Chess is Like a Globe
Wednesday, 08 June 2011 18:26
Chess is like a globe by WIM Alexey Root, Ph.D.
(Empowering educators and librarians to use chess to teach academic subjects without relying on outside chess experts)

globeAs an author with ABC-CLIO, I work at my publisher’s booth at conferences for educators and librarians. To attract customers, I used to ask conference attendees, “Are you interested in chess?” My question got responses ranging from “no” to scared expressions to walking away. Most educators and librarians are not tournament chess players. Chess may even intimidate them. Therefore, I changed my question to, “Are your students or library patrons interested in chess?” Educators and librarians said yes, and many bought my books.

I think my discovery is more than a sales trick. Educators and librarians are the most qualified people to interact with their students and patrons. That is, in the United States, educators and librarians earn certifications before being put in charge of classrooms and libraries. Outside chess experts may not have those certifications. My books enable educators and librarians to use chess to teach academic subjects without relying on outside chess experts.


To me, chess is like a globe. A globe is a big sphere with colored maps on it. It often gathers dust, ignored. But educators and librarians may use globes to illustrate concepts in geography. Students and library patrons spin globes to imagine life in other countries or to compare the sizes of nations. Like the globe, chess may teach. The chess board, for example, can illustrate coordinate geometry since finding the square “e4” is similar to finding a (x, y) point.

Here is a longer example of how chess might serve goals established by educators and librarians. The objectives for one lesson in People, Places, Checkmates: Teaching Social Studies with Chess (2010) are, “Students learn that each trader on the Silk Road, comprised of dozens of different trade routes, traveled less than a few hundred miles. Students dramatize the exchange of goods and money and the cultural diffusion of shatranj over the Silk Road.” Shatranj was an early version of chess. Within the lesson, students dramatize “how shatranj might have been transmitted and transformed, as in a game of telephone, from Arab countries to China in the ninth century.” The game of telephone is where one person whispers in another’s ear, then that message is whispered in a third person’s ear, and so forth. The message is usually much changed from the first person who says it to the last person who hears it. After the dramatization, students play Tandem Chess, a game where players have partners but direct communication isn’t allowed. Thus, the chess exercise reinforces the Silk Road lesson of transmission often transforming ideas.

Like globes, chess sets and boards may sit, dormant, on educators’ or librarians’ bookshelves. To counteract that possibility, encourage educators and librarians to use chess to meet their goals for students and patrons. Chess will grow when educators and librarians are empowered rather than dependent on outside chess experts. To learn more, please read my books, take my Chess Online courses, or meet me in person at the Second Koltanowski International Conference on Chess and Education

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