21 December 2014

FIDE's 'Chess in Schools' 2014

Going back a year to an early post in this CIS series, 'Chess in School' Is Quantifiable, I noted,

The involvement of the world chess organization [FIDE] is fundamental to the success of the CIS program. FIDE has automatic access to its 160++ member federations.

Once a year, at FIDE's annual pow wow, we get the chance to find out what its Chess in Schools commission has been doing for the previous year. In 2014 it has been a tough act to follow. Documents from the CIS commission have been released at three separate occasions: at the announcement for the General Assembly in Tromso (GA, coinciding with the Olympiad), at the minutes of the GA in August, and at the Presidential Board (PB) in November.

Fortunately, the documents for all three occasions are available from one point. In my post on the FIDE Journalists' Commission, FIDE's 'Principles of Chess Journalism', I explained how to find them.

The 2014 4th quarter Presidential Board -- Agenda (5 November) and Press Release (9 November, 'agenda included the proposals deferred from Tromso') -- had released the commission documents in the same directory as the Agenda.

From the same source, here are the three documents for CIS: Annex 30, Annex 31, and Annex 32 Let's have a summary of the three annexes.

Annex 30 is titled 'Report of Commission Chairman Ali Nihat Yazici' and dated 2014-06-24.

There have been six principal areas of activity since the last Congress in Tallinn:

1. Promotion of chess in schools through multiple means, such as the Chess and Education conference (2012) and the ongoing visits, especially by the FIDE President to many federations, the promotion of chess in schools being the main unifying factor of these visits.

2. Major sponsorship from Rosneft meant that we were able to purchase a substantial quantity of chess sets in 2012-2013 and this year sees us distributing the last of those, albeit, with no renewal of that sponsorship, we have been seriously constrained in our budget.

3. Multi-lingual web sites, launched in January 2012, to support both our chess in schools work and FIDE-CiS Student Membership (a synergistic part of the whole), are now available in 11 languages, with a 12th planned.

4. We have now produced class books and a teacher guide in several languages, including English, French and Arabic.

5. We have produced more than 100 magazines (some 800 pages, all in a choice of languages!) for our FIDE Student members.

6. The major Chess in Schools projects have proven their worth, and not only those, since several small federations have shown that good organization is more important than funding for the development of a programme.

Annex 31 is titled 'Chess in Schools Commission Meeting, Tromso' and dated 2014-08-06.

Chairman Ali Nihat Yazici opened the meeting. He thanked His Excellency Kirsan Nikolayevich Ilyumzhinov for having appointed him as Chairman of the Commission for a second time (2004 & 2010). He referred to the general acceptance of CiS and expressed his thanks for the help and appreciation received from federations. He went on to restate the principles behind the main approach of CiS :

• For FIDE, CiS is neither a social project, nor a program to generate Grandmasters. The CiS approach of FIDE is to focus on primary schools with the aim to introduce chess to young children to help their education.

• CiS is not a charity. It is very important that there should be a benefit for our members – the national chess federations. We are not UNICEF, UNESCO or the Red Crescent to make donations, we are FIDE, with basic aims to:
    o Access millions of children in primary schools
    o Direct the maximum number of these children towards membership of our national federations.

Annex 32 is titled 'Chess in Schools presentation to PB meeting in Sochi 2014', signed 'Kevin O’Connell - CiS Commission Chairman', and dated 2014-10-26.

At the start of the new mandate for 2014-2018, we wish to inform the PB of our main plans for this period and to seek your approval and support for them. Given the experience of the last four years, and following preliminary discussions with Commission members (past, present and future), we foresee a number of changes to the way that we implement chess in schools projects. The most important of those changes are covered in this presentation.

[The sections of the presentation are titled:-]
  • CiS100 Projects
  • 2014 Highlight - Erevan Conference
  • FIDE Schools Chess Challenge
  • ACES [Europe]
  • Further Cooperation FIDE - National Federations
  • FIDE Chess in Schools Commission
  • National Federation Structure
  • Budget 2015
  • Research
  • Better Working Relationship with TRG [Trainers' Commission]
  • Commission Composition

The three annexes provide a total of 22 pages of reading, with plenty of material for further review.

19 December 2014

Online Instructional Videos

At the end of Carlsen - Anand II, Chess Press Overview, I mentioned, 'If I really wanted to do a thorough job, I would add some of the video series on the match.' Since there was nothing compelling for today's edition of Video Friday -- last seen in World Championship Broadcast Blitzed (also about the recent match) -- I decided to look at instructional clips about game 11 of the same 2014 World Chess Championship. I had already spent some time on the game, in Carlsen - Anand, Game 11: Anand's Gamble, and felt I was familiar enough with it to judge the quality of others' comments.

I identified videos from four Youtube sources that I had seen before, all of which had a healthy number of views. The links under their names go directly to their video about the game, so you can compare for yourself:-

  • ChessNetwork; 23 Nov 2014; 72,361 views; 19:55 viewing time • Overall, a competent analysis, both positionally and tactically. See, for example, the discussion of Anand's 23...b5!: 'stunning ... shocking'. Who exactly is 'Jerry'?

  • PowerPlayChess; 23 Nov; 30,049 views: 10:48 • Presented by GM Daniel King, whose work I've referenced before, e.g. GM King on Carlsen vs. Anand II. In this clip he skips the first moves and starts the discussion at Black's move 23, 'a very creative idea'.

  • thechesswebsite; 23 Nov; 14,809 views; 16:28 • Lots of enthusiasm, but not much explanation of the ideas in the game. Of 23...b5!, 'I just don't think it's nearly as good [as another move]'.

  • kingscrusher; 24 Nov; 6,635 views; 26:11 • Made by one of the pioneers of online instructional chess videos. Of 23...b5!, 'energetic ... incredible'. Merits more views.

If I get time I'll repeat the analysis on another game and perhaps add another commentator or two.

18 December 2014

Chess and Meditation

Last month's Scientific American (November 2014) featured a cover 'The Neuroscience of Meditation' and an associated article 'Mind of the Meditator'. For an introduction see Neuroscience Reveals the Secrets of Meditation’s Benefits on ScientificAmerican.com.

A few years ago I ran a short series on chess in SciAm that included a post about Scientific American's Chess Neuroscience, and was intrigued to see the recent article on meditation. While having exactly nothing to do with chess, the November 2014 article ties the two subjects together with the word 'neuroscience'.

Having dabbled with meditation in the past, I've often felt that the two mental states -- the meditative state and the deep pondering to find a chess move -- were similar. A sentence in SciAm supported this hypothesis.

Advanced meditators appear to acquire a level of skill that enables them to achieve a focused state of mind with less effort. These effects resemble the skill of expert musicians and athletes capable of immersing themselves in the "flow" of their performances with a minimal sense of effortful control.

That's not to say that meditation and chess playing are the same thing. The introduction to the article mentions three types of meditation.

IN BRIEF: Three common forms of meditation -- focused attention, mindfulness and compassion -- are now practiced everywhere, from hospitals to schools, and have increasingly become an object of scrutiny in scientific laboratories worldwide.

Chess playing would be an example of 'focused attention'. There is more in the article worth exploring, but I'll leave that for another time.

16 December 2014

Chess, Ebay, Christmas, and Books

In my recent post on Chess, Ebay, Christmas, and Paintings, I noted that there were 'plenty of interesting items to choose from'. Besides the paintings (there were two I could have used) there were a couple of books that caught my interest. Why they caught my interest I can't explain, except to provide material for another post.

The first book auction was titled 'Rare Signed 1st Edition "An Essay Toward Making The Game Of Chess Easily Learned"', subtitled 'Signed By Author, Edmund Hoyle & The Publisher, Thomas Osborne'. It sold for US $2600 after a single bid. The description said,

Extremely old & rare 1st Edition volume of "An Essay Toward Making The Game Of Chess Easily Learned". This book was printed in 1761 in London, England. Its author Edmond Hoyle was world renowned for many of his treatises on learning how to play different games. This first edition is signed by the author and by the publisher Thomas Osborne. This is because there were many pirated additions, so for many years every genuine book bore the signature of the author, Edmund Hoyle. Many times the publishers name was also signed as is the case with this edition, where you can easily see the signature of the publisher, Thomas Osborne, underneath the author's signature.

The book can be browsed on Google Books: An Essay Towards Making... It consists of 40 game fragments illustrating the opening and a few basic endgames.

The second book auction was titled '1821 v. Rare CHESS AUTOMATON KEMPELEN * The First Edition * Illustrated'. It sold somewhere between $4000 and $6500, 'Best offer accepted'. The description included a transcription of the book's title page,

AN ATTEMPT TO ANALYSE THE AUTOMATON CHESS PLAYER, OF MR. DE KEMPELEN. • WITH AN EASY METHOD OF IMITATING THE MOVEMENTS OF THAT CELEBRATED FIGURE. ILLUSTRATED BY ORIGINAL DRAWINGS. • TO WHICH IS ADDED, A COPIOUS COLLECTION OF THE KNIGHT'S MOVES OVER THE CHESS BOARD. • LONDON; PRINTED FOR J. BOOTH, DUKE STREET, PORTLAND PLACE. 1821.

followed by technical and biographical notes:-

Custom made drop down box with morocco title label to front board, original paper covered boards, lacking the upper cover, spine rubbed with loss, some light spotting and minor marking but generally in very good condition. An octavo volume, it measures approximately 23cm (9") 15cm (6cm (0.5cm (¼"). Pagination pp. [2], [5]-40 collated and complete with the half-title and 10 plates (including frontispiece).

Robert Willis (1800-1875), polymath, engineer and architectural historian. Willis was Jacksonian Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. Here he was noted for his unique blend of mathematics, natural philosophy, and -- an enduring passion -- animal mechanism.' He specialized in the study of mechanism, extending the earlier researches of Kempelen into speaking machines, 'he furnished practical experiments which analysed and imitated mechanically the human vowel sounds'. 'In 1820 he went with his sister Mary to London's Spring Gardens to scrutinise Wolfgang von Kempelen's (1734-1804) automaton chess player. Having established that there was room for an adult to lurk within, mimicking machine intelligence, he published in 1821 an expose which Edgar Allan Poe passed off as his own in 1836'. (ODNB). An interesting and curious book, it is one of the great rarities of both chess and automaton literature.

The book can also be browsed on Google Books: An Attempt to Analyse the Automaton Chess Player... It contains a number of 'plates' showing the construction of the automaton.

The bookplate of the Google copy ('Ex libris Silas W. Howland') is shown on the left. I've seen the same bookplate and source ('Harvard College Library') stamped on other antiquarian chess books available on Google Books.

15 December 2014

TMER Working Files

After last week's post, Kasparov's Travels Extended, I realized that its working file, m-w.com/about/misc/aa14l08x.htm, was structurally weak. Besides lacking a title to identify it in any web references, it was an orphan page not integrated with any other material on the site. Ditto for the other files in the same directory.

To fix this, I added an appropriate header and footer, then moved it to my page on Chess History. Ditto for the other files in the same directory. They can all be found in the section called 'TMER++ Working Files'.

Since I hate breaking links on active pages, I replaced the original m-w.com/about/misc pages with redirects to the new pages. This might create some issues with browsers, but I'll deal with that if it happens.

14 December 2014

Chess, Ebay, Christmas, and Paintings

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, the month preceding Christmas is like, umm, Christmas. Just as with last year's Quarter Sawn Chess (December 2013), there are always plenty of interesting items to choose from. In a recent post, American Pastimes, I mentioned that 'my most favorite posts are about paintings', and for this current post I had two to choose from.

The item pictured below, titled 'Margaret Dovaston (British, 1884-1955) The Chess Game', sold for US $3250 after receiving 7 bids from two bidders. The starting price was $2000 with a seller's estimate of $4000-6000.

The description added,

12 x 16 inches (30.5 x 40.6 cm) • Margaret Dovaston received her artistic training under Thomas William Cole (b.1857), the still-life artist and headmaster of the Ealing Art School and Arthur S. Cope (1857-1940), the famous portrait artist. She specialized in portrait and genre painting and was a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy and Royal Society of British Artists.

Dovaston exhibited her first work at the Academy in 1908 and received three medals during her lifetime. She was elected a member of the Royal Society of British Artists in 1910 and in 1911 was elected a member of the N.B.A. Dovaston's art continued the tradition of 19th century genre painting well into the 20th century, and with it the meticulous technique which characterized it.

For more works by the same artist, see a Google image search on Margaret Dovaston.

12 December 2014

Chess in Bavaria

Just as in Chess Pumpkins from a year ago, the colors of autumn complement the black and white of chess.


Freiluft-Schach im Herbst © Flickr user Ulrich Berens under Creative Commons.

The German title translates to 'Outdoor Chess in Autumn'. The photo's EXIF data pins it to Bad Woerishofen, Bavaria.