Plans are afoot to establish a National Mind Sports Centre where chess and Go and other strategy board games can be played. The project is a joint venture between the English Chess Federation and the British Go Association. It has long been desired to find a place to play league games and competitions and to hold gaming events. Teaching and training would be part of the mix to encourage the next generation into the boardgame realm.
The latest initiative arose from Go player T Mark Hall who left a substantial legacy for the establishment of a centre in London. He fondly remembered the place where he played go as a youngster and wanted others to revive the concept. We are all familiar with the problem of finding a space for community activities. Pubs and church halls serve the purpose but are not ideal.
The original National Chess Centre was in the John Lewis department store in Oxford Street. John Spedan Lewis was a devotee of the game. Unfortunately the Centre was bombed during WW2. After the war, a number of coffee houses, such as the Prompt Corner in Hampstead, open from 10-midnight, kept the spirit alive. It was popular with intellectuals such as George Orwell and European emigrés but eventually all these unique places disappeared.
A recent trend is the rise of board game cafés in which patrons pay a board fee and are expected to buy some drinks and maybe a meal. These are popular with young adults who are to be found socialising in fashionable places like DraughtsLondon in Shoreditch.
Chess and Go have traditionally been played in relative silence, certainly at the higher levels. This factor has made it more difficult to find suitable venues and to attract people to clubs. Bridge, being an inherently social game, does not suffer the same problem. The Casual Chess Club which is held daily in the BFI bar off Tottenham Court Road shows that playing chess in a bar with chatter and music in the background are not always incompatible. There is scope for more than one type of playing area within a venue.
The latest plan is to concentrate all the activities related to mind sports into one place and to combine flexible game playing spaces with in a cafe and a merchandising outlet. The revenues generated from the commercial activities will help to defray the cost of the game activities. Fundamental to this plan is the acquisition of a property which will cost at least £3 million. There are many issues to be resolved regarding funding options, corporate structure and charitable status.
Amanda Ross, who runs the Casual Chess Cafe, has been commissioned to conduct a feasibility study on the National Mind Sports Centre. She will outline her current thinking in a presentation at the London Chess Conference on Monday 12th December 2pm – 4pm. This session is open to all and does not require registration at the conference. Please come along if you would like to share your ideas and enthusiasm about how to achieve this laudable objective.
The 4th London Chess Conference will take place at the Hilton Olympia on 10, 11 and 12 December. For the first time we will be able to hold a three-day gathering.
This year’s main theme will be The Didactics of Chess. We are planning talks, workshops, discussion sessions, panels, presentations and other contributions on different ways of teaching chess, especially in a classroom environment.
The last three editions firmly established the London Chess Conference as the world’s foremost professional gathering of people interested in the impact of chess (and strategy games generally) on education, and how it can be a force for good in society. Amongst the contributors attracted to London each year there are leading chess education practitioners and researchers, academics working in the field, educational software authors, executives of non-profit chess organisations, journalists, authors, teachers, headteachers, politicians and others.
We organise the conference but we do not make it work. It is the profile of attendees and the quality of their contributions that define this excellence. Let us make the fourth edition the finest one yet.
If you have not yet registered, please do. If you would like to contribute, please contact us as soon as possible on firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite submissions on all aspects of the principal theme. Here is but a small set of suggestions:
Using Chess in Primary School Mathematics
Promoting Metacognition through Chess
Teaching Chess together with other Strategy Games
Chess for Disadvantaged Students
Training Teachers to Teach Chess
Certification for Quality Chess Instruction
Lobbying for Chess in the Education Community
Evaluating Chess in Education Projects
From School Chess to Junior Chess
Raising Chess Talent
Business Models in Chess Teaching
Chess in Libraries, Science Centres and other Informal Settings
If you have attended the conference please complete the online questionnaire. It only takes ten minutes, and your replies help us to evaluate the event and plan future events. If you have attended and haven´t received an invitation to our online survey please contact email@example.com
The 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
Middle Game Chess
The Interference Game
Production Line Game
Always 32 Pieces
1st Honourable Mention
Race to the 8th Rank
2nd Honourable Mention
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.
Poker has attracted a significant number of talented chess players. Poker players are cool-headed and calculate the odds for the prospect of substantial monetary rewards. To survive and prosper they must have a mathematical brain – or must they? The formidable Jennifer Shahade addresses this topic at her conference presentation on Sunday. She is a Woman Grandmaster and twice the USA women’s champion – and a professional poker player. She will host the prizegiving at the English Girls’ Chess Championship on Saturday at Olympia and give a pep talk to the girls.
Jennifer has written two critically acclaimed books exploring the involvement of women in chess. Chess Bitch looked at the histories and personalities of female chess players and Play Like a Girl extracted sparkling gems from female play. Her message is that traditional feminine preoccupations such as fashion and cosmetics are not necessarily in conflict with being an aggressive chess player. She suggests that females are socialised to be less outwardly competitive.
Remarkably, more girls are playing chess in USA both numerically and proportionately than at any time in the history of the USCF. Jennifer predicts that this trend will continue as chess becomes more glamorous and mainstream with the rise of champions like Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana (who was brought up in the USA although he now plays for Italy).
Chess is evolving – its purpose has moved towards the needs of schools. Whilst playing chess competitively remains an important motivating factor for many children, there is so much more that can be done. Chesss may be regarded not as one game but as a resource for all sorts of logical and mathematical mini-games, game variants and puzzles.
The rapid rise of classroom chess has been achieved by teaching the game from the simplest beginnings. By working with children on the basic components of the game, literally one piece at a time, they grow in confidence and enthusiasm. Rather than throwing children in at the deep end, modern educational methods have been used to deconstruct the game into digestible components. Continue reading Classroom Chess and Mathematics→
The co-director of our conference and frequent author of this website is celebrating his sixtieth birthday this Tuesday. Of Irish origin, he studied in Oxford, Lancaster and London. He is also a qualified barrister. Apart from practicing law he worked in highly qualified positions in the film and media industries. Full of ideas, he has always a fascinating project on his hand.
A couple of years ago John saw opportunity and demand for better mathematics education at the time Chess in Schools and Communities was set up. It was a match at the right moment. The charity started to work with John and appointed him Director of Training and Education. John has since trained a thousand of teachers and chess tutors in England, Wales and Ireland, and has written teaching manuals and children workbooks. Always up for something new, this summer he co-organized an international chess summer camp in Riga. Continue reading John Foley is Sixty Today→
At our 2013 conference Marisa van der Merwe inspired many with her moving talk on chess teaching in South African townships. Through her MiniChess curriculum thousands of disadvantaged kids picked up arithmetic and coordination skills. At the time she was already deep into a new project, translating MiniChess into an app, that can reach many more children worldwide. Marisa found investors and an Estonian team for the programming.
As the MiniChess app is just being launched, Marisa is working the globe: She was an invited speaker at the recent WISE convention in Doha, a prestigious education conference. Here is a video of her session. Actually, another WISE speaker Paul Tough spoke about school chess in New York. From Doha Marisa went to Australia and New Zealand. In December it´s on to London.
The energetic networker is partnering with Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa to bring the educational benefits of chess to other African countries. Another cooperator is educational psychologist Joreta Parsons, who is also joining the conference.
At the request of some contributors, we have extended the deadline to submit a new game suitable for primary school students by ten days until 25th November. An international jury will judge all suitable submissions at the conference and vote the winner of the £500 first prize.
In the stylish 1961 nouvelle vague film Last Year at Marienbad two men vie for the attention of a woman. This spa town was the venue for the famous 1925 tournament won by Nimzowitsch. However, the film protagonists decide the matter with a game of Nim. In the crucial scene, the players nervously remove sticks from four piles: the last one to remove a stick is the loser in both senses. Their nervousness defines the message of the film – casting doubt where there should be knowledge, chance where there should be strategy. Nowadays there is no prospect of a Nim challenge because the players would discover that the game had been cracked. Continue reading NimChess→