Play … Learn … Achieve
We are delighted you have come to the New to Chess section of the ECF website. There has been a huge spike of interest in chess through the pandemic, and especially after The Queen’s Gambit Netflix mini-series. We are responding to this demand by putting resources into helping beginners and improvers.
We understand that people take up chess for a variety of reasons, from improving their game to playing in tournaments and representing clubs in chess leagues. There are also many chess fans who enjoy casual chess on the beach, in the pub or on the bus to work on their smartphones. Whatever your level, we can help you on your chess journey. To get going we recommend the following options …
At just £10 per year our ‘Starter for Ten’ membership is ideal to get you going. You will receive our monthly eNewsletter and have access to our online chess tournaments and events, along with free advice on where to go online to improve your game and details of local clubs.
JUNIOR SILVER or QUEEN’S GAMBIT MEMBERSHIP
We are delighted to have initiated a campaign to attract more women and girls to chess. Our new Queen’s Gambit Scheme provides FREE Supporter membership for women over 18 who have not previously been members of the ECF. Likewise, girls and boys joining for the first time under the age of 18 enjoy FREE Junior Silver Membership.
To find out more about all the ECF membership options, please click here. We want to see chess venues full of people of all ages and communities, representing the diversity of life in England. We are working with tournament and league organisers to have sections for beginners so that they too can play in rated chess matches. By playing, you will get better and will enjoy the game for many years …and you never know, you may be a star waiting to be discovered.
Chess Booklet One | Chess Booklet Two
These booklets, which you are able to download as PDFs or read online in your browser, are suitable for players and potential players in the grading band 0-75 (0-1200 Elo). They were designed for children, but there is no reason at all why adults wishing to learn the basics of chess may not use them. The booklets were first published in 2009, and the second edition has benefitted from a complete redesign. This has been a joint project between the ECF and St Catherine’s School in Bramley, a co-sponsor of the ECF National Schools Competitions and a strong advocate of chess among children. We do hope that you enjoy these booklets and find them useful.
— Andrew Martin, FIDE Senior Trainer, ECF Manager of Coaches
There are literally thousands of resources out there, but rather than provide a comprehensive guide, we wanted to help you to see the wood for the trees. Therefore, we have concentrated on some of the key resources and left out many excellent (and not so excellent) references in the interests of simplicity.
The Week in Chess
You can find a list of the most important chess events for the previous week on Mark Crowther’s The Week in Chess (TWIC) website. This includes a games section with a link to live game streams, with over 2.5 million games published in PGN format since the first edition in 1994 – https://theweekinchess.com/
Videos and streams
Recently, the popularity of chess has exploded, and there are vast and growing numbers of chess streams and videos out there. There is a particularly good series of videos by ChessNetwork: the Beginner to Chess Master playlist at
You can find commentary for ECF chess events from GM Matthew Sadler, WIM Natasha Regan and colleagues on the ECF twitch channel here – https://www.twitch.tv/ecf_commentary/ – and the YouTube Game Changer Channel here – https://www.youtube.com/c/GameChangerChess/featured
The ECF’s YouTube channel is https://www.youtube.com/c/EnglishChessFederation
Find a chess club
Find chess clubs in your area by clicking here
Find a club in your area that has an online presence by clicking on the map at https://englishchessonline.org.uk/english-club-finder-map/
On the same page we list the ECF clubs at Chess.com and Lichess.org. We welcome all levels of player to those groups but you need to be a member or supporter of the ECF – details of how to join us for as little as £10 per year are at https://www.englishchess.org.uk/ecf-membership-rates-and-joining-details/
Whether or not you join a club or the ECF clubs online, if you want to play games at any level being matched with players of the same skill, whether beginner or genius level, then the above sites – Lichess.org and Chess.com – are great places where you can play free of charge. You can choose a username of your choice, so no need to worry what people think about your play if you are new to the game!
Find a trainer
You will need to provide your own due diligence and research, but there is a list of potential chess coaches at https://www.englishchess.org.uk/list-of-ecf-registered-coaches/
Recently, chess has exploded, and there are vast numbers of chess streams and videos out there. A particularly good series of videos is by ChessNetwork: the Beginner to Chess Master playlist at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQsLDm9Rq9bHKEBnElquF8GuWkI1EJ8Zp
Here is an article from a while back which has stood the test of time. It features some great chess streams and videos. Thanks to Danny Rosenbaum and CHESS magazine for permission to reprint it here – Video Chess Resources
Online learning resources
Chess in Schools and Communities provide a chess at home resources page with a range of resources suitable for home learning. The material is split into a series of lessons, adapted from the CSC curriculum – https://www.chessinschools.co.uk/chess-at-home
The online chess playing platforms also have some great resources including instructional videos, studies and puzzles. Good examples are –
Chesskid – excellent for juniors including https://www.chesskid.com/library
Chess.com – provides a series of lessons and various videos on a range of different subjects
Lichess – Lichess studies are also highly recommended and allow you to set up your own studies and learning material as well as accessing community resources
Internet Chess Club
Chess Tempo – great for practising tactics
Other resources you may want to look at include —
Chessable – a modern way to learn chess, well-suited for those learning a new opening
DecodeChess – uses artificial intelligence to explain the reason behind moves to you
Forward Chess – if you prefer reading books on a computer or a tablet, then with Forward Chess you can read the book while you move the pieces around on the computer, so no need to set up a separate board.
The ECF has a Book of the Year award. There are a huge number of books published every year on all aspects of the game. Here is a short bibliography of classic chess books which you could look at as a new or improving player. The general rule is to concentrate on developing a playable opening repertoire and understanding the basic endgames and middlegame ideas and of course lots of tactical exercise. It is generally best to do this first so you can understand basic principles and patterns on the board before getting further into specific opening variations or more in-depth positional ideas.
Booklist – click here
Play in ECF Online tournaments
As an ECF member or supporter you can join one or both of the ECF Members Clubs on Chess.com or Lichess. Club admission is free to ECF members and supporters and will allow you to take part in daily tournaments, which are all ECF online rated.
This will allow you to get experience playing stronger players in the open tournaments or you can play in rating limited events. Playing in the regular tournaments means that you will get an ECF online rating, which provides you with a way of measuring your progress. We also have regular National events and International team events which you can try as your playing strength improves.
Printed materials and courses
New players looking to progress from beginner up the ranks can enrol in the ECF’s Certificate of Excellence course at https://www.englishchess.org.uk/certificate-of-excellence/. If you prefer, you can download particular resources in PDF format for free to help your own progress via the links on the page, but you’ll need to pay to take the exams.
Richard James, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, has a website – Minichess UK – which includes a detailed guide to help newcomers to learn chess. You can download the PDF free at https://minichess.uk/download/
Are you a school looking for help?
The charity Chess in Schools is a great first port of call for any school that needs help with teaching their children chess. Find out more at https://www.chessinschools.co.uk/
The Last Word
The English Chess Federation want to encourage you to pursue chess whatever your level or potential – it’s a great game. If you haven’t found what you’re looking for here, then please email the office and we will do our level best to get back to you as soon as possible and point you in the right direction. Plus – keep an eye out for our own Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/ecfchess, where you’ll see lots of relevant Tweets of chess news, chess improvement, chess in the media and more!