Chess4Children.co.uk is the resources site of


It is intended to help the children and parents that I advise on chess.


·         Chess is only a game! (Even if it’s a good one!)

·         Chess is a good game because it is very simple to learn the rules and play, yet complex enough that no one, (not even the world champion!) can play it perfectly.

·         For children, it is unusual, in that it requires you to think before you act. Most games that children play don’t!

·         In general, the better you are being able to think, the better you can play chess. This can be of particular help to children who want to be “good at something”, who are less physically able to compete at normal games.

·         Learning to develop thinking processes can be of particular help to a number of other academic disciplines.

·         There is a strong case for chess to be “on the curriculum” in the same way that “cricket is on the curriculum”. If children learn the game early, they can choose whether they like it, and for some it can be of benefit.

·         For intelligent children who consider themselves to be “no good” at normal sports, making friendships with peers can be challenging. Junior chess events can facilitate this kind of integration with children of the same peer group.

·         There is some evidence that chess can be of particular benefit to children on the autistic / dyslexia spectrum who have struggled to find “their game”

Advice for parents:

·         Chess is particularly helpful for “other things” within the first couple of years. At this point it teaches “logical thinking”, “problem solving”, “think before you act”, and links to many other aspects of game theory and maths.

·         At the highest levels, study of chess has very little relevance to anything else. Studying master games and opening theory might improve your capacity to memorise things, but the things you memorise are only useful on the chessboard.

·         Chess improvement is not linear. Chess ability is only loosely measurable. The grading system in the UK, and FIDE system internationally attempts to “rate players”. It can be a number based on as little as 5 games. Such numbers are not accurate.

·         Chess improvement is more like a pyramid. You need a firm foundation of many concepts to securely advance to the next stage. Most children who have played for a while get enough of the foundation to win some games, and then may try to move on to the next concepts. They may often find they have mixed results, sometimes beating better players, but losing to worse players.  The strongest base is to securely complete each step before advancing. (c.f. the Dutch Step method)


·         In general it is better to focus on chess improvement, not “chess grade” improvement.

·         For the long term, It is better to lose a long game that you learn from, and “lose grading points”, than to “avoid playing real games” e.g. by agreeing draws and not learning.

·         To play chess well, children need to be relaxed, and confident. They need to be encouraged to learn and improve, and not focus on results. Congratulate them on playing “good moves” in a game, whatever the result.

·         For children who enjoy early success, and get a “high grade”, and their friends congratulate them on having such a “good grade” – there can be a real fear of “losing grading points”.  Chess grades should always be downplayed, they are not important. Enjoying the game and improving is what matters.

·         To improve there needs to be a desire to “learn from mistakes”. There is a delicate balance between “not caring about a loss at all”, and not wanting to learn why it happened, vs caring so much that they are “distraught for hours afterwards”, and too distracted to play another game. The healthy space is to care enough to learn why, but to be able to move on to the next game.

·         Children that have bad chess tournaments need something else to look forward to. Some other hobby / sport or passion that is “not chess” is desirable.

·         Along the same lines, while the best approach to learning is to play stronger opposition, sometimes it is good to give them a tournament where they should score well, winning a prize, to help encourage them.

·         Children should never be “made to play” chess. It is an activity for those that “want to play”.

·         When they sit down at a chessboard the focus should be on trying to play a good quality game. “play one good move at a time”.

·         The internet is in general “unpoliced” and children are usually naïve regarding sensible behaviour on the internet. Consider:

Before using any internet resources.

·         Look for healthy resources on the internet designed for children. E.g.


·         Supervise access and follow best practice in safeguarding children when using open resources on the internet and default chat settings may need removing. E.g. when using http://www.chess.com






·         Especially for children – remember that “chess is for fun”.

Junior Chess in the UK

There are many chess organizations accessible in the UK that can benefit children. They have varying degrees of benefit and motivation. Some are charities, some “not for profit”, and some businesses.

Important ones from my point of view:


Is the English Primary schools chess association:


E.P.S.C.A., the English Primary Schools' Chess Association, exists to advance the education of primary school aged children by teaching, supervising and developing the playing of chess by those children.

This national organization has ensured that more primary school children play chess via a number of regional organizations.

Sussex Junior Chess:


Sussex Junior Chess is a not for profit organisation run by volunteers which exists to promote and popularise chess amongst school age children in the county.

English Chess Federation:


Is the de facto organization for most organized chess events in England:

The English Chess Federation (ECF) is the governing body for chess in England and its mission is to promote the game of chess, in all its forms, as an attractive means of cultural and personal advancement, to the widest possible audience. To develop chess, by creating the means to enable the highest forms of chess excellence to be achieved and to expand the game as a social and sporting activity.

Annual competitions run by the ECF include – British Championships (with events for everyone from Under-8 to veteran); National Club Championships (Open, Major, Intermediate and Minor); English Chess Federation Grand Prix (Congress competitition); County Championships; Schools Chess Tournament; Counties & District Correspondence Chess Championships

The ECF is responsible for the selection of English teams and individual representatives to all FIDE events, including: European and World Team Championships, Chess Olympiads for Men and Women, World Championship Zonal Tournaments & World Junior Championships.

Other ECF activities include – the ECF Grading system (click here to visit the online grading database); courses for chess arbiters; sets of Chess Skills leaflets for beginners; chess events calendar (here); advice on publicising an event; advice on running a simultaneous display; advice on your nearest club(s)

Further details from – English Chess Federation, The Watch Oak, Chain Lane, Battle, East Sussex TN33 OYD. Tel: 01424 775222 Fax: 01424 775904 Email: office@englishchess.org.uk


Chess in schools and communities



To improve children's educational outcomes and foster their social development by introducing them to the game of chess in schools and inner city communities.

To organise and promote world class chess events as a catalyst for mass participation.

To raise the profile of chess and highlight its educational and social benefits.

The UK Chess Challenge


Is an event specifically run for children in the UK, organized by Mike Basman IM.

The UK Chess Challenge began in 1996 and was an immediate success, with 700 schools entering, involving approximately 23,000 children. By 2006 numbers competing had more than trebled to 74,000. The structure of the tournament is simple, allowing the most inexperienced players to compete in the early stages, yet testing the mettle of the finest at the end.

The tournament begins every Spring Term, and continues over four stages and eight months. In the first stage children compete week by week in schools all over the UK (currently the number of schools taking part is over 2,000). Every child is able to win prizes, whether badges, gold spots, mascots, trophies and even baseball caps, so every child has something to play for.

Teachers and parents comment on the enormous enthusiasm amongst the children for their badges, gold spots and mascots. Junior chess clubs are springing up all over the country, both in schools and outside; numbers in existing clubs have mushroomed. All this shows that chess is one of the most enjoyable and exciting ways for children to learn how to think.