Can quality in school chess be measured? This was one of our debating questions on the first conference day. Sarah Kett, who lead the debating group (pictured above), reports: “The desirability of measuring school chess depends on the context. In Armenia, where all children learn chess for several school years, there is definitely a need to justify the use of taxpayers´ money.” Another key aspect was whether the students should be measured (as is usually done in research projects) or the teachers, respectively their teaching materials and methods.
If the pupils are measured, chess-related measures would be relatively straight-forward (such as ratings, proportion of children in chess clubs, proportion of children to play outside their school, proportion of children continuing to play as teenagers and later as adults) compared to measures ofeducational benefits.
There followed a workshop Quality in Chess in Education with participants from the Educational Commissions in ECU and in FIDE. Vahan Sargsyan from the Pedagogical University Yerevan, who is advising FIDE, differentiated four domains where quality can be evaluated: The quality of the curriculum, the assessment of pupils, the learning environment, and the qualification of the teachers.
The Armenian psychologist stressed that quality cannot be measured once and for all, but should be thought of as a permanent process “plan, act, check, improve, plan, act” and so on. He differentiated between universal standards that apply everywhere, and quality standards that depend on the context. Everyone in the workshop agreed that chess-related outcomes don´t matter and that educational outcomes are crucial.
Karel van Delft has captured segments from the workshop´s key speakers (in order of their appearance) Jesper Hall (ECU), Kevin O´Connell (FIDE), Vahan Sargsyan, Mads Jacobsen (Danish Scholastic Chess) and Smbat Lputian (FIDE).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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)
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.
Bo Johansson considers from an education scientist´s point of view which children benefit from chess and why. His colleague Christina Schenz argues for chess to promote giftedness in all children. Roland Grabner introduces the conditions of successful maths learning and how chess can contribute. David Wells reviews connections between chess and maths. Jorge Nuno Silva takes you by fasttrack through the history of games and mathematical learning. Rob Eastaway shows how simple games (some of which can be transfered to the chess board) convey mathematical insight.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Karel van Delft is posting videos from the conference on a dedicated page of his excellent website chesstalent.com. The Dutch author and psychologist has started with the workshop on Chess for Children with Autism and ADHD, which highlighted how beneficial the game can be in special needs education. There were moving talks by Richard James, by Dijana Dengler, by Luis Blasco and by Karel himself. Stay tuned, as more videos are coming.
Due to technical difficulties and other commitments we have been slow to share the presentations from the conference sessions and workshops. Please excuse the delay. The presentations page is now updated, and more is coming. We have chosen the pdf format to prevent misappropriation. We have added Presentations in the menu, too.
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).