Last March 2014 I attended a FIDE Trainers’ Seminars that took place in Athens during the Chessnale festival. The Chessnale festival was a celebration of chess that included trainers seminars, arbiters seminars, school tournaments, artistic performances with Chess as the theme, creative activities related to chess for children and the annual Greek Chess Championships. It took place in the “Mall” and one could find big desks that provided information about the Chessnale activities. But there were huge Chess posters all over as well. Students of art schools created chess pieces as works of art through the days and one could watch them as they worked.
As much alluring as Chessnale was, my prime reason for going there was to attend the trainer’s seminar. Our lecturer was GM Efstratios Grivas, a well known author, trainer and FIDE Senior Trainer, now Secretary of the FIDE Trainers’ Commission. Mr Grivas travels around the world and teaches these very potent and inspiring seminars.
To be honest, when I sent my participation for the seminar I did not expect much. I went just for the title of the Developmental Chess Instructor. To my great astonishment, the seminar turned out to be one of the greatest chess moments of my life. Mr Grivas was so keen on answering our questions, questions that had been lurking in my mind for the past 3 years and more, that I had started to teach chess to amateur children. Apart from solving all and any of our concerns regarding teaching chess, he also showed us a completely different perspective of it. We discussed meaningful ways to promote it, to market it, to make it attractive for both kids and parents, retaining a serious and professional attitude. Of great interest was the discussion of teaching chess to girls and the different approaches that we have to take. Mr Grivas convinced us that our professionalism and organisatory skills regarding classes, is as important as the actual teaching and the quality of the material and classes.
The participants were around 30 and even though the women amounted to the 1% of that, I have to admit that I did not feel like an outsider. Chess unites people beyond gender, age and nationality and most participants were just like me, amateurs thirsty for knowledge. There were also some professionals (International Masters) who attended the seminar and it was also very interesting and enriching to hear their points of view. There were also a few older people that clearly showed an idealistic and philosophical approach towards chess, but there were also some young people that demonstrated great passion for this sport!
In the beginning of the seminar we received the Fide books for coaches and also a lot of material in electronic form. This literature is one of a kind and it is not available from other sources apart from the Fide seminars. After having acquired most of the mainstream chess methods out there and tried them in my classes, the Fide books have a lot of completely unique material. One of the concepts that impressed me, was the study of the classics. Mr Grivas showed us how to work with games, from the technicalities of technology to the structure of the chess themes with examples and classic games.
One of the seminar’s highlights and inspirational moments, was our whole class’s skype communication with the chairman of the FIDE Trainers’ Commission, Adrian Mikhalchishin.
The seminar consisted of many long hours of lectures, questions and answers, and also actual analysis of chess principles. I was spellbound listening to stories of Mr Grivas’ experiences with the Botvinnik school of chess in Russia and astonished at how far in skill and technique those students were, compared to our own. What impressed me the most, were the endgames that we studied, techniques I had never in my life heard of, almost mysterious and difficult to comprehend. While discussing the situation in Greece and the way school chess is evolving, I realized how much more strict I ought to be with my students and how much more I have to demand of them.
The seminar was an eye opener, exciting and full of new knowledge and information. As a chess enthusiast, it offered me great tools that will enable my students to advance and if they so desire in the future, to take chess to the next level.
At the end of the seminar, we had to take a final examination, which was quite difficult and based on the material of the Fide’s handbook. I recommend everyone who is involved with teaching chess to school children or even experienced titled players to attend this seminar, it is well worth it!