Tensor Chess – as a new educational tool.

By Grandmaster Olga Olga Dolzhykova, PhD

As Roger Langen (1992) observed long ago, instructional gaming is one of the most motivational tools in a good teacher’s repertoire. Children love games, chess motivates them to become willing problem-solvers and spend hours quietly immersed in logical thinking. These same young people often cannot sit still for fifteen minutes in the traditional classroom.

Chess has long been considered a valuable classroom tool that helps students increase their mental prowess, concentration, memory, and analytical skills. Numerous chess projects and studies involving intelligence, behavior and performance exams have been conducted worldwide, and nowadays we can say with full confidence that chess has been proven to enhance pattern recognition, spatial reasoning, patience, concentration, intuition, memory, sequential logic and problem-solving skills. Moreover, experts claim that chess exceeds all other thinking development programs available! (Steve Sawyer, 2010).

How exactly does it work?

There are concepts of crystalized and fluid intelligence, which are factors of general intelligence, as identified by Raymond Cattell and his student John L. Horn (1971). Crystalized intelligence is indicated by a person’s depth and breadth of general knowledge, vocabulary, and the ability to reason using words and numbers.  It is the product of educational and cultural experience. Fluid intelligence is the capacity to reason and solve novel problems, independent of any knowledge from the past. It is the ability to analyze novel problems, identify patterns and relationships that underpin these problems.When a non-professional chess player plays chess, it is the fluid intelligence that can be developed by the game. Despite its relatively simple rules, chess offers a rich variety of dynamic and complex logical tasks, and one would need to master and train a range of logical skills to play it. These acquired skills are easily transferred to other fields of human activities where similar skills are employed. This explains the success of scholastic chess programs and their positive influence on academic performance.

The rules of Tensor Chess are based on the traditional chess rules, but the power of the pieces is greatly increased by the Beast piece, providing exciting new twists and expanded possibilities for strategic and tactical play.Like traditional chess, Tensor Chess can harness and develop abilities in a way that standard educational methods often do not. At the same time, by its very nature and innovative rules, Tensor Chess invokes the imagination in new and creative ways.

Chess has been played over centuries and to master the game at a higher level, a player would need to learn significant chunks of theory acquired historically. Remembering the existing opening theory and recognizing the known tactical and strategic patterns would start playing the major role during the game, leaving less room for discovery.A few functional neuroimaging studies have shown that expert chess players recruit different psychological functions and activate different brain areas than novice players while they are engaged in chess-related activities(Hänggi J, 2014).

Tensor Chess, although rooted in the classical game, does not involve the rote memorization of historically developed theory.  Mastery of Tensor Chess depends more on reflective awareness and original critical thinking.  With so many new patterns, Tensor Chess play is much more dynamic, offering novelty and opening a completely new field for creativity and problem-solving.

In his endorsement, former World Champion Anatoly Karpov stated that Tensor Chess also develops a unique combinational vision and the ability to visualize and precisely calculate various moves by employing non-traditional and creative thinking.

We see that the new game shares the educational benefits of the classic game, while offering additional benefits.  Tensor Chess can be recommended as an outstanding new example of a valuable educational resource.  Support for this assertion has, among others, been shown by the endorsement of Tensor Chess for use in general education by the Russian Chess Federation, Russian Ministry of Sports and Russian Academy of Sciences.

Grandmaster Olga Dolzhykova, PhD in Education

Author and Director of the Dragult Chess School, Norway

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