Frequently asked questions

  • What age range do you cater for?

The Coventry Chess Academy is open to children aged six to twelve years of age.


  • My child is five years old. Can he or she join?

There is no ‘right’ age to start playing chess; this will always depend on the individual child. In practice however, the overwhelming majority of children aged below six will simply find chess too difficult and/or will not have the temperament for the game. On rare occasions, the Coventry Chess Academy has permitted five year olds to join who have demonstrated exceptional talent and aptitude for chess. This will be at the discretion of the Director. Please contact the Director at gmman@hotmail.co.uk for further information.


  • What is the fee?

The fee is £5 per session.


  • How do I register?

You can register in person at your first session. You don’t have to notify us in advance, but you are very welcome to do so if you wish.


  • When you do run sessions?

Our sessions run every Saturday from 10 to 12 in the morning.


  • How does a session work?

Members will start to arrive at 10.00 and everyone gets settled down by playing friendly games against each other and against coaches. At 10.30, the Director will deliver any important announcements and teaching will then commence. For teaching purposes, there are four groups from A to D in order of playing strength. Teaching lasts till 11.00 when we take a refreshments and toilet break. From 11.10 to 11.30 members can play challenge matches as part of our Chess Ladder competition (please see further below), although friendly chess is also fine during this period. Some enthusiastic members even choose to go through worksheets! From 11.30 to 12.00 we have ‘fun time’ in which members are allowed to play chess variants and the volume will rise considerably! At 12.00 we finish the session and everyone helps to pack away before going home. Any members whose parents have not yet arrived will wait in the room with the Director and coaches until they do so.


  • Do I have to stay for the duration of a session?

Most members do, but you’re under no obligation to do so, which means you don’t have to worry at all if you arrive a little late or have to leave early for a reason.


  • Do you run weekday or Sunday sessions?

Unfortunately, we do not have the capacity at present to run weekday or Sunday sessions.


  • Do you run throughout the year?

We run throughout the year except during school holidays (this includes half-term holidays).


  • How large are sessions?

Between 30-40 members attend sessions on average.


  • Can parents stay during the session?

The vast majority of parents will drop their children off at the beginning of the session and collect them at the end. Parents are however welcome to stay during the session, particularly if their child is attending for the first time. This may be limited if we ever have very large numbers in attendance, due to the lack of space, in which case there is a library just around the corner where parents are welcome to stay.


  • Do you offer the opportunity to play in tournaments?

We run our own internal tournament, the ‘Chess Ladder’ every week. The idea is simple; you can challenge anyone on the Ladder up to five places above you, and if you win you switch places, climbing your way up the ladder. In addition to these weekly challenge matches, we also run an Autumn Coventry Chess Academy Individual Championship. Every year we enter the UK Schools Chess Challenge, the largest chess tournament in the world which is entered by 50,000 children across the UK each year. All of these are incredibly popular with our members. Plans for new tournaments are also in the pipeline, so watch this space!


  • Will I be forced to play competitive chess?

Absolutely not! We recognise that not everyone wants to play competitively and than some people prefer to play for fun. No-one has to play in the tournaments we organise and there are always activities provided for the non-participants when they’re taking place.


  • What other events do you organise?

Our Christmas party is a well-attended and fun-filled event with food, drink, puzzles, games, a prize-giving and of course lots of very unserious chess! We also organise an event to celebrate the anniversary of our founding every July, normally with a special guest in tow. Last year, FIDE Master and former chess Olympian Nick Thomas visited to deliver a simultaneous display in which he had to play all of our members at the same time! This year we held a Bounty Blitz tournament attended by a number of special guests which included International Master and Welsh chess legend John Cooper.


  • Is it fun?

Absolutely! While we do expect members to respect the rules of chess and the Coventry Chess Academy’s code of conduct at all times, our sessions are held in a relaxed, sociable and vibrant environment. Teaching is interactive in nature and no lesson is ever exactly the same. The last half an hour of a session is ‘fun time’ when members are allowed to play ‘Exchange Chess’ and other crazy chess variants which are hugely popular, even with the coaches!


  • What abilities do you cater for?

We are open to all abilities, from beginners up to experienced players.


  • How strong are your players?

As might be expected, there is great diversity of playing strength within our club. Coventry Chess Academy members have performed excellently in regional and national tournaments, such as the Warwickshire Junior Chess Championship, the British Junior Chess Championship and the UK Schools Chess Challenge, winning prizes and in some cases taking first honours. This year, fourteen of our members qualified for the Gigafinal, the penultimate stage of the UK Schools Challenge, which places them roughly within the top 5% of chess playing children in the UK. At the Gigafinal, six members scored 4/6 or more and two made it through to the Terafinal Challengers, roughly the top 0.3%!


  • Do you accept complete beginners who have never played chess before?

We are open to beginners, but we strongly advise beforehand that prospective members learn at least how to set up a chessboard and the names and moves of the pieces, if they do not already know how to do so. This is something which can be done at home with a parent who has only a rudimentary knowledge of chess and will make it much easier to settle down once you have joined. It also enables us to make best use of our resources given the ongoing increase in numbers attending.


  • Who are your coaches?

Our coaches come from a range of ages and backgrounds. They include chess players of club, county, international and even master standard. All are fully-trained and DBS-checked. What unites them is a commitment to the aims and ethos of the Coventry Chess Academy and the welfare of its members. Around five coaches are in attendance at each session to help supervise, teach and play with our members.


  • I don’t live in Coventry. Can I join?

Absolutely! We also have many members who come from Kenilworth, Balsall Common, Solihull and even as far as Birmingham. If you can make it, you can expect a very warm welcome from us!


  • What do you teach?

Absolutely everything to do with chess! Whether it’s the opening, middlegame or endgame, tactics or strategy, checkmates, the rules of the chess or even the importance of conduct and values. All pitched at the appropriate level depending on your playing strength. Worksheets are common, but we also use a demonstration board, mind-maps and posters on occasion. Often members in the same group will work together, setting up positions on the chessboard to solve the problems. And of course, our expert coaches are always on hand to help out and explain things in case you get stuck.


  • How do you measure members’ progress?

The four teaching groups we run enable us to oversee members solving puzzles and the worksheets they complete are a useful barometer of progress, but so is their performance in actual games of chess, whether friendly or competitive. Members who demonstrate improvement can move up to a higher group as recognition of this. The Director and coaches hold regular meetings to discuss the progress of members and also to plan future lessons and generate ideas for continued improvement.


  • What is the best way to improve at chess?

Joining the Coventry Chess Academy and attending its sessions will certainly help! It is however important to practice and play in your spare time as well. The Coventry Chess Academy has its own online chess club on www.chesskid.com which allows members to play online, solve puzzles, read articles and watch video tutorials in a safe and secure environment. Above all, have fun and go at your own pace!