Presenting Chess in Schools in Norway

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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.