be around on the Monday (2 December) join our public presentation of the conference´s findings at 11 am at the VIP room in the Olympia Kensington. At this opportunity you can also observe Chess in Schools and Communities amazing schools programme with 500 kids coming in every weekday, you can shop at the enormous chess book stall, and you can stick around for Magnus Carlsen who will play from 4.30 pm in the final of the Grand Chess Tour.
Just in time for your visit, the Hampstead Theatre is to open a new play, Ravens by Tom Morton-Smith, on the match of the century between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. You can buy discounted tickets by using the Code LCC2019.
Away from chess London bristles with culture. Tickets to temporary art shows are pricy but often worth it. Personally, I will go for the triple bill (Gormly – Freud – Ecovisionaries) at the Royal Academy of Arts. Some of the best museum collections in the world are free to visit. Also free – and recommended – is the special exhibition PlayWell at the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road.
What do the actors Kevin Kline, Samuel Jackson, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Larry David have in common? All of them have played chess teachers on the big screen. This impressive cast is now joined by Gérard Dépardieu who excels in the French production Fahim. The movie has beenreleased in the German speaking area and Belgium will come to a few more countries in 2020. It has not found a UK distributor in spite of parallels with the recent story of Shreyas Royal, whose outstanding chess talent secured his family a permit to stay in the UK. Thanks to a grant from Chess in Schools and Communities and the production company Waiting for Cinéma, we have secured two special screenings during the London Chess Conference at a cinema hall, which is less than five minutes away.
Everybody who makes a living as a chess teacher or coach should see Fahim. It tells the true story of a boy who escapes from Bangladesh with his father, partly because of the politically active father fearing persecution, partly for the talented kid to find a grandmaster to train him. They arrive in France, and while the procedures for asylum are going down the drain, the boy connects with a local chess club. A grandmaster they don´t find there, but they find Sylvain, a slightly misanthropic chess fanatic who trains a few local kids and immediately recognizes the enormous talent that just walked through his door.
Sylvain is based on the junior coach Xavier Parmentier who did not live to see Dépardieu as himself, as he died from a brain tumour in 2016. The real Fahim Mohammad represented France in international youth competitions and is now a university student. It is not the fault of the movie makers that some online synopses claim that Fahim became world junior champion. Chess is represented correctly except for the excusable laying down of the king as resignation instead of the usual handshake. The world of junior chess is depicted amiably, and the French Federation is getting an image boost. The well-written movie, based on the book Le Roi Clandestin (2014), has humorous moments as well as the right dose of suspense. Our conference night this year will be a movie night. Join in!
Saturday, 30 Nov, 19.15 and 21.15 Lyric Hammersmith, 149 Hammersmith Road, 107 minutes, French with English subtitles
Why are there so few women in competitive chess? Why are less than two per cent of grandmaster title holders female? One apparently explains the other. In a journal article from ten years ago Fernand Gobet and his coauthors calculated that the lower participation rate accounts for 96 % for the performance gap. He later acknowledged a flaw in their calculation and estimated the explanatory power of participation to be closer to 60%.
In his recently published book The Psychology of Chess (Routledge 2019, GBP 9,99) Gobet has included a chapter “Men vs. Women”, in which he also considers biological, sociocultural and motivational factors. He mentions psychoanalytical explanations but calls them the least likely.
As keynote speaker at our conference on “Scientific Explanations of the Performance Gender Gap in Chess and Science” (on Sunday 1 December at 11) Gobet will go beyond chess and make comparisons with other fields. Male performance is usually more variable, and the standard deviation is higher for men than for women.
The Swiss International Master was briefly a chess professional in his 20s, before he started a PhD in cognitive science. Working with Herbert Simon, a most versatile social scientist and Nobel Laureate in economics, put Gobet on track for an academic career. His specialty is the study of expertise. Chess is a neat test case thanks to the availability of performance data. Gobet´s impressive publication list is including many more chess-related papers.
Gobet has spoken at most of the London Chess Conferences. He is on the Scientific Advisory Board of the ECU Education Commission. Both, scientific advisors and commission members, will meet ahead of the conference as in the past years. Until recently Professor of Decision-Making and Expertise at the University of Liverpool, he has moved on to become Professiorial Research Associate at the London School of Economics.
Participants from more than thirty countries are confirmed, and we expect to have up to forty countries present. We have always had a higher share of women than other not gender-segregated chess events, and female participation will be even higher this year thanks to our theme Chess and Female Empowerment. We are fairly optimistic that the tickets will be selling out, so we recommend you to register before it is too late. If you are a contributor you are prompted to register, so please check your e-mails.
Besides our usual keynotes, workshops, debates and software presentations, not to mention all the side meetings and training courses before and after the conference, our most diverse conference programme so far will introduce book presentations and film screenings. In the exhibition we are adding a book table. Another first is that we will present our main findings to the public on the Monday at 11 at the London Chess Classic together with our Honorary Director Judit Polgar, with Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen, who switched profession from chess to politics, and with other speakers.
Our opening session will feature female perspectives on chess in education and its competitive version. We will invite you to World Café style debates on propositions ranging from “Should Every Chess Team Have a Female Player?” to “How Can Chess (and This Conference) Become Greener?”. Three round tables are scheduled. Their topics are inclusion, FIDE and women’s chess. We have close to twenty workshops. As each will have two or more presenters you can imagine the richness and diversity of
We can still accomodate select contributions: Are you up to present the debate, if women chess titles should be abandoned, or if chess federations should focus on improving the performance of female players or on increasing their membership numbers? We can still accomodate a presenter or two in our workshops on “The Parents´ Role”, “Chess Programmes for Girls” and “Online Teacher Trainings”. Please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are pleased and honoured to reveal that Judit Polgar is part of the London Chess Conference as its Honorary Director. She has been consulting us on various aspects of the conference, its programme and its communications. As she will receive a Golden Pawn Award from the European Chess Union in Monte Carlo on 30 November, she will join the conference on the second day. She will be a discussant at the concluding round table “A Century of Women´s Chess: What have we Learned?”.
The best-ever female chess player has strong views on chess and gender. These are well-founded in her experience from growing up in a chess family to a successful career as a professional player. Even though she lead the women´s rating list for 25 years, she never aspired to win women´s titles. Instead she strived to compete with the very best regardless of gender. At her peak she was among the ten best players in the world. In the media limelight from a young age, she has sharpened her views over many interviews (one was just published on chess.com a few days ago) and public appearances.
She excelled as the main commentator of the last two world championships in 2016 in New York and in 2018 in London. The last time she participated in the London Chess Classic was in 2012 when she was interviewed by The Guardian.
Judit lobbied the European Parliament to support the introduction of chess in the education system and her country to make chess an optional subject, and most Hungarian primary schools have introduced it. Since ending her competitive career she has been promoting chess. She built a foundation and developed acclaimed teaching materials with her team. The Chess Palace Programme is already in practice for the seventh school year. Among its special features is artwork contributed by her sister Zsófia.
In 2018 she has accepted the position of Honorary Vice President in FIDE with a focus on chess in education and on gender. “I am very pleased to see both topics united in this conference, so I feel that I must be part of it”, Judit told us when she accepted to be Honorary Conference Director.
Jonathan Rowson is a grandmaster, three times British champion and an applied philosopher. Many players know him as the author of The Seven Deadly Chess Sins and Chess for Zebras in which he provided deeper insights into the psychological traps of playing than any other chess writer. Yet, Jonathan is neither a professional player nor a coach. His studies in philosophy at Oxford and Harvard led him down the classical road of exploring wisdom on which he wrote his doctoral thesis. His core theme is the ecological crisis and mankind´s failure to act. He has been working for an influential London think tank for many years and has spun off his own project Perspectiva.
Jonathan has never completely stopped playing and continues to follow top-level chess as attested by his twitter feed. Now he has returned to chess with another fascinating book. The Moves That Matter will be released in the UK next week and is out in the USA this Tuesday. To mark the occasion he contributed an op-ed to the New York Times.
He digs deeper than former writers in his comparisons of chess and life. “Chess simulates the meaning of life because it is a ritual encounter with death in disguise, where we experience the responsibility to stay alive one move at a time”, writes Rowson. On the pursuit of happiness which is fundamental to political philosophy in America and elsewhere, he comments: “So if we are pursuing happiness, both in terms of process and outcome, chess does not look like a good way to do it.” He rather thinks “of chess not so much as a path to happiness as a ritual where we free each other from the pressure to be happy”, and his best guess is that we are seeking joy in chess and in life.
Jonathan Rowson will present The Moves That Matter at our conference on Saturday, 30 November, from 1 pm to 2 pm during the lunch break. He will be interviewed by Stephen Moss from The Guardian, himself author of a unique chess travelogue. Jonathan Rowson will also answer questions from the audience and sign copies of The Moves That Matter which will be available at our book desk.
The World Chess Federation FIDE promotes the day of its foundation 95 years ago, 20 July, as “International Chess Day”. In the Spanish and Portuguese speaking parts of the world, chess afficionados celebrate 19 November, the birthday of the third world champion José Raúl Capablanca. About 50 000 Danish pupils participate in chess activities on Skolernes Skakdag, Scholastic Chess Day, which Dansk Skoleskak, one of the leading chess in education providers, runs on a Friday every February, again on 7 February 2020. Judit Polgar has picked yet another date, the second Saturday every October, as Global Chess Day that just saw its fifth edition.
The Hungarian activist has encouraged organisers all over the globe to run chess events on this day under the motto and hashtag #ChessConnectsUs to create a Global Chess Festival in thirty countries. The biggest of these events took place in Budapest, where Judit Polgar and her team set up an impressive programme in the prestigeous National Gallery. Competition, which is dominating most chess events, was just one of many aspects along with learning, creativity, cooperation and inclusion. This video nicely captures the spirit and atmosphere.
Our conference team member Rita Atkins, who ran four mini workshops on chess and maths during the event, reports “there was a great buzz to the festival with a great crowd attending”. Among the visitors were chess dignitaries such as FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich and London Chess Classic Director Malcolm Pein as well as international chess in education experts.
The lower pick-up-rate of chess by women and the male dominance in competitions have been a matter of discussion since ages. Many commentators treat the topic with galantry as has Savielly Tartakower in the above quote. It is taken from an impressive collection of statements, arguments and clippings that were excerpted by Edward Winter, the eminent chess historian, and span from the 19th century to the present day.
Apart from the male dominance among the commentators one can also observe that the disregard of chess by women is rationalized. Places and social circles where chess is played are not welcoming for women. On the other hand “Lasker´s Chess Magazine” warns in 1906 that the creation “of ladies’ chess clubs is a means of perpetuating mediocrity among its members.”
It has often been asserted that women lack the recklessness and ambition required to succeed on the board. Hermann von Gottschall, the Deutsche Schachzeitung´s editor, argued in 1893 that the typical female tendency for intrigues should empower their play. In the same light hearted fashion he went on to claim that their preference for light chatter should not at all hinder women, because in the usual café or club game talking takes precedence over the actual moves.
Von Gottschall wrote for a nearly exclusively male audience, as did so many after him. More recently, explaining the male dominance in chess has become a minefield, and that can also be established from Winter´s collection (which also contains the above photo from a book on the German Chess Congress 1905 showing an actress performing Caissa in the opera “The Royal Middy”, which features a notorious checkmating trick).