The School Seedbed of Britain’s chess success

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John Upham
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The School Seedbed of Britain’s chess success

Post by John Upham » Wed Nov 18, 2020 12:57 pm

The following article from Education, 7th November 1980 written by George Low

may be of interest :

The School Seedbed of Britain’s chess success


gettyimages-646310300-2048x2048.jpg
A class of girls listens to their teacher Lucy Anness give a lesson on the game of chess at a school in Bromley, Kent, England, in 1948. Miss Anness, head of the school, believes this is the only girls’ school in Britain at this time that teaches chess as part of the curriculum. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
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Roger de Coverly
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Re: The School Seedbed of Britain’s chess success

Post by Roger de Coverly » Wed Nov 18, 2020 1:45 pm

From the link
The game teaches children to concentrate for long periods of time, to observe correct etiquette and to accept adjudication decisions (Ed: I suspect this means arbiting decisions!).
Whilst by 1980, weekend Congresses had routinely adopted quickplay finishes, adjudication, including evaluating positions mostly by material count, was still commonplace in leagues and county matches.

But if accepting that such an article could not credibly be written in 2020, how, why and when did it go wrong?

I think there was more state school support for chess prior to Fischer than the author gives credit. The concept that matches were played against other schools in parallel with Rugby, Cricket, etc. was well established.

Richard James
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Re: The School Seedbed of Britain’s chess success

Post by Richard James » Wed Nov 18, 2020 2:43 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 1:45 pm


But if accepting that such an article could not credibly be written in 2020, how, why and when did it go wrong?
I could tell you (and am planning a series of articles on this topic) but my answers would be unpopular with those currently involved in junior chess. It's complex and also involves what's happened in schools over the past 40 years.

By the way, George Low's four sons were all members of Richmond Junior Club at about the time the article was written, and a grandson is a current member. His oldest son still plays: for Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club.

He's also a direct descendant of Sampson Low, whose publishing house were responsible for several chess books.

Ian Thompson
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Re: The School Seedbed of Britain’s chess success

Post by Ian Thompson » Wed Nov 18, 2020 2:45 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 1:45 pm
From the link
The game teaches children to concentrate for long periods of time, to observe correct etiquette and to accept adjudication decisions (Ed: I suspect this means arbiting decisions!).
I think it means what it says.

Arbiter is a relatively new term, isn't it? In 1948 the term used would probably have been "[tournament] controller", so why not use it if that's what was meant.

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: The School Seedbed of Britain’s chess success

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Wed Nov 18, 2020 3:10 pm

Richard James wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 2:43 pm
Roger de Coverly wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 1:45 pm


But if accepting that such an article could not credibly be written in 2020, how, why and when did it go wrong?
I could tell you (and am planning a series of articles on this topic) but my answers would be unpopular with those currently involved in junior chess. It's complex and also involves what's happened in schools over the past 40 years.
I'm pretty sure the widespread industrial action by teachers in the mid-80s - which meant stopping most "extra-curricular" activity - was a significant factor in getting the decline in schools chess really going.
"Set up your attacks so that when the fire is out, it isn't out!" (H N Pillsbury)

Kevin Thurlow
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Re: The School Seedbed of Britain’s chess success

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Wed Nov 18, 2020 3:16 pm

"I'm pretty sure the widespread industrial action by teachers in the mid-80s - which meant stopping most "extra-curricular" activity - was a significant factor in getting the decline in schools chess really going."

Or to put it another way, teachers got more and more out-of-hours work piled on them, so couldn't fit in the "fun" things.

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: The School Seedbed of Britain’s chess success

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Wed Nov 18, 2020 3:40 pm

Well yes, I wasn't judging the rightness or otherwise of said action.
"Set up your attacks so that when the fire is out, it isn't out!" (H N Pillsbury)

Richard James
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Re: The School Seedbed of Britain’s chess success

Post by Richard James » Wed Nov 18, 2020 3:51 pm

Matt Mackenzie wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 3:10 pm


I'm pretty sure the widespread industrial action by teachers in the mid-80s - which meant stopping most "extra-curricular" activity - was a significant factor in getting the decline in schools chess really going.
This is always mentioned whenever this subject is discussed but it shouldn't be overstated. What happened (and would have happened anyway without the industrial action as it was also connected with general trends in education and parenting) is that, in the 1980s, chess moved from secondary schools to primary schools. A small number of primary schools in London had headteachers who were very keen on chess, taught the whole school to play and took coachloads of children round tournaments. Some of the children from these schools would later become GMs and IMs. By the 1990s, after-school chess clubs in primary schools, were becoming, at least in more affluent areas, professionalised and were used by parents and schools as child-minding services and sold as something that would 'make kids smarter'.

You might, although the parallels are not exact, find this 2005 article by Oklahoma chess player and teacher Tom Braunlich to be of interest.

Nick Grey
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Re: The School Seedbed of Britain’s chess success

Post by Nick Grey » Wed Nov 18, 2020 9:12 pm

The mid 2000s was when the dedicated schools grant was invented and caused schools and local government funding problems. Before that schools and PTAs had more options. So been mainly a middle class fee paying activity since mid 70s. Playing for my school meant playing other sports against other schools. I thank the 2 teachers. Lots of strike action in mid 80s. I had to cross a picket line to start my first day at work.

Nick Grey
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Re: The School Seedbed of Britain’s chess success

Post by Nick Grey » Wed Nov 18, 2020 9:42 pm

Not all congresses had quickplay finishes by 1980. Surrey had adjournments. I remember a game against a junior - one of the Cobbs - and Kevin Thurlow was the Arbiter. There are lots of volunteers in chess. Thanks.

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