Category Archives: Competition

Good Intentions

Prize funds in women-only competitions have increased considerably in recent years. Half a million Euros were at stake at the recent World Championship match. Ju Wenjun and Alexandra Goryachkina gained more than any woman or man at any chess competition in 2019. At the Women Candidates Tournament, 200,000 Euros were split among its eight participants; at the ongoing Cairns Cup in St Louis, ten invitees share 180 000 dollars. Female professional chess players are earning more than ever and are doing much better than men with similar ratings.

Organisers and sponsors have certainly the best intentions to promote women in chess. But in spite of all the resources flowing their way, top female ratings have been stagnating over the last 15 years. Is this due to the incentives for top female players to focus on women-only competitions? How this hypothesis could be proved or disproved was a matter of discussion at the Conference. There seem to be enough results and rating data available and such a study would not require many resources.

The argument would be that in female-only competitions the top players face many weaker or even much weaker opponents, and those games will not serve to help them develop. Judit Pólgar is the only female who focused on facing the strongest possible opponents throughout her career. She is the only woman who competed on equal terms with the world elite.

An optimal tournament for female professionals seems to be the Gibraltar Open. This is the only place where they can play several opponents rated above 2600. At the same time, £55,000 of the prize money is reserved for them. However, this year many top females skipped Gibraltar, as the World Championship overlapped and the Cairns Cup started only a week after.

The chess federation of Mar del Plata in Argentina considers female-only competitions as discriminatory and does not organise them any more. However, female players have become immured to female-only competitions and some would retire from competition play if they were scrapped.

Chess federations should consider where they want to be in the long run: establish a female-only circuit or help top women players to compete equally with men? Shall chess be inclusive or segregated? And how much prize money should be devoted to female-only competitions.

Don´t Make Us Play in a Zoo!

French clubs that are not wheelchair-accessible will soon no longer be allowed to host league matches. In the directory of the French Federation, pictured above, a wheelchair symbol shows which clubs are accessible. This regulation goes back to a bitter dispute after a cup match between Noyon and Eybens in 2011. The venue was only reachable via steep stairs. Eybens refused to play without their disabled top player.

This story was told at the round table on inclusion by Bernard Sojka, a French arbiter with failing eyesight. Making chess accessible on every level is what inclusion means to Sojka who successfully lobbied the French Federation to adopt higher standards of accessibility. He is opposed to any segregation and stresses that “we have to all play together”.

Chess has overcome barriers to women, people from lower classes, other ethnic backgrounds or with less education. Now segregation makes a comeback from above, and not only in women´s chess. FIDE has introduced championships for the disabled, even a championship for disabled youth. A world championship was planned in Cardiff to coincide with the conference, which gave us the idea for this round table and our announcement here. The FIDE event had to be cancelled for lack of registrations.

Recently, FIDE announced a Chess Paralympics on 30 July to 4 August 2020 in Khanty-Mansisk. This may be partly due to accommodate the Siberian town that does not have enough hotel rooms for a full Chess Olympiad, which has been moved to Moscow. The biggest chess competition ever for players with impairments does not make all them happy though.

For Chris Ross, a blind player, who is active in the English Braille Chess Association, a team of all visually impaired players or a team of all physically disabled players competing at the Chess Olympiad is the maximum he considers acceptable. “The Chess Paralympics cannot be compared with the Paralympics where the athletes are competing in the same venue just at a different time.” A disabled French player had once explained to Bernard Sojka why he didn´t want to travel to Dresden to take part in a disabled-only championship: “I would feel like playing in a zoo”.    

Ross and Sojka would much rather see the chess federations investing to make venues accessible which they see as real inclusion. Philippe Vukojevic, the moderator of the round table, added that in his seminar to become a FIDE-accredited “International Organiser” course he heard nothing about accessibility and inclusion. The same is true for most arbiter training.

Bernard Sojka, who is highlighting the issue of inclusion in France, pointed out another issue: Some players are unable to record their move without an electronic device. FIDE had even promoted a handheld device called “MonRoi” in the past. All such devices have now been banned due to anti-cheating measures. Sojka hopes that a compromise can be reached in the interest of inclusion. For example, “There is no chess software for Linux, so why not accept a Linux-based device?”

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!”

Debating Scholastic Chess

Scholastic Chess is the core theme of the 2017 conference and also of the six debates that we are running on Saturday afternoon 15.30-16.30. The debating format is called World Café and has been developed to share knowledge and to encourage action. Each debate is hosted by an expert who has proposed a debating question. The host keeps the discussion going and engages the participants to contribute. All six debates go on at the same time in the same big room. After thirty minutes everyone but the host will be invited to move on to a different debate. Originally we intended to have everyone switch after twenty minutes, but this may have been too hectic.

Three topics are following up on the crucial distinction between education oriented and competition oriented school chess: The Dutch chess psychologist, coach and author Karel van Delft asks what Separates Scholastic and Competitive Chess? The question put up by the London Chess Conference Programme Director Stefan Löffler is how should the Scholastic Chess Movement Organise Itself? Yonne Tangelder, a school chess coordinator at the Norwegian Chess Federation, wants to know, what is the best age for scholastic chess?

Tal Granite, chess coach and founding director of the Chess Institute of Canada, picks up experiences and insights on the Social Benefits of Scholastic Chess to supplement his lecture on the following day about Chess and the Hidden Curriculum. How can Chess Promote Intrinsic Motivation in the Classroom? is the topic of Sabine Vollstädt-Klein, an addiction scientist at the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim and the University of Heidelberg. Jesper Hall, the Swedish chairman of the European Chess Union´s Education Commission, argues for a code of conduct in scholastic chess and in junior chess and what it may entail.

Pick the two debates that interest you most!

Reminiscences

How time flies! The Didactics of Chess are well behind us, if still fresher in our memories than the previous three editions.

Beginnings were modest. The first London Chess Conference, back in 2013, could fit in one of the commentary rooms at the London Chess Classic. With a grand total of 15 speakers (distinguished though they were), the gathering had a decidedly cosy ambience. “Plenary workshop” was not a contradiction in terms. By the first afternoon, everyone had met everyone else. Forget cursory introductions: one would have had a long, stimulating conversation with every other delegate over the course of the weekend. Sessions ran consecutively, aministrative work was minimal, and the networking gathering was an affair so quiet and serene that many would entertain ideas of a quick game of chess. Those were simpler times.

Fast forward three years and we all found ourselves at an eight-room conference centre to discuss teaching chess with 150 delegates working in 25 countries of the world. The 4th London Chess Conference was by far the largest and most international ever gathering of educators, researchers, schoolteachers, coaches, organisers, civil servants and non-profit executives interested in how chess can be used as a force for driving educational attainment. Disappointment was universally voiced at having to choose between concurrent sessions, all equally excellent. But there was no alternative: who would have time to attend a fortnight-long conference? That is what it would have taken to run all talks, workshops, seminars, debates and panels consecutively.

The diversity of topics was staggering and the quality of sessions universally excellent. As has become a tradition, a competition was also held: this time for the best chess exercise involving collaborative problem solving. In the end, the judging panel could not decide between two very different entries, and awarded a shared first prize.

As is unavoidably the case with an event at such scale, there were organisational challenges, but we hope that they remained hidden behind the scenes. At the end of the day, it is not our work as organisers that made the Conference what it was, but the expertise of over a hundred unbelievably clever and dedicated delegates along with your love of chess, passion for education, and selfless enthusiasm for sharing your knowledge and experience.

Our job was gathering all of you together in one building; if we could do that, the event was guaranteed to be a success. We hope that everyone left London feeling as inspired as we certainly did.

From all of the organisers to all the attendees, thank you for making the 4th London Chess Conference so unforgettable.

Competition deadline extended!

The Jury of the competition for the best classroom chess exercise have resolved to extend the deadline for submissions to 5pm London time on Thursday 8 December.

We appreciate that some who have already submitted entries may consider that they would have preferred to work on them longer had they known that the deadline would be extended. Anyone who wishes to amend their earlier submission is permitted to do so.

The prize fund of 1000 Euros is provided by the European Chess Union.

problemsolving
Collaborative Problem Solving in Science

For more details, how to submit and competition regulations, go here. Prospective entrants may also find very helpful a recent note about the competition by John Foley, the Conference Director.

ECU Prize Competition : New Chess Exercise

We want to encourage the adoption of new teaching ideas that can be used in the classroom. Each year the conference promotes the development of chess education through a prize competition. The prospect of a reward may tempt you to submit an entry. The first prize is €500 with second and third prizes are €300 and €200 respectively, generously sponsored by the European Chess Union. The objective is to devise an original chess exercise involving collaborative problem solving. The competition is open to everyone.

We want exercises in which children must work together to solve a problem. There is no template or standard problem – it is up to your imagination. We are aware that many chess tutors already use group exercises with children. It may just be a matter of writing down what it is that you do. The answer is that it should be something that you have devised yourself or adapted from another format.

The exercise must involve children working together as a pair, a table or the whole class. It is essential that they interact with each other in solving the problem. It is necessary for the children to exchange information with each other about the problem.

So what type of problems are we looking for? We are completely open and flexible; there is no standard format. However, a standard chess problem (e.g. of the form “White to play and checkmate”) will not succeed if it means children work individually. There must be something about the problem so that the children must work together towards a wider objective.

Exercises will typically involve exploring and solving a structured problem where children organise themselves to conduct a number of tasks. Fruitful areas concern construction and decomposition tasks. In a construction task, the aim is to create an arrangement, for example, a chess position. Can the problem be decomposed into several parts? If so, then can the children work on these separately?

A route-finding example is the traditional knight’s tour which involves moving a knight around the board so that it covers all of the squares without landing on the same square twice. Solving the tour in practice requires placing counters on each square on which the knight lands. Several roles emerge: for example, moving the knight, pointing out the next square, placing the counter, counting the unoccupied squares at the end (the team with the fewest unoccupied squares is the winner). More advanced teams could be given several rules to test e.g. clockwise, edge-hugging etc. which can be worked on separately.

The deadline for submissions is Sunday 4 December 2016 at 5pm London time.


UPDATE: The Competition Jury have extended the deadline for submissions until 5pm London time on Thursday 8 December 2016.


 

Chess exercise design competition

For the third year in a row, we will be running a competition during the Conference. In 2014, the subject was designing a game played on a chessboard. The competition was won by Tatyana Ogneva with her game called “Football chess”; Tatyana took home the £500 prize. Last year, we held a Social Entrepreneur Bootcamp together with a competition for the best social chess project, judged by experienced executives. Luis Blasco, who uses chess to work with children suffering from ADHD, earned £500 for his enterprise “Ajedrez y TDAH”.

We are delighted that this year’s Conference will also feature a competition, and thanks to sponsorship from the European Chess Union the prize fund has been increased to 1,000. The task this year is to come up with the best original classroom chess exercise. There is only one rule: the exercise must involve collaborative problem solving.

Check out the competition page for details — and start creating, just don’t miss the deadline!

And the Winner is: Luis Blasco!

Social Chess Project Competition Winner: Luis Blasco and IM Malcolm Pein
Social Chess Project Competition Winner: Luis Blasco, left, being congratulated by CSC Chief Executive Malcolm Pein.

Ajedrez y TDAH, a Spanish project that develops chess as an educational intervention for children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), has been voted as the clear winner of the Best Social Chess Project competition by the attendees of the Chess and Society conference. Project leader Luis Blasco de la Cruz has received the award and £500 from Malcolm Pein, CEO of Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC).

Ajedrez y TDAH is linked to Universidad Europea Madrid, the Hospital General de Collado Villalba, the ADHD Organisations APDE SIERRA, CADE and Fundación Activa as well as the Erasmus Plus-sponsored CASTLE project. 64 Villalba Chess Club is developing the program and Madrid Chess Academy is training teachers and giving the option to carry the Project to another places outside Madrid.Luis is working on a manual for teachers and is available to train teachers in Spanish or English as well as to consult on adding and adapting a module on ADHD to teacher training programmes abroad.

Best Social Chess Project Award finalists (from left) Luis Blasco, Marisa van der Merwe and Tal Granite awaiting the result of the audience vote (photos: John Upham)
Best Social Chess Project Award finalists (from left) Luis Blasco, Marisa van der Merwe and Tal Granite awaiting the result of the audience vote (photos: John Upham)

The competition was part of the first Social Chess Entrepreneurship Bootcamp that was held before and during the conference thanks to grants by the European Chess Union and CSC. Social chess entrepreneurs from nine countries heard lectures and took part in workshops.

The trainers were Johanna Valentin on business plan, Mike Truran on project proposals and pitching, Bob Kane on sponsoring and sponsor relations, Gabriel Fernandez Bobadilla on capital management, John Adams on (social) return on investment and Andrea Schmidbauer on social media marketing. Bob, Johanna and Mike were also jurors and heard the participants´ project presentations. As they found all projects valuable and promising, the jurors had a hard job to pick three finalists to present to the conference audience. The bootcamp participants gave each other feedback and helped the finalists to polish the versions that were finally delivered.

It is hoped that the experience and initial interest from additional sponsors will lead to a repetition at the London Chess Conference 2016.

“Football Chess” by Tatyana Ogneva wins New Game Prize

ognevaCroppedThe winner of the New Game Design Competition is Tatyana Ogneva from Moscow. Her chess variant called Football Chess was judged to be perfect to encourage children to play chess. One of the attractive features of the game is that uses the word “football” which automatically engages interest (not only with boys). Scoring a goal is easier to understand than getting checkmate. Children learn to direct their pieces to the square of the ball in the arrangement phase, and the better players try to hunt down the opposition team as well as aim to score. Clear rules, the rich strategies involved and a relatively quick conclusion all make this an enjoyable game to play. Tatyana runs a small chess club called Etud. She also has developed an online chess program for young children called Virtual Chess as exhibited at the Chess and Mathematics Conference. Originally a psychologist she studied child cognitive development and used that in designing her games. It is not surprising that the football concept has been reinvented in England, Germany and other places before. However, the judges decided that Tatiana’s game was sufficiently different to be regarded as an original implementation. She receives an award of £500 for winning the competition.

The quality and number of submissions exceeded expectations. There were 20 entries in total. The judges analysed anonymised standardised versions of the games. The judges were Jerome Maufras (France), Alan Parr (England) and Rita Atkins (Hungary/UK). The full Order of Merit is as follows.

Order of Merit Game Author City
Winner Football Chess Tatyana Ogneva Moscow
Runner Up Middle Game Chess Malcolm Pridmore Wells
Hors Concours The Interference Game John Foley Kingston
First Commendation Production Line Game Vasileios Parginos Ankara
Special Commendation Blokkology Kevin O’Shea Cork
Commendation Always 32 Pieces Kaj Engstrom Stockholm
1st Honourable Mention Race to the 8th Rank Malcolm Pridmore Wells
2nd Honourable Mention Substitution Chess Thomas Friess Stuttgart

Malcolm Pridmore from England was the Runner Up with Middle Game Chess and had another top 8 game, the only person to have achieved this. He thoroughly tests his games on his own children first. The First Commendation goes to Vasilis Parginos, a FIDE Trainer and National Master from Greece who is working as a chess coach in Turkey. The positions arising in his Production Line Game are very unusual and stimulating. A Special Commendation goes to Kevin O’Shea, a musician from Ireland whose game Blokkology was loved by the maths teachers. It uses dice with pieces on a chessboard in an original way. If the competition had only been about maths games, then this may have won. However, it was not quite ‘chessy” enough in making full use of the piece capabilities. Kaj Engstrom from Sweden receives a Commendation for his variant in which you must not capture an opponent’s piece. Bright children respond very well to this game and the winning plans need an early grasp of the positional possiblities. Malcolm Pridmore’s Race to the 8th Rank receives the 1st Honourable Mention for being simple and fun for beginners. Thomas Friess from Germany tested out his games on his children. His game is like a football friendly where the pieces can be substituted at any time. He receives the 2nd Honourable Mention.

PDF  Football Chess Winner