The king of games, the ultimate brain game, the game of intellectuals... this centuries-old game goes by many names besides these. To misquote Shakespeare: chess by any other name would... as much.
Would what, exactly?
Unlike many games that are played for fun or games of skill such as poker - even though most maintain that luck, more than skill drives poker wins, chess falls solidly in the 'skilled game' category. So, to complete our misquote above: chess, by any other name would challenge you just as much.
That's true whether you're an absolute beginner or a chess grandmaster. To wit, world chess champions Alexander Alekhine and Mikhail Botvinnik each had to reclaim their title after failing to defend it; Botvinnik did so twice.
But you don't need world championship aspirations to enjoy a good game of chess; simply knowing how to play will do, for starters. And, like all things worth knowing, there should be some teaching involved.
That's why Superprof rambled around some of the UK's biggest cities to find the best chess clubs and coaches. The following are what we found.
Chess Clubs in London
Not only is London one of four global fashion hubs, but it also plays a heavy role in global finance and is a leader in higher education. Could it be because that city is home to so many chess devotees?
London is a world-class city in many ways, not the least of them is in chess.
London and chess have enjoyed a longstanding, mutually beneficial relationship. Indeed, a series of chess matches that led to several innovations in chess was held in London, at the now-defunct Westminster Chess Club.
Those games, played by French chess player Jean-Louis la Bourdonnais and Irish player Alexander McDonnell, are now considered the very first world championship chess game, even before such events existed.
Today, you can review the Westminster Papers in book form online. The details of those games are also available for download as a digital book in Epub, Kindle and PDF formats.
By now, you must be thoroughly convinced of London's longstanding partnership with chess so it should come as no surprise that chess has a presence in many aspects of life in our capital city - from schools that include chess education in their everyday curriculum to the many chess clubs where such enthusiasts go to while away an afternoon or two.
What you might not expect is that City Lit London offers chess lessons.
Granted, you have to know a bit about chess before booking your place. Their courses revolve around advanced strategy: how to build your game toward a successful endgame, how to play like a grandmaster and so on. Also, given our current conditions, all of the teaching will take place online.
If you're just starting to learn about chess or have more questions about your middlegame, you might hold off on these advanced courses in favour of finding a chess master more tailored to your skill level.
There are plenty of them in London; we've listed them in a separate article.
Chess Coaches in Manchester
The Queen's Gambit, that Netflix show everyone's talking about revolves around chess. Well, more specifically, around a chess player and her battle with addiction which, regardless of how abysmal, couldn't knock her off her game.
Whether the fictional Beth Harmon adequately mirrors a true chess prodigy's life experiences is debatable, even if some people draw a comparison to chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer.
In fact, the only true parallel between The Queen's Gambit and that former grandmaster is that they both inspired a mania for chess.
If you too have caught the chess bug, we'd like to present British Ladies' Chess Champion and FIDE chess master Sarah Hegarty. Like Beth Harmon in Gambit, she started playing chess when she was but a babe and, soon, was playing in chess tournaments all over the world.
Today, with several trophies in her case and certificates adorning her walls, Ms Hegarty is busy setting up chess clubs and teaching people how to play in Cheshire and surrounding areas. Whether you want to learn how to play chess or prefer boosting your kids' brain power through chess lessons, Ms Hegarty will be happy to oblige.
You only need to find out how you can sign up for chess lessons in Manchester now, right?
Chess Lessons in Leeds
We just mentioned that learning strategic chess moves is good for your child's brain - and yours, too. That's no lie.
Studies have shown that playing chess is a great way to improve your ability to make decisions, to reason and remember, and to plan and strategize. It's also a great help in picking up and using information. These abilities are collectively known as cognitive skills.
Today, schools and educational professionals make a big deal about students' cognitive skills, mainly that they seem to be lacking. That is why organisations such as Chess in Schools and Communities are such a big hit in Leeds and other cities in the UK.
In Leeds alone, CSC has partnered with 13 schools across the city to teach chess history and strategy, and to give students a safe environment to build their skill at playing chess. They are matched in their efforts by the Leeds Junior Chess Club.
For your child to join that club, s/he doesn't have to attend one of the schools that CSC has a presence in; you can take your kids there just for the fun of playing and the joy of learning. But not in these pandemic times, of course. All of their events and meetings take place online.
All of that is great for kids but what about adult Leodensians who want to learn how to play?
Ah, for information on those lessons, we have a separate article...
Glasgow Chess Initiatives
While investigating this series of articles on chess lessons across the UK, the closest we came to London's venerated chess culture was in Glasgow. There, chess clubs abound, university students play chess on campus and there are plenty of private chess coaches to help anyone of any age master openings and attacks.
If you already know all of the moves and have your few favourite openings, you might join the Glasgow University Chess Society. They've issued a general invitation to their friendly Friday night tournaments and, if you enjoy that group's dynamic, you may consider becoming a member, whether you're a university student or not.
If you'd rather not mingle in university doings, you might join any of Glasgow's many chess clubs. They are all very warm in their welcome, to beginners and advanced players alike. And if you know little about chess, other than maybe what you learned from The Queen's Gambit or what you might have picked up from any chess books you've read?
Unlike many chess clubs across the countries, Chess Scotland maintains a lengthy list of chess coaches. Most have listed their English Chess Federation ratings and FIDE grade so you can get an idea of your prospective master's level of expertise.
For now, the Glasgow chapter of Chess Scotland is closed - pandemic times and all, you know. However, they are still very active online so you could head to their site to check out that list of coaches and get a feel for the club itself.
And, once those restrictions are lifted, nothing will stop you from joining them in person or maybe dropping in on other chess lessons in Glasgow.
Chess Lessons in Birmingham
If there's one thing we Brummies love, it's our lush outdoor spaces. From Sutton Park to our Botanical Gardens, we have more parks than any other city in Europe. And, with the weather warming up and COVID restrictions lifting...
What does any of that have to do with chess?
Have you never seen people sitting on a blanket, park bench or picnic table, playing chess? How about a giant chess set? Of course, those are meant as more of a curiosity than for serious gameplay; it's hard to build a winning strategy without a good overview of the board. Still, as free access to a chess set...
Another place with free access to chessboards and all of the pieces is chess clubs. You might consider joining such a club and, if you're just starting out as a chess player, you should aim for the South Birmingham Chess Club. There, you will find keen chess players ready to challenge anyone from newcomer to grandmaster and, more importantly, a chess master who gives private lessons.
However, if you were hoping for a greater variety of chess instructors to choose from - and, perhaps a lower price per lesson, Superprof would better fit the bill.
Superprof has hundreds of chess tutors worldwide, many of whom live in the UK, and all of them give chess lessons online. Even better: most of them give their first hour of coaching for free so you can decide whether that's the right chess coach for you. If not, there's no harm in saying so and choosing another Superprof chess coach.
So, whether you're more interested in the history of chess - and what a history that game has, or if you want to prepare yourself or your children for an upcoming chess tournament, Superprof has right the chess tutor for you.
For instance, Geoff, a Chess International master with 30 years of experience teaching the game, gives chess lessons in Birmingham...
So, now that you've decided it's time for you and/or your child to recognize the difference between a knight and a rook and learn how each piece moves, finding chess lessons in the UK won't be so hard, will it?