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Jerry NashJerry Nash is Chairman of the Chess in Education Commission for FIDE, the International Chess Federation. He is a National Chess Education Consultant and member of the Board of Managers for Chess in Education – US, an educational non-profit charity in the United States. Jerry is also a regular contributor to the website. He is interviewed by Neil Dietsch, Managing Director of Chess in Education – US.

Jerry, you have been involved with scholastic chess for several decades in the United States and with the international Chess in Education movement for at least a decade. How long have you been Chairman of the Chess in Education Commission (FIDE EDU)?

I was appointed to this position in November of 2022. Prior to that, I served as Senior Advisor for Chess in Education for FIDE EDU. I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to work with so many persons globally who are passionate about the difference that chess can make in the lives of students and teachers.

What is the role of FIDE EDU?

The Commission serves several governance and administrative roles. But I would like to focus on three  roles that stand out for me. First, we provide training and resources for those who are involved in implementing CIE initiatives. Second, we encourage and enable CIE-related research. Finally, we assist federations & organizations in expanding CIE. This may involve helping them take the first steps or helping them to strategize and implement a large-scale program.
I have had Zoom meetings with federation leaders from about 20 countries so far this year. All of them are excited to start an initiative or build on what they have already accomplished.

What challenges to implementing CIE do you see?

The pressures and expectations placed on educators are higher than ever before and many teachers are leaving the profession. In that context we are asking them to consider using chess as an educational tool. The skepticism can be extremely high although there may already be some idea that “chess can help you think.” Even so, this may lead to the next challenge – the perceptions of the game itself. Perceptions of chess by educators often range from “We already have a program for gifted students,” to “Chess is too complicated. No way I could ever learn how to play it, much less teach it.” Overcoming these misconceptions is key to making the idea of chess plausible. I have found that when educators actually experience what educational chess is, they realize its value to impact every student in their classroom.

What opportunities do you see ahead?

More and more countries are implementing national CIE initiatives. These initiatives generally start with a pilot program in a limited number of schools and then expand. Working out the logistics can be a real challenge as well as defining the desired outcomes and assessments. These vary by country and sometimes even within a country. So the opportunities are certainly there, but they require a great deal of planning and work to make them successful.

My role, and the Commission’s, is to provide whatever expertise is needed. This might range from brainstorming ideas to leading training for teachers and project coordinators. The goal is not to prescribe a program but to help them succeed at the initiative that they have identified as best fitting their situation.

You mentioned meetings with chess federation leaders from about 20 countries. Is the US among them? How would you characterize the future of CIE in the US?

I have not met yet with US Chess Federation officials, but I hope to do so in the days ahead. Certainly, there is great interest in CIE in the US and also a variety of strategies of implementing chess in a school setting. One key to success will be finding ways to overcome the challenges facing educators (as I mentioned earlier) and demonstrating the relevance of chess as an educational tool. The opportunities are there, but we will have to work to realize them. Becoming relevant to the education community should be a high priority.
From a broader educational perspective, I participated in the Chess for Freedom Conference in Chicago that explored the opportunities for chess in prisons. There is global interest in that topic and results clearly indicate that chess can be an important aspect of adult education. My presentation was Chess as a Diversionary Strategy for Juvenile Offenders. If chess is effective in helping inmates leave prison, it stands to reason that it should help juveniles avoid the prison system. This is yet another avenue of demonstrating the timeliness of chess in education.

You mentioned Zoom meetings. Are you doing in-person meetings as well? How is your schedule?

Definitely in person meetings are back. I have visited Kazakhstan, LondonQatar, already this year and
will be in Chicago, Italy, India, and Africa in the weeks ahead. The interest is high, and the opportunities must be taken while they are available. I enjoy the personal contact with leaders but the rigors of travel can be frustrating and exhausting. Having your luggage arrive at the same time that you do is not a given.

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