A journey to the world of chess in Rishon Lezion

by ChessBase
3/18/2012 – The Israeli grandmaster Boris Gelfand is almost totally occupied these days with his preparations for the match of his life against World Champion Vishy Anand in May. Nevertheless even in such a busy and tense period he still finds some time to support the intensive chess life of his hometown of Rishon-Lezion. Report by IM Yochanan Afek with a inspiring video chess in the kindergarten.

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A journey to the world of chess in Rishon Lezion

By IM Yochanan Afek

The city of Rishon Lezion with 230,000 inhabitants (founded in 1882, and declared a city in 1950), is an important chess center with one of the country's oldest and biggest clubs. Its youth section has brought up many national and international champions. The senior team of the club has just won the bronze medal in the national premier league with GMs Boris Alterman, Yona Kosashvili, Eran Liss and Tal Baron as well as IMs Alex Kaspi, Michael Klenburg. Gil Popilski, Israel Caspi and… Sofia Polgar.

The skyline of Rishon Lezion – photo Wikipedia

Gan Habaron park – photo Wikipedia

Three hundred kindergarten children in a simul exhibition

Is he receiving expert assistance? Boris Alterman (right) playing against Boris Gelfand

However, chess in Rishon is not just the club and the medals. For quite some years it has been also one of the hottest and loveliest topics adopted by the municipal education system.

The program "A Journey to the World of Chess", directed by Luba and Boris Alterman, runs in 40 kindergartens and receives high praise from the young pupils, their parents and teachers. As such, the Education Department Municipality of Rishon Lezion has naturally promoted the program to elementary schools as well-by now already in 18 of them.

Mayor Dov Zur, himself a chess enthusiast, with young students in the project

In the program which is operated by the Rishon Letzion chess club and sponsored by the Municipality, students learn in a computer room with exciting programs, personal workbooks and play real games. Studies show clear advantages of learning chess at a young age. The game reflects the ability of learning in formal education, provides correct habits of thought, creative ability and independent thinking. The game of chess improves concentration and attention, enhances memory and all that with the acquisition of social skills such as control and restraint, developing an attitude of patience and respect for others. Here is what the ladies in charge of the municipal education system have to say about the project:

Municipal director of education, Dr. Shosh Nahum: "The chess program runs in consistency with Rishon Lezion Mayor's policies for investment in education. It contributes substantially to developing self-confidence and a sense of competence in children, taking responsibility and social skills along with improving the children's mental abilities."

Pupils in Gan Lilach – Gan is kindergarten in Hebrew, also just garden, and Lilach
is the name of the kindergartner and a type of a beautiful flower too...

Director of elementary education Miri Or-Gottfried: "We see great importance in the operation of learning chess in primary schools. through game and fun the kids run a higher-order thinking process that translates into strategic thinking, the motivation to study, collaboration between kids, developing the ability to control oneself emotionally when you won or lose, and thus to express the value of respecting others and more. The added value of studying chess is so great; we see it as a commitment to continue to invest further in young students in this field."

Let's hope these words would inspire the leaders of the European "Chess in Schools" initiative and encourage similar projects all over the continent.

Do yourself a favour and watch these inspiring video impressions (in HD) of chess in the kindergarten

Grischuk wins FIDE World Blitz Championship
12.09.2006 – The World Blitz Championship, a 16-player round robin, took place on September 7th 2006 in Rishon Le Zion, Israel. Peter Svidler and Alexander Grischuk tied for first, with 10.5 points each. The playoff was an "armageddon" game in which Grischuk had white and an extra minute on the clock, but had to win. Which he duly did. Full report
The homecoming: Boris Gelfand is back (Part I)
19.06.2011 – Winning the World Cup and now the Candidates Matches has made Gelfand a household name in Israel, and on his return from Kazan he was greeted at Ben-Gurion Airport by his family, fans and old friends – amongst them our colleague Shay Bushinsky, who later visited Boris at his home in Rishon Le-Zion. The two had a long discussion, which resulted in this must-read interview for ChessBase.
The homecoming: Boris Gelfand is back (Part II)
27.06.2011 – Israeli GM Boris Gelfand won the recent Candidates Matches in Kazan, making him the challenger of Vishy Anand in next year's World Championship match. Boris was given a hero's welcome on his return, and was interviewed by our colleague Shay Bushinsky, author of the Junior chess program. Here is part two on Gelfand's matches against Mamedyarov and Kamsky. Fascinating insights.
The homecoming: Boris Gelfand is back (Part III)
07.07.2011 – The Challenger for the World Championship match next year is Boris Gelfand. The Israeli GM won the Candidates' Matches – to the surprise of many – in May, defeating Mamedyarov, Kamsky and Grischuk in the process. The last battle and his chances now against reigning champion Vishy Anand are are the subject of discourse in this final installment of his interview with Shay Bushinsky.

Copyright Afek/ChessBase

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