Category Archives: Teaching

Programme Confirmed

The full programme for the 6th London Chess Conference has now been confirmed and it can be found here.

The theme of The Future of Education in Chess is a very important one and we have experts from all over the world who will be presenting their thoughts and ideas.

We believe this to be our strongest line-up to date and we are sure the weekend will provide plenty of food for thought for teachers, tutors, chess players and, indeed, anyone else interested in the role of chess in education.

Limited places are still available but with just over one week to go we strongly advise you to book as soon as possible. Tickets can be purchased here.

Grandmasters on Board

We are delighted to announce that we have a few Grandmasters as speakers this year.

Smbat Lputian, who won the Chess Olympiad with Armenia in 2006, has since initiated the most ambitious national school chess project in his home country where all primary school children are learning chess for several school years now. Smbat has recently become the new chairman of what used to be FIDE`s Chess in Schools Commission and has just been renamed the Chess in Education Commission. Smbat will explain this name change and line out the future strategy of FIDE.

Bachar Kouatly, born in Damascus and later on the first French Grandmaster and organiser of the Kasparov-Karpov world championship match in Lyon in 1990, has recently been elected as FIDE Deputy President. Bachar is also the President of the French Chess Federation since 2016, where he is spearheading a significant push for chess to be used for pedagogical and social purposes. He will talk about this exciting turnaround and how to run a federation strategically.

David Smerdon has represented Australia at seven Chess Olympiads and is a respected chess author. He is also a behavioral economist, and after several years as a PhD student and Post-doc in Europe he returned to Australia where he is now on tenure track at the University of Queensland. David is keen to direct research into effects of chess interventions as for example in Chess in Prisons projects. He will also deliver a keynote on What an Economist Can Learn from Chess?. His commendable blog, which focuses on the subjects of chess and economics, can be found here.

Visions: International Baccalaureate

The programme for this year’s conference offers a rich and varied assortment of guest speakers, covering a wide range of topics within the theme of The Future of Chess in Education.

The Saturday morning session takes Visions as its subgenre and it promises to start the conference in fine style.

One of our speakers will be John Claughton, former Headmaster of Solihull School and Chief Master of King Edward’s School, Birmingham,  from 2006 to 2016.

John, a keen advocate for the International Baccalaureate – the international education foundation – will discuss the battle between depth and breadth in education.

Are schools being forced to specialise the children far too early? Should they be offering the alternative to A Levels, with more respect given to the arts?

It is quite clear that chess (along with many other enrichment opportunities) is being squeezed out of the Secondary School system. What can be done to reverse the trend?

Would the introduction of the International Baccalaureate bring more breadth to the education of our children and, if so, what (if anything) is preventing schools from making the change?

I am sure we are in for a fascinating and passionate discussion.

More About IT

The conference is not far away and NOW would be an excellent time to enrol if you have not already done so.

IT will feature prominently on the programme and here is a teaser as to what to expect:

  • Chess Explanation Engine using Artificial Intelligence (Decode Chess)
  • Embedding chess lessons in the classroom digitally (Learning Chess)
  • Chess and computer coding using chess (French Chess Federation)
  • Enhancing memory of chess openings and patterns (Chessable)

This is shaping up to be the best conference yet. We hope to see you there!

The Effects of Chess Instruction

Three of the people who have been involved with the London Chess Conference since the beginning have written a paper summarising the state of research into the effects of chess instruction.  Giovanni Sala, John Foley and Fernand Gobet have summarised the state of the art and theoretical challenges. The paper, which is an opinion piece in the the online journal Frontiers of Psychology, places the recent EEF study in a broader context. The EEF study was a large study in England conducted by the Institute of Education and funded by the Educational Endowment Foundation. The study found no long term effect of chess on academic performance. This study finding was regarded as disappointing by many in the chess community. However on closer inspection it turns out that the study had some serious weaknesses.

A major problem is the use of public examination results to indicate whether any intervention has an impact. The trouble arises because mathematics exam results in primary school in England appear to have been getting better and better over the last two decades. This may be because children are getting smarter or it may be for other reasons to do with school league tables and teaching to the test.


In the upper diagram we see the latest results for KS2 mathematics (children aged around 11). Rather than the expected Normal distribution, we find what can only be described as a Half-Normal distribution.  Half the children have scored 75% or more. This is an extraordinary result because our traditional experience with children is that some are good at maths but most struggle. The skewed shape of the exam results deserves some explanation.

The lower diagram shows how the shape of the exam results distribution has shifted over the past two decades. What we are witnessing is the accumulation of effects of educational policies which produce good results irrespective of the underlying differences in personal ability of the children. Finally, in 2015, we see that the shape has shifted so far to the right (called negative skew) that the results in maths cannot be regarded as very helpful in representing the underlying reality.

The technical term for this artefact is the “Ceiling Effect”. If examinations produce an artificial limitation on the distribution of results then we cannot distinguish those children who might have done much better.  If most children are doing great, then how can an educational intervention such as chess make any noticeable difference? More generally how can any educational intervention be detected?  This is a wider issue for the mathematics education research community to resolve.





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.

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!

Inspiring teachers to introduce chess

SeanMarshSunderlandSean Marsh runs chess projects in Teesside in the north east of England bringing many children into chess. He reflects on the factors which inspire teachers to offer chess.

1) Concentration. To play chess well – or to solve chess problems – children must learn how to improve their concentration and to remain focused and ‘‘on task’’ throughout a full game. It is very noticeable how games between the children start to last longer as they progress through their weekly lessons. Generally speaking, children have a strong desire to win when they play games and they quickly understand how paying attention during the lesson input leads to improved results over-the-board.

2) Discipline. It is not always easy to maintain discipline during a game of chess, in which mistakes – large and small – will occur on a regular basis. Yet self-discipline is an important characteristic if one seeks success. Through chess, children learn to live with the responsibilities of their actions. One bad move can undo a lot of hard work, but children learn how to deal with disappointments and – even more importantly – how to recover and come back stronger next time. 

3) Good sportsmanship. Fortunately, chess retains a certain degree of etiquette missing from various sports and games with a higher profile. Children are encouraged to shake hands before and after each game, regardless of result. Bad sportsmanship can lead to reduced opportunities (losing a place on the school team, for example) as children must, at all times, remain perfect ambassadors for their school.

4) Impact on Literacy and Numeracy. Chess in Schools and Communities recently collaborated with the Education Endowment Foundation (‘EEF’) to assess the impact of regular chess. The fact that the EEF should feel inclined to conduct a serious study on the impact of chess lessons should provide ample indication of the growing status our of our curriculum. Chess is traditionally linked with mathematics but I strongly feel the impact on other academic areas is consistently underrated. An easy example would be to highlight the creative and imaginative skill required to visualise a desired position a few moves down the line; such skills are transferable to other academic pursuits, such as writing stories, for instance.

5) General Learning Skills. Chess lessons offer a perfect combination of the three key types of learning: auditory (listening to the tutor), visual (watching the action on the tutor’s demonstration board), and kinesthetic (working in the pupil workbooks and playing games).

6) Opportunities. Chess is an absolutely ideal game for breaking down boundaries. Time and again it comes as a great surprise to teachers when they find particular pupils excelling in our lessons and tournaments. With everyone starting from the very beginning, previous classroom ‘‘pecking orders’’ and the like are rendered superfluous. Additionally, children who do not excel at sports have the opportunity to represent their school for the first time, thus boosting their confidence and pride.

7) Fun. Apart from the academic side of things, anyone who witnesses our chess lessons will develop the distinct impression that the children are having a lot of fun! Believe me, when children are having fun yet remain fully engaged by the tutor, the scope for even more learning grows considerably…

Batsford Book of Chess CoverSean, author of a recent Batsford book From Beginner to Winner will be speaking about chess in the Teeside community at the conference.

The remarkable impact of chess and logic

Suppose you divided school children into two groups based upon academic abilities. The smart children are given extra language lessons; the not-so-smart group play chess. All the other classes are shared. Who does better when it comes to the academic results? A remarkable finding from Hungary is that the chess group eventually outperforms the bilingual group in their thinking skills.

The Pipacsvirág Elementary School in Telki, Hungary gave the smart children the privilege of a bilingual education in 2007. They were given extra English classes for 10 lessons per week. The search was on for an activity which would stretch the other group. It needed have an impact on educational and personal development without exceeding the school budget.

After some exploration of the options, the school decided to introduce a chess and logic programme. As is well known, children regard chess more as play than study and are generally willing to engage. However, this activity was not regarded as sufficiently educational. Hence, it was supplemented by a set of logic exercises which have been cleverly integrated into the chess exercises. The school has developed the classroom materials over the intervening years in conjunction with chess education experts and psychologists. Perhaps the key to the success of the programme is that it is taught by the regular teachers who know the children well.

When the chess and logic programme started in 2011, all the children in third grade were tested on logical thinking, creativity and motivation. The bilingual children scored much higher reflecting the basis for the grouping. Four years later, after the chess and logic programme had been implemented during each year, the same children were tested again on a wider range of attributes:

  • logical thinking
  • verbal skills
  • complex thinking in natural sciences
  • creativity
  • attention

The majority of the pupils in the chess and logic learning group performed above average in the tested areas. Furthermore, fewer pupils performed lower than the average compared to the bilingual classes. The school has concluded that, based upon this evidence, the teaching of chess has a very positive impact upon children’s primary school attainment.

This was not designed as a scientific study but shows how introducing chess into the curriculum can make an educational impact. This outcome  was completely unexpected. Chess had not been introduced for the Gifted and Talented children as it is in many schools – it was introduced for those children who needed development, who were having difficulties at school. It was never an experiment with the expectation that chess was going to reverse the categorisation of educational groupings.

Two children from that first class have gone on to outstanding performances this year. One pupil won the Hungarian national mathematics competition, the school having obtained first place in team competition and another pupil won the European junior rapid chess championship. Imagine if these had been the really smart children..

sarloseWe will  hear more about the chess and logic programme at the conference from Erzsébet Sarlós .

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.