FIRST RANK - Newsletter No.8 September 2018

Can chess and games train the brain?

First Rank is a weekly newsletter for everyone interested in chess for education. In this issue we discuss "The Playing Method", a neurologist explains why this method is good for the brain, we recommend 5 board games beside chess, and of course we have The Weekly Chess Problem and The Weekly Minigame.

Reveal Chess - A Minigame that teaches how to place the pieces in the best way

This is a great minigame to encourage the children to think about how to make use of the pieces in the best way. Not the least after the play of the minigame you can have a great discussion.

Gamefication, the key to good learning!

In Sweden the schools spend a lot of money on board- and computer games as they have realised the importance of gamification in teaching. (See the video below with the neurologist Frank Campanella, who explains the benefits with games.)
When I show the teachers how a chess board can be used for exercises and minigames they get excited and some even draw the conclusion that chess is the only game that you need. But of course there is nothing wrong with some variety, as long as you make a good choice!  And this is the problem, because today we live under the curse of possibilities. And that is why I always look for good IQ-games that develops children and their thinking, so I can recommend them to schools, but also to chess instructors that want to make a "brain break" in the chess teaching. Below you find my favourites.

Jesper Hall
Chair, ECU Education

5 good board games (Beside chess of course...)

  • Connect four (A classic for younger children that is a good introduction to strategic board games.) INFO
  • Othello (A classic that is a simpler version of the asian game Go.) INFO
  • Repello (A modern game that trains the ability to forsee what is about to come.) INFO
  • Ubongo (An entertaining game that trains pattern recognition.) INFO
  • Quarto (Connect four/chess look alike game with more depth than you might think.) INFO

What is your best board game, beside chess?

There are so many possibilities so you need to be selective when you choose a board- or computer game. From my point of view a good board game should be easy to learn, but have a complexity when it comes to strategy. What is your best board game? Please let us know!

Why is chess good for your brain?

The neurologist Franco Campanella explains why chess is good for the development of the brain. Among others the ability to concentrate and decision making are two things that you train when you play chess. Beside that chess is a game, and this makes children perform on the verge of their ability, which develops them.

The children became better in other games!

Jens Jadbäck is one of the best school chess teachers in Sweden and in charge of the chess investment on Vattmyraskolan, Stockholm. Beside chess he always test other strategic board games on the children, and he was suprised when he introduced the icelandic viking game "Hnefatfl".
"The children learned the game in no time, and immedeately started to discuss strategies. No doubt the chess training gave a transfer effect."
If you want to read more about "Hnefatfl" you can do it here.

The Chess Puzzle of the Week


 Find the fork!

One of the most beloved chess tricks is the fork, when the knight threatens two pieces at the same time. In this exercise you need to have a bit of imagination to make the fork come true!

Black to play and win material
(Answer below)

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Find the fork!
Black must prepare the fork by playing 1...Be7-g5. The white queen must take the bishop with 2.Qh6xg5, otherwise it gets lost, and now the fork occurs on the board after 2...Nf4-h3+

The knight threatens both the king and the queen, and black will win material.
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