Chess and Society is the theme of the third London Chess and Education Conference on 5 and 6 December 2015. While keeping a focus on chess in education, we wish to promote social entrepreneurship in chess more generally. We are inviting contributions from social chess projects on the following topics:
Chess for Old People
Chess for the Visually Impaired
Chess with Refugees
Chess in Prisons
Chess against Addiction
Youth Counselling with Chess
Chess in Libraries and other Informal Learning Settings
Chess and Community Work
Organising Social Chess Events
Please contact us if you are interested to make a presentation at the conference or if you want us to consider a different topic. We also invite you to contribute a poster about your project or research.
Please pass this on and alert everybody interested in the social and societal potential of chess!
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.
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.
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).
Italy is represented not only by the top player of the London Chess Classic, world number two Fabiano Caruana, but also by several speakers at the conference. The country has a vibrant school chess scene. This is mostly thanks to Alessandro Dominici. The organiser from Piemont in North Western Italy has run two international school chess conferences in Turin and introduced chess to hundreds of schools in his region. He has initiated the learning website La Casa di Scacchi di Vittorio and the psychomotricity on a giant chess board method of coordination games for young children to precede instruction on regular chess boards. One year ago, Alessandro presented at our conference about EU funding for school chess. Now he is leading the Erasmus plus project “CASTLE”. And he is already exploring and propagating new ways to finance school chess.
Alessandro is working closely with Roberto Trinchero, Professor of Education at the University of Turin. Roberto may well be the most productive researcher on school chess during the last ten years. In the study he is going to present this year, he found that students taught chess by chess teachers make more progress in maths than those taught chess by regular teachers. Giovanni Sala, a young scientist from his team who has recently moved to the University of Liverpool, has already been featured here.
Among Italy´s many creative teachers with ideas to use chess for teaching mathematics, we are pleased to have secured Maria Beatrice Rapaccini as a speaker. The former space engineer is working together with the University of Macerata to use chess to teach computational thinking to primary students. She will also share her special version of Psychomotricity in the workshop on Early Years Chess.
The conference has a panel debate on digital assisted learning on Saturday afternoon: ‘Promises and Limitations of Digital School Chess’ which will be an opportunity to discuss a topic which is becoming increasingly important to the teaching community. Schools are gaining experience in how to integrate online curricula into the classroom but there are many issues to be resolved. Digital applications supplement the traditional methods and teachers value the structure and insights these can bring especially as the applications evolve through feedback from many users. Teachers feel more effective and better able address the diverse range of abilities and interests of their children. Schools are exploring which systems to use and the best way to introduce them. On the panel are János Pallagi, who developed a chess learning system (that he will present on Sunday morning), Mads Jacobsen who heads the Danish Scholastic Chess Association, and Melissa Remus Elliot, the Headteacher of Heathside Preparatory School in London who strongly promotes chess for educational purposes.
János Pallagi´s LearningChess system arose from a project at Pipacsvirag Secondary School outside Budapest. János Pellagi, an IT specialist, worked with Erzsébet Sarlós, the school Director, on a Chess and Logic Curriculum which breaks new ground. The accompanying software was further transformed into a chess learning application system. This has been translated into English and made free for schools (see video). Already, a couple of thousand children are using it worldwide. The system has evolved so that pupils can track their own development and teachers can monitor the progress of their pupils and their strengths and weaknesses. The evidence suggests that tools such as this can improve attainment in chess, logic and mathematics.
It´s a story you hear from many chess teachers: A child, usually a boy, with attention deficit or hyperactivity, is starting to concentrate at the game of chess, often to the surprise of carers, who only know the child in an excitable, uncontrollable state. A Spanish team of psychiatrists and chess coaches has gone beyond anecdotal evidence. Numerous boys, diagnosed with severe ADHD, have been helped to reduce or altogether come off medication by chess. This success story has been shared at a recent psychiatric conference in France and will be brought to us by Luis Blasco de la Cruz, whose club Villalba 64 in the North of Madrid is a champion of social chess projects.
Children on the autistic spectrum, often diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, are another group reported to benefit from chess. Karel van Delft has been interested in this for a long time and has been coaching autistic students one on one. Here is a video interview he conducted with an autistic tournament player. Dijana Dengler from Munich is teaching chess to children with all kinds of conditions and is an expert on inclusion through chess. Another speaker is Richard James, who makes a case that children with special needs have more to benefit from chess but at the same time are often excluded from school chess activities.
Support organisations and parents of children with special needs are invited to join our workshop on Sunday at 15.15-17.00 for free upon prior notice to firstname.lastname@example.org
Keynote speaker Anna Nicotera has just completed a systematic review of all the studies into the impact of chess in schools (download link below the text). The effect sizes are remarkable, says Anna, a specialist on the efficacy of educational interventions. Given that chess is usually taught for an hour a week (at most two hours), she considers the reported benefits high – especially when it comes to attainment in mathematics. Like all professional researchers, she counsels that the results should be interpreted cautiously since they are based on fewer than ten studies that met the rigorous eligibility criteria of her review.
She gathered all empirical studies on effects of chess in school that she could find in English. She filtered these according to strict methodological standards and went on to analyse the reliable studies in detail. Many school chess studies are not and could not be included in the final analysis, she says. The overall results of the impact of chess are impressive. In order to identify the active ingredients in school chess, i.e. the precise details of how the impact is made, more high quality primary studies will be required.
Susan Sallon initially trained as a concert pianist in London and then took a degree in music at Edinburgh University. She then worked for the BBC in the music department. After taking a career break to have eight children, she took a Post Graduate Certificate in Education and taught Music and Mathematics in a secondary school for twelve years before leaving to start a degree in Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Now completing her MSc in Psychology at MMU, Susan has a particular interest in how children learn and is conducting her research into the cognitive effects on mathematics performance in children who learn to play chess at a young age.
Susan came to the attention of CSC when she conducted a study on 500 children comparing those who had studied chess with those who had not. The results were so significantly positive in respect of “thinking skills” that Susan has continued to research the topic. She hopes to expand this research into other areas of learning after finishing her masters. Susan will be describing her latest research in her conference presentation.