By GM Bartek Macieja
Popularity of Scholastic and University Chess
Scholastic and collegiate chess in Brownsville, Texas, is huge. Almost every primary, elementary, middle, and high school has a chess program. Simple scholastic tournaments gather a few hundred participants (on average), local scholastic championships over a thousand. The 2017 South Texas Scholastic Championship, organized by the University of Texas – Rio Grand Valley (UTRGV) Chess Program on the UTRGV Campus in Edinburg, attracted 1426 participants.
Chess is also truly appreciated at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. The collegiate team ( https://www.utrgv.edu/chess) is strongly supported by the leadership of the university. The team won the national collegiate championships in 2018 and 2019 and was named “The Chess College of the Year” both years. In recognition of our success, the team was invited to the Capitol in Austin, and honored by the State Governor, Senate, and the House of Representatives ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6FvTj9rsnU).
The Mathematics of Chess
Using this momentum, the Chess Program and the Math Department designed a new academic course – “Mathematics of Chess.” The official code was: Special Topics in Math (MATH 3399). For the first time, the 3-credit-hour upper level course was offered to UTRGV students in the Spring 2020 semester. The main goal was to expand educational benefits offered to students at UTRGV. The topics included (but were not limited to): Combinatorics, Independence and Domination Problems, Graph Theory, Game Theory, Rating Systems.
It is widely believed that chess can serve as an excellent tool to improve students’ understanding of practical mathematical and logical problems. The course confirmed it.
The official feedback submitted by the students included comments such as:
“Endowed me with new intuition and approaches to problem solving in mathematics and in the real world.”, or
“This was an interesting class that made me consider math in a new light.”
The response was inspiring, so we plan to continue the course in the future and to further develop it.
14 students registered for the course and 1 audited it. Most of them were from the UTRGV Math and Science Academy, the remaining were regular UTRGV students. There was no requirement as to major.
More information about the UTRGV Math and Science Academy (and the Chess Program there) can be found on: https://www.utrgv.edu/msa, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhkH0SZDtfY, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVKTRJqoCGg
The course was conducted by:
Dr. Alexey Glazyrin (who won a gold medal at the International Mathematical Olympiad in 2001, https://faculty.utrgv.edu/alexey.glazyrin/Glazyrin_cv.pdf) and
GM Bartek Macieja (who won the European Individual Chess Championship in 2002, http://macieja.com).
Maria fits the profile of an at-risk student. Her parents are divorced. She speaks limited English. She struggles with depression and a lack of motivation at school. Would a game of chess help? Chess as a tool for therapy opens new doors for counselors.
Fernando Moreno currently serves as a school counselor for the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. He started using chess as a tool for therapy thirty years ago. While working with immigrant students in Washington DC public schools, he realized chess could help develop social-emotional skills.
Why chess? “Students have a less negative view of chess than they do of therapy,” Moreno observes. “So I could start playing and then focus on counseling and therapy goals.”
Students respond positively to the chess activities. In addition, student-teacher relationships change. Moreno noticed that, “Teachers see them in a different way because they know how to play chess.”
Watch “Developing Social Emotional Skills – Using Chess as a Metaphor for Life,” Moreno’s presentation at the 6th Global Chess Festival organized by Judit Polgar in October of 2020.
Read research related to this topic, “The Benefits of Chess for the Intellectual and Social-Emotional Enrichment in Schoolchildren,” in the The Spanish Journal of Psychology.
From our CIE Coalition Partners at ChessPlus and their First Rank Newsletter:
The annual London Chess Conference is the most important chess gathering in the world as far as chess education is concerned. It usually run in conjunction with the London Chess Classic, held each December by CSC (Chess in Schools and Communities) which was not possible this year due to Covid. Nevertheless, with some support from the European Chess Union and FIDE, the conference continues and international experts from the world of chess, technology and education will again meet for a weekend to discuss the latest software, systems, research, projects and the most interesting practical experiences in classroom teaching. There is a focus on playing chess online, teaching chess online and using sophisticated digital self-learning systems. We bring together the world’s leading experts in chess and technology.
When we chose the theme of chess and technology last December we could not have predicted how relevant it would be within just a few months. The organisers are inviting industry leaders, pioneers and start-ups alike. They are expecting over 400 attendees, mostly chess decision-makers, technologists and influencers. The weekend coincides with the FIDE Congress at which representatives from each of the world’s federations will be online focused on the key strategies and policies determining the future of chess. The conference could not be more relevant. Both events will be carried on the FIDE YouTube channel.
ChessTech2020 strives to replicate the experience of the real event in London. We will have different formats – presentations, interviews, workshops, round tables and demonstrations. There will be many important speakers at the event. Arkady Dvorkovic – President of FIDE – heads the list of speakers. He will talk about how chess has always been a driver of technology especially in computer science and artificial intelligence. There will be speakers from the main playing platforms including Chess.com, Lichess and Tornelo. There are at least three sessions on various aspects of cheating and anti-cheating. The popularity of streaming will be featured. There will also be some training sessions on how to teach chess online to schools or provide coaching to more advanced students. Some of these sessions will be reserved to those who purchase the Professional ticket.
The event comprises several parallel streams in Zoom. There will always be something interesting to watch at any point during the weekend. Topics to be covered:
Online Training Academies
By Cristin Howard
Play is one of the most important ways that our children learn. It’s the way that we’re programmed to learn. So, harnessing the power of play is a great way to help your kid learn all sorts of life skills without them even realizing it.
Having a range of reading options or maths practice tools for your child is brilliant. But kids thrive on variety. And that’s why it can be a great idea to incorporate strategy games like chess into your routine. There are also loads of fantastic strategy games to try beyond chess. Some of our family favorites include Onitama, Santorini, and Blokus.
Here are a few of the things that playing strategy games, like chess, can do for your child.
Learning and playing chess is one big opportunity to exercise your working memory. When you’re starting, you need to hold all of the rules in your mind. As you get better, you begin to build a library of your past games.
Your child will need to think about their previous games to learn what does and doesn’t work in a game. To improve their strategy, they need to keep reviewing what they’re experienced already. This is an effective tool to strengthen their memory skills.
Encourage Creativity and Problem Solving
The key to winning in strategy games is to try different approaches. Your child will soon realize that if they keep doing the same thing over and over, they’ll not get anywhere. This will give them the push to start trying more creative approaches to problem-solving.
There’s no denying that modern technology pushes our children, and us, towards having shorter attention spans. Games of strategy require you to focus on the game for an extended period. Playing these sorts of games with your child is a great way to help them stretch their ability to focus and concentrate.
Compound Skills Practice
Plenty of teachers will tell you that kids can learn a skill in one class and, somehow, appear to completely forget that skill in the next class. Schools can unintentionally teach children to separate the things they learn. They might be great at math but then not apply it in another situation.
Strategy games require your kids to use many different skills. They can involve memory, math, and literacy. Combining all of these skills into a single game teaches your child that they can take what they learn and use it in various scenarios.
Life is full of knocks. We have a duty as parents to teach our children how to deal with them. This means giving them opportunities to fail in a safe space. This teaches them how to brush themselves off and try again.
Strategy games can take a little while to master. This means your child is going to experience failure and frustration. You can help them through this experience and give them confidence to have another go—perfect practice for life.
Being patient is hard. Any parent who has had to sit on their hands while their toddler does something themselves is intimately aware of this fact. As hard as it is for you, kids find waiting even harder.
Waiting for your turn is an integral part of strategy games. So it’s an excellent setting for your child to practice waiting and learn patience.
Big Picture Thinking
To become a master of strategy games, your child needs to learn how to focus on more than one thing at once. They need to think about each move and how it affects the overall strategy. This helps your child to learn to think in a longer-term way.
Children who can weigh their actions against long term goals are set up to succeed. This sort of thinking helps children grow into adults who can make good decisions with money and career choices.
Hopefully, you’ll find the inspiration to add some strategy games into the enrichment activities you share with your child. Just like reading together, playing together has a wide range of benefits for your child.
Author Bio: Cristin Howard runs Smart Parent Advice, a site that provides parenting advice for moms and dads. Cristin writes about all of the different ups and downs of parenting, provides solutions to common challenges, and reviews products that parents need to purchase.
Today’s students need more than the 3 R’s. To succeed in a rapidly shifting society, they also need the “4 C’s” of 21st century skills. Creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration are essential for a tech-savvy workforce. Chess involves critical thinking under pressure. Young players learn to focus, recognize patterns, weigh alternatives, and resist impulsive actions. Playing chess involves social interaction and relationship-building with teachers and children.
In the U.S., educators are just beginning to realize how powerful chess can be. Even at the most basic levels, learning chess under the guidance of a caring teacher can bolster the most academically challenged student. It can help students at any level make deeper connections between their day-to-day academic performance and the critical, creative, and behavioral skills so necessary for achievement in our 21st century world.
Today, a coalition of chess training organizations is making the adoption of chess learning in schools much easier. Teachers, not chess experts, guide students in connecting chess to education.
Our three Chess in Education (CIE) Coalition organizations – Chess in Schools, ChessKid, and ChessPlus – have joined forces to launch a website and chess training resource to help educators and parents incorporate chess education in our schools.
Our mission is to advance the potential of chess in education in the United States. Working with leaders in the international Chess in Education (CIE) movement, we bring CIE best practices to educators in a way that aligns with their education goals and standards. As a result, we help teachers use chess as an educational tool to help students develop the skills needed for success in and beyond the classroom.
For more information, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-888-400-7182 Ext. 3.
Connect through the website, chessineducation.org.
What have we been doing these past few months while COVID-19 wreaked havoc on Education?
Preparing for the future!
By Rachel Schechter
The summer heat can’t stop these students. Unflinching and undaunted, these intrepid future kings are among the first – if not the first – Illinois chess players returning to over-the-board chess (OTB) after enduring months of lock down and virtual learning.
Why is this moment significant? Instructor and organizer Rachel Schechter notes that when every national educational institution closed its classrooms and opened online learning portals, it was the smart move, the right move for the moment. An adequate substitute.
“However,” Schechter continues, “It was a substitute. By the end of term, students seemed lackluster and unfocused. They craved normal socialization. At the start of June, I invited a handful of current and former Montessori students to play chess in Meadowbrook Park in Savoy, Illinois.”
Everyone took the appropriate hygienic measures. Parents gave their approval. After four weeks, the initiative demonstrated that OTB chess can make a safe, secure comeback.
What do the students say? “Where’s the pizza!” Even 90-degree heat doesn’t deter their dedication to the royal game. Pizza seems more than a fair reward for these fearless chess warriors.
Schechter concludes, “It’s a safe, clean, healthy environment. And it’s working. Hopefully, a few more players will join us for the rest of the summer; and more like-minded chess organizers will get their players back on board.”
By Jerry Nash
Both the chess board and the game of chess call attention to the same literacy proficiencies demanded by other forms of media, both print and graphic. These include the following:
- Visual Orientation
- Symbolic Language
- Translation from Two-dimensional to Three-dimensional
- Pattern Recognition
The two diagrams on the right serve to illustrate all four of these required skills. Those familiar with the game (in other words, those who have already acquired the appropriate chess literacy skills), will understand that the top diagram would almost never be found in a chess-related book, magazine, newspaper article, or even a computer-generated chess game or tutorial.
Just as we read sentences from left to right, the standard for the visual orientation of chess diagrams in any medium would generally have the White pieces at the bottom, the Black pieces at the top. The symbols that comprise the language of modern chess, algebraic notation, are the numbers on the left and the alphabet displayed at the bottom.
Just as an elementary school student must learn to recognize the patterns contained in letters, words, and sentences, the beginning chess player must learn to recognize the patterns contained on the board and to translate the symbols for the chess pieces in order to follow the game on paper or on a computer screen or to re-create the game on a “real” board. The second diagram “of course” represents the starting position of a game of chess. However, only the person who has learned the pattern would know this fact. Otherwise, these symbols could be seen simply as a random collection of symbols – even if they are mirrored on the opposite side of the board.
How can we apply this chess knowledge to build literacy abilities in the classroom? By asking students to set up the chess board from the bottom diagram, we can incorporate all of these skills at once. Students can share verbally how they accomplished the task. The teacher can then assist students in drawing parallels to how they are learning to read. Many students will be excited to realize that they are already learning a new language!
Article by Luca Gallina
Black and White Sport: CHESS was a project co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union from January of 2018 until December of 2019. The project involved organizations in four countries: Sport Club Glamour Events (Italy); Association Centro Social Paroquial dos Santos Mártires (Portugal); Catalan Chess Federation (Spain); and Latvian Academy of Sport Education (LASE) (Latvia). The initiative included five schools, ten teachers, and one hundred students (6-7 years old).
In this project, the innovative idea was to establish a stable European partnership including a University, chess clubs, schools, federations, chess players, and those who are enthusiasts of chess, The goal was to provide for the teaching of chess in European primary schools (ISCED 1).
Though this type of project had previously been discussed, no one had succeeded in setting up a work plan to reach the intermediate steps to achieve the objective. This initiative, for the first time in Europe, proposed an intermediate step of setting up a common teaching model among all European schools: this new teaching model would then be shared with the main European figures in the chess field – through reference models, explanation reports, and didactic materials.
The project’s added value at European level was in the coordinated participation of various European organizations and bodies which had already participated together in an earlier Erasmus+ programme. In time, the organizations refined common interests and practices and were willing to share them with small local sports associations and with schools in order to reach a more local level although in a European framework: a local level by experimenting in schools a curriculum model for teaching chess in primary schools (ISCED 1); a European framework as to establishing a Network aiming at the inclusion of chess in the curriculum of EU primary schools (ISCED 1). For this purpose, at the project’s conclusion the Network submitted the project results along with a request for the inclusion of chess in primary schools to the European Commission.
The European Network Chess at School (ENCS) was established by the partnering organizations.
The aim of the European Network Chess at School is to promote the inclusion of chess as a compulsory subject in the ISCED 1 schools of the European Union, through the following main activities:
- Dissemination of the educational chess book: “Chess Course Model for Primary Schools” developed by the project;
- Development based on the “Chess Course Model for Primary Schools” of a new model for the purposes of implementation in other school levels (ISCED 2 and ISCED 3);
- Spread and promotion of the European Network Chess at School in order to involve other Sports Associations and Schools.
For additional details about the Black and White Sport: CHESS project, contact Luca Gallina – email@example.com.
Article by Jerry Nash
February 23, 2020 – Students at Francisco de Quevedo Primary School in Fuenlabrada, Madrid have discovered a new way to learn math. They learn how to move chess pieces to collect one or more of the math information cards placed on each of the sixty-four squares of the chessboard. The cards contain math concepts such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, odd and even numbers, sequences, fractions, etc. Once they have collected their cards, they perform the math functions indicated.
The project, called “Transversality in Chess,” is the concept of Jose Antonio Coleto Calderon, a primary school teacher and chess player. Mr. Coleto began the activities four years ago in order to give support to his classes in both Language and Mathematics for primary grade students aged six to twelve years old. He asserts that this is the only project in Spain with this philosophy and methodology for using chess as a tool in the classroom.
He recalls, “I wanted to link two worlds: the educative and the chess world. So, I started to think about how I could do this. It began ten years ago. First, I started to write the philosophy of the project for two years. After that, I wrote the activities. Then I met Jose Manuel Gonzalez Guillorme, my headteacher, five years ago and I moved to CEIP Francisco de Quevedo state school to develop the project.”
Mr. Coleto is pleased with the response to his idea. “All my colleagues welcome the project and the whole school as well because they agree that chess (educative and transversal) is a great tool to be used in the classroom.” Even members of the educational board visited the school to observe the students and were impressed.
As a result, the initiative will expand to include an additional fifteen teachers at the same school. The teachers are currently participating in a year-long course led by Mr. Coleto. Not only will participants learn the chess and math activities, they will discover how to incorporate them in a way that builds on previous knowledge and encourages cooperative learning. As the idea catches on, Mr. Coleto hopes this initiative will move beyond Madrid to schools across Spain.
©2020 Chess in Schools. All rights reserved. Chess in Schools is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, EIN 90-1141646. Donations are tax-deductible.