National Junior Chess Academy

A chess training programme for ambitious junior chess players seeking to win competitions and represent the national team.

Part of the official English Chess Federation Junior Development Pathway

We’ve Heard this Story Before…

“I know my child is great at chess – but I’m not sure how to help them reach the next level”

“I’m confused about all the jargon in the chess scene – I just want some straight forward advice on how to improve”

“I encourage them and say all the right things – but I can’t help them find the best moves and I want to work with someone who can”

“Coaches seem to be either good at chess, or good with kids – but rarely both !”

Introducing the National Junior Chess Academy

The Academy is England’s flagship junior chess training membership programme for ambitious young chess players. Packed with in depth chess training material and guidance plus weekly live training sessions with professional coaches – we provide your young talent with all the tools and opportunity they need to thrive.

In the Academy students will:

  • Train with professionals who live and breathe chess improvement
  • Follow a proven training methodology that delivers results time and again (see testimonials later)
  • Have access to our vault of custom produced chess training and improvement materials
  • Hear inspirational stories and accounts from successful players and achievers in other fields
  • Receive extra recognition from England selectors for being part of the official training programme

As a result you can: 

  • Relax in the knowledge you have set your child up with the best chance of chess success
  • Stop stressing about what coaching or courses they should be taking
  • Stop worrying about how they might be missing out or that maybe their peers have some secret coaching weapon
  • Continue to encourage your child but leave the ‘chess work’ to us 
  • Feel that your child is happy and safe and that their emotional needs are being met as well as their chess needs 
  • Enjoy the open and informative community of like-minded parents in the official England junior training programme

About Us

We are Sarah and Alex Longson – a husband and wife team based in Cheshire with our two young children Isabelle and Tobias. We’ve both left professional careers (law and accountancy) to help develop England’s next generation of successful chess players – whether that be over the board success or success in other areas of life such as academia, professional or general wellbeing.

We definitely know where you are coming from – as juniors we have both represented our country at chess, we have coached young chess players of all levels (school beginners through to European champions), organised the UK’s largest chess tournament (UK Chess Challenge) and are parents ourselves. Sarah regularly appears on TV and radio to discuss the latest chess developments.

Having gone through the full junior chess cycle ourselves we were uniquely placed to develop a chess training programme that was not only water-tight from a chess educational perspective but also was designed specifically so that both parent and student could get the maximum benefit. At the heart of everything we do is that the child’s emotional needs are being met and parents are kept informed every step of the way.

What Makes us Different?

Unrivalled experience

England internationals as juniors – we now run the UK’s largest chess competition and the English Chess Federation’s flagship training programme (oh – and we’re parents as well)!

Our own curriculum

All our content and materials are produced in-house giving us full control over the content and delivery so we can tailor it to the relevant audience.

Partnership with the ECF and Chess Trust

Partnered with the English Chess Federation to run the ECF Academy training programme and with the Chess Trust to run the Accelerator Programme. Both part of the official England Junior Development Pathway.

Diverse range of coaches

Many coaches of different backgrounds and skillsets ensuring students receive a comprehensive chess education.

Technology pioneers

We’re always tinkering with new software and chess platforms to enhance the experience both for students and for parents.

We really care !

We just love what we do and want to share our passion with our students.

Our Coaches

We are proud to offer a super strong line-up of professional coaches and speakers, players, seasoned internationals and top professionals from other disciplines. The benefits of interacting with genuine world class professionals is enormous – not just to better understand chess content but to discover how successful individuals learnt at a young age and how they overcame their challenges and obstacles.

Some of our coaches from 2021 included:

  • Sarah Longson – Head coach and 2013 British Ladies champion
  • Grandmaster David Howell – 3 time British Champion and England’s youngest ever Grandmaster
  • Grandmaster Luke McShane – former world U10 champion and has been described as the “world’s strongest amateur chess player”  
  • Grandmaster Michael Adams – England’s strongest ever player and World championship runner up in 2004
  • Grandmaster Nigel Short – runner up in the 1993 World Championship.
  • Grandmaster Matthew Sadler – author of the acclaimed book on artificial intelligence in chess ‘Game Changer’ 
  • Dr Barry Hymer – co-author of ‘Chess Improvement: it’s all in the mindset’

Some of our Student’s Successes

Since 2017 many of England’s top junior talents have passed through the Academy and we have helped produce:

  • British Champions
  • UK School’s Chess Champions
  • European Champions
  • national squad members
  • national title norm seekers
  • alumni who have graduated to the Accelerator Programme (the top rung of the English Junior Development Pathway)
  • 2021 – Runner Up, European U8 Blitz and Rapid
  • 2021 – UKCC U8 Girls Champion
  • 2021 – Competed in adult British Championship
  • 2021 – Selected for Accelerator Programme
  • 2021 – British Under 12 Champion
  • 2020 – UKCC U12 Runner Up

What our Members Say

ECF Academy is a great place to learn intermediate to advanced chess for children who are planning to get into serious chess. The coaching provided by ECF Academy is by experienced  and passionate people from the World of Chess.



Fantastic weekends of chess – very well organised. Sophie enjoyed them immensely. A big thank you to Sarah, Alex and Pauline and all the coaches for giving up so much of their time to make it such a success.



I am really pleased we discovered ECF academy for Reya when we did. The programme curriculum & execution is top notch.



Our daughter really enjoys the ECF Academy classes, puzzles, tournaments, evaluation of various chess positions and the lectures by experienced world-class chess speakers. Some of the classes/puzzles improved her to become a better chess player in a short span of time. Also, we have seen a vast improvement in her thinking abilities and reasoning skills.



What do Members Receive?

Monthly Training Material and Study Plan – Email/PDF

Each month we introduce a fresh chess topic with clear explanations, examples and exercises.  The materials are sent via email and will contain PDFs, videos and links to exercises. We will also include a suggested study plan for those who prefer to know exactly what to study and when. Takes the guesswork out of practise and provides a structured pathway to chess success.

Weekly Online Live Group Training Sessions – Zoom

One hour sessions with a professional chess coach delving further into the monthly topic. Students get to experience viewpoints from multiple trainers and are able to interact in real time with the trainer – significantly enriching the learning process. Delivered safely via Zoom.

Bi-Annual Evaluation

We’ll carry out an evaluation of the student’s current chess understanding via our online assessment tool after 6 and 12 months to ensure both student and parent are clear on progress and next steps. 

Chess Mentor

Students and parents can submit questions anytime via email or WhatsApp – this can be on any subject from “what tournaments should my son play in?” to “what is a good defence against the 4 pawns attack”? Think of us as your online chess mentor.

Chess Improvement Vault

All our previous lessons, materials and recordings are available in the vault. This is especially useful for players tackling a new subject and need to refresh their memory or top up their knowledge. It also means if you miss a live session you can replay at your convenience.

Bag of Goodies

Each new student receives a welcome pack of goodies including Academy stationary and their own chess improvement journal. This physical reminder helps the student reflect on their development and to continue the training.

PLUS – Parent Bonus!

Monthly parent webinar with Q&A

Each month we host a live online webinar where we discuss a new chess topic relevant to chess parents and open up the floor for questions. Examples are “how to help my son recover from a really disappointing loss” and “best online chess resources for my teenage daughter”.

How it Works

1) Sign up and receive your welcome pack and instant access to our training vault

2) Receive fresh materials monthly via email

3) Subscribe to our calendar so all the live training events are in your diary

4) Joining the sessions is easy – they are hosted on Zoom (full guidance provided for all the software and web tools we use)

5) Twice a year we’ll send a link to an online assessment which the student can complete and receive feedback on (optional)

6) Submit questions via email or WhatsApp

14 Day No Questions Asked Money Back Guarantee

When you join the Academy on an annual plan you are fully protected by our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. If you don’t feel like you’ve received value and you decide you want to cancel any time within 14 days of purchase, just let us know what the problem is by email. If we genuinely can’t resolve your problem then we’ll send you a prompt refund. No hassles, headaches or hoops to jump through.

We’re confident that you and your child will enjoy the Academy. In the unlikely event that you are not completely satisfied then we’ll refund you without any fuss – we won’t make you beg or invoke any silly rules or conditions.

Make Your Winning Move !

Join the Academy today and receive these great benefits:

  • Weekly live training session with professional coaches (over 50 hours in total)
  • Access to our vault of training materials, videos and quizzes
  • New training material provided each month
  • Online Chess Mentor
  • Monthly parent webinar and Q&A
  • And of course our welcome goody pack including the chess improvement journal

All for the amazing price of £399 – less than £8 for a weekly chess lesson from a professional player PLUS all of other membership benefits


Pay Monthly
  • Cancel anytime
  • All membership benefits
  • – Goody bag

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a ‘chess rating’
A: This is how chess players are competitively ranked – the higher the rating the stronger the player. If your child does not have a rating it is likely they haven’t played much tournament chess yet. We can discuss more about ratings on a discovery call.

Q: Is the Academy suitable for my child rated xxxx…?
A: The Academy is suitable for a wide range of ratings from approximately 1200-2000 (based on ECF ratings). Students should have some tournament experience already. If in doubt get in touch and we can carry out a quick assessment.

Q: Do all students study the same materials and attend the same classes? 
A: Everyone receives the same materials – but there are two tiers of difficulty; intermediate and advanced. We will allocate each student into a recommended tier though they may tackle either tier or both. Live sessions will also be categorised as intermediate, advanced or mixed. 

Q: Do you offer a free trial?
A: We don’t offer a free trial but we do offer a no fuss 14 day money back guarantee. Also – if you want to give just one of our live sessions a try you can book these individually via our events page

Q: Do you offer any live over the board training?
A: We are planning on bringing back our live weekend training camps in 2022 – details to follow. Academy members will receive a chunky discount!

Q: Will I have the same coach for every session?
A: No – we use a large roster of different coaches / professional players as each individual brings their own style and experience to the table. This way students can gain a greater diversity of experience. Our Head Coach Sarah delivers a lot of the sessions personally and supports all our trainers to ensure we are delivering a high quality educational service.