Chess Academy Weekend – report

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Chess Academy Weekends

The first ECF study weekend of 2018 kicked off on January 6th at the Holiday Inn in Coventry. This event marked the beginning of the Academy’s third year, at the end of which the first cohort of students will complete their 3-year study programme.

What is a weekend spent at the Chess Academy really like? Well, there’s a lot of really high quality chess coaching – the children are divided into nine groups appropriate to their cohort, ages and levels and each is given ten hours of coaching by different Grand Masters (GMs), International Masters (IMs) and FIDE Masters. This coaching follows the FIDE syllabus and covers many topics. Among them at Coventry were pawn structures and lessons learned from the best games of Bobby Fischer. The main aim of the sessions is to help develop strong chess skills, independently prepare for opponents, and analyse games. This is in-depth teaching at an advanced level and all the children are asked to do some preparation before the weekend. There is also homework set for each level to be completed after the study weekend and the January attendees will be given an online test to be taken at home in March. First-time attendees are all given a welcome pack that includes their own ECF chessboard with pieces and key text books.

So it’s a packed schedule, but the weekend is also very friendly with plenty of opportunities for socialising by both children and parents. Families are encouraged to stay together at the hotel and there is a strong emphasis on building a happy team spirit among everyone in the Academy. On the Saturday evening in Coventry, as at previous weekends, there was an exciting Blitz competition in which many parents joined in as well. There was also a social club for the teenagers (14 and over) on Saturday night with their own room, complete with cards, snacks and soft drinks. In Coventry they even had their own soft drinks tab at the hotel bar! There was also a special club for the Under 13 girls, giving them the opportunity to socialise before and between the rounds of the Blitz tournament. 

Children come from all over England to attend the Academy weekends and the social side is a vital accompaniment to the chess learning. Getting to know each other and making friends will also be a big help for those who go on to join an England team to international events such as those run by the World Chess Federation and the European Chess Union. The Academy weekends help lay good foundations for both success in chess contests and enjoying the experience of national and international competitions.

Coventry was an excellent start to the Academy’s programme of four study weekends in 2018. The children learned a lot and enjoyed themselves as well. Parents chatted and got to know each other. Many of the parents of new attendees went to talks on the different ways to support their children during their chess journey. There were also families who came on a one-off “taster” weekend to get a flavour of the Academy and what it can do for their children. For everyone, parents and children, it was a full and busy chess weekend … and when you just wanted to relax, there was also the hotel pool!

— Mimi Khan and David Gray

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