Saturday, 11 July 2009

Scholastic Chess, Reasoning and Training Executive Function

Scholar's mate - white to move.
[1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nc6 3. Qh5, Nf6]

What is the benefit of having a scholastic chess program in schools?

It seems to me that the beneficial effects of chess may simply be that it provides a positive stimulus to helping the child to learn how to learn. Binet and Simon in 'The development of intelligence in children' (1916), when writing about the definition of intelligence, come to the following conclusion:
... what they should learn first is not the subjects ordinarily taught, however important they may be; they should be given lessons of will, of attention, of discipline; before exercises in grammar, they need to exercised in mental orthopedy; in a word they must learn how to learn.
This conclusion seems just as important now as it was revolutionary back then (1916). The difference now is that we are developing a real understanding about the importance of the critical literacy skill, reasoning. This fundamental cognitive skill helps to integrate the other three R's - reading writing, arithmetic. The executive system is the theorized cognitive system that controls and enables reasoning and the other cognitive processes. Integration of executive function training into school curriculums must be an important priority.

Regarding chess training in schools, it is important that the learning focus should be around reasoning, problem solving, planning, and the application of falsifiability in decision making. Simply learning about openings, tactics training, and simple pattern recognition is unlikely to have any enduring cognitive benefit.

Related Posts:
ALCHEssMIST: Chess Research - Language Impairment and Visual Immediate Memory in Children
ALCHEssMIST: Playing Chess May Benefit Schizophrenia Patients

Posted by ALCHEssMIST .

The "Chess Wear Your Heart On Your Sleeve Award" Goes To - Garry Kasparov

To "wear your heart on your sleeve" means to express your emotions freely and openly so that all around you can see. In competitive zero-sum games it may be a liability to exhibit this behaviour particularly where the precipitant may not be obvious to your competitor.

Chess is an example of a perfect information game. In imperfect information games such as poker, it is very important that the player try and hide their emotions as much as possible. Even still, subtle emotional hints may leak out and be noticed by a skilled opponent. These subtle behaviour changes in the game of poker are known as tells.

The above game between Garry Kasparov and Vishy Anand, clearly shows the devastation felt by Kasparov after realising he had missed the strong previous move by Anand. This clip will go down as one of the all-time great examples of "wearing your heart on your sleeve".

In politics, it is best to remember the advice of Margaret Thatcher, ex-Prime Minster of the United Kingdom:
To wear your heart on your sleeve isn't a very good plan; you should wear it inside, where it functions best.
Margaret Thatcher

Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov to Play Match in Valencia (21st-24th September 2009)

Karpov & Kasparov (New York, 2002):

Good news via Kasparov and Karpov are to play a chess match from 21st to 24th of September 2009 in Valencia, Spain. The format of the 12 game match is apparently going to be 4 rapid (or semi rapid) games and 8 blitz games.

Scottish Chess Championship 2009 (Edinburgh City Chambers) & Past Winners

Edinburgh City Chambers
[Photo by © ronnie leask, Creative Commons]

The Scottish Chess Championship is the oldest continually running chess event in the world, with an unbroken link since 1884. The event is currently being held at the Edinburgh City Chambers (High St, Edinburgh) from 1th - 19th July (official site).

Grandmaster participants in this year's championship include:
  • Arakhamia-Grant, Keti (Scotland, Elo 2506)
  • Hebden, Mark (England, Elo 2468)
  • Markos, Jan (Slovakia, Elo 2555)
  • McNab, Colin (Scotland, Elo 2474)
  • Motwani, Paul (Scotland, Elo 2503)
  • Panchanathan, Magesh Chandran (India, Elo 2493)
  • Prasad, S. Arun (India, 2556)
  • Rowson, Jonathan (Scotland, Elo 2591)
  • Shaw, John (Scotland, Elo 2462)
  • Summerscale, Aaron (England, Elo 2454)
Past winners of the Scottish Chess Championship include:

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Sir Stamford Raffles - Singapore, Chess & London Zoo

Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles (1781-1826)
Zoologist & Colonial Governor (Portrait 1817)

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1826. London Zoo was opened to Fellows of the Society (ZSL) in 1828, and became the first scientific zoo. Charles Darwin was a Fellow of ZSL from 1837. The first admission of paying visitors to London Zoo, to aid in funding, was in 1847.

Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles also founded the city of Singapore (the modern city-state of the Republic of Singapore), and he is known as the "Father of Singapore". Raffles is also famous-infamous for significantly contributing to the expansion of the British Empire.

The Raffles Institution is a boys’ secondary school, and a co-educational Junior College, in Singapore originally founded by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in 1823. It was initially called the Singapore Institute, but was renamed the Raffles Institution in honour of it's founder. A number of Singapore's leaders, such as Goh Chok Tong (current Senior Minister of Singapore and chairman of the central bank of Singapore, also previous second Singapore prime minister) and also Lee Kuan Yew (first Singapore prime minister), have studied in the Raffles Institution. Students at this Institution have to undertake at least one Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) during their four years, and the performance in CCAs also contributes to the student's overall grades.

The Chess Club is one of the Merit CCAs available at the Raffles Institution. The Raffles Institution Chess Club was officially formed in 1960, and promotes chess playing amongst the pupil body. Grandmasters Yuri Averbakh and Josif Dorfman also came to the Raffles Institution, at the invitation of Singapore’s chess patriarch Professor Lim Kok Ann, following the 1978 World Chess Championship between Karpov and Korchnoi. Before Professor Lim Kok Ann took up the appointment of FIDE Secretary-General in 1981, he donated his entire chess book collection to the Raffles Junior College Chess Club / Raffles Institution.

A chess set has been produced by ZSL - further information about this chess set is available here.

Related Posts:
ALCHEssMIST - Zoological Society of London (ZSL) Chess Set

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

JK Rowling Harvard University Commencement Speech (June 5, 2008) - Lessons on Failure and Success

JK Rowling was the keynote speaker at Harvard University Commencement, June 5th 2008. She is the author of the Harry Potter series of books and subsequently films. In this video Rowling speaks passionately about how personal failure allowed her to let go and direct all her "energy into the only work that mattered to me ... to succeed in the one arena where I believed I truly belonged".

For chess players it is now well recognised that deeply studying personal chess game losses is one of the best paths to developing chess expertise. Also, strong chess players tend to use falsification in detemining potential future chess moves in games. Considering both of these points it would seem that skilled chess players may tend to be intrinsically pessimistic in nature. More about this in later posts ...

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Sir David Frost Interviewing Garry Kasparov - 5th December 2008 on Al Jazeera English

I have just recently seen this youtube clip showing Sir David Frost interviewing Garry Kasparov for the Al Jazeera English TV program 'Frost Over The World' on the 5th of December 2008. As per usual Garry speaks both eloquently and forcefully about his 'specialist subjects' - Russia, politics and chess.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Google Similar Books Link - A Very Useful Function To Have On Any Web Search (Even A Good Idea For The Competitor Search Engines)

Following on from my previous web posting where I discuss the usefulness of a "similar books link" on search engine query results, i.e. the Google search engine. The potential revenues from increased book sales ($$$) could be substantial.

Related Pages:
ALCHEssMIST - Chess Metaphor Watch - Diego Rasskin-Gutman - Chess Metaphors, Artificial Intelligence and the Human Mind

Chess Metaphor Watch - Diego Rasskin-Gutman - Chess Metaphors, Artificial Intelligence and the Human Mind

This book by Diego Rasskin-Gutman entitled Chess Metaphors, Artificial Intelligence and the Human Mind is definitely on my shopping wish-list. This title, by The MIT Press and due out on the 12th September 2009, has been reviewed on The MIT Press Site here:
When we play the ancient and noble game of chess, we grapple with ideas about honesty, deceitfulness, bravery, fear, aggression, beauty, and creativity, which echo (or allow us to depart from) the attitudes we take in our daily lives. Chess is an activity in which we deploy almost all our available cognitive resources; therefore, it makes an ideal laboratory for investigation into the workings of the mind. Indeed, research into artificial intelligence (AI) has used chess as a model for intelligent behavior since the 1950s. In Chess Metaphors, Diego Rasskin-Gutman explores fundamental questions about memory, thought, emotion, consciousness, and other cognitive processes through the game of chess, using the moves of thirty-two pieces over sixty-four squares to map the structural and functional organization of the brain.

Rasskin-Gutman focuses on the cognitive task of problem solving, exploring it from the perspectives of both biology and AI. He examines concept after concept, move after move, delving into the varied mental mechanisms and the cognitive processes underlying the actions of playing chess. Bringing the game of chess into a larger framework, he analyzes its collateral influences that spread along the frontiers of games, art, and science. Finally, he investigates AI's effort to program a computer that could beat a flesh-and-blood grandmaster (and win a world chess championship) and how the results fall short when compared to the truly creative nature of the human mind.

I also particularly liked the endorsements for the book on The MIT Press review page, including the following by Fernand Gobet:
"In this highly original book, Diego Rasskin-Gutman weaves a complex but beautiful tapestry of ideas and emotions. Chess sacrifices mix with research on brain and the mind, and world chess champion Gary Kasparov meets Nobel Prize winners Eric Kandel and Herbert Simon. A winning move!"
The Google search engine currently has a similar pages link associated with each web page listed in a search query. For example my posting about Claude Shannon and the Shannon Number (here) gives the following related pages (here). It would be a very nice idea to have a "similar books link" (GM) link on the Google search engine page associated with each web site listed in a search query. Just imagine the number of extra books ($$$) that might be sold through having this function associated with the search engine. Remember Google you heard about it here first.

If a "similar books link" ever becomes a routine part of search engine function then this book by Diego Rasskin-Gutman is likely to appear with

Related Links:
ALCHEssMIST - Google Similar Books Link - A Very Useful Function To Have On Any Web Search (Even A Good Idea For The Competitor Search Engines)

2009 - AI - Artificial intelligence - Chess - Chess Metaphor - Chess Metaphor Watch - Diego Rasskin-Gutman - Emotion - Fernand Gobet - Google - Google Search Engine - Memory - Similar Books Link - The MIT Press

Zoological Society of London (ZSL) Chess Set

ALCHEssMIST has always had an appreciation for the natural world. He also, for a number of years, held annual membership at London Zoo. The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is a charity devoted to the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats, and is also responsible for both London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo.

Zoological Society of London Chess Set:

This chess set (shown above), produced by the Zoological Society of London, is available for purchase (£50) from their website.

The chessboard (16cm square) is made up of silver and black squares. The animal chess pieces are also silver and black and identified as:
  • Lions are the kings.
  • Tigers are the queens.
  • Elephants are the bishops.
  • Horses are the knights.
  • Giraffes are the castles (rooks).
  • Cattle are the pawns.
Reference Links:
ZSL Chess Set -

Related Posts:

ALCHEssMIST - Sir Stamford Raffles - Singapore, Chess & London Zoo