Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Nato Chess Championships

As reported on Susanpolgar.blogspot.com:

The prestigious 17th NATO CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP took place this year at Wellington College in Berkshire (UK) from August 21 - 25, 2006.Here are the results:
1. Germany 23
2. Poland 18
3. Norway 18
4. Turkey 17
5. France 16.5
6. United Kingdom 16
7. Denmark 15.5
8. United States of America 15.5

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A Call To Action: Math and Chess For Our Children

I believe in the future. I believe that through hard work and determination that the human spirit cannot be deterred. I have faith that something great may be accomplished.

The Math and Chess curriculum has been proven effective. Why not use a proven effective tool to give all of our children the opportunity to excel?

With this in mind I have contacted the Governor's of all 50 States. I have received direct responses from three States already as well as a Congressman and a US Senator and former Secretary of Education.

Meetings are scheduled. It is my job to sell various administration officials on the efficacy for my proposal. Our nation cannot continue on it's current path without dire consequences. That is why millions of dollars are being proposed to train new math and science teachers.

I think it only wise to take advantage of the timing and use it to our advantage. We have the attention of the government right now. Now is the time we should act and work towards improving our childrens opportunities for a better life. Now is when we should all be advocating Math and Chess for all of our students.

Rob Mitchell

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Paul Morphy: Greatest Chess Player of All Time

Many authors, (most notably Reinfeld); have criticized Morphy's Generation as, "Too weak."
This is nonsense. (In 1000 years, when humans have computer chips embedded in their brains, perhaps someone will look at Garry Kasparov's opposition and claim his opponents were too weak!! Silly.)

Professor Arpad Elo stated that you can only judge a player by the standards of his generation!! (See section 5.13 on page 81 of Dr. Elo's book, "The Ratings of Chess-Players, Past & Present.")

Quite simply, using scientific, statistical & mathematical comparisons, Morphy was easily the best player who ever lived. Just measure, "The Gap," or the distance that a player is ahead of his generation. Using this standard, Morphy was #1, Fischer was #2, and Kasparov is #3. (No others need apply!!!) (I am not the only one who thinks this. One fellow, who was nominated for for a top prize in mathematics, (The Field's Medal?); in the 1980's wrote an article concerning this subject. He too thinks Morphy was the greatest player of all time.

Ratings are not a totally reliable method either. Generally there has been a significant inflation in ELO ratings in the last 20 years. Most mathematicians agree it is in the neighborhood of [at least] one to two percent, (per year). If one adds this number to Bobby Fischer's best rating (2815 following his match with Petrosian), then Fischer's peak rating, after adjusting for inflation, would be 2860!! This compares very favorably to Kasparov.

Another thing to consider is that when Bobby was 2700-plus, there was no one within 100 rating points of Bobby! (circa 1972.) [Kasparov usually has had at least five to ten players within 100 points of his rating.]

Morphy can be and generally is considered the first modern player. If his games do not look modern, it is because he did not need the sort of slow positional systems that modern grandmasters use, or that Staunton, Paulsen, and later Steinitz developed. His opponents had not yet mastered the open game, so he played it against them and he preferred open positions because they brought quick success. He played open games almost to perfection, but he also could handle any sort of position, having a complete grasp of chess that was years ahead of his time. Morphy was a player who intuitively knew what was best, and in this regard he was much like Capablanca. He was, like Capablanca, a child prodigy; he played fast and he was hard to beat. Löwenthal and Anderssen both later remarked that he was indeed hard to beat since he knew how to defend and would draw or even win games despite getting into bad positions. At the same time, he was deadly when given a promising position. Anderssen especially complained of this, saying that after one bad move against Morphy one may as well resign. Morphy would win his won games, but if he made an error, it was still a long, hard process trying to beat him, and more likely than not the game would still go to him in the end. "I win my games in seventy moves but Mr. Morphy wins his in twenty, but that is only natural..." Anderssen moaned, explaining his poor results against Morphy. Anderssen was perhaps grateful that he did get a 70 move win, as he did not get many wins of any kind against Morphy.

Of Morphy's 59 "serious" games — those played in matches and the 1857 New York tournament — he won 42, drew 9, and lost 8.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Creative New Math Curriculum Solves NCLB Issues

Education is one of the single largest state budgetary expenditures. Educating our children and providing them with the necessary tools to become productive citizens is a moral and legal duty of parents and governmental entities. Our nations future depends upon our next generation's ability to remain globally competetive in the fields of math and science. Yet even with the increased focus we place on education our students still fall below national norms in math scores.

There is an efficient and innovative way to teach our students mathematics. That is by integrating math with the game of chess.

Chess has long been considered a way for children to increase their mental prowess, concentration, memory, and analytical skills. To anyone who has known the game, it comes as no surprise that these assumptions were actually proven in several studies on how chess can improve the grades of students.

Although chess has been shown to increase the mental abilities of persons of all ages, the main studies have been done with children. This is first for the obvious reason that students are constantly tested anyway, and therefore the data need only be analyzed, and secondly because children's mental development is more rapid and can be more easily measured than persons at a later life stage.

Early Conclusions

After several informal studies were done in the early 20th century on the effect that chess has on logical thinking and other such functions, a primary conclusion was drawn that chess does in fact not only demand such characteristics, but develops and promotes them as well. John Artise in Chess and Education wrote "Visual stimuli tend to improve memory more than any other stimuli; chess is definitely an excellent memory exerciser the effects of which are transferable to other subjects where memory is necessary."

With this in mind, legislation in the U.S. in 1992 promoting and encouraging the incorporation of chess into the curriculum of schools was passed. Funding is available under the “ Educate America Act” (Goals 2000) public law 103-277, section 308.b.2.E. The U.S. joined the more than 30 countries which already had chess included in some form in their school curricula.

In part due to the educational community, which has noted the increased academic performance of students participating in chess, there has been an explosion in the number of children playing chess in the U.S. An estimated 250,000 children in the U.S. are introduced every year through the school system to the basics of the game. Studies have already been done to confirm the hypothesis that chess is linked to increased grades in school..

Case Studies

As reported in Developing Critical Thinking Through Chess, Dr. Robert Ferguson tested students from seventh to ninth grades from the years 1979-1983 as part of the ESEA Title IV-C Explore Program. He found that non-chess students increased their critical thinking skills an average of 4.6% annually, while students who were members of a chess club improved their analytical skills an average of 17.3% annually. Three separate tests to determine how chess affects creative thinking were also done as part of the same study. It concluded that on average, different aspects of creative thinking had improved at a rate two to three times faster for chess playing students, as opposed to their non-chess playing counterparts.

Subsequent studies by Dr. Ferguson further supported these original conclusions. In the Tri-State Area School Pilot Study conducted in 1986 and Development of Reasoning and Memory Through Chess (1987-88) chess playing students showed more rapid increased gains in memory, organizational skills, and logic.

In Zaire the study Chess and Aptitudes, was conducted by Dr. Albert Frank at the Uni Protestant School, during the 1973-74 school year. Using sufficiently large experimental and control groups, Dr. Frank confirmed there was a significant correlation between the ability to play chess well, and spatial, numerical, administrative-directional, and paperwork abilities. The conclusion was that students participating in the chess course show a marked development of their verbal and numerical aptitudes. Furthermore, this was noticed in the majority of chess students and not only those who were better players.

A study conducted in four large elementary schools in Texas in 1997 further demonstrated the positivism of chess. Through the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), the study was done to test the difference that chess playing had on standardized tests. These schools selected all had a chess program in existence for a minimum of two years. Since a few thousand total students took the test and all types of students were tested from special education students to gifted and talented students, the sample was large and diverse enough to make a concrete conclusion. There were significant improvements in both reading and math for all grade levels and all classes of students (regular, gifted and talented, special education, academically able, etc.). Through the Texas Learning Index, or TLI, it was determined that on average the students who played chess improved in reading and mathematics at a rate between 1.5 and two times faster than non-chess playing students.

In terms of verbal improvement specifically, a study by Dr. Stuart Margulies from 1991 addressed this. Students with higher verbal skills tend to score higher on word problems than their lower performing counterparts. The "Margulies Study” is one of the strongest arguments to finally prove what hundreds of teachers knew all along-chess is a learning tool. (Inside Chess, February 1994).

"Can chess promote earlier intellectual maturation" was the question posed in the Chess and Cognitive Development study directed by Johan Christiaen from the 1974-76 school years in Belgium. The results again clearly confirmed that the group of chess playing students showed significantly more improvement then the non chess playing students. In 1982, Dr. Gerard Dullea mentioned this study and proclaimed "…we have scientific support for what we have known all along-chess makes kids smarter! (Chess Life, November 1982) In a similar study done in a test series in New Brunswick, Canada called Challenging Mathematics, the mathematics curriculum used chess to teach logic from grades 2 to 7. The average problem solving score in the province increased from 62% to 81%.


We can now say with full confidence that chess has been PROVEN to enhance creativity, problem solving, memory, concentration, intellectual maturity, self esteem, and many other abilities that a parent or teacher would desire. We should act now to provide our children with an innovative and exciting approach to learning mathematics: Math and Chess for America's Schools.