FIDE and FFE host international conference “Chess for Mental Health”

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The advantages of chess

Press release from FIDE and FFE

The international event “Chess for Mental Health”, a joint initiative of FIDE and the French Chess Federation (Federation Française des Échecs or FFE) with the support of the Imagine Institute, Teladoc Health and AESIO Mutuelle, took place in Paris on March 9, 2022.

Eloi Relange, President of FFE said:

Among its many benefits, the game of chess brings many benefits in the service of mental health. Successes and projects multiply on an international level. The French Chess Federation is proud to host this international conference organized by our Health and Social Disability Commission and our International Commission.

Franck Droin, President of the FFE’s Health Social Disability Commission, added:

We established the Health Social Disability Commission of FFE to pilot a range of programs addressing issues related to health, well-being and social inclusion through the game of chess. The Infinite Chess Program is the first in a series of actions focused on research and mental health to make chess a new tool at the service of health professionals and citizens.

Chess for Mental Health

The list of other key participants in the conference included the Ministry of Health and Solidarity Frank BelivierFIDE Executive Director Dana Reizniece-OzolaInterdepartmental Delegate of the Prime Minister for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Claire CompanionDirector of the World Health Organization, Mental Health and Substance Use, WHO Devora KestelPresident of the French Society of Psychiatry and President of the CNQSP FFE “Health Social Handicap” Maurice Bensoussanand other.

FIDE Executive Director Dana Reizniece-Ozola noted:

Professional sport is not FIDE’s only mission. Chess and sport in general must also be used for other purposes to strengthen society. Chess is an excellent tool for this and we try to use these opportunities. Especially recently, we have developed various social initiatives where chess is not used to teach the game itself, but to promote social cohesion, increase mental abilities, empower girls and other things. In the past year, we have also updated our social responsibility policy, which aligns very well with the principles already enshrined in our charter and policies.

Chess for Mental Health

Introducing chess for children with autism spectrum disorders is one of FIDE’s most important social initiatives. The Infinite Chess Project aims to expand knowledge and awareness of chess for children with ASD, provide practical advice for teachers and parents, study the benefits of introducing chess, and develop teaching methods.

In the second part of the conference, Anastasia Sorokina, FIDE Vice-President and Head of the Infinite Chess Project, opened the discussion on Chess for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, followed by presentations by specialists from different countries who shared their practical experiences in chess teaching for children with ASD.

Chess for Mental Health

speakers, incl Natalia PopovaCurriculum writer, leader of the two-year project teaching chess to children with ASD, Ala MishhankaSpecial education teacher with more than 15 years of experience, Luis Blasco De La Cruz the FIDE Commission on Chess in Education, Maria Rodrigo YanguasWFM and sports psychologist, Eric TakawiraDirector of the KZN Chess Academy, and Kanthi Devi SarjooBrowns’ School Speech/Language Pathologist/Audiologist, Emmanuel NiemannChess coach, Eric Desailly from the Ellen Poidatz Foundation, François LescurePresident of Teladoc Health France, and Sophie Krief, CEO of AESIO Mutuelle, covered various topics related to mental health, including autism, DYS, concentration and hyperactivity. The results of their studies showed that chess can improve several aspects of mental health.

According to the speakers, many recent studies have already highlighted the benefits of playing chess to support the development of children with autism spectrum disorders, DYS (dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia) or attention and hyperactivity disorders. However, these results need to be confirmed by new studies, which are more comprehensive and more closely followed over time.

Chess for Mental Health

Kanthi Devi Sarjoo, Speech Language Pathologist/Audiologist at Browns’ School said:

Collected observational data showed that chess is a suitable medium to improve the social skills of children with an autism spectrum disorder. The use of role-playing games in chess lessons evoked emotional language and encouraged their creativity and imagination.

Finally, Aurélie Renard-Vignelles, Edith Jebob Duvernet, Maxence Augierand dr Maurice Bensoussan discussed problems of DYS, concentration and hyperactivity.

Presentations for download (pdf):

  1. Chess and Mental Health – Presentation by Dana Reizniece-Ozola
  2. Chess and Mental Health – Infinite Autism Anastasia Sorokina
  3. Chess and Mental Health – South African Experience
  4. Chess and Mental Health – Autism French Project
  5. Chess and Health – Spanish Experience by Maria Rodrigo Yangas
  6. Chess and Mental Health – ADHD and DYS French Projects
  7. Chess and Mental Health – Luis Blasco de la Cruz
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