By Peter Long
Today's FIDE Trainers Commission is very different from what was seen for over a decade.
What we have now - even though still a work in progress - is the implementation of the reform vision of FIDE Senior Trainer and Grandmaster Jacob Aagaard who was appointed the new FIDE Trainers Commission Chairman following the election of Arkady Dvorkovich as FIDE President at the FIDE Congress held concurrently with the Batumi Olympiad in 2018.
It took us several months in the transition period to get on top of the issues but then it became very clear what was needed.
1. First, the FIDE Trainers Commission never really evolved from the necessary first stage of the first few years which was to identify and certify leading trainers and to award them the appropriate trainer titles to build a base and credibility.
2. Second was that instead of helping develop the skills of trainers attending seminars, what happened and actually took place was a largely abbreviated training for a player cramped into a very few days, and from that, largely based on playing strength, a title was awarded.
3. Thirdly, it was easier to create value for titles and licences by having the previous FIDE administration impose a licensing system where it was a requirement in order to take a captaincy or coaching role at official FIDE events.
4. Fourthly is that while on paper there were many FIDE Academies, in reality there was no real criteria to be awarded this status and there was no program other than giving the right to use the FIDE logo and to be able to enter players in official FIDE events.
5. Fifth was that there was no renewal of the core FIDE Trainers Council membership, much became a mantra that FIDE was the only way, and too much resources were put into duplicating what was already created commercially and easily available
Last year, 2019, the FIDE Trainers Commission organised 38 seminars and tried to be in every part of the world and in as many languages as was possible and we enjoyed success stories in many places that had not seen our activity for many years.
What was new was the gradual introduction in seminars of teaching trainers through a wide variety of leading trainers. They shared what had worked for them and the best methods and practices they knew off. At the same time we made both the evaluation process and the final examination relevant to what was being taught at the seminar and this was independently marked by an examiner separate from the lecturers and then subject to review through a verification process.
Jacob early understood how doing seminars online would be more cost effective and give us greater reach but it also meant we could bring together many trainers who were subject experts and it also allowed us to ensure a certain level of quality in delivery and to document the teaching.
Moving to online sessions meant that more people could attend it from across the globe and it was possible to have more high quality trainers
So we had planned to move most of our seminars online in 2020 and to run them ourselves or with partners on the ground which was a big change from Federations applying for a seminar and where we were largely reduced to merely facilitating and with little control over the delivery, and so, perhaps more than anyone else in FIDE, with due respect to our fellow FIDE Commissions, we were more ready when the global pandemic struck.
In two weeks we replaced seminars scheduled in Switzerland and Sweden with our first online seminar and two weeks later we organised one for East Asian and Oceania and one in German just finished successfully. And we are committed to have a total of twenty seminars in all regions of the world and in all the major languages by the end of 2020, and who knows, there might even be more!
What I think you are seeing is that the FIDE Trainers Commission is not anymore talking about one way only for training or that some trainers are better than others because we have been assembling a team of lecturers who on their own command huge respect, and even more importantly are giving the FIDE Trainers Commission a gift of knowledge that they are happy to share with our trainer colleagues who participate in our seminars.
This is a difficult time for the world, and of course chess is not immune and since trainers are a part of the chess ecosystem which is largely built around competitions, they too are also affected,
We have seen players who no longer have prizes and fees from tournaments to live on become trainers almost overnight and we see trainers who work mainly in schools and clubs unable to move the bulk of their students online and it is a matter of time before parents see many of the benefits of chess become the opposite as that of an addictive computer game.
I will be blunt here - the holiday period is over and money is going to be a problem for all that are not in the top 1% - chess needs tournaments and sponsorship to survive. What we are seeing online is not going to generate the money needed, at least not in the short run and even in the medium term, no matter how optimistic we want to be. The FIDE Trainers Commission is doing our part by upgrading the skills of trainers and making this as accessible and as cheaply as we can.
What worries me more in the long term is that we are in risk of losing the many kids that come into the game every year and stay on. This is a huge task for the FIDE leadership, and the FIDE Chess in Education Commission led by FIDE Senior Trainer and Grandmaster Smbat Luptian, in my view, is going to be responsible for the future of chess together with so many other capable and passionate stakeholders who see chess as invaluable in the broader education context! But we are not passing the buck as here too the FIDE Trainers Commission can also perhaps help, by training chess players to teach children, with our Developmental Instructors at the forefront and with National Instructors becoming program facilitators and managers.