Presenting Chess in Schools in Norway

in your language…
Flag of Norway

First Rank is a fortnightly term-time newsletter for everyone interested in chess for education. In this issue, we present the Chess in schools movement in Norway. The movement is rather young, but due to “the Magnus Carlsen effect” the movement is rapidly developing.

Facts About Norway

  • Inhabitants: 5.3 million  Capital: Oslo
  • 99% of its electricity is hydropower
  • Norway produces lots of oil and gas offshore
  • Norway has been the most successful country in the winter Olympics
  • Europe’s biggest herd of wild reindeer roams in Norway

Facts about Chess in Schools in Norway 

Schools Chess in Norway Logo
  • The Chess in Schools project started in 2015 
  • The aim is that all children in Norway should play chess
  • Now 1,000 schools offer chess (1/3 schools)
  • 1,500 teachers have been trained to teach chess in the classroom
  • The school tournament Sjakk5en started in 2018 and now has 250 classes participating
  • Next year Sjakk5en will go national
  • A national Internet tournament, Yes2Chess, is planned

Chess in Schools Norway Website

Features of Chess in Schools Norway

  • Generous funding from the State and Foundations 
  • Small project team
  • The Federation organises teacher training courses around Norway
  • The Federation distributes chess materials to the schools for free
  • The schools undertake to give chess activities for at least two years
  • The schools get regular briefings, instruction material and professional support
  • The Federation arranges inter-school tournaments

Norwegian Chess Federation Website

The Magnus Carlsen Effect

Magnus Carlsen Publicity photo

Magnus Carlsen was born 1990 in Tønsberg, Norway. From early years it was clear that he had a rare talent and in the last ten years he has been the shining star of the chess world. In 2014 he became the world champion and has held the title since. Magnus is the most famous person in Norway, that has won the award as the sports person of the year. There are regular TV shows on chess, watched by millions. In the photo, he is wearing a traditional Norwegian knitted cardigan. This design showing the chess pieces became popular.

The co-operation between Norway and Sweden

Norway caught chess fever due to Magnus Carlsen. Consequently, many new talents have been nurtured, led by Simen Agdestein at NTG – the Norwegian School for Elite Sports covering the Olympic Games and chess. Sweden and Norway have engaged in educational co-operation. Norway has implemented the schools chess education programme from Sweden. In exchange, the Swedish youth elite are trained in Norway.

Funding for chess in schools

Chess in Schools was started in Norway with support from the national bank which has funded the project €1.2 million so far. In addition, the Chess in Schools project gets financial support from the State of €100,000 p.a. There are also some other sponsors. The main challenge for the Project from a finance point of view is to secure stable funding for the future.

The Hallelujah moment!

Cartoon - man with I love chess t-shirt

I was invited to come to Norway in 2001 by Simen Agdestein, who still runs the chess part of NTG. He wanted me to train a precocious talent, Magnus Carlsen. Magnus took part in a training weekend that I ran. Of course, I was impressed at his natural ability. I realised that he was someone extraordinary when I announced break time. All of the kids ran out to play football except for Magnus. He came to me and asked if I could recommend a chess book he could read during the break as he was so into it. Then I understood his true potential because talent is worth little if you do not have the interest and the will to work hard to develop it. In my discussions with Simen, then and later, we came to the conclusion that the most important task of a trainer is to keep a burning interest alive.  For this, an enjoyable environment is essential.  Simen is a big joker and with Magnus he tried to make every session as fun as possible with not only amusing exercises but also classical pranks.

What does this story have to do with chess in schools? In education, the first thing you must do is to create an interest – to open up the topic. The real “Hallelujah moment” comes when the child cannot keep away and starts to work on his/her own without anyone telling them to do so. They will learn the most by themselves. This is the real breakthrough, learning how to learn for yourself.

Jesper Hall,
Chair ECU Education

The Anecdote of the Week

“I played like a child!”

Children love to hear about prodigies. Magnus Carlsen was the World under-12 Champion, a Grandmaster at 13, and world top-rated player at 18  When he was 13 he played two games with the former world champion Garry Kasparov. In the first game, Carlsen sensationally achieved a draw.  What caused headlines was his comment after he had lost the second game: “In this game, I played like a child!” which was obviously the case given his age. This is such a marvelous aspect of chess – it crosses all borders. It does not matter if you are a boy or a girl, old or young, strong or weak. Everyone can play on an equal footing. From a young age, Magnus was already playing chess as though he had a lifetime of experience. He even forgot his age … 
The game below was played when Magnus was 11 years old.

Magnus Carlsen v Gustav Gulbrandsen

White to play and win material

ECU Education Calendar 2019
ECU School Chess Teacher Training Courses 

Spain  For more information

Albacete24 – 25 May
Murcia6 – 7 July
Alicante 4 – 5 September
Santurtzi15 – 16 November


Hamburg6-7 JulyFor more information


Chartres21-22 August For more information


London 30-31 MayTeaching Mathematics through Chess
London 1-2 JuneTeaching Chess in Primary School
Cambridge31 AugustTeaching Mathematics through Chess
Cambridge1-2 September Teaching Chess in Primary School


Pristina21-23 JuneFor more information

Puzzle Answer

“I played like a child!”

White has got the beautiful queen sacrifice 1.Qe3xa7. The idea is that after 1…Ra8xa7 2.Rc1xc8+ Qe7-d8 3.Rc8xd8+ Ke8xd8 4.Ng5xf7+ Kd8-e8 5.Nf7xh8 and white wins. Instead, Black played 1…Ra8-b8.

Carlsen then finished off with the beautiful 2.Qa7xb8+ Nd7xb8 3.Rc1xc8+ Ke8-d7 4.Rc8xh8 Nb8-c6 5.Ng5-f3 and white had gained an overwhelming material advantage.

ECU Education – What we try to do

in your language…

First Rank is a fortnightly term-time newsletter for everyone interested in chess for education. In this issue, we present the ECU Education Commission. The European Chess Union represents 54 national chess federations. Its Education Commission strives to promote the use of chess in the classroom to improve social and intellectual skills. These are vital for our children’s future as explained in the new promotional video.

ECU EDU video: We Make Europe Smarter!
ECU Education has produced a new video explaining why chess is the ideal classroom tool to prepare children for the digital world.

Do you want the video in your language?

The video “We Make Europe Smarter” is offered to all federations in Europe so you can translate it into your own language for the promotion of Chess in Schools. The logo of the federation can be inserted. Please contact us is you are interested

About ECU Education

  • A Commission of the European Chess Union (ECU-EDU)
  • 54 countries belong to the ECU (wider than the European Union)
  • The ECU Education was launched in 2014 in Tromsø 
  • The goal for the Commission is to develop chess as a pedagogic tool
  • The Commission comprises education experts from different countries
  • The ECU Academic Advisory Board includes distinguished professors
Chess for all Children
The real strength of chess is that it reaches all children, not just the clever children. Graham Gardiner from Australia explains the benefits for children that schools find challenging.

What has ECU Education done so far?

  • Conducted a survey on Chess in Schools in Europe
  • Participated in over 30 chess and education events around Europe
  • Sponsored six Chess in Schools conferences
  • Meetings with EU and national politicians
  • Assisted with ErasmusPlus project proposals
  • Launched First Rank Newsletter – now in 6 languages
  • Introduced the ECU School Chess Teacher Certificate
  • 20 teacher training courses with 300 graduates
  • Introduced the Chess and Maths Course.

What goals does ECU Education have?

  • Develop chess as an educational tool that strengthens social and intellectual skills
  • Create a new standard for teaching chess
  • Support federations, educational organisations, schools and individuals that work with chess as an educational tool
  • Provide training courses for teachers and tutors
  • Provide a full concept for teaching chess in schools

Chess for the future!

Cartoon - man with I love chess t-shirt

Today 5 million children play chess every week in the schools of Europe. Compare this with the 250,000 FIDE-rated chess players in Europe and you understand that chess is not just about titles and competitions. We must recognise that the future of chess is as a tool to develop life skills. This means that the way we teach chess must be changed. The journey has just started, and there is a lot to explore, and methods to develop. I see problems and I see possibilities!

A common problem amongst those who teach chess is that they believe that they know best. They have got nothing to learn from others, so for them the most important thing is to protect their “secrets”. I believe the opposite – that instead of being protective, we should be willing share our ideas and materials.

There are three reasons for this mission: 1) we make more progress if we share our explorations in this new field;  2) the larger cause is to prepare our children for the future not just to make them strong chess players; 3) even though Chess in Schools reaches 5 million kids the movement is growing fast, and in ten years time I predict there will be 20 million kids playing chess each week. That means that every instructor is needed. So let us co-operate on this!

Jesper Hall,
Chair ECU Education

The Anecdote of the Week

Chess Handbook Cover

Who decide the rules of chess?
Chess is played in the same way all over the world, and the rules have been the same for almost 200 years. Or is it so simple? The rules need to be continually updated with technology especially to accommodate game timers and then to prevent cheating using smartphones which have powerful chess engines.  (It is forbidden to bring a smartphone into many tournaments.) The World Chess Federation (FIDE) is responsible for setting the rules of chess. Even though most changes have been technical, sometimes even the traditional rules need to be clarified.   The wording must be very clear. Take a look at this study:

Mate in 1

This is a surprisingly difficult problem until you understand that it was created to show the weakness of this sentence in the rules: “When a pawn reaches the other side of the board from its starting position it must be changed to a new queen, rook, bishop or knight.”Can you solve the problem?

ECU Education Calendar 2019
ECU School Chess Teacher Training Courses 

Spain  For more information

Albacete24 – 25 May
Murcia6 – 7 July
Alicante 4 – 5 September
Santurtzi15 – 16 November


Hamburg6-7 JulyFor more information


Chartres21-22 August For more information


London 30-31 MayTeaching Mathematics through Chess
London 1-2 JuneTeaching Chess in Primary School
Cambridge31 AugustTeaching Mathematics through Chess
Cambridge1-2 September Teaching Chess in Primary School


Puzzle Answer

According to the rule in the handbook, White can play 1.g7-g8=N (A black one!)

Unusual promotion to black knight
The rule had omitted to say that the promotion must be to a piece of the same colour as the pawn promoting. In the next handbook the rule was updated.

Chess and Mathematics

First Rank is a fortnightly term-time newsletter for everyone interested in chess for education. In this issue, we present an early view of the recently concluded Erasmus+ CHAMPS which developed an innovative approach to teaching mathematics through the medium of chess.  The material will form the basis for an ECU Chess and Maths course for primary teachers and chess instructors.

See previous editions of our newsletter

The purpose of the CHAMPS project

The purpose of the CHAMPS (Chess and Mathematics in Primary School) project is to develop a new category of ‘chess-maths’ exercises in which mathematical games and puzzles are represented in a chess format. The objective is to highlight some mathematical ideas which can be communicated via the chessboard and pieces. As far as the children are concerned, they enjoy playing chess so being given some chess-like problems seems natural. It does not feel like a maths lesson. Conversely, some maths lessons may be enriched by such exercises without the need to be a chess player.

Basic ideas of the CHAMPS project

  • The mathematics exercises are presented in chess format
  • There are 50 exercises suitable from age 6 to 11+
  • Mathematical content appropriate for the target age is identified in each exercise
  • Solution methods use a structured approach familiar to maths teachers
  • The emphasis is on problem-solving
  • Methodology derived from George Pólya as used by Singapore schools
  • Accessible to teachers who do not play chess

The Singapore Method

A teaching method in the national mathematics curriculum from kindergarten until 6th Grade (age 11/12) in Singapore which has come top in the OECD Pisa international rankings

  • Method is based on three steps: Concrete, Pictorial, and Abstract
  • Step-by-step approach improves children’s problem-solving skills
  • The method focuses on fewer areas than most national curricula but goes deeper
  • Read more …

George Pólya

  • Hungarian/American mathematician (1887 – 1985)
  • His most famous book “How to Solve It” (1945) sold over 1 million copies.
  • His greatest contribution was to categorise methods (“heuristics”) for problem-solving 
  • These heuristics can be used to solve mathematical and non-mathematical problems
  • Some advice: “If you can’t solve a problem, then there is an easier problem you can solve: find it.”
  • Read more …

The Method of Simplification

You usually need to simplify the task.  Here are two examples:

Q1a: Can you place 12 knights on the board so they cover all squares?
This is a rather tricky question that is difficult for children to solve. Simplify the question by presenting a part-solution:

Q1b: Which knight should be placed on a new square so every square is covered?

A. Nf7 – g6
B. Nf2 –  f4
C. Nd3 – b3
D. Nc6 – a6

Q2a: Place eight queens on the chessboard so no queen is attacking another queen
This is a classic problem that is not easy to solve for young children. You can simplify it like this:

Q2b: Five queens are placed on the chessboard. Add three more so that no queen can attack any other.

A. b3, f8 & h4
B. b8, f4 & h3
C. b8, f4 & h1
D. b3, f4 & h8

It’s time for a new level of teaching

Since chess was introduced to schools in Europe, we have been fighting to be regarded as a proper educational tool. To be able to achieve credibility, we need to demonstrate teaching methods for cognitive and social development, not to develop chess skills.​

The CHAMPS project is exactly what I think we should be looking for. Chess gives the framework which encourages children to learn.  Within the 64 squares of the chessboard and with the help of the 32 pieces the possibilities are almost unlimited for what and how we teach. The unique thing with the CHAMPS project is that everything is taken to a new level. Modern didactic ideas are used, and every exercise has got a clear purpose and is tested in practice. We must adopt this approach in all areas where we use chess as an educational tool.

Jesper Hall,
Chair ECU Education

The ECU Chess and Maths course

The ECU has developed a one-day Chess and Maths training course for primary school teachers.  This is in addition to the ECU School Chess Teacher Certificate. We are planning to offer the new course around Europe from June 2019. If you or your organisation/federation is interested in hosting a course please contact:

The Anecdote of the Week
The Chess and Rice Story

Chess and Grains of Rice
A classic chess and maths problem arises from the invention of the game. It involves a lot of rice. There are many versions, but the most common one is this:

The Emperor of India in the 6th century was so pleased with one of his advisors who had invented the game of chess that he offered him a reward of his own choosing.  He said to the wise man:

Name your reward!”

The wise man responded:

O, Emperor, my wishes are simple. I only wish for thisGive me one grain of rice for the first square of the chessboard, two grains for the next square, four for the next, eight for the next and so on for all 64 squares, with each square having double the number of grains as the square before.“

The Emperor agreed, amazed that the man had asked for such a small reward – or so he thought.

What do you think, was it a small reward that the wise man asked for? And can you calculate how many grains of rice if only half the board is filled?

ECU Education Calendar 2019
ECU School Chess Teacher Training Courses 

Gran Canaria  29-30 MarchPep Suarez 
Murcia, Spain 3-4 May Pep Suarez 
Albacete, Spain 25-25 MayPep Suarez 
London, England 1-2 JuneJohn Foley

ECU Chess and Mathematics Teacher Training Course

London, England 31 May John Foley

The Chess and Rice Story

Half the board would contain 4,294,967,295 grains of rice.  If one grain of rice weighs 25 mg, the total weight is over 107 tonnes which is equivalent to the weight of a blue whale! A mathematical solution is here.

Twelve Knights Problem Answer 1a = B
Five Queens Problem Answer 2a = A