Thursday, March 31, 2011

Missionaries in Uganda Used Chess

Chess champ from Uganda slum fostered by Lynchburg charity By Liz Barry
Published: March 30, 2011

Born into a Uganda slum, 14-year-old Phiona Mutesa is the “ultimate underdog,” according to freelance journalist Tim Crothers, who spoke at Lynchburg College this week.

“Katwe, where she lives, is a place where dreams are discouraged,” Crothers said.

Against all odds, Phiona, who could barely read and write, earned a spot at the 2010 Chess Olympiad in Russia, where she competed against chess champions from around the world.

Crothers, a freelance journalist from North Carolina, chronicled Phiona’s experience for a January issue of ESPN Magazine. He was invited to speak in Lynchburg Tuesday night for LC’s ongoing effort to raise awareness about poverty in Uganda and Haiti. Events this week also included a human chess game Wednesday at the college to raise money for relief efforts in both countries.

In a way, Lynchburg’s ties to Phiona run deep. At age 9, Phiona got hooked on chess through Sports Outreach, a Lynchburg-based mission organization stationed in her slum.

Run by a six-person staff in Lynchburg, Sports Outreach supports a team of 140 missionaries who provide relief to some of the world’s poorest people. The missionaries use sports, mainly soccer, to connect with local communities.

“Sports is such a wonderful, universal language,” said Rodney Suddith, executive director of Sports Outreach. “We like to say, ‘It all starts with a ball.’”

In the Katwe slum, Sports Outreach added a chess project for kids who didn’t take to soccer. Had it not been for the Lynchburg nonprofit, Phiona might never have picked up a chess piece.

When Crothers met Phiona last fall, she lived in a 10-foot-by-10-foot shack with her mother and four siblings.

Full article here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chess At MacDonalds

Knights of the McRound Table
Want fries with that McCheck-mate?
Tuesday, Mar 29, 2011 | Updated 9:58 AM PDT
By Cary Berglund and Scott Weber

McDonald's is best known for their burgers and fries and is a popular after school gathering space for teens.

But a McDonald's in Leimert Park has become as well known for something that is not on the menu for guys well beyond their teens. -- chess.

The daily chess tournament takes place under the golden arches where guys from the neighborhood gather to outsmart and outwit each other. They spend their afternoons… capturing knights.

"Chess is very addiction," says one McDonald's player. "Some guys come in saying they're going to play a game or two and it's night before they leave. That happens a lot."

The cheering section-- which is more quiet observation than actual cheering-- is made up of guys in line for the next game.

The tournament started out in a nearby park. Then one rainy winter, they moved into McDonalds, trash talk and all. And they never left.

"He's a nice guy," one player says of his opponent. "He just can't play."

Full article here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Reaching Impoverished Communities for Christ Through Chess

I'm given a ministry idea by this video of a social project in New Delhi, India on the possibility of using education and chess to reach impoverished communities for Christ.

A Future For Meher from Gorilla Face on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Life is Like Chess ... You Play Your Best and Hope for the Best

Life is like a game of chess. There are times when you're up and there are times when you're down. Chess teaches a player how to handle pressure and be patient. It disciplines one not to panic even when behind. A right, steady focus can help one win the game, even if there are heavy material losses.

Brief Survey of Psychological Studies of Chess

Chess is an ancient game of skill. It is one of the few such popular games that is devoid of luck. As a result, it has been a popular choice of topic for psychological research, as it provides psychologists with insights into how humans think about problems. Chess has also been a very popular choice for artificial intelligence implentations, and the results have been very successful. For the first time last year, a computer program beat the world champion in a game with regulation time controls.
The main question in psychological studies of chess is the following: how are better players able to win more often? Several factors have been investigated but there are no certain physiological advantages that always lead to better chess-playing. The most common finding of studies is that experience plays a great part in determining one's ability, which is certainly a promising thought for mediocre players. In essence, no chess gene has been found.
This paper will provide an overview of psychological research into chess, with an emphasis on theories that have been proven inaccurate by future research, to show the development o research in this field. As with any other branch of psychology, theories are made, and then refined when conflicting experimental evidence becomes available.
The first serious psychological study of the game of chess was conducted by Alfred Binet, in 1894. Binet, who was best known for his early intelligence tests, observed blindfold chess players as a subset of his investigations into memory. To the average person, playing a game of chess without sight of the board represents an extremely difficult, if not impossible challenge for the memory.1 Binet's experiment consisted of a survey which was taken by players of all skill levels, from novice to master. He came to the conclusion that blindfold chess players need knowledge and experience, imagination, and memory.2 The masters who took part in the survey gave introspective accounts that had some similarities and yet several differences concerning their blindfold play. A common thread among their responses was the fact that they did not use tactile imagery to represent the board. In addition, they were generally able to remember all the moves played in a sequence of blindfold games. One master, Goetz, was able to quickly recall all 336 moves that he made over 10 blindfold games played simultaneously.3 Binet concluded that verbal memory was an integral part of blindfold play. Finally the subjects reported the need to be aware of a general plan of action for each game,4 although this would seem to be a necessity for both blindfold and regular chess play.
The masters differed on whether they used visual or abstract imagery to represent the board. The majority said that they used only an abstract representation, combined with subvocalizations of previous moves, to mentally examine the board. A small majority including the well-known master Blackburne claimed to visualize an actual chessboard with pieces on it corresponding to the current position, "just as if before the eyes."5 Binet thus came to the realization that his original hypothesis of a strong visual memory being essential for blindfold play was wrong. In addition, he did not explore the almost direct correspondence between experience and ability in blindfold chess.6 Fine (1967) claims that any master (rating of 2200 or above) should be able to play at least one game of blindfold chess.7
Reuben Fine was a prominent chess-player during the thirties, who competed in the famous AVRO tournament of 1938. He also had considerable experience in psychoanalysis, and in 1956 the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis published his work, The Psychology of the Chess Player. The book gives a very Freudian account of the game of chess, and is useful only to demonstrate the advances that have been made in the realm of psychology with respect to chess within the past forty years.
Fine claimed that chess is a substitute for war. The king is held to represent the father, while the queen is the mother. In addition, the rook, bishop, knight and pawn are taken to be phallic symbols.8 Fine draws a lot of significance from the fact that promoted pawns may become any other piece except for the king/father. This restriction implies to Fine that chess-playing boys are discouraged from growing up to be like their fathers. Unfortunately Fine's analysis suffers from its entirely armchair nature. There are no experiments or observations, other than a few biographies of well-known grandmasters to support the hypotheses presented in the book. One consistency in Fine's work is that master chess players all have differing personalities and backgrounds.
The first true psychological enquiry into the minds of chessplayers was made by the Dutch psychologist Adriaan de Groot. de Groot was a master, although certainly below the level of the top players in the world. However, he had much more experience and knowledge of the game than did Binet. De Groot's book was titled Thought and choice in chess (translated from Dutch) and was largely based on his study of chess players of differing abilities. He was able to interview such giants of the chess world as Alekhine and Euwe (both World Champions), and "lesser" grandmasters such as Keres, Tartakower, Flohr, and even Fine, the chess-playing psychoanalyst. In addition, de Groot studied several masters, experts, and "class" (or lower-ranked) chess players.
De Groot gave his subjects a position set up on a chess board. Their task was to determine the best move to make, and to attempt to verbalize all of their thoughts. Fortunately, even mediocre chess players have a wide vocabulary of chess-specific terms ("pin", "fork", "back-row mate") that allow them to describe their thoughts very specifically. One problem about such taking protocols is that only the conscious thought can be captured by the player talking about his or her ideas. Often psychologist refer to a process made in solving chess problems as an automatic one, meaning that it is not thought about proactively. This tends to lessen the weight attached to results of protocol experiments, but they are interesting nonetheless. The positions given differed in that some were decisive tactical positions (meaning that a relatively short combination of moves could force the opposition to resign), some were more positional in nature (meaning that a long-term strategy needed to be devised), and still others were random legal positions.

Read full article.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chess Therapy at Starbucks

I see an innovative chess mission outreach via the coffee shop. Long Beach Chess Club meets every Thursdays at Starbucks!

They certainly have no illusions of approaching the likes of Bobby Fischer, nor will you catch them playing marathon games into the wee hours of the morning.

“We’re not geniuses, we’re just regular players,” said Dr. Lowell Taubman, a founder and co-president of the Long Beach Chess Club. “We all have a little ADD, so we can’t play for three hours.”

Taubman and other club members set up their rooks, pawns and other chess pieces and boards at Starbucks every Thursday evening at 7:30. Last Thursday Taubman, an internist with a practice on Riverside Boulevard, and Ron Fried, one of his patients, arrived at the coffee shop on West Park Avenue a minute before their scheduled meeting time, so eager are they to order their barista-made drinks and get started.