ECU Education – Chess for inclusive education

First Rank is a fortnightly term-time newsletter for everyone interested in chess for education. In this issue, we will discuss how chess can be an excellent tool for inclusive education, you’ll find the calendar with ECU Education Courses, an anecdote and a tactical exercise.

“Just spread the word around: Chess is for anybody”

This is Ana Miller speaking. She is 11 years young and suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, but that did not prevent her from taking part in the World Championship for disabled juniors. Watch the CNN Report of this tournament by clicking on the picture.

World Junior Championship for the Disabled 2019

The 3rd World Junior Chess Championship for the Disabled took place in New Jersey (USA) from 9 to 15 July. The importance of such a tournament cannot be underestimated, as – on the one hand – the chess world really shows that its slogan ‘Gens una sumus‘ is not just a slogan, but a reality: chess is for anybody. On the other hand, such a tournament shows that chess can be a very useful tool in inclusive education. How many of the 5 million children involved in CiS programmes could learn at chess from the disabled persons? A lot. To give you an idea: the winner of the championship, Ilja Lipilin of Russia (see picture), has a rating of 2151 Elo and he is still improving. His rating is so high that only 30,440 chess players (adults and juniors) in the world are supposed to have better chess skills than he has. And we are only talking about learning chess skills and not about learning perseverance, commitment, belief in yourself…

The importance of tournaments for disabled children

Is it not contradictory that we want to use chess as a tool for inclusive education but at the same time we are organising separate tournaments for disabled people?

Not at all. Chess is for everyone, but neither organisers (sorry, there are exceptions of course), nor disabled children seem to be ready for inclusive tournaments at the moment.

How many playing venues and clubs are accessible to disabled persons? How many organisers take into account the special needs of disabled persons? You may not think about it, but a disabled person needs more time to make a move physically, to go to the bathroom, to get a drink… Wouldn’t it be fairer to take it into account for the reflection time of the game?

Disabled children often lack self-confidence: since chess is still too much associated with an activity for the big boys, most of them don’t start playing chess. An accessible tournament can therefore certainly have a positive effect: for everyone, the pleasure of a tournament will give them a boost, for the strongest, it will encourage them to compete with other chess players, of whom they think they have no chances against.



Anecdote of the Week

The threat is more powerful than its execution


In chess – and some say in other areas as well – a threat is sometimes more powerful than its execution. Maybe your opponent threatens to take your queen, but if she does so, she can be mated on the next move. Or she can take a piece with her queen, to find out some moves later, that her queen cannot escape anymore…

Aron Nimzowitsch - Wikipedia

One day, Aaron Nimzowitsch (photo), a strong chess player who has given his name to many openings and opening variations, played a game against the former world champion Lasker. Lasker was known to be psychologically very strong and since he knew that Nimzowitsch had an aversion to tobacco…Nimzowitsch knew that one of the tournament rules was No Smoking. Yet Lasker quietly took out his cigar, cut off the tip and also brought out his matches. Nimzowitsch became upset and rushed to the arbiter to complain. When the arbiter came to the board, he established that the cigar had not been lit and that there was no smoke either. “I can’t validate your complaint.”

Nimzowitsch replied: “Yes, I know, but he threatens to smoke and as you know, in chess the threat is stronger than its execution.”

Chess for inclusive education.

I was lucky to get last minute access to the Second European Education Summit in Brussels on 26 September, where I could – unfortunately – only attend the session “Inclusive Education: Does the Social Elevator still Work”. The speaker, Cor J.W. Meijer, Director of the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, departed from human rights as a basis for inclusion. For the Agency, inclusion is much broader than just disabilities / special needs. Inclusion should be there for all the disadvantaged: migrants, talented and gifted and Cor Meijer even mentioned girls. Of course, I involuntarily had to think about the theme of this year’s London Conference: female empowerment (see video above).

Although Cor Meijer stated the focus for inclusion should be on how to deal with diversity, the key to a quality inclusive education lies in ‘belonging’. And here, too, it cannot surprise you that I saw a connection to chess: gens una sumus, we are one people, aren’t we? And since everyone can readily play chess, we can create this feeling of belonging… and from what unites us, we can discover and accept more easily, more peacefully and more naturally the diversity in each of us.

Philippe Vukojevic

Furthermore, the Dutch speaker emphasised the fact that what is good for learners with special education needs (SEN) is good for all learners (peer tutoring, team teaching, heterogeneous grouping), and therefore, a profile for the inclusive teacher should be developed, because such a teacher needs particular skills, attitudes and competences.
 Since chess has that binding ‘belonging’ power, I am convinced that chess should be included in the profile of the inclusive teacher. Hence a warm appeal to all teachers to take chess courses, because if chess is good for learners with SEN, it will be good for all learners. A warm appeal also to chess federations to support the FIDE DIS commission and the IPCA and spread the word around: ‘Chess is for anybody’.


Classics – The threat is more powerful than its execution

A game between Cheron and Jeanlose started with 1.e4 e5 2.f3 c6 3.c4 d6 4.c3 g4 [Black puts his bishop on g4, in order to prevent the knight from moving. Indeed, if it were to move (to g5 for example, to threaten f7), the bishop could simply take the queen] 5.h3 h5 [to maintain the threat of taking the queen if the knight moves, but here, the threat is stronger than its execution, isn’t it?].

How can White get a much better (or even won) position?

ECU Education Calendar 2019

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Tactics – Answer

This is a classical puzzle and it is called the Légal Trap (although some prefer to call it the Blackburne trap). The name doesn’t matter: White ‘simply’ ignores Black’s threat and sacrifies his knight: 1.xe5!!

If Black takes the queen, White can mate the Black king: 1…xd1 2.xf7+ e7 3.d5#.

And even if Black doesn’t take the queen, but the knight, he will lose a pawn: 1…exd5 2.xh5 or – more difficult to see: 1…xe5 2.xh5 xc4 3.b5+,which attacks both the king on e8 and the knight on c4, which means White will recapture the knight.

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