Category Archives: Community

Hundreds of UK Libraries have Picked up Chess

“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.  

With only Competitive Chess We Remain Weak

France is the must-watch-country for all chess federations. Bachar Kouatly has devised an exciting turnaround of the French Chess Federation (FFE) to “a broad direction, a transversal direction, not only a narrow focus on competitive chess. Without it, the federation doesn’t exist, but with only competitive chess we remain weak.”

Chess is now helping to improve social cohesion and inclusion, explained Kouatly in his remarkable presentation: “We are a tool in the public policy in France.” The prime example is an agreement with the Ministry of Justice´s Department for Youth Protection. Adolescents at the brink of prison can now learn and play chess. The Ministry is paying the chess teachers and club membership fees.

When Kouatly was elected as Federation President two years ago, Jean-Michel Blanquer was one of his election team. Blanquer has since become Minister of Education and is opening doors for chess in France. The Federation has signed agreements with the national associations of sport in primary schools (USEP), sport in secondary schools (UNSS) and with French schools outside of France (AEFE).

An important meeting with the latter prevented Johanna Basti from coming to the London Conference. She negotiated the contracts with the national institutions on behalf of the Federation and is a member of the new Education Commission of the European Chess Union. Blanquer and Basti believe in the social potential of chess but are not rooted in competitive chess. In the past, the French Federation had been run by school teachers who, perhaps paradoxically, were oriented to competition rather than education. Their commitment to the conventional implementation of chess left no room to develop chess more widely within society.

Bachar Kouatly, who was the first Grandmaster in France and is a successful technology entrepreneur, appealed to chess federations everywhere to bring in more people from the outside: “If you are able to bring other people with fresh blood and fresh ideas who will put you out, it means you succeeded!”

Which Workshops for You?

During the parallel sessions of the conference you will have a choice where to go to. Here are brief summaries of the workshops in chronological order.

Saturday afternoon

Chess in Education Strategy This two-part workshop picks up key issues from the first plenary session and addresses how strategic processes can be organised and communicated within organisations and towards stakeholders. (15-16 and 16.30-18)

Chess in Communities Chess projects that are serving social purposes in its immediate surroundings require a different outlook than competitive chess. Three project leaders share their challenges and provide inspiration. (15-16)

Chess in Prisons Chess has been a popular pasttime of prisoners for a long time. Recently it has been picked up as an intervention to educate inmates and young at-risk delinquents. Prison chess leaders come together to exchange experience and develop a joint research project. (16.30-18)

Sunday morning

Large Scale School Chess Events They are a corner stone of promoting and marketing school chess. Presentations on the UK Chess Challenge, Belaya Ladya, Linkes Alsterufer gegen rechtes Alsterufer, Schack4an and the K12 (Super)Nationals will elaborate what makes each of theses events special, and maybe why none has a conference attached to it yet. (9.30-11)

Business Development How can you put your school chess project or teaching business on firmer ground and make it more efficient? Neil Dietsch, who after a long corporate career is running school chess in Alabama, will conduct this hands-on workshop (9.30-11)

Book Presentation: The Learning Spiral Kevin Cripe, a retired teacher who is now running a chess project for disadvantaged kids in Panama, will present and discuss his new book on chess didactics. (10-11)

Teaching Coding and Computer Skills through Chess Strategy games, and chess in particular, provide a great pathway to introduce young students to coding and teach them other computer skills. Boris Raguet, a French teacher and teacher trainer, shows how this can be accomplished. He will be introduced by David Kramaley. (10-11)

Sunday afternoon

Early Years Chess Starting out on chess with preschoolers or first graders comes with special challenges but also with opportunities to use chess to promote basic numeracy, literacy and psycho motor skills. (13.45-15.15)

Making School Chess Research More Relevant Most studies of school chess have concentrated on cognitive benefits and simple comparisons with control groups of children that didn´t learn chess. While their results may be useful for marketing, different research questions and methods are required to improve the quality and efficacy of school chess. (13.45-15.15)

Promoting Social Skills through Chess Initially often targeted at mathematic and logic skills, those who teach chess in schools often find that social skills are promoted equally or even priorily. (13.45-15.15)

Workshops provide ample opportunity to answer questions, discuss and start cooperating

Workshops to Break New Ground

Workshops form a large part of the London Chess Conference programme. They provide ample opportunity to present projects and findings, exchange best practices and to discuss challenges and new ideas. Many ongoing conversations and cooperations have started at our workshops. The range of workshop topics reflects the diversity of our attendees.

Chess in Communitities (Saturday 15-16) and Early Years Chess (Sunday 13.45-15.15) gather best practice examples in the respective fields. Chess in Prisons (Saturday 15-16) has the specific goal to start an informal network of chess-in-prison projects and also link them with a researcher interested in studying the effect of chess on inmates. Making School Chess Research More Relevant (Sunday 13.45-15.15) brings together scientists and school chess leaders to discuss methodological challenges and ideas for future research.

Increasingly we hear that chess not only helps with numeracy and literacy. Therefore we introduce a workshop on Promoting Social Skills through Chess (Sunday 13.45-15.15). Maybe surprisingly, we never had a workshop before on Large Scale School Chess Events (Sunday 9.30-11) even though the UK Chess Challenge, Schack4an, K12 Nationals, Linkes Alsterufer gegen Rechtes Alsterufer and Belaya Ladya are legendary events whose strategic value for public affairs and marketing cannot be overestimated. Speaking of Strategy, another ground-breaking topic is School Chess Strategy with so many speakers and organisations lined up that this workshop will come in two parts (Saturday 15-16 and 16.30-18).

Following up on this is a workshop on Business Development for School Chess (Sunday 9.30-11) which promises to be highly relevant for aspiring project leaders and professional chess teachers. Neil Dietsch is leading this. Also on Sunday morning we will feature two pioneers: Kevin Cripe, a Californian school teacher who has started a chess project for impoverished children in Panama, will discuss didactic innovations as described in his new book The Learning Spiral (Sunday 10-11). Boris Raguet, a French teacher and teacher trainer, will show how to apply chess to teach coding and other computer skills (Sunday 10-11). Make your pick!

Christmas Céilí Night

Chess tutors are always saying to me:

‘I could have danced all night
I could have danced all night
And still have begged for more
I could have spread my wings
And done a thousand things
I’ve never done before…’
 

Well, this year their luck is in!

The 6th London Chess Conference, organised by ChessPlus and supported by Chess in Schools and Communities, is making the most of its change of venue.
The Irish Cultural Centre is hosting the Christmas Céilí Night

with The Gleann Catha Céilí Band on the evening of Saturday 8 December – and anyone who has enrolled for the conference can come along and join the fun for a mere £8.

Put on your dancing shoes, lose your inhibitions and make your booking here!
Perhaps your evening will end with the words:


‘I’ll never know what made it so exciting
Why all at once my heart took flight
I only know when he began to dance with me
I could have danced, danced, danced all night…’

The Foolish King

The 6th London Chess Conference, organised by ChessPlus, will be held in London on the weekend of 8-9 December.

The theme of the conference is The Future of Chess in Education and many speakers are being assembled to deliver high-quality material.

The addition of Mark Price to the programme is significant.

Mark wrote The Foolish King, which was included in the Delancey UK Chess Challenge packs two years ago.

I found the book engaged and entertained the children in my chess classes and I am looking forward to seeing Mark’s presentation at the conference.

 

Providing chess services – the Newham model

wales,sirrobin300
Sir Robin Wales is the Mayor of Newham and a supporter of chess in schools and communities.

The London Borough of Newham has taken the lead in providing services for its citizens through a partnership with Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC). Newham is one of the poorest districts in not only London but England and has one of the highest ethnic minority populations. The London Olympic Park and Stadium were located at Newham as part of a regeneration plan. Chess is known to be relatively most effective in improving the educational attainment of children from deprived families and those whose parents were born abroad.

Newham wants to ensure that its children and the wider community are able to access supervised chess sessions. This could only happen as a result of political support. In the last Council the Newham Labour party election manifesto included the promise that “Every Newham child a chess player”. The Council has contracted CSC to provide chess services. Through the partnership between Newham Council and CSC, over 1100 children in 21 Newham schools receive a weekly timetabled one-hour chess lesson. In addition there are another 150 children playing chess in either breakfast, lunchtime or after school chess clubs. This contract is a model that could be adopted by other local authorities.

As part of the contract, CSC also runs community chess clubs in five Libraries. These are popular with over a hundred adults and children playing regularly. Two more Libraries wil join the project in 2016. To continue the community ethos, CSC runs a Newham team in the London Chess League which gives an opportunity for adults to play at a higher level.

Children are also encouraged to be involved in competitive chess. CSC supports the Newham primary school team in the EPSCA (English Primary Schools Chess Association) tournament at the under 9, under 11 level. Newham is to host the 2016 under 9 East of England zone.

This academic year CSC started a five tournament junior grand prix series in Newham, running from September 2015 to February 2016. This gives the juniors of Newham a chance to play tournament chess within three miles of home. The Newham/CSC project has produced some very strong juniors who regularly compete in and win age group tournaments in Essex and Kent. Towards the end of the academic year, CSC hosts a Newham primary school team championship, which this year attracted over 200 children. In summer 2016 CSC is looking to hold an adult chess congress in the Borough.

Richard Harding, the CSC project co-ordinator said “The partnership between Newham Council and CSC gives opportunities not just to its young people,but the whole Newham community to learn the fantastic game of chess”.

Newham Councillor Ken Clark will be the opening speaker at the conference.

In the photograph at the top, Newham children are playing an online match against a team from Sunrise, Florida. The match was organised with the support of the both Mayors.

Inspiring teachers to introduce chess

SeanMarshSunderlandSean Marsh runs chess projects in Teesside in the north east of England bringing many children into chess. He reflects on the factors which inspire teachers to offer chess.

1) Concentration. To play chess well – or to solve chess problems – children must learn how to improve their concentration and to remain focused and ‘‘on task’’ throughout a full game. It is very noticeable how games between the children start to last longer as they progress through their weekly lessons. Generally speaking, children have a strong desire to win when they play games and they quickly understand how paying attention during the lesson input leads to improved results over-the-board.

2) Discipline. It is not always easy to maintain discipline during a game of chess, in which mistakes – large and small – will occur on a regular basis. Yet self-discipline is an important characteristic if one seeks success. Through chess, children learn to live with the responsibilities of their actions. One bad move can undo a lot of hard work, but children learn how to deal with disappointments and – even more importantly – how to recover and come back stronger next time. 

3) Good sportsmanship. Fortunately, chess retains a certain degree of etiquette missing from various sports and games with a higher profile. Children are encouraged to shake hands before and after each game, regardless of result. Bad sportsmanship can lead to reduced opportunities (losing a place on the school team, for example) as children must, at all times, remain perfect ambassadors for their school.

4) Impact on Literacy and Numeracy. Chess in Schools and Communities recently collaborated with the Education Endowment Foundation (‘EEF’) to assess the impact of regular chess. The fact that the EEF should feel inclined to conduct a serious study on the impact of chess lessons should provide ample indication of the growing status our of our curriculum. Chess is traditionally linked with mathematics but I strongly feel the impact on other academic areas is consistently underrated. An easy example would be to highlight the creative and imaginative skill required to visualise a desired position a few moves down the line; such skills are transferable to other academic pursuits, such as writing stories, for instance.

5) General Learning Skills. Chess lessons offer a perfect combination of the three key types of learning: auditory (listening to the tutor), visual (watching the action on the tutor’s demonstration board), and kinesthetic (working in the pupil workbooks and playing games).

6) Opportunities. Chess is an absolutely ideal game for breaking down boundaries. Time and again it comes as a great surprise to teachers when they find particular pupils excelling in our lessons and tournaments. With everyone starting from the very beginning, previous classroom ‘‘pecking orders’’ and the like are rendered superfluous. Additionally, children who do not excel at sports have the opportunity to represent their school for the first time, thus boosting their confidence and pride.

7) Fun. Apart from the academic side of things, anyone who witnesses our chess lessons will develop the distinct impression that the children are having a lot of fun! Believe me, when children are having fun yet remain fully engaged by the tutor, the scope for even more learning grows considerably…

Batsford Book of Chess CoverSean, author of a recent Batsford book From Beginner to Winner will be speaking about chess in the Teeside community at the conference.

Reaching out to Roma children

In the Roma culture children are usually removed from school at an early age before they reach secondary school. They may have a basic grasp of numeracy and literacy but they do not benefit from the wider educational opportunities. The children who stay at home with unemployed parents in impoverished conditions have limited chances in life. This is a particularly serious issue in Eastern Europe where there is a significant proportion of the populartion who are Roma.

A project in Hungary is trying to address this problem. The Ministry of Education has selected the Chess and Logic programme developed by Erzsabet Sarlos and her team to make school lessons more interesting. They have found that when children play chess at school, their motivation to remain at school increases. The effect is greatest when children are introduced to games-based learning from the age of 6 or 7.

sarlose
Erzsébet Sarlós

The mayor of a Roma town is leading the introduction of the programme in the local school. Teachers do not need to be a chess player or a logician. The teachers undergo a well-designed 60-hour training course and are provided with the classroom materials. The programme is in its early stage but they have noticed improvement in the behaviour of the children. There is a high incidence of fighting among the community as a way to resolve differences. Chess teachers emphasise the need to respect one’s opponent and to accept defeat in good spirit. The morality of chess may be more important than the logic.

Top photo: Roma children in Hungary

Pub chess – recapturing a tradition

The most common place to play chess in England is in a pub. This is not because pub regulars decide to take up the noble game. It is because most clubs hold their league matches in a pub. Typically they will occupy a dingy room upstairs, the landlord glad of a little extra custom. The clubs usually have little choice as to where to play.

We should of course welcome chess in pubs. The informality of the surroundings promotes social interaction. Other members of the public can observe chess being played expertly with clocks. Many people approach the boards to watch and often enquire about getting involved. Pubs bring chess out into the wider community.

A drunken knight
A drunken knight

The Kings Head pub in Bayswater, west London lent its name to a famous chess club. The aptly titled Drunken Knights club plays in the Plough near the British Museum. My local club in Kingston-upon-Thames plays at the Druids Head pub in the historic market square. We are not alone in our quest. A board games club meets there as does the local Philosophy discussion society. Pubs are the new community centres. They need us because they are losing custom to drink-at-home, pay-TV lifestyles.

Clubs are moving to pubs not just from choice but because there has been a shift in community infrastructure. The places where clubs once met are rapidly disappearing or have become unaffordable. The other traditional places where clubs met were in church halls, community centres and in workers or veterans clubs. All of these are under threat of closing. The unstoppable economic force is the increasing rent. The population density in London must be amongst the highest in the world and this is driving up the price of space.

There was a time when there were places where members of the public could congregate for convenience or social reasons – promenades, bandstands, station concourses etc. These have virtually all been privatised. Public space owners and councils have leased the space to commercial enterprises. If you sit down anywhere you are expected to buy at least a drink.

Church halls are disappearing along with the churches as the nation becomes more secular and mall shopping has replaced Sunday worship. Working Mens clubs are disappearing as industrial activity dwindles in the 24/7 service economy. Veterans clubs disappear as the memories of war fade. We are instead seeing a boom in new building developments – luxury apartments being the investors’ favourite.

Society is always changing and chess must adapt. Gone are the days when a typical chess club might have a hundred members meeting several times a week in a well-furnished community club. Membership of clubs has reduced to a quarter of the level 25 years ago. The lower level of membership cannot sustain rental payments any longer. Clubs are moving to pubs because the publican is hoping that the players will buy some beer.

JulianOlga
Julian Way and Olga playing as a pair.

This exposes the risk of pub chess: the publican may eventually find that chess players are so engrossed in their chess that they do not buy as many pints as a regular customer. Also some players may feel that alcohol may impair their cognitive processes. The net result is that the economic justification for accepting the chess club is disproved with unfortunate consequences.

There is a depressingly familiar pattern: another event provides more profit for the pub especially around Christmas and New Year. A wedding or birthday event could take priority at any point during the year. Or the landlord comes along and announces an increase of the rent at short notice. Hence there is a phenomenon of pub-hopping as clubs move from one disaffected publican to a fresh one and the process goes through a repeat cycle.

But let’s not dwell on the possible downsides. Traditionally pubs are places to relax and spend leisure time of which playing games was a regular element. The factor which makes chess expensive is that chess players like silence. It is the demand for a private room without noise which creates our problems. Hence the answer to our problem is that we need to revert to the social approach to games playing. There must be more tolerance of noise. Players play for fun rather than for glory. Casual games are proving very popular. At Kingston we alternate serious chess nights with casual chess nights. The Casual Chess club meets every day in the British Film Institute café just off Tottenham Court Road and people of all levels turn up to play.

The first law in England which mentioned pubs was in 1495. Its purposes was to restrict the popular games which were distracting men from their duty of practising archery. In England, people have always enjoyed beer and games in the pub and this tradition is going to make a comeback.