ECU ChessPlus First Rank Newsletter 33 - February 2020 

ECU Education - Chess in Germany

First Rank is a fortnightly term-time newsletter for everyone interested in chess for education. In this newsletter, we'll visit the German chess world, we'll invite you to participate to the ECU School Chess Championships, we'll offer you a minigame and you'll also find our usual subjects: an anecdote, a problem to solve and the training course calendar.

Germany in the Centre of European Chess

Germany is one of the most important chess countries in Europe as described in this short overview video produced by the Deutsche Schulschachstiftung with the support of the Rädler Foundation. 

Schools Chess in Germany

Even during the Cold War Germany remained a very important chess country: the secrets of the Soviet players and coaches (Suetin, Averbach, Polugaievsy, Kosteev, Taimanov) were translated into German in the former GDR and from there found their way to the West. Who of the German-speaking chess players does not know 'der Sportverlag Berlin' anymore?


West Germany was a pioneer in using computer science for chess. ChessBase is still the market leader in this field. There are no less than four popular periodicals about chess (Europa-Rochade, Schach, Schachmagazin 64 and Schach-Report), and in addition there are other specialised chess magazines like Jugendschach and the Rochade-Kids (with only youth activities) and Karl (where culture also plays an important role).

Germany has a lively schools chess scene organised on a mainly regional basis. Many initiatives are undertaken by the regional chess federations as well as by the foundations of which the most important one is undoubtedly Deutsche Schulschachstiftung  - the German School Chess Foundation- which organises the annual schools chess conference. 

Two examples of different and successful CIS-programs: in the district of Miesbach, the school chess foundation commenced a wonderful project in 2011. Three instructors are engaged serving almost 600 children. In Bremen, on the initiative of the former international football player Marko Bode, and with the sponsorship of ChessBase, almost all second graders of the city are taught chess. The chess is mandatory and there is an associated research project.

(Source: and

Important? Absolutely! Who doesn't know the Alsteruferturniere in Hamburg, which started in 1958 with 192 pupils and in 2017, there was a record number of 4240 children (yes, you read it correctly) participating?

Who has not heard of the Trier study (report in German), which found out that chess helps children with mathematics - even if a chess lesson replaces a maths lesson. This four-year 2007 study gave impetus to the Chess in Schools movement. (See a recent list of 10 studies on chess and education compiled by ChessPlus.)

Germany also has a tradition of school chess conferences. In November 2019, the 12th edition took place.

There is also a company which only sells school chess material. This must be unique in the world, as for commercial reasons, most chess retailers tend to diversify their assortment and sell other mind and boardgames as well.

Solitaire ChessTM: a Mini-Game in a Toy Shop

Minigames are very popular and some of them are so popular that one person decided to make it a game for a toy shop. Hence Solitaire Chess.  There is an app of this game as well.

Solitaire Chess was invented to familiarize children with the way pieces move and capture. The set-up is simple: the children are given a challenge i.e. a position with a number of pieces (all of the same colour) on a small board (4x4). With each move, the player must capture another piece and he must go on until there is only one piece left.

Let us look at an example:


  • If the Queen takes the Pawn in the corner, you won't be able to take the Queen with the Rook nor with the King, nor will the Queen be able to take one of the other pieces. So, wrong choice.
  • If the Queen takes the King or the Pawn beneath her, she won't be able to take the Pawn in the corner anymore. So, wrong choice.
  • If the King takes the Queen, he will still be able to take the Pawn in the corner, but how will he capture the other pieces? So, wrong choice. 

Do you want to look for the answer by yourself? Don't read further. Take a chessboard, set up the position, try to find the answer and come back to the newsletter.

Done? Oh, you think you have the right answer already? OK, here it is:

Rook takes Pawn   King takes Rook
Rook takes Queen  King takes Rook
And now, it is easy: King takes Pawn and we have only one piece left.

This game is ideal to differentiate within a class group. Children who are stronger or weaker than the average can have a more personal approach to the moves and captures. And don't be worried if you couldn't solve this exercise: this is one of the hardest. You'll find easier challenges. Of course, you can always ask children to invent new challenges! And that, that is a real challenge.

Anecdote of the Week
How to Take Back a Move in Correspondence Chess?

Cecil John Seddon Purdy, Australian international master (1906 -1979), was the first official world champion of correspondence chess. This variation of our game was extremely popular with players in search for chess perfection (this is also the title of one of the books on Purdy).

Indeed, in a correspondence chess game, players can think almost as long as they want before making their move and they send their move to their opponent by e-mail. Before, when the Internet didn't exist, the players posted their move on a special postcard by simple mail.

Unfortunately, a lot of players have been discouraged from playing correspondence chess because their search for chess perfection is no longer determined by the brain, but by the strength of the software and the power of the hardware.

During the 1953 Correspondence Championship (which lasted from 1950 to 1953), Cecil Purdy sent, in a somewhat routine way, one of his moves by mail. But returning home and taking a look at the chessboard, he realised that the move sent would lead him to irreparable defeat.

The game was important, so he had to act quickly. He ran to the mailbox and tried to break it open. Not succeeding, he parked his car in front of it and stood guard fiercely part of the day and all night. In the morning, the postman came to do his job. Cecil tried to explain the situation to the bewildered postman, who, after much discussion and proof of identity, agreed to give him back his letter. This was perhaps decisive since he became champion with only half a point advantage over the second!

European School Chess Championships


(Hotel: Source:

International tournaments are always synonymous with enrichment. Not only do you get to know a totally new environment and culture but you can also get to know the other participants. For schools, this is an ideal opportunity to regard the chess tournament from an educational point of view and either plan instructive excursions between the games or develop exchanges with other participants.

(Knossos; Source:

This year's championships will be held in Crete during 2-12 April 2020. The Mediterranean island is enjoyable not only for the devoted chessplayer but also for anyone studying Classics, Ancient Greek or Latin. Registration is possible until February 17th. A guided tour of the mythical Palace of Knossos is recommended. More information.

Correct Communication

In the previous newsletter, we wrote about the Swedish model of school tournaments, where participation is more important than winning, but we've made a mistake by saying that children got a point for a loss. Of course, the children get a point for their participation.  As Kevin O'Connell, Secretary of the Fide Chess Education Commission pointed out, "the psychological difference between a 'booby prize' of one for a loss as against one for making the effort 'to take part' is enormous".
It is important to communicate well with the child, because a reward (ranging from a smile to gifts, without forgetting compliments) can only be associated with something positive, the purpose of the reward being to reinforce a positive attitude. The reward is therefore also a motivator and helps to create a pleasant atmosphere.
If we do not communicate correctly which positive element we reward the child for, the child may associate it with something negative and this will only lead to confusion. The optimist will think that his mistake may not really have been a mistake, since he is receiving a reward, and he may 'reoffend'... The pessimist will think that the reward serves to ridicule him for his mistakes and he may become demotivated.
So how do you deal with something negative? First of all, you have to realise that mistakes are an integral part of any learning process. It confronts the human being with his own shortcomings, his own faults. For some, this confrontation is unpleasant, even shocking. Others, of a more fatalistic nature (or with a fixed mindset), resign themselves to their weaknesses and accept error as an integral part of their existence.
Addressing this problem in a few lines does not seem possible to me. I will go into it in greater depth in a later issue. What doesn't work in any case is a negative or even repressive attitude... This attitude only serves to demotivate and that is absolutely the last thing we want: to demotivate a child who by nature wants to play an interesting game.
Organisers or arbiters in school chess tournaments also have to be extremely sensitive to this subject. I have unfortunately witnessed how a team of youngsters was disqualified by an organiser after a championship. This was an unnecessarily harsh measure for a school chess tournament, especially as the reason for the disqualification (an alleged incorrect line-up - which the organiser himself had approved at the beginning of the tournament) turned out to be completely unfounded according to the rules and the appeals committee.  However, the harm was done and one of the children stopped playing chess.
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to teach chess in a sensitive and fully responsible way. If we make mistakes, let's correct them, as soon as possible and let's learn from them. In the end, that's what we want from the children.
In any case, I will never again tell children that they have won a point because they have lost their game. No, no... they will get a point for their precious presence.


Philippe Vukojevic
First Rank Newsletter Editor, ECU Education


Out of the Box
When a teacher wanted to show a mate-in-one chess puzzle, a number of pieces fell to the ground. Several children were very helpful, picked up the pieces they found and put them - a bit haphazardly - on the board. The teacher looked at the position, furrowed his eyebrows and started to smile: 'OK, you found the missing black pawn. Take it away and I will show you the puzzle.' Which pawn did they take away?

White mates in one move

ECU Education Calendar 2020

Training Courses

DATE                 COURSE     LANGUAGE         LOCATION
8-9 Feb             ECU104       Spanish                online
24-25 Feb         ECU101       English/Armenian Yerevan (ARM)
29 Feb               ECU102      English/Spanish   Madrid (ESP)
14-15 Mar          ECU101      German               Tainach (AUT)
30-31Mar           ECU101      English                 Minsk (BLR)
09 May              ECU102       English/Spanish   Barcelona (ESP)
20-21 Jun          ECU101       English/Italian      Turin (ITA)
20-21 Jun          ECU103       English/Italian      Turin (ITA)

KEY                  COURSE TYPE
ECU101            Teaching Chess in Primary Schools
ECU102            Teaching Mathematics through Chess
ECU103            Teaching Chess for Early Years
ECU104            School Chess Coordinator

More information


Out of the Box - Answer
It is an out-of-the-box-puzzle... so, there will be something strange about it. Indeed, the children put nine black pawns on the board. So you have to take away one pawn. Which one? It doesn't matter, as you will always find a (different) way to mate in one.

Take away pawn:
a7: 1.Qb6#
b7: 1.Nc6#
c4: 1.Qb4#
d3: 1.Qe4#
e3: 1.Bxf2#
f2: 1.Bxe3#
f7: 1.Ne6#
g6: 1.Rg4#
h2: 1.Rh4#

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