Zaïre - Chess and Aptitudes

I very briefly introduce you herewith to an experiment performed... 26 years

Very often we hear such wordings as « You need to be intelligent to play
chess », « Chess fosters intelligence », ... All this is too vague...

In 1973, in co-operation with the Psychology Department of the "Université
Nationale du Zaïre" at Kisangani, I undertook an experiment so as to clarify

It should first be noticed that almost everywhere there is a facultative
teaching of Chess in primary and secondary schools. A result of this «
facultative » feature is that it is extremely difficult to produce unbiased
statistical studies.

In a first stage, I received from the Government of Zaire permission to
REPLACE, during a year, in three classes of the fourth year (I take the
current Belgian denomination) in a major secondary school of Kisangani, two
out of seven hours of mathematics a week by two hours of chess teaching.

The six classes of the fourth year in this institution, each 30 students, were
divided into two groups : 3 classes in the « experimental » A-group ; 3
others in the « control » B-group.

I was able to administer the following tests :
  • the Belgian version of the G.A.T.B. (« General Aptitude Test Battery »)
  • the P.M.A. (« Primary mental abilities » by Thurstone)
  • the D.A.T. (« Differential Aptitude Test » by Bennet, Seashore and Wesman )
  • the D2 (Brieckenkamp)
  • the Rorschach.
Some preliminary remarks should be made before going over to the description of the experiment :

Knowing in which measure the used tests were culturally adapted to the tested persons is not absolutely fundamental, since the aim was to compare groups A and B. NO student of both groups had ever heard about chess, which is very useful to eliminate parasites.

Ideally, there should have been a third group with another learning ... but you can't have it all! The seven weekly teaching hours (mathematics + chess for the A-group, mathematics only for the B-group) were given by Frenchspeaking teachers ­ in casu, two Belgian teachers for mathematics and myself for chess.

Experiment phases :
  1. At the beginning of the year, all students (A and B groups) were administered the various tests. Both groups scored analogously.
  2. Whereas group B is normally taught mathematics (7 hours a week), group A is given the same program in five hours a week and receives two hours of chess (Wednesday 11-12 a.m. and Saturday 7-8 a.m.). Chess lessons, as with others lectures, also contain tests and exams counting for a coefficient of 2/7 of mathematics (mathematics counting for 5/7 of the total coefficient).
  3. At the end of the year, all students of both groups were given the various tests again. The students of the experimental groups furthermore took an exam to test the chess level reached. The items of this exam were mostly written by Doctor Max EUWE, former chess world champion and chairman of the worldchess federation F.I.D.E.. The « verdict » is brought in : among tested aptitudes, two show significant differences in favour of the experimental group : the arithmetical aptitude, with a threshold of 0.05 and "verbal logic " (most often measured by the identification of synonyms or antonyms) with a threshold of 0.01. These original findings answered the questions raised before the experimentation. But why verbal logic ? ... There is still no answer.
  4. The experiment also enabled us to answer questions with a view to delineating, taking the results of the aptitude test into account, the ability to enhance chess performance... but this is beyond the scope of this summary.
  5. The students of both groups received special attention till the end of their secondary studies, i.e. two years after the end of the experiment. The students of the experimental group obtained significantly better results, foremost in mathematics and French.
The complete study is given in the book « CHESS AND APTITUDES », Albert Frank, American Chess Foundation, December 1978.

A technical summary (in French) has been published under the title « Aptitudes et apprentissage du jeu d'échecs au Zaïre » in the magazine Psychopathologie Africaine »,1979, XV, 1, 81-98.

Interview with Albert Frank

1. Your passion and love with chess is very well known to the IQ World. I'll take the chance to ask which has been your best chess playing years and your mentors to deal with chess. Which are your favorite players and why?

My best chess playing years were from 1968 (in 1971 I won, in Spain, a game against Olaf Ulvestad) to 1991 (when I ended 6th at the Belgium championship ).. Living in Central Africa, I had nearly no mentor: Mostly a try to understand a little this game. I can’t say I have a favourite player: The best players of the world have all worked using the shoulders of their predecessors. Paul Morphy was an incredible great player, followed by others, particularly Fischer, Karpov and Kasparov. Now, some very young players will be soon at the top, mainly probably Magnus Carlsen.

2. Despite the fact that you are an avid test taker and a very active member of iq community through your articles in several magazines and "The Colossus Project", you are also a book-writer (Natan). Tell me your favorite books - the reason for which you like them and their impact on your way of thinking.

I have always read a lot. I’ll answer without including technical or scientific books. So many books were really great for me… not easy to make a “choice”.
Here are some that I did really appreciate, mainly for their human comprehension and their non superficiality – When reading them, I had the feeling of a superior comprehension of the humans. They maybe make me (a little) modest. I forget for sure a lot of books in this short list!:
  1. Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter
  2. Odd John by Olaf Stapledon
  3. The world as I see it by Albert Einstein
  4. All the books of Franz Kafka
  5. The time stream by John Taine
  6. The letters exchanged between Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Stefan Zweig
  7. Obedience to authority by Stanley Milgram And Then There Were None by Eric Frank Russell
In 2004, I wrote a novel, Natan ( ). The main theme of the narrative is the loneliness of the extremes. I’m not a good author ( and my English is not very good ). Nevertheless, I tried in this book to explore human loneliness.

3. There is a lot of debate and controversy in many parts of the world that in the wholeness of human history, there had not been a single superpower with ethics. Many analysts, historians, politicians and intellectuals claim that superpowers, nations, states and all the other human institutes are interested only in becoming bigger, stronger. In other words, power and authority have nothing to do with values, ethics and ideas. They have only to do with more power, more money, much greater force, and much greater authority. Do you believe that? Do we have an historic example of an empire, a state, a superpower that dealt with the rest of the world and the citizens having in mind human values?

I have always be very pessimistic (I call it realistic). I totally agree with “Power and authority have nothing to do with values, ethics and ideas”. To your question “…Do you believe that?”, I sadly but firmly answer “Yes, without any doubt”. If you ask “Why?”, Einstein and Freud gave a very clear answer (You can read it in their exchange of letters). Please note that, when I give my answer, I don’t copy them. I don’t think there is an example of anything at the end of your question ( If they were any, it was an exception ).

4. Albert, from your experience in IQ Land till now and by extension from your life experience, which do you think are the most impotant traits of human behavior? In other words what kind of qualities should an individual demonstrate in order to be a surplus for the society?

Here are the qualities I consider as the most important:

Always try to think by ourself, *never* copy an attitude without thinking. From this came my motto: “ 'Everybody does it' is not a reason for doing it".
You see why I’m sad and horrified when in contact with some people whose brain is what they can repeat from television. I have only one – probably not the best - reaction: I leave.

- Empathy: To try always (I know it’s not easy - see the previous line) to understand people from their point of view.

- Honesty (In a sense as large as possible). And this includes no blindly obedience to any authority. (Note: In science, when one studies something, it has nothing to do with obedience to authority. I have to say this because I have seen so often people saying things like “Einstein said 'c' is the maximum possible speed, I say no, why should I trust him?”: This is only stupidity if said without background in physics ).

5. Extra terrestrial life ...?

There must be (So many planets in the universe). Any contact with us is highly improbable: It would need a common point in a 4 - dimension (space + time) state.

6. Human civilization. What do you think is:
  1. the best case scenario,
  2. the worst case scenario,
  3. the most probable scenario, for the future
  1. To be colonised by Extra terrestrials having all the qualities described in point ' 5 '.
  2. The last 25 years, the situation (I only speak of the welfare of the people) is going down. I don’t look at the economic indicators given in the media… in Western Europe (of course, this is only a relatively small part of the word), 30 years ago, misery (I don’t speak of poverty) has nearly totally disappeared. Now, it’s growing every month. We have a choice for the worst case: Disappeared in a “big massacre” with the help of several “big chief”, or starve because of their “good management”, or…maybe a climate problem...
  3. I don’t know. My realism (sorry: pessimism ) goes more in the direction of ii) than in the direction of 1..