Olympia Conference Centre, Kensington, London

 

Successes and Challenges

 

Ideas were Born and Networks Created at the 1st London Chess and Education Conference.

 

 
   

Ninety school chess experts from more than twenty countries met at the London Chess Classic for its inaugural Chess and Education Conference. All five continents were represented, with some participants coming from Australia, India, South Africa, the U.S. and Canada for the conference, entitled ‚‘Successes and Challenges - Improving School Chess Research, Practice and Strategy‘.

 

Aram Hajian and Smbat Lputian introduced the challenges of rolling out a national programme in Armenia, where chess has been a mandatory subject from grade two since 2011. Marisa van der Merwe highlighted how school chess in South Africa is increasing pupil motivation as well as bringing benefits to the community. Carl Fredrik Johansson from the Swedish Chess Federation and Mads Jacobsen from the Danish Scholastic Chess Organisation talked about strategies and strategy-building. Teacher-based school chess programmes have grown immensely in both countries, which currently have the highest participation rate for school chess amongst EU countries. Ferenc von Maurer and Eva Gyarmathy came from Hungary to present their approach to use chess as an educational toolkit for teaching literacy, numeracy, art and history. Hungary is likely to play an integral role in the development of school chess, as the game is about to become an optional subject at all elementary schools.

 

 

 

More photos

 

Another focus of the first conference day was research. Fernand Gobet, from the University of Liverpool, and Christopher Chabris, currently fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, explained the deficiencies of a lot of older studies. They also prescribed sounder research designs to establish the impact of chess instruction as well as ways to make research more relevant to the planning and practice of school chess programmes. We learnt about significant studies in the making in the US, in the UK and in Italy. Michelle Ellefson from the University of Cambridge shared preliminary results from the ongoing Mind Match Chess study, which showed that the academic results of children who learn chess in school were significantly better than the control group in several tasks, but surprisingly not with regard to spatial thinking and working memory. The last keynote speaker Leontxo García, from the newly created thinktank ‚‘Chess in the Public Interest‘, argued that we should generally develop chess as a social tool rather than just as a sport.

 

 
   

This report highlights a few of the many topics and projects that were presented in plenary sessions as well as workshops. Debates on selected issues demonstrated a shift from teaching chess as a subject in its own right towards using chess as an educational toolkit, suggesting that it is easy for chess teachers to overestimate the benefits of chess instruction. Ideas were gathered on how to facilitate teaching chess to underprivileged children, those with learning disabilities or a different native language, and how to make chess less scary for female teachers. In the final discussion Carl Fredrik Johansson and Leontxo García were joined by Léo Battesti, Chairman of the Corsican Chess League, and FIDE Presidential Candidate Garry Kasparov. Excerpts from this discussion will be available soon.

 

A few international networks were kick-started during the conference and shall start to produce results soon. We are in discussion with a publisher and sponsors to document and extend our insights in book form. Meanwhile presentations from the conference can be downloaded here.

 

"The whole weekend was a wonderful experience and it was fascinating to hear other people's way of teaching chess in schools throughout the world. Lots of contacts were made. All this should represent a major step forward in all of our respective missions." - Sean Marsh

 

"I found it extremely informative, and I hope to use some of the research to convince more schools to consider chess as more than a game. I truly hope that the Conference will become an annual event." - Balvinder Ahluwalia

 

"This conference was a wonderful opportunity to meet like minded individuals from all over the world, and hopefully there will be many more like it." - Tal Granite

 


 

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