Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Need for Education?

Back in November on the English Chess Forum, one poster wrote that anyone appointed to select the English Olympiad squad of chess players should "have . . . a minimum level of education (a good degree from a good University or a professional qualification)".

My first reaction was one of puzzlement. Caissa cares not for such things, it is only battling on the board itself that counts; qualifactions are but pieces of paper wafting on the wind, next to the brutal fact of a checkmate. That's the nature of chess and insight into it.

However, a thoughtful recent article over at The Chess Drum called Do Chess GMs need Higher Education? made me rethink my opinion.

In particular it struck me that if we could make selection to the Olympiad squad dependent on education, then it would only take a few minor tweaks to the selection criteria -requirements for both a science degree and an arts degree, plus an A-level in Media Studies for the savvy required to avoid any further Gormallygate-type incidences- and, heck. I might even be in the team in a few years . . .


Anonymous said...

I played for the Imperial College chess team in the late 90s. The average qualification held by the team (once they had completed their education) was somewhere between Masters and PhD (and still rising)


Anonymous said...

I could add - of the entire 170+ team, no-one is even an FM, and most have given up.

ejh said...

Funny, I played for that team too, albeit a few years later.

I don't believe it's any long possible for a top-rank player to take three (or more) years out to go to university. I remember Leonard Barden writing repeatedly, when Luke McShane was accepted by Oxford University, that this was likely the end of his aspirations as a chess player and I think he was right. Simply, if you go to university you're not going to be a top ten player and if you're not a top ten player then the post-Oxbridge graduate market is going to offer you more money, more reliably, than chess is going to. It's as straightforward as that.

Jack Rudd said...


My greatest level of improvement as a chessplayer (discounting the years as a junior where I zoomed from 118 to 168 in two seasons) came while I was doing my degree. (I started my degree in January 2003 with a rating of 2171; I've just finished it and have a rating of 2334 with an IM title waiting to be ratified.)

Of course, correlation does not imply causation, and I suspect a third factor is at play here: specifically, some sort of improvement in my underlying mental qualities.