11 April 2014

Play for Your Life

Seen on Youtube channel Brilliant Ads:-

Jail Chess Cup - Russian Chess Federation Online Ad (1:16) • 'The headline in Russian has a play on words: the first meaning is 'outplay your life' and at the same time it means 'change your life'.'

The description explained,

The Russian Chess Federation, with the support of Anatoly Karpov and the Federal Penitentiary Service of Ryazan have come out in support of prisoners already on the road to rehabilitation and hosted a chess tournament between several prisons. The finalists have been given a chance for early release. [more++]

Brilliant indeed!

10 April 2014

'Something I Always Wanted To Do'

Last month, in GM Capital's Patrick Wolff, I posted about a Barron's article on a former U.S. champion who had moved to the investment world. Later in the month I discovered another Barron's article (*) about a basketball star who had taken up chess: Carmelo Anthony: Chess King; 'While Contemplating His Future, Knicks Star Reveals Affinity for Game'.

Anthony recently found the courage to admit, 'I'm a chess player'.

Asked about his chess-playing, Anthony said he'd spent considerable time reading about the game in hopes of being able to teach himself how to play. He said he has most frequently found himself locked in competition against family friends at off-season dinner parties.

"Just over the last couple years," said the 29-year-old forward, who posted an Instagram photo of famous chess player Bobby Fischer earlier in the month. "It's something I always wanted to do, but after a while I figured it was so complicated that I'd never be able figure it out. I still don't have it down pat to where I'm some expert. But I've figured out the basics to where it's something that I'll have for life."

What sets Anthony apart is the age at which he chose to pick up the game. According to figures compiled by the United States Chess Federation [USCF], the average player is between 9 and 10 years old when he or she joins the organization.

While I'm not sure about the comment that the 'average player is between 9 and 10 years old when he or she joins', I am sure that sports stars who play chess are not so unusual. A few years ago I put together an image gallery about a football star, Chess and Shaun Alexander at Madrona Elementary School, Seattle [about.com -> archive.org]. And let's not forget the Klitschko brothers.

(*) This Barrons.com article redirects to WSJ.com; both publications belong to the same group.

08 April 2014

Thinking about Chess

I guess I have a soft spot for certain types of chess books. Last year I posted about them in Chess Psychology/Philosophy. A recent post, 'Chess in School' : Three Studies, had another list, repeated here without the original author's commentary:-

There are several manuscripts related to chess theory that are worth reviewing.
  • Think Like a Grandmaster, Kotov
  • Judgment and Planning in Chess, Euwe
  • Chess Psychology, Krogius [aka 'Psychology in Chess']
  • Lasker's Manual of Chess, Em.Lasker
  • Chess: The Mechanics of the Mind, Pfleger and Treppner
  • Psychology of Chess, Hartston and Wason
  • How Chessmasters Think, Schmidt
  • Winning Chess, Chernev and Reinfeld

Since I already had five of those titles, I set out to see if I could find the other three. Two of them were available in digital format and the third is available online for free and offline for a price: W. R. Hartston & P. C. Wason - The Psychology of Chess (Scribd.com). I've always been wary of this site, so I'll leave it alone for now.

Back to 'Three Studies', a look at Robert Ferguson's Educational Benefits of Chess, the author wrote, 'Lasker presented a lucid description of the three basic methods of chess thinking in Lasker’s Manual of Chess.' Ferguson explained the three methods in his section 'Definition of Terms':-

Positional Thinking. Lasker (1947) portrayed the positional thinker as one who has the general plan to build a strong and familiar position. In the opening of the game, the positional thinker avoids violent moves, aims for small advantages, accumulates them, and, after attaining these, searches for a solid attack. The positional player tends to be more defensive. He conceives chess as a scientific discipline with definite guiding principles.

Tactical Thinking. Lasker (1947) wrote that in chess the tactical thinker is a combinational thinker, combining the force of his chessmen (pieces) to create advantages; he is an adventurer, who feels comfortable being the aggressor. This type of thinker thinks forward; he or she starts from a given position and tries to find the forceful moves. The tactical thinker’s conceptual ability is especially evident in the middle segment of the game, when the pieces create a great variety of possible moves. Tactical thinkers are reflective thinkers. The chess position creates the problem, the selection of move creates the observational mode of thought, and the chosen move is the solution. Tactical thinkers have highly developed powers of creative imagination and the ability of far reaching concrete calculation.

Eclectic Thinking. Lasker (1947) defined this method of thinking in chess as a harmonic union of both the positional thinker and the tactical thinker. Krogius uses the term “universal” to describe the eclectic thinker (Krogius, 1972, p. 13).

The split into positional and tactical thinking shouldn't raise too many eyebrows, but 'eclectic thinking' is a strange term; ditto for 'reflective thinking' which is defined separately. Ferguson had one other comment about Lasker (p.64), an observation he repeated later (p.156).

Krogius, in his book Chess Psychology, indicated that Lasker’s classification of styles of thinking needs more investigation (p. 15). According to Krogius, more considerations are needed regarding the qualities of chess thinking and the structure of the thought process in the selection of a move.

All of this thinking about thinking in chess is making my mind spin. I think I'll go play for a while.

07 April 2014

Early Influences II (*)

According to this blog's search tool, I've mentioned Dr. Joseph Platz twice, in A lesson in the Lopez from Capablanca and Kasparov and Rubinstein played the Rubinstein. While rummaging through old copies of Chess Review, I found a short bio of him in the August-September 1946 issue (p.29).

(*) See Early Influences.

06 April 2014

'Chess in School' : Three Studies

Have you ever looked for something that you just had, like a pencil, only to find that it was still in your hand? That's how I felt after the previous post, 'Chess in School' : Why? I ended it saying:-

I'm ready to tackle the Ferguson++ material again. I expect him, as well as the other proponents of chess education, to explain why chess belongs in school, competing for the same limited resources that we use to teach our children what we teach them.

The post before that, 'Chess in School' : Robert Ferguson, contained one important key to the kingdom:-

The second PDF is Educational Benefits of Chess Summary Based on Research and Articles, 179 pages, also undated, but the mention of 'current world champion Kramnik' indicates the early 2000s.

When I sat down to study it, I realized that it was exactly what I was looking for. It describes three studies ('two research projects and one pilot study') that Ferguson conducted into -- drum roll -- the educational benefits of chess. The 179 pages of academic prose lack a table of contents and are so daunting that I used one of my favorite techniques when tackling new material: I analyzed the structure of the document. To aid anyone else who might be interested in studying the document, I've attached that analysis to the end of this post. The three studies that were Ferguson's own research are reviewed in chapter four.

Ferguson summarized the document at the end of the first chapter (p.21).

Chapter one has introduced the problem, the purpose of the research, the importance of the study, and provided some of the current thinking on chess in education. The following chapter will present a review of related literature. The third chapter will offer methodology, including research design, tests, classroom procedures, course objectives, lesson plans, curricula, data collection, and limitations. In chapter four, I will submit the findings and interpret them. Finally, in the fifth chapter, I will briefly review the Bradford Area School District chess studies, share conclusions, and make recommendations.

Although the document is about the benefits of chess in education, there is much that is pure chess. 'Basic Chess Skills' (p.70) lists over 30 chess concepts that students were expected to grasp, starting with piece movement. 'Related Literature' includes a paragraph on chess titles that cover the subject (p.24).

There are several manuscripts related to chess theory that are worth reviewing. In the volume Think Like a Grandmaster, by Kotov, the complex thinking that takes place in a grandmaster’s mind is described. Euwe’s book, Judgment and Planning in Chess, demonstrates the way to improvement by showing the reader how to think, how to judge a position, and how to make a plan. In Chess Psychology, by Nikolai Krogius, various thinking methods in chess were discussed. Dr. Emanuel Lasker presented a lucid description of the three basic methods of chess thinking in Lasker’s Manual of Chess. Pfleger and Treppner’s Chess: The Mechanics of the Mind pinpoints key situations where the amateur’s thought processes are inferior and seeks to help him overcome specific mental barriers. The Psychology of Chess by Hartston and Wason explore essential thought patterns of masters. In How Chessmasters Think, Paul Schmidt demonstrates the thought processes a chessmaster uses to analyze the strengths and weaknesses in a position and how he decides upon a course of action. Chernev and Reinfeld’s book, Winning Chess, is a hands-on, learn-by-doing book that teaches tactical thinking skills.

One section that is missing from the PDF is a list of references, of which there are many. Perhaps I'll find one as I continue to study this most important document.


Educational Benefits of Chess Summary Based on Research and Articles by Dr. Robert Ferguson; structure of contents.

001 Chapter I. The Problem

001 Introduction
001 Background of the Program
006 Statement of the Problem
006 Purpose of the Studies
007 Importance of the Studies
009 Questions to be Answered
012 Statement of Hypotheses
013 Postulates
014 Delineation of the Research Problem
015 Scope and Delimitations of the Studies
017 Definition of Terms
021 Summary and What is to Follow

023 Chapter II. Review of Related Literature

023 Lists the sources searched.
025 Offers general background information along with a discussion of historical and philosophical development of reflective thinking.
033 Presents research related to my studies.
057 Reviews literature on the formal instruments used in these studies.
062 Summarizes chapter and offers a cursory glance at this book’s intent.

065 Chapter III. Methodology or Procedures

065 Reviews the research design for each of the three studies.
066 Explains the selection of the subjects in the investigations.
067 Discusses the instruments used in each of the studies.
068 Presents classroom procedures, including daily lessons, course objectives, methods, materials, and evaluation procedures.
097 Deals with data collection.
099 Examines the statistical tests and procedures employed to analyze the data collected.
100 Lists limitations for each of the three studies.
102 Summarizes the contents of the third chapter.

104 Chapter IV. Findings

To reduce confusion, I am including a discussion section specific to the experiment being reviewed at the end of the division for each of the studies.
104 Reviews the federally funded ESEA Title IV-C project (Study I).
136 Examines the Tri-State Area School Study Council pilot study (Study II).
141 Analyzes the research sponsored by the USA Junior Chess Olympics.
150 Summarizes the findings of all three studies and highlights my interpretation of the results

154 Chapter V. Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations

154 Summarizes everything covered in the first three chapters.
159 Reviews findings for Study I.
167 Summarizes Study II.
171 Examines Study III.
176 Discusses conclusions of this research.
177 Makes recommendations for implementation of the findings.

The numbers in the left column are page numbers in the document.

04 April 2014

Chess on a Settle

Of the photos++ that I shortlisted for this edition of Flickr Friday, half were paintings uploaded by the same person. Here is one I couldn't remember seeing before.

Beryl Fowler - A Young Man Sitting on a Settle Leaning over a Chess Table © Flickr user Irina under Creative Commons.

For more chess images prepared by the same Flickr user, see Games - a set on Flickr.

03 April 2014

April 1964 'On the Cover'

Last month we had March 1964 'On the Cover', so this month we have a tradition.

Left: 'The Masters Rated: Anderssen to Fischer'
Right: 'Shocking Schach'

Chess Life

Prof. Elo's history-making rating list calls forth our display of chess talent from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Above, left to right: [Lasker, ...] Now they, too, are USCF-rated!

Chess Review

The new Rosenwald set (compare with one on March cover last year) merits a plug for Sidney Lachs, West Hollywood, Florida, who suggested the idea. The men are:

White (bulbs): Pawns, colorful fuses; Knights, two bulbs; Rooks, Bishops and King, standard bulbs; Queen, trick bulb, available at most magic stores and wired with battery and inner bulb by Rosenwald so, when one pushes "her" button, she lights up! This is no joke, says Rosenwald.

Black (receptacles): Pawns, standard plugs; pieces, variations of plugs, some with adapters for height.

All bases are standard porcelain receptacles. Board is 2 1/2 inch squares cut from bright yellow and white vinyl tiles. Total cost: $16.28, state and federal tax incl. Set designed and executed by Robert L. Rosenwald.

I didn't understand the explanation of the White Queen, so I looked further: see, for example, Magic Light Bulb by Loftus on Amazon.com. Imagine Uncle Fester of the Addams Family with a light bulb that glows spontaneously in his mouth. That's the magic.