Urban heat island effect aside, Birmingham's mild climate fairly begs people to spend time out of doors. Indeed, the English Football League was founded in Birmingham; many other outdoor pastimes, from cricket to skateboarding are enormously popular there, too.

With physical activity obviously so preferred, why would anyone living there sit indoors, playing chess?

There are plenty of reasons, particularly of late, why indoor activity might be preferable. But besides our current pandemic restrictions, people with allergies or physical disabilities might find it difficult to be out of doors. Some simply prefer intellectual challenges to physical ones.

If you're such a one, you know the excitement a chess tournament can bring. Whether you compete or not, watching players get as savage on the other players' chess pieces as a boxer might on their opponent fighter can be every bit as invigorating - and a lot less bloody.

If you haven't yet experienced the thrill of the capture or discovered the power of pawns, you probably need a few chess lessons to get you started. That would be capturing opponents' chess pieces, by the way. Nothing sinister implied.

Fortunately for you who live in and around Birmingham, such lessons are not hard to find.

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Maria
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William
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Take Chess Lessons with a Private Tutor

As we live our lives under the pandemic cloud, virtual learning has become students' mainstays. It hasn't been easy for everyone to adapt to online lessons; neither teachers nor students, and perhaps especially not parents. However, there's one group for whom virtual education is nothing new.

 Tutors have been delivering lessons via webcam ever since the technology made it possible to.

Chess tutors can be found in libraries and chess clubs
You may find chess tutors at the library or in chess clubs. Photo credit: John Christian Fjellestad on Visualhunt

Before the dawn of the Information Age that promised all of the cyber-goodies we enjoy today, a chess master might set up a player training program delivered via correspondence course for his students.

Chess notation made that type of instruction easy; once the beginner player understood what all of the code meant, s/he could place the knights, rooks and bishops in the appropriate places and move them around the board as the notation dictated.

There were limits to this type of instruction, though. It must have been irritating for students to write out their questions and then have to wait for days or even weeks before getting their chess coach's answer. Or even worse: having to comb through books that discuss chess strategy to find the answer themselves.

Doesn't that make you glad for instant communication?

Academic tutors are also glad to be able to talk directly with their students and chess tutors are over the moon about it!

If you're an absolute beginner at chess, meaning you know neither the value nor the power of any chess piece, your chess master might first go over each of them and explain the role they play in keeping the king safe. And then, you might go over chess notation together; you'll likely learn each piece's point value at that stage, too.

But when do you actually get to play chess?

That's up to you and your chess master. Some place more emphasis on teaching beginners chess strategy while others believe students learn best as they play. Your chess tutor might introduce you to various openings and defenses before you move so much as a pawn while others will explain why 1. e4 is White's most common opening and the many ways Black could respond.

Superprof chess tutors are ideal for aspiring chess players. Not just because Superprof boasts more than one chess master among their ranks but because virtually every Superprof chess tutor gives their first hour of lessons for free.

Let's say your initial lessons is with a Superprof chess tutor whose emphasis is strategy. If that's not how you envisioned your chess lessons playing out, after that first hour of instruction, you should tell them that you'll keep looking for the right tutor for you.

No worries; you have hundreds of Superprof chess tutors to choose from; six of them live in Birmingham. That means that, once pandemic restrictions end, you may get to face off over the chessboard.

In Birmingham, hopeful chess players are lucky; people looking for chess lessons in Leeds have a smaller selection of tutors to choose from.

You can play in chess tournaments at your local chess club
Many chess clubs in and around Birmingham host tournaments. Photo credit: Derek Bridges on Visualhunt

Learn How to Play Chess in a Chess Club

If you happen to be a bit industrious, meaning that you've taken on the task of teaching yourself how to play chess, you might wonder where you could go for a game or two - besides the pub, that is.

On the other hand, if you've bought or downloaded a few chess books but can't seem to get the whole picture, perhaps talking things over with a few keen players of chess would be just the ticket.

Naturally, you could turn to a Superprof chess tutor for a few sessions, just to get your mind straight on the game but maybe you don't need any instruction, and nor do you want to pay for lessons.

If you wanted to watch a few games before talking to any chess aficionados, Birmingham's chess clubs might be just the thing you're looking for. Whether you live in Lichfield or in South Birmingham, you can find a chess club close to you.

Indeed, there are more chess clubs in Birmingham than there are in all of Greater Manchester!

Disclaimer: only one of the Birmingham area chess clubs asserts that they will help you learn how to play chess. South Birmingham Chess Club offers chess coaching, thanks to the efforts of their resident master, Pavel Besedin. He is an English Chess Federation accredited coach who is comfortable teaching aspiring chess players, young or old.

Keep in mind that, in these current conditions, the South Birmingham Chess Club is closed. However, if you load their website, you can find a link to Mr Besedin's email to register your interest in a few coaching sessions with him.

Aspiring chess players in Glasgow aren't nearly so lucky to have such a coach nearby...

You might not believe how serious even young chess players can be.
It may defy belief but even young children can be quite serious when it comes to playing chess. Photo credit: Clearwater Public Library System on Visualhunt

Kids Taking Chess Lessons in School

At the risk of stating the obvious, kids love to play games. From games of skill like jacks and marbles to board games like Snakes and Ladders, as long as there's fun to be had, you can count children in.

Makes you wonder about teaching children how to play chess, doesn't it?

As you can imagine, you're not likely to hear shrieks of glee or shouts of victory during a junior chess tournament. Still, a surprising number of kids are enamoured of the game, possibly because they learn how to play chess in school. What good could that possibly serve?

Chess is quite an intellectual game; it involves planning and strategy, memory and, while not a cognitive skill like the others, patience. All of these are qualities students draw on every day during their academic lessons. Hence, it's a good idea to teach them how to build those skills, and how better than through play?

Enter Chess for Schools and Clubs. They are primarily a retailer specialising in chess sets and related equipment such as chess clocks and scoring notepads but they also help organise chess clubs and lessons all around the UK.

The Birmingham Checkmates, as Chess for Schools and Clubs is known in that city, hosts games every Saturday morning at the Quinborne Community Centre on Ridgeacre Road in Quinton. Your child will surely benefit from their chess coaches' mentoring and, after making satisfactory progress, will get to play in the UK Chess Challenge.

If you happen to live closer to Main Street Birmingham, you may bring your child(ren) to the library to take part in the Chess in Schools and Communities chess initiative. CSC, as this organisation is known, works with more than 140 schools and communities across the country to make chess more available to everyone - even those who thought they wouldn't enjoy playing.

Schools in Glasgow has partnered with CSC to give chess lessons in schools. What about your children's schools?

Whether to primary or secondary level schools, CSC is keen to go where there is a need and/or demand for their unique brand of education support. If they are not yet active in your child's school, you might ask the school administrators if they would consider such a partnership.

Even during these COVID times, schools that have partnered with CSC have seen chess lessons continue via the web, just like all of their academic classes have.

What do you think of having a chess lesson or two, either for yourself or for your children - or, hopefully, all of you?

It's tough, these days, to find something that will engage our minds and take away from the constant stress over how life will be when we come out on the other side of this pandemic.

The good news is that chess is timeless. It is a centuries-old game, played all over the world that brings a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction to players young and old. How could anyone not want to learn how to play chess?

And wait until you discover how and where Londoners learn their chess moves...

Need a Chess teacher?

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Sophia

A vagabond traveler whose first love is the written word, I advocate for continuous learning, cycling, and the joy only a beloved pet can bring. There is plenty else I am passionate about, but those three should do it, for now.