Chess in Schools and Communities Initiative

LM Brian McCarthy left a comment on the previous post and provided a very interesting link. Brian writes, “Susan Sallon explores the impact of chess on primary school children’s cognitive development. She debunks every last study before hers as being flawed by low numbers as you say or bad methodology or both. Her’s is hard to find fault with, unless you want every grade tested in the same fashion.”

I would urge anyone with interest in this subject to read what Susan has to say. For example, I quoted GM Yasser Seirwan in the previous post concerning the “Margulies” study. This is what Susan has to say about that particular study:

“In the South Bronx NYC, Stuart Margulies (1990 – 1992) conducted a study to look at changes in reading scores after chess instruction. Mid-elementary school children joined chess clubs at school. In the 1st year, they received instruction by chess masters. In the 2nd year, they also participated in computer-supported chess activities. Chess club membership was voluntary. Before the study began, students were assessed, using a standardised reading test. In this instance, the “control” group was the National Norm for the same grade students in the same school district. Students in the chess group made greater improvements than the national norm. However, since the chess group had higher pre-test scores than the control, Margulies aimed to address the selection bias, by comparing the chess group scores with those of a non-chess control group, consisting of children with pre-test scores comparable to the chess group. But again, the chess group showed more gains than the control group. However, Margulies himself, is quick to point out that “chess participants form a pool of intellectually gifted and talented students. Students who join this group make contact with a core of high achievers and thereby develop more academic interest, speak at higher levels of standard speech……”

Brian also provides a link to a page which contains an interesting study recently conducted in Great Britain by “the “Chess in Schools and Communities” Initiative (CSC) set up by International Chess Master, Malcolm Pein.” A link can be found in Brian’s comment, and I will provide a link to the PDF of “Susan Sallon explores the impact of chess on primary school children’s cognitive development.” (http://www.chessinschools.co.uk/download/research/Susan_Sallon_Dissertation.pdf)

This study appears to be very good news for the effect chess can have on students. It is possible that this is the best news of any study yet conducted on chess and education, at least from a chess perspective. Kudos to LM Brian McCarthy for sharing this information!

Former GCA Board member Tim Payne, who resigned from the board, along with the man I hope becomes the next President of the Georgia Chess Association, Frank Johnson, sends information about the “largest study in world about impact of chess on education is underway in Israel.” – http://www.israel21c.org/social-action-2/can-chess-make-you-smarter/

In an article, Can chess make you smarter? by Viva Sarah Press, dated January 23, 2013, we learn, “Boris Gelfand made all the right moves to become Israel’s highest-ranking chess player. Now, he’s partnering up with an Israeli university to launch the country’s first scientific research project focused on chess. The Grandmaster Chess Research Project is a one-of-a-kind initiative to develop a novel academic approach to the skills and culture of chess-playing that can, in turn, contribute to social and scientific development.”

We also learn, “Gelfand’s ranking as vice world champion is what triggered the Grandmaster Chess Research Project.” That is the first time in my four and a half decades I have heard anyone called a “vice world chess champion” although I will admit to having heard some called the “world champion of vice.”

“The program will provide an opportunity to achieve breakthrough research and social outreach in a field that has not yet been fully explored,” said University of Haifa Vice President and Dean of Research Prof. Michal Yerushalmy. The researchers will examine the impact of chess on students’ abilities in math, language acquisition, and other areas.”

“I am sure this will make our society better,” Gelfand said during a toast to launch the new research initiative. “I know leading intellectual professionals who succeeded thanks to their playing chess in school and continued playing alongside their professional development.”
(http://www.israel21c.org/social-action-2/can-chess-make-you-smarter/)

My thanks to Tim Payne for sharing the information. Many detract from, but only a few “add to” the discussion, and I appreciate those, like Brian and Tim, who have added something pertinent. The more one knows the better the chances of obtaining the truth, at least in theory.

Can All the Talk Walk the Walk?

I read the March 27, 2015 edition of the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Newsletter, #703, by John Donaldson, the day it was published (http://www.chessclub.org/news.php?n=703). Of particular interest was this, “The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis has done the chess world a favor by conducting a literature review to answer the question, “Does chess provide educational benefits?” (http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/chess-literature-review-gives-base-claim-chess-educational-benefits)

I clicked on the link to find the headline: On Chess: Literature Review Gives Base To Claim Of Chess’ Educational Benefits. The article was written by Brian Jerauld, who “is the 2014 Chess Journalist of the Year, and the communications specialist for the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. He is a 2001 graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism and has more than a decade of experience writing about boats, sports and other ways to relax.” It was dated Feb 12, 2015. Since I had posted a series of articles on this very subject during the latter part of February I could not help but wonder how this had been missed. Further pondering brought forth the question of why no one had commented on this study on the blog or on the USCF forum thread concerning my blog posts on the subject. (http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=21185&sid=95eabe87ba3a5d3ce890f4237d794c88)

Mr. Jerauld writes, “By now, the claim that chess comes packaged with hidden educational perks is a hype certainly heard around the world. And how could it not be believed? Just find some random piece of research that supports such big talk, tie it together with obvious, awesome-sounding hyperbole — like “decision-making skills” and “higher-order thinking” — and boom: You’ve got yourself some Grade-A propaganda.

Over the years, all this talk has given a rather rosy-colored narrative that always ends in support of chess curriculum implementation. But recently, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, whose scholastic program branched out to more than 3,000 students and hundreds of area schools last year, dropped the rhetoric and set out to discover if chess actually has an effect on its students.

Empirically, can all the talk walk the walk?”

Good question. Brian continues, “A year ago, the CCSCSL set out to apply a rigorous and critical eye of existing chess studies by commissioning Basis Policy Research, an independent research firm that focuses on K-12 educational exploration. The goal was to survey the entire landscape of existing chess research, digging back through more than four decades of random studies, and compile a literature review of what was actually known about chess’ impact on student outcomes.”

This is exactly the kind of study I wrote about in my post of February 27, 2015, Does Playing Chess Make You Smarter? (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/does-playing-chess-make-you-smarter/) The study mentioned, Educational benefits of chess instruction: A critical review, by Fernand Gobet & Guillermo Campitelli, (http://www.brunel.ac.uk/~hsstffg/preprints/chess_and_education.PDF) is dated now, having been published a decade ago, so I looked forward with interest to new literature on the subject. In trying to be scientifically objective, and also being a chess player, I relish a refutation. If new information refutes previous thinking, humans advance. For example, studies were done in the middle of the last century on the amount of radiation harmful to humans. During the course of my life the amount needed has been constantly lowered until now it is an accepted fact that even the lowest amount of radiation detected is deleterious to a human being. Decades ago there were many studies done on the effects of smoking cigarettes, funded by the tobacco industry, which concluded smoking caused no problems whatsoever to a human being. Over the years I have learned how difficult it is for old(er) people to change their preconceived ideas. For example, when I was young it was an accepted fact that an ulcer was caused by stress. It is now known that an ulcer is caused by a virus. My father was unable to wrap his mind around that fact, continuing to believe stress was the cause. There are many examples in the scientific community of a scientist with stature in the community refusing to accept evidence contrary to that with which his career was built. Change is difficult, and some people will stubbornly cling to the old ways “come hell or high water.” I try not to be one of those people. I do not care who is right, or wrong, but what is right, and what is wrong.

During the telecast of the third round of the US Championships yesterday the new study was mentioned by Jennifer Shahade when she said, “St.Louis commissioned a study that showed…they didn’t know what the study was going to say. They wanted to find out what kind of connections chess had to academic performance, and surprisingly, the main connection was math and chess.” GM Yasser Seirawan said, “Really?” Jen continued, “Yes, specifically math and chess.” To which Yasser responded, “I remember the Margolis study where it was about reading.” This comes at the 3:42:30 mark of the broadcast.

I clicked on the link and downloaded the PDF in order to read the new study, Literature Review of Chess Studies, By
Anna Nicotera, and David Stuit, dated November 2014. (http://saintlouischessclub.org/sites/default/files/CCSCSL%20Literature%20Review%20of%20Chess%20Studies%20-%20November%202014.pdf)
“This literature review identified 51 studies of chess. Twenty-four of the 51 studies met a set of pre-determined criteria for eligibility and were included in analyses. Results from the literature review were categorized by the quality of the study design and organized by whether the studies examined after-school or in-school chess programs. The main findings from this literature review are:
1. After-school chess programs had a positive and statistically significant impact on student mathematics outcomes.
2. In-school chess interventions had a positive and statistically significant impact on student mathematics and cognitive outcomes.
Although the findings are interesting, they do come with this caveat, “While the two primary outcomes listed above are based on studies that used rigorous research design methodologies, the results should be interpreted cautiously given the small number of eligible studies that the pooled results encompass.”

This is a caveat huge as the Grand Canyon. It is called a “small sample size.” If a baseball player goes one for three during a single game his batting average is .333, which is outstanding. This does not mean he will finish the season with a batting average of .333. Even if the batter hits .333 for a week, or even a month, it does not mean he will finish the long season hitting .333. If a chess player wins one tournament, even a so-called “Super tournament,” it does not mean he will become World Champion. Sofia Polgar had one super outstanding result with what I seem to recall a performance rating that was higher than any her sister Judit obtained in any one tournament. Yet Sophia did not attain the status that did Judit, because that one tournament is considered to be a limited sample size.

The authors studied the same studies as did Fernand Gobet and Guillermo Campitelli. The discredited Ferguson study is included among those studied, as is the Margolis study mentioned by GM Yasser Seirawan. While considering this post and thinking about IM John Donaldson, GM Yasser Seirawan, and to an extent, NM Jennifer Shahade, I kept thinking about something Upton Sinclair wrote – “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

My thoughts also keep going back to something else written by Gobet and Campitelli: “In spite of these disagreements about the nature of transfer, some results are clear. In particular, recent research into expertise has clearly indicated that, the higher the level of expertise in a domain, the more limited the transfer will be (Ericsson & Charness, 1994). Moreover, reaching a high level of skill in domains such as chess, music or mathematics requires large amounts of practice to acquire the domain specific knowledge which determines expert performance. Inevitably, the time spent in developing such skills will impair the acquisition of other skills.”

Mr. Jerauld ends his article with, “The literature review is a huge first step for the CCSCSL, acknowledgment of the research that exists and laying the groundwork for future research that may be implemented through the club’s expansive scholastic initiative. The Basis Policy Research chess literature review has kicked off a new Research Portal, meant to serve as a repository to all global research — and to keep St. Louis on yet another forefront of chess.”

If this is truly “laying the groundwork for future research that may be implemented through the club’s expansive scholastic initiative,” I would suggest not only a rigorous, controlled, scientific, type study which would include a control group, but also a study of the same size to study the game of Go, as a counter balance to the chess study. This would obviously double the amount of money needed to fund these studies, but we are talking about a man who has a BILLION DOLLARS, so money is no object if Rex Sinquefield actually wants a fair and objective study, not one in which the scientists aim to please the man with the deep pockets.

The Upsetting NM Michael Corallo

Georgian NM Michael Corallo continues to show good form and is off to an excellent start at the 2015 Philadelphia Open playing upsetting chess! He has won his first three games and is tied for first place with three other players. Michael dispatched IM Esserman’s (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2015/03/15/the-horses-ess/) Najdorf in the second round and then beat fellow Atlantan, FM Daniel Gurevich in the third round using the dreaded Berlin defense. As I write Michael has Black against IM Akshat Chandra of New Jersey in a Nimzo-Indian, Qc2 variation. The games can be found at Chess24.com and Monroi.

Michael Corallo 2290 vs IM Marc Esserman 2427

Rd 2

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Bc4 Qb6 8.Bb3 e6 9.Qd2 Be7 10.O-O-O Nc5 11.Rhe1 h6 12.Bxf6 Bxf6 13.Kb1 O-O 14.f4 Qc7 15.g4 b5 16.g5 hxg5 17.fxg5 Be5 18.g6 fxg6 19.Qg2 Nxb3 20.axb3 Rf6 21.Nf3 Bf4 22.e5 dxe5 23.Ne4 Rf8 24.Nfg5 Qe7 25.Rg1 Rf5 26.Qg4 Kf8 27.Qh4 Bxg5 28.Rxg5 Bb7 29.Nd6 Qf6 30.Nxf5 exf5 31.Rd7 1-0

FM Daniel Gurevich 2373 vs Michael Corallo 2290

Rd 3

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.O-O Nxe4 5.Re1 Nd6 6.Nxe5 Be7 7.Bf1 Nxe5 8.Rxe5 O-O 9.d4 Bf6 10.Re1 Nf5 11.c3 d5 12.Nd2 Re8 13.Rxe8 Qxe8 14.Nf3 Nh4 15.Nxh4 Bxh4 16.Bf4 c6 17.Bd3 Bf6 18.Qc2 g6 19.Qd2 Be6 20.Re1 Qd7 21.Bg5 Bg7 22.h4 Re8 23.h5 Bg4 24.Rxe8 Qxe8 25.h6 Bf8 26.f3 Bd7 27.Kf2 Qe6 28.Qf4 Bd6 29.Qh4 Bf8 30.g4 c5 31.Bd8 cxd4 32.cxd4 Bb4 33.Qg5 Qe1 34.Kg2 Bd6 35.Qf6 Qd2 36.Kg1 Bf8 37.Bf1 Bxh6 38.Bc7 Bg5 0-1

Chess with Dancing Goats

Spring has sprung making an old(er) fella feel young(er). The weather has been wonderful and I took advantage of it by heading into downtown Decatur, the city of my birth. My boots were made for walking and that is just what I did, spending my day walking all around town.

“The City of Decatur, with its tree lined streets and more than 60 miles of sidewalks in 4.2 square miles, is a prime location for walking. In 2011, the non-profit WalkScore.com named the City of Decatur the most walkable city in Georgia.” (http://www.decaturga.com/index.aspx?page=412)

After a visit to the library I headed toward a restaurant that has been on my roundtoit list, Sawicki’s (http://sawickisfoods.com/). The Roasted Lamb sammy was as good as the tall young fella, Walker, behind the counter said it would be. It must have been synchronicity when Bob Dylan came over the system. I thought it was a Dylan cover but it was actually a live version with which I was not familiar. So much Bob, so little time…Naturally, we became involved in a conversation about Bob and The Band. It was lunch time and we had to keep it short. The next song was a cover of the same song by the Jerry Garcia Band. When I headed to the back for more water Walker asked me how was the sandwich and I answered, “Wonderful.” He replied, “Awesome!” Then he showed me his gizmo containing his music, which he had plugged into some kind of player. When I mentioned a CD of Bob covers containing a song that happens to be my all-time favorite he gave me a look that made me feel so last century. Maybe I should have mentioned all the Dylan cassette’s I still own…I also mentioned a cover “album” of tunes by The Band, throwing in that George Harrison said The Band was the best band in the land, or some such. “No way!” said he. I told Walker I would send him the quote and the titles if he gave me his email. He did and this is what I sent:

Walker,

“When Harrison was approached for a quote for the first U.K. edition of this book, he sent word that The Band were no less than ‘the best band in the history of the universe’-a fairly remarkable thing for an ex-Beatle to say.”
– Barney Hoskyns, from the preface to Across the Great Divide: The Band and America.

My all-time favorite Dylan cover is Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues, by Bill Kirchen, and I’ve heard MANY covers. It can be found on the disc: Hard Rain – A Tribute to Bob Dylan – Vol.1

The best cover disc of The Band (and there is a reason they were called ‘The Band’) is: Endless Highway: The Music Of The Band.

I love helping to educate Generation Z.

From Sawicki’s I headed to the Dancing Goats Coffee Bar located down the street at 419 W. Ponce De Leon (https://www.facebook.com/dancinggoatscoffeebar). After looking around I stepped up to the young fellow behind the counter and his face lit up like a proverbial Christmas tree when he noticed my chess bag. “You play chess?!” he asked excitedly. After telling him I did not play much now, but sometimes gave lessons, he pulled out his gizmo and showed me a screen with a chessboard, telling me he played at this site and that site, asking, “You ever play here or there?” He was talking so fast and my hearing is not what it used to be, so I told him playing chess online was not for me. “Have you ever heard of the United States Chess Federation? I asked. He said no, so I asked, “How about the Georgia Chess Association?” He gave me a look of wonderment before saying, “You mean Georgia has an association? A CHESS association?!” I assured him it did. By this time a line had formed behind me and the manager was scowling, so I cut it short, telling him we could talk later. He flashed a huge smile saying, “That’ll be best.” I took my cuppa java and found a chair wondering how it could be that this young man knew all about places to play chess on his gizmo but had never been made aware of the USCF?
The Dancing Goats is a fine coffee bar, one of the best I have ever seen. Unfortunately it is not the right place for Seniors to play because the few tables are not appropriate for playing chess. They are, however, fitting for all kinds of gizmos. I like the way seating is arranged at the windows. It is a really cool place. From conversation I gathered that it is always busy, far too busy in the afternoons for a group of Senior chess players. I did notice, though, far more Senior type people than expected. Finding a good location in a soft chair I pulled out the book I had just checked out of the library, The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee’s Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History, by Jonathan Horn. After only a few pages of the prologue I read, “So once more, Lee is trapped in the middle. More than a century and a half after secession forced him to chose sides, he has become a pawn in another conflict between two camps conceding no common ground.” I stopped reading, took a swig of coffee while smiling to myself, thinking, “Chess is everywhere.”
When I went back for a free refill I learned his name when telling him my intention had been to scout the place out to learn if it would be a good place to host a gathering of Senior chess players. Clint agreed it would not be the right place. He gave me his email before leaving and I could not help but think of the many times I have encountered people who play chess but have never heard of the USCF in the last four plus decades. USCF has never gotten the word out to the public. Today I sent Clint information on how to enter the alternate universe of chess.

There was one more stop to be made before heading home because Decatur CD beckoned. It was wonderful being in the small shop, surrounded by all different forms of music, including cassette’s! Check it out: http://www.recordstoreday.com/Venue/3527 or: http://www.decaturcd.com/

The Evil Empire Battles Ukraine

I usually do not comment on a knock-out type tournament, especially one so-called a “world championship,” but the final match between a Russian and a Ukrainian with the situation, Russian encroachments and troops and tanks one the border, is the closest thing the chess world has seen to the situation when American Bobby Fischer challenged the Russian Boris Spassky for the World Championship in 1972 during the Cold War. GM Kevin Spraggett wrote about Natalia Pogonina and Mariya Muzychuk, “…who I understand are friends.” (https://kevinspraggettonchess.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/pogonina-unstoppable/) That friendship may last no matter which player wins the match, but it will not last when the real war with weapons of destruction begins.

Make no mistake, if the insane Rootin’ Tootin’ Pootin’ does not back down, there will be war. The West has no choice but to call Putin’s bluff. “Let us not forget that Ukraine has been guaranteed, in 1994, the protection of its territorial integrity by the United States. Ukraine gave up nukes! Very few people remember it was the third-largest nuclear arsenal in the world. [Not honouring the gurantee] is very bad, not only for the United States – Bill Clinton’s signature was there. Ukraine gave up twelve hundred nuclear warheads, more than England, France and China combined, in exchange for guarantees from America and Great Britain. This will have implications way beyond Ukraine’s borders, because it destroys the credibility of the White House, it destroys the credibility of the free world, and it sends a message, let’s say to Iran, that you need nukes to protect your borders. Same can apply to Japan, South Korea, countries that are facing a rising threat from China. It will be a totally different world unless we follow the promises written on paper and signed by the leaders of the free world.” -Garry Kasparov
(http://en.chessbase.com/post/kasparov-on-putin-ukrainian-nukes-nemtsov)

The lead story in the magazine Modern War #16, March-April 2015, is Visegrad: The Coming War in Eastern Europe, by David March. (http://modernwarmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/MW16-v5F-TOC.pdf)
It is also possible to play a board game before the real war begins. (http://shop.decisiongames.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=VASS19)

I have followed the games of the Muzychuk sisters because they play the Leningrad Dutch, most of which I have played over in recent years, so I would be predisposed to pulling for Mariya in this prelude to war. After reading the article, and Putin as Warlord, by Gilberto Villahermosa, in the same magazine, I believe Russia will lose World War III, just as I expect the Russian, Pogonina, to be stopped and lose the match with the Ukrainian, Mariya Muzychuk.

rd4-04