Known in some circles as the king of board games, chess has been around for centuries. Some versions invoke elephants and figures (The Chinese game of xiangqi) while Shatranj pieces for Iranian chess barely resemble the knights, bishops and rooks that form the openings and gambits the western world is familiar with.
Did you know that the words 'check' and 'checkmate' come from the Persian language? Shāh and Shāh Māt mean 'king' and 'king is helpless', respectively.
Nifty tidbits such as those aside, whether you're interested in the historical aspects of chess or learning basic strategy, it helps to have a teacher to show you the ropes. If you live in the Greater Manchester area, you're in luck!
Let Superprof take you to some of the places you can learn how to play chess and introduce you to the masters who know that strategy is everything in chess.
Well, that and a hefty dose of sang froid...
Chess Lessons With Sarah Hegarty
Chess may be a game for the fainthearted but it is definitely not one for those who might buckle under mental pressure. It is a very intellectual pastime that demands a strategic mindset and the ability to think on one's feet, for all that chess players usually engage while sitting down.
Ms Hegarty has been playing chess competitively since she was seven years old.
It takes an unusual person to embrace chess at such a young age and make the game their life's work, and Ms Hegarty is a particularly disarming player. Her gamin grin and sparkling eyes belie a keen, analytical mind that has seen a fair amount of chess victory; in 2013, she won the British Ladies' Championship. And that's just one of her many accolades.
Besides learning to play chess as a toddler and competing at an age when most children are learning how to build complex sentences, Ms Hegarty has played in chess tournaments all over the world. She even got to meet chess legend Gary Kasparov!
Today, Sarah Hegarty is a Women's FIDE Chess Master and an English Chess Federation certified coach.
Through her ongoing rigorous practice and unique aptitude for chess, Sarah Hegarty generally plays at least four moves ahead of any opponent. No need to worry, though. When in teaching mode, she is patient and supportive, going to great pains to explain why one gambit might work better (or worse) to advance your game.
While not exactly in Manchester proper - she set up shop in Cheshire, Ms Hegarty gives chess lessons online and through schools. In fact, her goal is to grow her burgeoning junior chess program throughout Cheshire.
Might Birmingham also have such an ambitious undertaking to teach chess to children?
Chess Lessons in a Chess Club
Today, rather than enrol in a university degree program, more students choose to further their education through apprenticeships. Many feel that learning on the job cuts through superfluous exposure to theoretical aspects of their actual work; aspects that, often, are not needed to do the job.
Aspiring chess players have long known that hands-on beats lots of discussion about strategy and the merits of this gambit or that opening. It's not that hard for beginner and intermediate chess players to pick up on chess notation, either from books about chess or by watching game notation while the players are engaged.
The best place to watch chess players deploy their strategies and confront opponents is in chess clubs.
To the uninitiated, watching chess games is about as exciting as watching paint dry but, to those of us who are mad for the game, witnessing brilliant plays, the subtle clacking sound of a capture and the anxiety of a player whose king is in check make us impatient for our chance at the board.
If you've never played chess or watched seasoned players face off across the chess board, you should pay a visit to one of Greater Manchester's many chess clubs. Depending on which one you visit, you may find anything from games between frenemies to actual matches.
You read that right! The Manchester Chess Federation governs 17 area chess clubs that host regular matches and come fully equipped with everything you need to play chess, from chess sets to chess clocks. There is even a Manchester Junior Chess league for chess players who are under 18 years of age.
After all that hype, you might be surprised to learn that none of those chess clubs offers to teach anyone how to play chess, although some clubs' websites offer tutorial videos and make reading recommendations.
But nothing says you can't approach a particularly adept chess player at any of these clubs and ask them to teach you how to play.
Manchester Check Mates
If you're not particularly interested in learning how to play chess but you have young children who need to develop their concentration and cognitive skills - all while having a bit of fun and making new friends, Manchester Check Mates is the place to turn to.
They welcome children as young as six all the way up to 12 years, at the Altrincham Community Centre. They've outfitted their corner of The Hub to be a child-friendly zone where kids can get together and, under the watchful eyes of their chess mentors, learn the intricacies of the game.
Of course, you're allowed - nay, encouraged to stay and participate.
Naturally, it's not a matter of seating a bunch of kids and preadolescents around a table and letting them have at it. There is coaching for beginners and ongoing support beyond that. Ultimately, your kids will take part in junior chess tournaments around the city.
Learning to play chess at Check Mates makes for a nice transition into the adult chess clubs in the area, too!
As Sarah Hegarty demonstrates, a person can totally build their life around their love of chess. However, if you can't envision your child's future revolving around chess, learning the skills necessary to play chess well will help prepare them for their future.
Where work, finances and life in general are concerned, we have to know how to strategize, right?
Also, discover if there are any fun chess clubs for kids in Glasgow...
A Tutor for Chess Lessons
Learning how to play chess with a personal tutor has proven particularly popular over the past year, while we were living under various degrees of restriction and confinement. Aren't we so lucky to have the existing technology at our disposal? Imagine this pandemic without the internet!
Like enthusiasts of so many other disciplines, chess players across the country did not hesitate to get online to offer chess lessons throughout the UK. Many of them signed on to become Superprof Chess tutors.
The following is just a sampling of the chess tutors you will find with Superprof:
- Roger (Liverpool): an English Literature postgraduate student who teaches chess at all levels and ages
- Chakravarthy's focus is middlegame and endgame fundamentals; his ideal chess pupil is one with basic knowledge of the game
- Maria teaches all levels of chess via webcam from her home in London
- Antoine teaches chess as a strategy to develop logic and concentration; his students may be as young as 5 years old
- Gerard Joshua has been playing chess since he was a child; now he's ready to pass his skills on to you!
- Bernard is a national chess champion and a law student at the University of Leeds; he teaches chess at all levels
It may be hard to distinguish a qualified chess tutor from one who simply loves the game and can play pretty well. After all, there is no academic curriculum from which one can earn a degree in chess. Unlike academic tutors or personal fitness tutors, there's only one formal credential that prove a chess tutor's knowledge of the game or ability to teach chess strategy.
This is where Superprof tutors shine!
Each Superprof tutor is accorded their own page where they may write their chess biography and list their experience with playing chess. On chess tutors' pages, you'll discover if they're a certified chess coach, learn how long they've been playing, which tournaments they've competed in and what their FIDE rating is.
In case you're completely new to the chess world, FIDE is the International Federation of Chess.
Furthermore, each tutor's profile page allows students to provide feedback. Was that tutor patient, kind, understanding and relatable? Did s/he explain everything clearly, take the time to answer questions and make suggestions for further study - maybe reading books about chess or learning about past chess masters?
When reviewing Superprof tutors for chess lessons, these student testimonials can help you decide which tutor is right for you.
So, whether you live in the Greater Manchester area or on the other side of the country, in Leeds, you're sure to find a chess master ready to teach you all the chess moves and tactics you need to get started playing chess.
Oh, and did we tell you that most Superprof chess tutors offer their first hour of lessons for free?
Now discover the many places you could learn how to play chess in London...