Category Archives: Special Needs

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?”

Inclusion on Board

Is chess the ultimate inclusive sport? Physical differences due to age and sex do not prevent us from competing with each other. Even physical impairments can be overcome. A chess set that enables visually impaired players to recognize the position of the pieces was invented in London as early as 1848. Theodore Tylor, who was among England´s leading players in the 1930s and drew Alekhine and Capablanca in regular games, was nearly blind. Chris Ross, a blind player who spoke at our conference earlier, gave a simultaneous exhibition in Belfast. The Global Chess Festival in Budapest on 12 October has a fascinating programme on how visually impaired and deaf players train and compete.

Nowadays there are international associations for blind, for physically impaired and for deaf players. Each is a member in FIDE and represented in the Chess Olympiads with an international men´s and women’s team.

Just as there are more and more female only tournaments, there is also an increasing number of separate competitions for disabled players. A few months ago the first World Championship for Physically Disabled took place in New Jersey. CNN produced a moving report. But maybe there are already too many separate competitions. The World Disabled Open, Youth and Cadet Championship that was scheduled in Cardiff for the week of our conference, has just been cancelled due to a lack of registrations.

Alessio Viviani, a young player with amytrophia who cannot move a piece without an assistant, caused a sensation in Italy by winning the Open in Porto San Giorgio in 2015 ahead of several professionals. The Italian insists that he would not participate in a separate competition. This begs the question if resources should rather enable players with impairments to participate in mixed, open competitions and thereby increase their participation and visibility.

The ECU recently ran a workshop on Equal Opportunities in cooperation with FIDE´s DIS Commission in Thessaloniki, where guidelines for organisers, recommendations for federations and training needs were worked out. Inclusive Education is the focus of the latest edition of the ECU´s First Rank Newsletter.

We are looking for discussants for a Round Table on Inclusion and Equal Opportunities. We are also inviting contributions for a workshop on Chess for Children with Special Needs. Please write us at info@chessplus.net

Call for Presentations

The London Chess and Education Conference wants to bring together the best chess in education experts and projects. Workshops with presentations from different countries have proven to be an efficient way to instill international exchange, cooperation and joint projects. We are inviting contributions on the following school chess related topics:

Chess and Maths
Early Years Chess
Inclusion and Integration in School Chess
Chess Interventions for Children with Special Needs
Training Education Professionals to Teach Chess
Chess Teachers´ Qualification Needs and Certification
Chess in Camps for School Students
International Exchanges in School Chess
Lobbying for School Chess

Please contact us if you are interested to present in any of these workshops or if you want us to consider an additional topic.

mailto:conference@londonchessclassic.com

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The festive time is for some of you an opportunity to catch up. We invite you to have a look at the presentations from our recent conference.

Karel van Delft keeps updating his excellent website with materials from the conference. He has added videos from the presentations by Roland Grabner on the Cognitive Neuroscience of Mathematics Leaning, by Jorge Nuno Silva on the history of games and mathematics and by Ed Pogossian on an innovative Armenian chess project with autistic children.

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 conference@londonchessclassic.com

Conference Videos

Karel van Delft (top), Richard James and Dijana Dengler
Karel van Delft (top), Richard James and Dijana Dengler highlighted chess in special needs education

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.

Luis Blasco presented on chess for boys diagnosed with ADHD - which in Spanish is abbreviated TDAH
Luis Blasco presented on chess for boys diagnosed with ADHD – which in Spanish is abbreviated TDAH

When Chess Meets Special Needs

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.

Pioneer of chess against ADHD: Luis Blasco from Madrid
Pioneer of chess against ADHD: Luis Blasco from Madrid

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 conference@londonchessconference.com

Diversity in Germany

The Sebasttian-Schule is a recipient of the Deutsche Schachschule certificate
The Sebastian-Schule is a recipient of the Deutsche Schachschule certificate

There is no national school chess programme in Germany, as education policy varies significantly between the 16 regions or Bundesländer. The Deutsche Schulschachstiftung, a national pressure group that promotes chess in schools, deals with this diversity by providing support and encouraging creativity. It has introduced the Schulschachpatent, a two day chess instruction course, which is an approved teacher training all over Germany. By now there are more than 2500 patent holders, the big majority of them are teachers.

Another success story is the Schulschachkongress, a joint initiative with the German Youth Chess Association, that is a subsidiary of the national federation. This annual gathering draws more than hundred experts to exchange ideas on many different aspects in school chess, and we reported here earlier on the 2014 edition. The Schulschachstiftung, which will be represented at our conference by its chairman Walter Rädler, is also certifying the Deutsche Schachschule. Schools apply and get approved if their school chess activites tick enough boxes. In 2014 seven schools have received this status, more than in any year before. Another prestigious award is the German Chess Teacher of the Year.

German Chess Teacher of the Year Sabine Würz is surrounded by her chess students
German Chess Teacher of the Year Sabine Würz is surrounded by her chess students

Continue reading Diversity in Germany

A Dutch Multi-Talent

foto Karel van Delft
Karel van Delft

Is there anybody else who is an expert on as many aspects of school chess as Karel van Delft? The psychologist, chess teacher and coach from Apeldoorn has just published a compendium on school chess in his native Dutch. “Schoolschaken” is available from his personal website and will be presented to the public at the prestigious Max Euwe Centrum in Amsterdam on 17 December.

Formerly a newspaper journalist, Karel covers the contributions of others equally well as he is explaining his own ideas and experiences. He proposes an analytic grid for evaluating chess instruction and has an original chapter on chess and dyslexia. The book includes a glossary of more than hundred pages with 328 entries and an annotated reading list. Out of his many fields of expertise, Karel will be presenting at our conference on chess instruction for gifted children and for autistic children, in both of which he has years of experience.

Back and front cover of Karel´s new book
Back and front cover of Karel´s new book

If you want an exemplar of “Schoolschaken” at the conference contact him at k.vandelft AT planet.nl

Karel is also going to document the conference with us. His excellent footage of the 2013 presentations is still on his website.