Hoffman & Rohde on Impressions from the Olympiad
By Jean Hoffman & Sophia Rohde   
August 14, 2014
Chess Bread: Photo Sophia Rohde

Chess for the Disabled Project

by USCF Executive Director Jean Hoffman

Reflecting on my first trip to the FIDE Congress and Chess Olympiad, I am struck by the different ways that countries around the world are promoting chess.

In Norway, the stores are filled with chess-themed merchandise, while chess games are broadcast on Norwegian television.

In Botswana, chess competes with soccer for coverage in the sports section of national newspapers.

In China, both the Ministry of Sport and the Ministry of Education support the Chinese Chess Federation.

On August 8, I attended the meeting of the Committee for Chess for the Disabled. During the meeting, participants unanimously voted in favor of requesting that the General Assembly approve the creation of the Chess for Disabled Commission. On August 14, during the General Assembly this request was approved.

Photo Daniel Skog
During the committee meeting, we also discussed working with the International Paralympic Committee about the classification of disabilities and planning for improved education of FIDE arbiters on disability issues. An important theme was the inclusion and integration of disabled players into mainstream chess events. This was highlighted by Mr. Cristobal Vega who shared the story of Natasha Morales Santos, the Puerto Rican National Women’s Champion who is visually challenged and plays the top board for her country in the 2014 Olympiad.

At the end of the meeting, USCF President Ruth Haring shared a US Chess Scoop video about the US Blind Championship. Mr. Luther and Mr. Malola Prasath also mentioned FIDE’s support of the documentary Algorithm about the life of blind chess players in India.

Chess in Schools Scholastic Chess Seminar
by Sophia Rohde

On August 9, 2014, I attended a Chess in Schools seminar held at the Tromso University Science Centre. The seminar focused on the social aspects and benefits of chess. This was the high point of the FIDE Congress for me.

The first half had four speakers sharing their diverse experiences. Christian Grundekjon from Norway spoke about how he is using chess for inspiration and integration in classes of newly arrived immigrants even before they master a common language. Leontxo Garcia from Spain talked about research and theories connecting chess and academic performance. Kevin O’Connell described the Armenian studies being done to produce more rigorous data about the effects of chess in the curriculum for improving students’ results in other subjects. He also talked about the Chess in Schools programs in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Hungary.

After a short break, a panel from the participants held short talks followed by questions and comments from the floor. Jan-Oliver Suer from Kasparov Chess Foundation Europe talked about how they can help with acquiring funding for research and programs. Kevin O’Connell expanded on the studies of chess in education. The Tromso teacher Elza Borondy that collaborated with Christian Grundekjon, described her observations of the effects of chess from a non-playing educator’s perspective. Figueroa Caceres from Honduras talked about the rehabilitation effects of chess on prisoners, as well as how chess could become a part of solving the significant problem of emigrating youth. With small resources, chess is being used in an effort to develop and improve the learning environment and thus give young people opportunities and motivation to stay in their country.

A lively discussion followed, with input from many different perspectives and places. I got the chance to describe US experiences in using chess in education for helping students excel, as well as for giving essential guidance about handling competition aspects for both students and parents. I just wish we had more time to talk about chess helping develop language skills, as well as use of technology and the new educational trend of “Flipping the classroom.”

The most important lesson from the seminar was that chess gives great value in many forms, and there’s not just one right way to develop a program that will fit all situations and cultures.

An amazing group of Olympiad volunteers

Over 450 volunteers coming from all over World worked together with catering, cleaning, security, transport, as tournament crew and hosts, supplying information and helping with tournament publications. I want to thank everyone for my experiences with this short lived but close and friendly community. My time at the airport welcoming desk and later the information desk was fun and rewarding.