Does primary school coaching generate the elite?

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Michael Farthing
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Does primary school coaching generate the elite?

Post by Michael Farthing » Sun Sep 11, 2016 1:44 pm

I've started a new thread here as this sort of theme is coming up in a number of diverse places in incidental comments.

I'm not expressing an opinion on the subject but am interested in a factual question. Do we have evidence that juniors coached instensively at a young age are likely to be the elite players of the future? For example, if we were to take the winners of under 10 (say) competitions can we see whether these progress and become the winners of under 14 competitions four years later, or are these places taken by others previously unknown? It seems to me that this information could reasonably easily be put together but I'm not aware that anyone has tried to do so. Anyone know?

Ian Thompson
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Re: Does primary school coaching generate the elite?

Post by Ian Thompson » Sun Sep 11, 2016 2:50 pm

Michael Farthing wrote:Do we have evidence that juniors coached instensively at a young age are likely to be the elite players of the future? For example, if we were to take the winners of under 10 (say) competitions can we see whether these progress and become the winners of under 14 competitions four years later, or are these places taken by others previously unknown? It seems to me that this information could reasonably easily be put together but I'm not aware that anyone has tried to do so. Anyone know?
You could look at this list of British junior champions and see how many players won at multiple age groups and how many became adult players of note. It's probably distorted for recent years though, with junior players of modest, or better, ability playing in the British Championship instead of their age group championship.

Richard James
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Re: Does primary school coaching generate the elite?

Post by Richard James » Sun Sep 11, 2016 3:26 pm

The question posed in the threat title seems rather strange to me. Do you mean coaching in primary schools (in which case the answer's No) or coaching at primary school age (in which case the answer's Yes)?

There are three reasons why you might want to run a junior chess programme.

1. To produce elite players: your future IMs, GMs and perhaps world champions

2. To produce hobby players who will join clubs, take part in tournaments, spend money on chess equipment and perhaps become organisers or teachers.

3. To use chess as a learning tool to develop children's reasoning and problem solving skills, and, incidentally, to teach the rules of chess so that some of them will want to join clubs later on.

You may well consider all of these to be worthwhile. How should we go about them?

1. Yes, as Leonard points out, we need to catch children young if we want to produce elite players. But running primary school chess clubs is not an efficient way of doing this as not all schools will be interested. If you want to produce elite players it's far better to set up a network of professionally run junior chess clubs and promote them within schools through flyers in reception, adverts on websites etc..

2. Playing chess at a reasonable level is too hard for most primary school age children who are not getting one to one help on a daily basis, usually from a chess playing parents. Only the brightest and most mature children have both the cognitive and executive function skills to process chess information in a meaningful way at this age. My experience is that children who start competitive chess at secondary school age are more likely to continue playing as adults than those who start at primary school age. So to achieve this aim you'll need to be very active promoting competitive chess within secondary schools. Neill Cooper is doing a great job with this, but it's always going to depend on finding a member of staff who's interested.

3. I have mixed feelings about this, but if you really want to do it, here's what you do. You use your chess set as a toolbox and develop children's thinking skills by using subsets of the board, pieces and rules to present children with non-competitive mini-games and puzzles. (Of course you could also, for example, use a deck of cards or a Scrabble set in the same way, and develop, in each case, a slightly different skill set.) Many of the primary school chess projects which have achieved positive results use this method, which is very strictly non-competitive and doesn't involve children playing complete games of chess. In my opinion, the main reason why the CSC program didn't achieve positive results was that it used a relatively fast course and, at least in some schools, put children into competitions such as the UK Chess Challenge or invited them to the London Chess Classic to watch the world elite playing chess.

Primary School coaching, the way we do it at the moment, is not very good at achieving any of the three aims. The children have a great time, especially when they win gold spots and fluffy mascots, the schools are happy, the parents are happy, the chess tutors are happy. But, beyond that, it offers little other than a child-minding service which provides employment for chess players.

We can't overthrow the system, but we have to find ways to tweak it to make it more successful in producing players with a long-term interest in chess.

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Michael Farthing
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Re: Does primary school coaching generate the elite?

Post by Michael Farthing » Sun Sep 11, 2016 4:23 pm

Richard James wrote:
Primary School coaching, the way we do it at the moment, is not very good at achieving any of the three aims. The children have a great time, especially when they win gold spots and fluffy mascots, the schools are happy, the parents are happy, the chess tutors are happy. But, beyond that, it offers little other than a child-minding service which provides employment for chess players.

If as Minister of Education I could come up with a policy that gave children a great time, kept schools happy and kept parents happy then I think I would be quite happy too. :-)

Leonard Barden
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Re: Does primary school coaching generate the elite?

Post by Leonard Barden » Sun Sep 11, 2016 4:28 pm

Michael Farthing wrote:
Richard James wrote:
Primary School coaching, the way we do it at the moment, is not very good at achieving any of the three aims. The children have a great time, especially when they win gold spots and fluffy mascots, the schools are happy, the parents are happy, the chess tutors are happy. But, beyond that, it offers little other than a child-minding service which provides employment for chess players.

If as Minister of Education I could come up with a policy that gave children a great time, kept schools happy and kept parents happy then I think I would be quite happy too. :-)
Doesn't seriously educating them matter to you?

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Michael Farthing
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Re: Does primary school coaching generate the elite?

Post by Michael Farthing » Sun Sep 11, 2016 4:42 pm

I would be seriously educating them. Teaching children to enjoy life is the best that you can do. School gave me a number of things for life which included a love of languages, a love of science, a dislike of geography but above all the joys of chess (aided by your good self, though if you really insist I'll delete this bit), mountains and drama. Those were the things that mattered most.

You are, of course, right in saying that 'serious' stuff is important, but the extra-curricular side of school is, to my mind, currently seriously under-rated.

Gary Kenworthy

Re: Does primary school coaching generate the elite?

Post by Gary Kenworthy » Sun Sep 11, 2016 7:39 pm

There is a lack of imprecision in many points.
Health mind healthy body (known in the Groves of Academus by Plato and Socrates).
A balanced education, using many tools and disciplines, not a narrow curriculum.
Different standards need difference skills to teach.(hence the confusion it is about elite or not have elite, i.e. just masses - never a great start to argue one or the other - exclusivity of one only - no way.
Having transferable skill sets in all roles and students. Chess is a good training tool for many subjects.
You also need those who can raise capital, justify its usage, retain the income, especially sponsorship. Demonstratable results and metrics. Leonard spent much time in producing such data and charts.
Richard James, is very correct on many points, like the title of the thread as well.
On the previous threads there seems to be deliberate misunderstandings, especially on the petition. One of the problems that chess organisers give up, is the amount of stone throwing from the sidelines
Also the heavy failure in not having lessons learnt e.g. making the same old tax mistakes over and over again.
Rgds (FM) Gary Kenworthy.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Does primary school coaching generate the elite?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Sun Sep 11, 2016 7:55 pm

Gary Kenworthy wrote: making the same old tax mistakes over and over again.
I don't think the same tax mistakes, or at least the VAT ones are being made time and time again. With the exception of the UKCC, the ECF and perhaps CSC, no other chess organisation outside the books and equipment sector has a turnover high enough to fall into VAT, or if they might, they are structured so as to be seen to be independent events.

The ECF may have been unable to reclaim some VAT regarding accommodation costs at Sheffield in 2011 as the then President proved reluctant to provide hotel receipts when spending funds in the name of the ECF.

Gary Kenworthy

Re: Does primary school coaching generate the elite?

Post by Gary Kenworthy » Sun Sep 11, 2016 8:04 pm

many others Roger

Nick Grey
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Re: Does primary school coaching generate the elite?

Post by Nick Grey » Sun Sep 11, 2016 8:41 pm

Not sure that it is the primary coaching that helps. By all means identify prodigies at a young age for academy programme.

At Kingston we are proud of the Hastings 1953 boys champion Ken Inwood - he still plays a good game. There was a war on when he was primary age.

Having spoken to John Nunn at our Chris Clegg memorial I was most impressed that he could recall games of 50 years ago. He is also clear that to improve education (e.g. mathematics) then children should be taught to solve mathematical puzzles (not chess puzzles).

Those of us that grew up in the local area recall John as being the youngest person to go to Oxford since Cardinal Wolsey. Those of us playing chess have learnt a lot from his books and analysis. And is good to see him playing senior chess and problem solving.

Also we have 5 former young prodigies playing in the Olympiad and we may have been a bit over-optimistic in our medal chances (but on the comparison with British Olympics performances and millions invested by Lottery Funding).

It is also unrealistic to expect primary schools to have any funds other than for mainstream curriculum activities, and whilst National funding reform has been put back a year the settlement is not going to cover the increase in teachers costs or general inflation. So those coaching in these schools currently may get charged a bit more for their use of premises. Especially if funding moves up north and away from London.

Of course I am most grateful for the primary school teacher that taught me to play chess as he was running out of primary school material. I was most shocked when I started secondary school to find that my textbook was the same as he had used for my extra mathematics lessons in my last year.

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Michael Farthing
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Re: Does primary school coaching generate the elite?

Post by Michael Farthing » Sun Sep 11, 2016 8:49 pm

Nick Grey wrote: Having spoken to John Nunn at our Chris Clegg memorial I was most impressed that he could recall games of 50 years ago..
I believe I played him (and lost) at the BCF congress in Oxford in 1967 but I don't have the score..
It's only 49 years ago. Do you think he might remember?

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: Does primary school coaching generate the elite?

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Mon Sep 12, 2016 12:02 am

Last year a new junior chess club was opened in Harrogate, run by a retired teacher who'd spotted the gap in the market for a children's club in Harrogate. I started going to sessions as a spectator, largely because I wanted to show that somebody from the main chess club was taking an interest and have ended up becoming the main support coach. I mention this because I've worked around the edges of junior chess ever since I was a junior myself and thought I knew a bit BUT working with an experienced teacher I've realised how little I knew. This time last year I had a lot of preconceived notions which were completely wrong.

The Harrogate club is a success because there is very little emphasis on competition. Obviously there is some as every game has to have a winner and it is impossible to complete avoid a hierarchy; however the club is about all the children, not just the two or three top players. We don't push the children into entering competitions (even though the middle tier of the club could give a good account of themselves) and concentrate on learning, supporting each other and having fun (discipline is strict and chess etiquette is enforced I hasten to add).

Answering Michael's question and as Richard James has said; I do think that over investment in primary school chess isn't always effective. Any reasonably bright child can pick up their basics but except in extreme cases their minds won't be advanced enough to pick up the tactical and strategical knowledge the stronger player needs. Also focusing on chess at primary school level gives the impression that chess is a children's game to be outgrown when you move on to secondary school. I didn't take up chess properly until I was thirteen and the same was true of a lot of my rivals on the U18 circuit at the time.

Another thing that can get easily overlooked is that children are individuals, even as eight year olds, and will respond to being taught in different ways. At the club I'm involved with we try different things and keep what works while discarding what doesn't. With a different set of children the club might have developed very differently. Even as they improve it might be that one child with an incredible natural talent just wants to play while a less talented player is keen to study and learn.
Controller - Yorkshire League
Chairman - Harrogate Chess Club
All views expressed entirely my own

Gary Kenworthy

Re: Does primary school coaching generate the elite?

Post by Gary Kenworthy » Mon Sep 12, 2016 8:41 am

Keep up the good work at Harrogate. In various periods there was no club.
Yesterday, I was talking with Ray B Edwards (Bucks) and a new keen junior parent wanting to start organising whilst we were at a county chess match. We talked of junior chess organising and Mike Basman - I reminded folks of RB Edwards (Harrogate) v MJ Basman, (Bradford c c) a Kings Indian, involving the Nf6xe4 sac for a pawn roller.

When Harrogate had no club, some played for Bradford cc in the Woodhouse Cup, notably James Howell, later a GM, ferried by the Lloyds Bank Manager, Andrew Toothill (then resident in Harrogate). -- So see if you can also produce such strong players as Ray and James as well.
In years time, supposing a Harrogate junior (who does not need to be that strong) becomes the CFO, or CEO of a FTSE company, it then becomes more likely that they will sponsor with their company logo, a sport or similar. Creating candidate choices really helps for the future. From another area of the country, Sir Jeremy Morse made his choice of what to sponsor.
rgds (FM) Gary Kenworthy, Blecthley

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Michael Farthing
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Re: Does primary school coaching generate the elite?

Post by Michael Farthing » Mon Sep 12, 2016 9:03 am

Ian Thompson wrote: You could look at this list of British junior champions and see how many players won at multiple age groups and how many became adult players of note. It's probably distorted for recent years though, with junior players of modest, or better, ability playing in the British Championship instead of their age group championship.
Thanks for the link Ian. I have got as far as cutting and pasting into a spreadsheet - but it will be quite a lot of work and I might not get too far. Another approach is to give highest subsequently achieved grade to each winner and see what that looks like.

Gary Kenworthy

Re: Does primary school coaching generate the elite?

Post by Gary Kenworthy » Mon Sep 12, 2016 9:29 am

Michael Farthing,
How are you going to take into account juniors winning titles, 2, 3 and 5 years before the threshold of the event under x age, versus their actual birthday?.
Some very strong players were runners up.
As already stated, many played in higher events, such as the British Open, a point well understood by Leonard Barden.
No money in chess: so many went into business and work and had to give up chess ( J D Slater tried to encourage Keene to go professional, but he refused, there were many similar cases). Without capital/ sponsorship there is no elite. Chess players have to live.
Go back over the years, see how F D Yates struggled, also why H E Atkins in those years did not play much (headmaster in Huddersfield).
I remember at one tournament I was with two Sheffield University players, (amongst others) one collapsed, the other said that is because he had not eaten for 4 days - he was trying to go professional. Many such stories.
The lack of money in chess dictates much, including: anger, frustration, politics, bad decisions, not sending players, factions, collapses of entities etc
rgds (FM) Gary Kenworthy

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