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“While Chess Brightens up Life, Women Brighten up Chess”

The lower pick-up-rate of chess by women and the male dominance in competitions have been a matter of discussion since ages. Many commentators treat the topic with galantry as has Savielly Tartakower in the above quote. It is taken from an impressive collection of statements, arguments and clippings that were excerpted by Edward Winter, the eminent chess historian, and span from the 19th century to the present day.

Apart from the male dominance among the commentators one can also observe that the disregard of chess by women is rationalized. Places and social circles where chess is played are not welcoming for women. On the other hand “Lasker´s Chess Magazine” warns in 1906 that the creation “of ladies’ chess clubs is a means of perpetuating mediocrity among its members.”

It has often been asserted that women lack the recklessness and ambition required to succeed on the board. Hermann von Gottschall, the Deutsche Schachzeitung´s editor, argued in 1893 that the typical female tendency for intrigues should empower their play. In the same light hearted fashion he went on to claim that their preference for light chatter should not at all hinder women, because in the usual café or club game talking takes precedence over the actual moves.

Von Gottschall wrote for a nearly exclusively male audience, as did so many after him. More recently, explaining the male dominance in chess has become a minefield, and that can also be established from Winter´s collection (which also contains the above photo from a book on the German Chess Congress 1905 showing an actress performing Caissa in the opera “The Royal Middy”, which features a notorious checkmating trick).

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 the players with handicaps. 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, an amytrophia patient 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

Parallel Streams (and a bit of Overlap)

We have been asked about the structure of our conference. We have parallel streams throughout both conference days on our title theme “Chess and Female Empowerment” as well as on Chess in Education with a bit of overlap. Here is our planned schedule:

Saturday 30 November
9.30-11.00 Registration
11.00-12.45 Opening Plenary: Female Perspectives
12.45-14.00 Lunch
Book Presentation
14.00-16.00 World Café Debates
Round Table Inclusion and Equal Opportunity in Chess
Workshop
Software Presentations
16.00-16.30 Coffee
16.30-18.00 Parallel Workshops
18.30-20.30 Games on 8×8 Evening
Sunday 1 December
9.00-10.30 Parallel Workshops
                      Software Presentations 
10.30-11.00 Coffee
11.00-13.00 Keynotes
World Café Debates
Parallel Workshops
13.00-14.15  Lunch
14.15-15.30 Round Table The Woman Question in Chess
Parallel Workshops
15.30-16.00   Coffee
16.00-17.30 Parallel Workshops

This doesn´t mention the numerous side meetings that are informal or by invitation only nor the planned film screenings.

The world class action in the Grand Chess Tour final will start on the day after the conference on Monday, 2 December. If you participate yourself in the London Chess Classic, your playing schedule will allow you to attend a part of the conference on Saturday, 30 November, and most of it on Sunday, 1 December. Several bus lines run between the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith and the Olympia Kensington. It is just under a mile or twenty minutes to walk. Considering that you won´t be able to attend the conference at full length, as a registered participant of the FIDE Open or Weekender you are eligible to attend the conference on both days with the purchase of one day ticket.

Please keep our call for contributors in mind contact us with your suggested presentation or debate topic.

Competition results

The jury in our competition for the best original classroom chess exercise involving collaborative problem solving decided to award a shared first prize. The winners will share equally the cumulative prize fund for places 1-2, receiving EUR 400 each. Congratulations!

Full results and winning entries:

  • Shared 1st-2nd: Alison Bexfield (“Partner chess”: download here) and Tim&Sarah Kett (“Knight’s tour snooker”: download here)
  • 3rd: Jerry Nash (“A safe journey home”: download here)
  • Special commendation: Jerome Maufras (“My kingdom for a horse”: download here)
  • Special mention for an excellent entry but outside the scope of the competition rules: Mahwish Khan (“A scientific enquiry using chess”: download here)

Congratulations to the winners!

Speaker profile: Dr Barry Hymer

Do we want to nurture chessplayers who are intrinsically motivated, challenge-loving learners, or who cower in the steely grip of performance anxiety? Research into motivation provides us with compelling evidence that the dominant educational orthodoxy of praise-based self-esteem brings with it great risks, whereas a counter-intuitive emphasis on praise-lite, process-heavy feedback brings far richer rewards. Barry’s sessions will sketch out both the theory and the significant practical implications for chess coaches.

Barry Hymer

Dr Barry Hymer is Professor of Psychology in Education at the University of Cumbria in Lancaster.

Barry has been interpreting and researching learning theory as it relates to classroom practice since he became a professional educator in 1983. Over this period he has acquired extensive experience in schools, initially as a primary and secondary school teacher, subsequently as an educational psychologist and since 2004 as an independent consultant, academic and researcher. Having invested his “10 000 hours of purposeful practice”, he has an international reputation as an engaging and highly effective communicator

Barry has particular interests and expertise in the related areas of motivation, mindset, talent development and independent learning. Barry has toured with Prof Carol Dweck, originator of mindset theory, during the summers of 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2016, speaking at packed conferences in England and abroad.  Barry has created and leads the Osiris Mindset Programme – a one-year intervention aimed at introducing and embedding growth mindset practices in schools. His most recent books are the bestsellingGrowth Mindset Pocketbook (Hymer & Gershon, 2014), and Learning Teaching: Becoming an inspirational teacher (with Pete Boyd & Karen Lockney, 2015) – described by Prof John Hattie of Melbourne University as “The perfect book for those who want to make the most of their opportunity to enhance students’ brain power.”

A fixed mindset killed Barry’s own engagement in chess. Barry was a keen chessplayer in his youth (winning South African junior and senior provincial colours) and is again in his more enlightened late middle-age. In the intervening 30 years he avoided the game, having come to believe that he’d reached a mediocre peak at 22 years of age and was unlikely to improve further. He is belatedly putting the fruits of his professional learning to the test in his own re-engagement in the game.

 

Size Matters

When studies on school chess are claimed to have a positive effect, it is no big deal. Very few interventions in school show no effect or a negative effect. Size matters. On the average, the effect size of an educational intervention in school is 0,4. An effect size above 0,4 is therefore seen as a desirable outcome. This has been established in a synthesis of more than 800 metaanalyses of studies on educational interventions directed by John Hattie from the University of Auckland in his seminal “Visible Learning” (2009).

Giovanni Sala and Fernand Gobet (pictured above at our 2013 conference) from the University of Liverpool have picked up Hattie´s challenge and conducted the first real metaanalysis of studies on chess in school. According to seven criteria they included 24 studies based on more than 5000 students in the experimental and control groups. They found an average effect size of 0,338. It was less in reading abilities and slightly bigger in maths abilities, but smaller than Hattie´s treshold of 0,4. However, after excluding studies with less than 25 hours of chess Sala and Gobet found an average effect size of 0,428, which is quite satisfiable.

The first real metaanalysis on chess in Schools has been presented by Giovanni Sala from the University of Liverpool.
The first real metaanalysis on chess in Schools has been presented by Giovanni Sala from the University of Liverpool.
As Sala pointed out in his presentation at the conference, none of the studies reached the highest methodological standard of comparing chess not only with no intervention but also with another intervention. Their metaanalysis has been accepted and will soon be published by a journal. We are delighted that they gave us permission to publish a preprint version. If you want to quote it, please contact Giovanni.Sala@liv.ac.uk for an updated reference.

Make the Best of the Conference!

hilton olympiaGetting you to cooperate is the main goal of this conference. This is why we have added more opportunities to interact in workshops, debates and the exhibition. Ask the conference team if you look for partners. Use the exhibition area to show your materials and to check out what the others have. Agree on what you can do together in the future and stay in touch. The printed programme includes a participants list with your e-mail contacts.

Registration opens at the Hilton Olympia on Saturday at 10. If you visit the Olympia for the opening day of the London Chess Classic on Friday (and are not a registered participant of the bootcamp) please notify
tereza@chessinschools.co.uk.

Another option for Friday might be a visit to the Tate Modern which opens until 10 pm and has free live music, performances and exhibitions. Friday is also the announced release date of the movie “Pawn Sacrifice”, but we could not locate any London theatre that is showing it.

Upon your arrival you will get a printed programme at the venue. You don´t have to register to attend any of the conference sessions, even though the conference is very well booked.

The wheather in London is mild throughout the week-end with highs above ten degrees. Sun is only forcasted for Friday, it may well also stay dry on Saturday and Sunday.

The UK has its own kind of electricity plugs. Converters are available for 1 pound at poundshops (elsewhere expect to pay 4 pounds). We stock converters at the conference and at the Lily Hotel for you.

It is still possible to make a guess and win the prize offered by Björn Frank. It only takes a minute. Everything you need to know is here.

Please report about the conference. Use this website, which is now going into documentation mode, twitter (#LondonChessConf) and the photo and video materials which we will provide.

Please bring your educational and marketing materials to show to others. If you want a designated area in the exhibition please contact us.

If you make a presentation (yes, there are enough projectors) please e-mail us the presentation.
Most or virtually all presentations will be available from the conference website. If you don´t want your presentation online or want to provide a different version this is perfectly fine but you have to tell us.

Have a safe journey! We are all very excited to see you!
John Foley, Stefan Löffler, Tereza Pribanova

Programme Updates

conference logo
We have to apologize if the updated programme includes surprises over what you have seen before. We had to make several changes, including some this Wednesday and Thursday, due to speakers withdrawing for health and personal reasons. We also strive to avoid clashes that would impede speakers from making their contributions.

Specifically, we had to cancel the History of Chess in Society session that was planned on Sunday. To avoid a too long afternoon we have shortened the parallel workshop session on Saturday starting 16.30 to end at 17.30, from when the World Café Debates will add an interactive and more personal touch. We have also shortened the Sunday afternoon and expect the conference to finish at 17.00.

Please check the updated schedule page.

Spanish Parliament Supports School Chess

Leontxo Garcìa is a succesful lobbyist for chess in Spain
Leontxo Garcìa is a succesful lobbyist for chess in Spain
The political camps rarely agree on anything in Spain. However, when it comes to chess in schools, politicians from all parties represented in the education commission of the Spanish Parliament came together to support the introductio of chess in schools, as reports El Paìs in its English edition. Although their decision is not immediately allocating resources, this is a major opportunity and has been accomplished by two initiators: Pablo Martìn, a member of parliament (here´s a video of his speech in parliament – in Spanish) and journalist Leontxo Garcìa, who was a speaker at our conferences in 2013 and 2014.