The Solution

The idea of Chess 1500 is to attract more children into competitive chess, particularly those without a family chess background, and from sections of the community not currently well represented in the game.

Children who have parents who are interested in chess will often benefit from starting young as their parents will be able to help and encourage them at home.

Children of primary school age are, with very few exceptions, too young to teach themselves in any meaningful way, and, if they’re only playing once a week at school, will make little progress.

Therefore, if we want to widen the demographics of chess players we need to go into secondary schools. At that age children will, if they’re interested be able to teach themselves enough to reach 1500 strength within a few years.

Let’s throw out a proposal.

Most children move from primary to secondary school at the age of 11. This can be a difficult time for many children. They’re moving from a small school to a large school. From being one of the oldest in the school to being one of the youngest in the school. For me, playing chess in the playground, and on the train to and from school was an enormous help in enabling me to make contact with other pupils.

11 is also a great age for children whose parents aren’t in a position to help them to start learning chess.

So the first thing I’d do is promote chess in secondary schools, particularly in the state sector, by encouraging all children to learn chess and then running both internal and inter-school competitions.

The beauty of this is that it’s virtually free. You don’t need chess tutors because children will be old enough to teach themselves using a combination of free coaching materials (which I can provide) and online resources. All you need is some chess sets. You can ask any older students with an interest in chess to help by creating publicity material, setting up the furniture and sets, acting as arbiters, collecting the results and so on.

The same principle could be used in primary schools, using Minichess activities such as the Capture the Flag pawn game (8 pawns each, first player to get a pawn to the end wins). Run it in, say, year 5, with an email out to parents in advance to tell them the rules. You’ll get the whole school community interested in the concept of abstract pure skill strategy games. You don’t even need chess sets for this. Print off boards and give each player 8 counters (red v blue or whatever colours you choose). No curriculum time required, no professional chess tutor required. no cost at all, and you get everyone in the school involved and excited. Simple strategy games of this nature will provide more benefit for more children than ‘big chess’.

Finally, I’d promote a network of community chess clubs run by volunteers where children and parents can learn chess together. Again, I can provide coaching materials so the organisers just need to be interested in chess: in fact it would probably be better if they weren’t strong players who often push children to do too much too soon.