ECF Academy – 2020 Prospectus


The ECF Academy is the English Chess Federation’s flagship training program for young chess players. Each year around 100 players are selected for the program which is designed to support and nurture hard working chess playing families to help the child develop their talent and enjoyment of the game.

The program is structured around a number of training weekends (players can select between 2 and 4 weekends) where high quality chess training is provided by some of the country’s top chess coaches including Grandmasters and International Masters. The training takes place in comfortable hotel facilities so parents can relax whilst their children are mastering various chess topics. There are also presentations and talks available for the parents including the opportunity to discuss their child’s progress with our mentors and coaches.

The Academy is not just about weekend chess training however. It is a membership program which provides the following benefits for its members:
• Chance to be selected for international tournaments as an ‘Academy Nominee’
• Welcome pack
• Initial assessment of child’s chess level (analysis of games and training questions)
• Priority access to all Academy events
• Discounts with our partners
• Access to all of the Academy’s training materials
• Unlimited email support
• Regular junior newsletter

Membership Benefits in more detail

International Nominees:
Each year the ECF select players and teams to represent England in various prestigious tournaments – for example World and European level events. For each event The Academy can nominate one boy and one girl per age group to represent England in that event.

Welcome Pack:
This will contain some training material, merchandise and an initial assessment pack which needs to be completed and returned. Upon receipt we will be able to issue a report detailing some strengths and weaknesses and what to focus on in the training.

Priority Access to Academy events:
As well as the four training weekends we will also be running some other ad-hoc events throughout the year. Places will be limited but Academy members will have priority booking.

Access to training materials:
We will publish our core training materials which will be in the form of ebooks, videos and online articles. Academy members will have full access to these materials.

Unlimited email support:
Ask us anything from which tournaments to play to how to prepare for a specific event. Your child may have chess specific questions that we can help with.

Sample training weekend

Each weekend will be tailored to the attendees attending and we will keep the content fresh and dynamic to ensure that players learn a lot but also have fun and feel motivated to continue their studies afterwards. Below is a sample training weekend schedule for players (there will also be a non-compulsory program available for parents including some talks and Q&A sessions).

Saturday AM

Endgame Clinic
• Coach analyses 2 thematic games
• Solve endgame exercises

Saturday PM

Tactics Clinic
• Coach describes elements of a tactical combination
• Solve tactical exercises

Saturday evening

• Fun blitz tournament
• Social event (pizza, quiz)

Sunday AM

Attacking Clinic
• Coach analyses 2 thematic games
• Training matches – attack and defence

Sunday PM

• Assessment


Chess mastery is a combination of acquiring specific knowledge and developing the skills to exploit this knowledge. We believe that there is an underlying knowledgebase that will help the vast majority of players to reach their potential and we aim to make this knowledge accessible.

Knowledge based
• Basic opening theory
• Tactical themes and patterns
• Typical pawn structures and related plans
• Technical endgames
• Typical attacking and defensive methods
• Chess culture (historic and contemporary) – eg famous players and games

Skills based
• How to study openings
• Positional play – finding a plan
• Calculation and decision making
• Endgame strategy and schematic thinking
• Studying and learning from your own games

Ultimately there is very little concrete knowledge that can be applied blindly in chess. A player’s practical results is a combination of their competitive character, chess knowledge, chess skills and intuition/judgement. This last factor is perhaps the hardest to develop and simply takes time and practice!

Why the Academy?

The Academy is for players and families who are passionate about chess and are excited about working hard to reach their chess potential.

It isn’t intended as a replacement for any private coaching or independent study you are already doing – but rather as a complementary activity to accelerate a player’s development.

Here are some of the special benefits the Academy delivers which you may not receive elsewhere
• Training with GM / IM coaches at a fraction of the cost of private rates
• Your child is part of a membership club with group exercises and activities to motivate
• Structured training schedules and advice
• Holistic parental advice and support on your child’s chess activities and development

2020 Schedule

1st Application window opens 7 October 2019
1st Application window closes 24 November 2019
Entries finalized 30 November 2019
Program begins 2 January 2020
Training Weekend 1     1-2 February 2020
Training Weekend 2     2-3 May 2020
Coursework 1 due 31 May 2020
Training Weekend 3     12-13 September 2020
Coursework 2 due 30 September 2020
Training Weekend 4     14-15 November 2020


You must choose a package with 2,3 or 4 training weekends. To get maximum benefit from the program we recommend booking four weekends but we appreciate that time commitments may mean for some this isn’t possible.

Membership + 2 weekends £400
Membership + 3 weekends £525
Membership + 4 weekends £625

All incidental costs such as hotel fees, travel and meals are paid separately.


Existing members: Discounts are available to existing Academy Members – members will be informed of these discounts directly.

Siblings: 2nd and subsequent children are entitled to a 10% discount

Junior organisations: Junior organisers may apply to us to offer discounts to their players


The Application window for the 2020 Program opens on 7th October and closes on 24th November. We will assess and finalise entries by the 30th November and notify successful candidates.

Please note we will be asking for some additional information to help us both assess your application and understand how we can best help you and your child if your application is successful.

There are limited spaces on the program so inevitably that means we will have to decline a number of applications. If your application is unsuccessful we will help you with next steps and understand how to apply successfully for future years.

Assessment Criteria

Our selectors will take into account many factors when making our selections including the criteria below but also taking into account our desire to have representation from different age groups, gender and geographical area. The selectors’ decision is final.

Players applying for membership should:

• Have an active ECF grade at least “8 x players age” (we will use higher of standard or rapidplay grade or FIDE conversion) *
• Have played some recent tournament games
• To have a passion for chess and a desire to improve
• Be prepared to commit to at least 1 hour of home study per week between training weekends

*For example, if player is aged 11 they should have a grade of at least 88 (11 x 8)

About the ECF and UK Chess Challenge

The English Chess Federation (ECF) is the governing chess organisation in England and is affiliated to FIDE (the Fédération Internationale des Échecs). Its mission is to promote the game of chess, in all its forms, as an attractive means of cultural and personal advancement to the widest possible public. In addition, the ECF exists to develop chess by creating the means to enable the highest forms of chess excellence to be achieved, and to expand the game as a social and sporting activity.

The UK Chess Challenge (UKCC) is widely recognized as the premier junior chess competition in the UK (and by some measures the “Largest junior chess competition in the world”). In 2019 60 events were held up and down the UK with over 10,000 entries and in total 40,000 children compete at the schools’ stage of the competition. The UKCC exists to increase junior participation in chess, to offer quality playing experiences for players and to provide excellent training materials for ambitious players.

The ECF Academy is a joint venture between the ECF and the UK Chess Challenge with the objective to improve junior chess training in England.


“My son is one of the best young players in his local area and struggles to find strong young opponents. At the academy he has made many friends who are equally strong, equally keen to learn, and has rediscovered his motivation to improve”Neil, chess parent from Oldham

“The academy is well run and useful to me as a player. It is motivating to be surrounded by so many strong players and the coaching is always very educational without becoming tedious”Edward, chess player from Oldham

“I like the organisation of the academy classes. All the hotels are good and it’s good to see strong GM/IM coaches who are also good teachers. The camaraderie among the kids is awesome. The blitz nights on Saturday are filled with fun. I personally learnt how to update my chessbase using twic files through Sarah. This helps to keep all the latest games in one place. These details are very important for the budding chess players and parents who help their kids. I like the advice we get before the class about the material that needs to be studied and the various chess books that are helpful in order to gain a better understanding of chess.” – Ravi, chess parent