First Rank – The Story of Schack4an
First Rank is a weekly newsletter for everyone interested in chess for education. In this issue we present the ideas of the fantastic swedish project Schack4an (Chess4) , the tournament that reaches 1/3 of all ten year olds in the country.
What is Schack4an?
Schack4an is a social project run by the Swedish Chess Federation for grade 4. The goal is to include EVERYONE in the class, as everyone is important for the success of the group. Every year 30 000 swedish ten year olds are taught chess through the tournament. The photo is from the district final in Stockholm when 4 000 children are gathered.
- Schack4an is a class team tournament for grade 4
- The children are playing individual tournaments, but you can’t play with someone from your own class. All points goes to the class.
- Everyone participating recieves a medal at all stages. No other individual prizes are given out.
- 30 000 children are participating every year
- 1 000 classes take part every year
- 100 qualification tournaments are held around Sweden every year
- The final is held in June with 2 500 children from all over Sweden participating.
- The 1-2-3 point system is used, which makes every child important for the success of the class.
- A coefficient system is used which makes classes of different numbers of children to be able to compete on equal ground.
Schack4an – step by step
- In the begining of each autumn all classes of grade 4 in Sweden are offered a visit by an instructor during the school day.
- The instructor teaches the class chess for one hour and gives the class a chess box with five chess sets and a simple instrcution material.
- The class decides if they want to participate. If they do they get a new visit for one hour, and is provided with instruction materials and online training.
- During spring the tournaments are played in three steps: town qualification, district qualification and national final.
Never forget Anna!
In 1979 Göran Malmsten started Schack4an in Västerås, Sweden. When he explains the tournament he does it like this:
“Schack4an is Anna. Anna was small for her age and had difficulties in school. Even so, she wanted to be in a normal class, nothing else. But it was tough. It was not easy to make friends. That class participated in one of the first years of Schack4an, but Anna did not dare to enter for the qualification tournament of the city. During the tournament the class realised that the more pupils that participated from the class, the more points the class would get. In the first lesson after the tournament, the teacher asked which pupils wanted to go to the semi-final, and everyone raised a hand, except for Anna. She was not used to be included in anything. But the girl beside Anna now said: ’Anna must join’. The children of the class looked at each other and they all began to chant: ‘Anna must join, Anna must join, Anna must join’, and so it happened. Anna lost all her five games in the semi-final, but every game played counts for a point and her contribution of five points for her class helped them qualify for the final. Anna played in the final, and she even won two games. I drove Anna home after the final. Everyone that had participated got a prize in the shape of a twenty centimetre wooden king. I saw in the rear-view mirror how Anna held that king tight. I saw a new lustre in her eyes. The lustre of someone who counts.
You see, Schack4an is not about the elite of chess. It is not even about what is called the mass of chess players. Schack4an is about THE REST, those that through the tournament can find a fellowship and a feeling of being counted.”
If you want to read an longer article about Schack4an you find it here
Is Schack4an the best chess tournament in the world?
Yes, It is time to be a bit provocative, and to speak in my own case…
All over Europe huge school chess tournaments take place. As the chess-in-school-movement is like “a wild bunch of flowers” with different set-ups depending on goal, educational style of the country, and not the least what type of organization running the project, the way these tournaments are arranged differ. I love Schack4an, and yes I know it by heart, and of course it is like “my own baby”, but still I think it is the best school chess tournament I have seen. Just one detail. To qualify for the district final the class has to reach a sum of points together. The class does not compete with the other classes. As you get points for participating you will reach this amount if you have managed to get about 65% of the pupils in the class to play. The magic moment for me as a tournament director is at the prizegiving when I annonunce that the class fininshing last recieved enough points to go on to the next step, and they cry of joy! How many tournaments have you seen where this happens?
I guess a lot of you disagree with my provocative statement, and that you find your concept better. In that case please let us know and we make a presentation in the newsletter! Or maybe you have details that you think is better, or maybe you simply want to know more about Schack4an. Again, contact us!
Chair, ECU Education