A Chessity stronghold in Brazil
In Brazil, chess teacher Davy d’Israel has created a real Chessity stronghold and dreams about a national chess program in schools. “Chess can teach children how to be better citizens.”
Although Chessity is based in the Netherlands, its use is global. From Scotland to India, from Singapore to South-Africa, both children and adults use Chessity to master chess. Many do so on an individual basis, others are organized in chess schools and clubs.
Eight hundred chess students
The latter is also the case in Brazil, where São Paulo-based Davy Maurice d’Israel and his two colleagues use Chessity to teach chess to more than eight hundred students, between the ages of 7 and 15 years. “Their ratings range from 800 to 2100”, Davy says.”Some of them are champions of the Paulista Tournament – the tournament of São Paulo City - or finalists in the Brazilia Champion Cup.”
D’Israel has a huge experience as both a chess player and a chess teacher. He started playing chess in Israel in 1972, at the age of 14. “In 1993, I won the Paulista Championship and achieved a 2299 FIDE rating.” He achieved one IM norm and has several times participated in the Maccabiah Games, an international Jewish multi-sport event held quadrennially in Israel, where he won second place in the open tournament in 2013.
Throughout the years, Davy has been combining his own chess playing with a chess teaching career. He began teaching chess in schools 25 years ago. Five years later, he founded his own chess company, Xeque & Mate, through which he continuous to teach chess at schools, together with a team of other chess teachers. “I am proud to say that I took many players down the path of chess. The most famous being GM André Diamant (25), who won the Brazilian Chess Championship in 2008 and 2009.”
Chessity, a randomly discovered chess teaching tool
Davy d’Israel used his chess teaching knowledge and experience to write a book about teaching chess, co-authoring with Brazilian GM Gilberto Milos: Xeque e Mate (Check & Mate, 2000). For years, he has been using this book as his primary teaching method. But this changed two years ago when he stumbled upon Chessity during one of his internet strolls in search of new teaching material.
“I was always browsing the internet for new methods to teach chess, especially more attractive ones than a book. After all , children love technology and games.” When Davy found Chessity, he knew that his search was over: “I saw the site and I loved it! I remember thinking: THIS IS IT! Good design, easy to understand, and interesting exercises to learn the piece movement.”
In the beginning, D’Israel had to use the English version of Chessity. Through Yochanan Afek, a good friend of his and a Chessity contributor, he contacted the Chessity development team. They provided him with a tool to translate the entire website into Portuguese. During a visit to the Netherlands last year, Davy even recorded instructional videos to accompany the lessons.
'There's more fun in the classroom'
What makes Chessity a better teaching tool than others, in Davy’s opinion? “There are many good products in the market. I can’t said that Chessity is better or worse , that’s a question of empathy. But I do think that Chessity teaches chess for beginners in a clear and fun way. This goal is achieved by the program in an almost perfect way. There’s more fun in the classroom and students are learning without being aware of it. Another advantage is that they spend more time on the game. This is very important to create a study routine, which is the basis for every competitive chess player.”
A big plus, according to Davy, is the student management tool that Chessity provides. “It allows the chess teacher to detect if a student has a difficulty with this or that theme. In the chess classroom, this is very important, because we can find different levels of understanding and this tool helps a lot.”
Of course, Chessity is not perfect. “The program can’t afford to fall into monotony”, Davy warns. “It must continue to evolve, supplying any lacunas that still exist. This should be a constant preoccupation for the Chessity team, but I am confident that they are well aware of this.”
Chess in Brazil is not yet a national activity, like football. But it is well accepted in big cities and several schools. During recent years, many schools have incorporated chess in their teaching programs, especially in big cities like São Paulo, Curitiba , Minas Gerais, Brasília and Rio de Janeiro. However, this development is largely restricted to private schools. Introducing chess in public schools remains a struggle, due to a lack of finance and political support.
“It is important to keep in mind”, Davy explains, “that Brazil is a country with huge social differences and wealth inequality. A good education is not for everybody.” Since the country invested little in education, public education's standards have been falling over de last decades, causing public school to bloom. Nowadays, practically all the middle class sends their children to private schools.
Against this background, chess is often considered a game for the elite. “But chess may be the most democratic game on earth: two players, one board, one mind against another. It does not matter whether you are a man or a woman, an adult or a child, rich or poor… it’s just the game.”
D’Israel is on a mission to change this.
“I really believe that chess is a strong pedagogical tool. Chess teaching does more than teach children how to play and how to become a stronger player. Chess can teach children how to be better citizens. It may be difficult to understand for European people, but we need values in this country. Chess has these values in its own rules.”
Polical crisis and economic problems
Davy used to visit many schools to promote chess teaching and the use of Chessity. “There is a big interest and there are good possibilities to develop the program in Brazil.” However, the country is currently facing a historic political crisis that is compounded by deep-seated economic problems. “At the moment, imported products are expensive. The euro passed from 2,05 to something around 4,05 Brazilian Real recently. This means that a product like Chessity has doubled in price. It simply is not accessible to all people”, Davy explains. Against this background, he has decided to pause his efforts to expand his chess teaching into public schools. “For now, we focus on private schools.”
Nevertheless, Davy d’Israel has not given up his dream of a nationwide chess program in Brazil’s public schools. “I am just one person, but I try do my part. And so do the other chess professionals. Together, one day, we are going to find someone who understands the meaning of chess teaching at schools and who will help launch a national program. In the meantime, like ants, we build slowly.”