Summer time is here

First Rank is a fortnightly term-time newsletter for everyone interested in chess for education. With this issue at the end of the school year, we present the FIDE Education Commission, and give you the story for summer nights and an anecdote about the Lewis chessmen. We present a calendar of training events and save the date for the annual London Chess Conference.

The FIDE Education Commission is the part of the World Chess Federation responsible for the development of chess in schools. Following the FIDE elections last October, the new team held a Conference on 6th – 9th May in Tsaghakadzor in Armenia on the topic of “Current state and development trends of chess education”. What made the event special was that representatives from several Ministries of Education were in attendance. Helpfully, FIDE produced a short video to summarise the Conference.

Facts about the FIDE Education Commission

  • A Commission of the World Chess Federation (FIDE)
  • Started in 1984
  • Chairman is Smbat Lputian, Armenia
  • Their motto is “Chess for Education not Education for Chess”
  • Their aim is to lead the global development of Chess in Schools (CiS)
  • Webpage:

The story for summer nights

Most chess players remember the moment when the world of chess opened up for them. This is a key moment in every learning process, when you get so excited that you cannot stay away from the subject. Many people are fascinated by some chess problems and studies. We all have our favourite instructive positions to amaze our chess friends. I  still remember my eureka moment when I was given two miniature chess problems.  I have often reused these, not the least during the summer nights after a friendly game. 

I tell the audience that there is a mate in three moves. Can they find it? The difficulty with the problem is that the black king is currently in stalemate. Children love to discuss this.  I guide them towards the solution with questions like: Is there any bishop move that can avoid the stalemate? In the end the audience, with or without my help will be able to find the right first move: 1.Bh1-c6. (The solution is 1… b7xc6 2.Kd7-c8 c6-c5 3.Na6-c7 mate.) However, as the eager problem solver puts the bishop on c6 I say “Wait, I have made a mistake. This is the position”:

It is still White to play and get mate in three whilst avoiding stalemate. Finally, the audience will understand the difference from the first position and find 1.Ke2-f3 and then 1…g1Q 2.Nh3-f2+ Qg1xf2  3.Kf3xf2 mate. (If 1…g1N+ 2.Kf2+ Nf3 3.Bxf3 mate. 

The golden moment is when you reveal the secrets of the two mirror problems by turning the tables. This will make you the star of late summer nights.

Jesper Hall, Chairman, ECU Education

Let us make every country of Europe smarter!

The main issue that we have been dealing with in ECU Education is how to help the countries, federations, organisations and individuals that are working with chess as a pedagogic tool. We decided to use the umbrella slogan “We Make Europe Smarter!”. Then every country and federation can have their own version e.g. “We Make England Smarter!” if it works in their own language. By synchronizing we will be much stronger, and we can share PR-material and experiences. What do you readers think about that?

We Make Europe Smarter! … and every country

The promotion video “We Make Europe Smarter” can be translated into your own language. So far, the video has been translated into German, Swedish, Dutch, Russian and Spanish. For information on how to get it translated into your language please contact Jesper Hall

Anecdote of the Week: Lewis chessmen

The Lewis chessmen are probably the most famous chess pieces in the world. They were discovered in 1831 in a sandbank on the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Scotland was part of the Kingdom of Norway in those days.  The horde comprised a group of distinctive 12th-century pieces, most of which are carved from walrus ivory. When found, there were 93 artifacts: 78 chess pieces, 14 tablemen and one belt buckle. Today, 82 pieces are owned and usually exhibited by the British Museum in London and the remaining 11 are at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. One knight and four warders were missing from the four sets. 

The chessmen have attracted huge interest through the centuries and are in the news again as a missing piece was recently found in a drawer in a family home in Edinburgh and sold at Sothebys for nearly €1 million. The missing piece, called a warder, was bought 1964 for £5 by an antique dealer who left it for his family who were unaware of its historical and cultural significance. So if you find a medieval chess piece, treat it carefully. 

The Dutch chess composer Jacobus Peet that was born 1831, the same year as the chessmen were found. Peet was famous for his problems with the king surrounded by a wall of pawns. Like this one:

White to move and give checkmate in 4 moves.

ECU Education Calendar – Courses 2019

Key: Course Codes

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