Training and Coaching at KJCA

The Kent Junior Chess Association actively seeks to train young chess players in Kent. There are two different types of coaching opportunities offered by KJCA:

1) A series of training classes formed around the Institute of Chess ( ) curriculum that leads to nationally recognised certifications. Visit that website to view or download for free the complete guides for any of the 5 levels.


Note: Booklets of practice papers and/or past exam papers can be ordered from the Institute of Chess directly from


2) A special teams coaching day is typically arranged around March for those U-9s and U-11s whose hard work, endeavour and consequent good results have left them amongst the privileged group that have been selected to represent what over the years have been super successful Kent teams. Personal invitations are sent out for that by the appropriate team managers.




Frequently Asked Questions

Hi everyone, GM Chris Ward here or Chris for short!

We are very proud of our coaching set-up and many other organisations are envious of our structured, ultra-educational and super-fun coaching days. We would love for you to get involved but in case you were contemplating doing so, but had a question, hopefully there will be an answer for you below! I will be sure to add to this list over time if new queries appear, but for now this is all I can think of…

Naturally, if you have any additional questions please feel free to email us at the KJCA, on

Hope to see you all soon

Chris (KJCA Chief Coach)


How does the KJCA coaching work?

Well, we run 4 coaching days throughout the season typically from October-February. Pupils will be allocated a group (based on previous experience) and generally keep the same teacher throughout a course. We cater for absolute beginners (level 1) though to pretty good players (level 5) with levels 1 and 2 being two day courses and levels 3-5 lasting all four days. At the end of the course an exam is taken and if passed, strictly speaking the child is eligible to advance to the next level next time around. Please note though in our coaching days we are now requesting that a ‘Merit’ or ‘Distinction’ is achieved before advancing as things only get tougher! If only a ‘Pass’ or indeed ‘Fail’ was obtained, then the exam or indeed course can be taken again. We highly recommend good understanding of one level before the next is tackled.

It’s not all hard graft at our coaching days though. We try to make them both educational and fun. To join the ride, you can easily register elsewhere on the site.

Which course should I enrol my child on?

Essentially the idea is that young boys and girls start at the bottom and move their way up. However the idea is definitely NOT to have someone waste their time completing a course full of information that they are very familiar with, just so that they can obtain a certificate at the end. If your son or daughter is an absolute beginner then Level 1 is the best place to start them, but if they already know the rules and can play, then they might be ready for level 2. Many parents are unsure as to where to start their child off particularly if they don’t play the game themselves. Don’t worry though, all newbies who have signed up for level 1 or 2 (of which the cost is the same) are assessed in the first morning and if appropriate transferred to the higher/lower group.

Note that just as we don’t want to waste anyone’s time, we also don’t want juniors sat in a group where everything is going above their ahead, increasing anxiety and reducing enjoyment. 

What is taught at the coaching days?

Primarily pupils of each level are taught topics from the relevant Institute Of Chess syllabus. Throughout the coaching days though the teachers do have license to branch off when appropriate to deal with other issues/problems that may crop up and there is a practical element too.  

Who are the coaches?

The KJCA has had a policy of utilising young (relatively speaking!) successful ex Kent juniors although all of our (naturally CRB tested) coaches have experience in teaching and our staff even includes two Grandmasters.

Isn’t a whole day a long time to study chess?

Typically running from 10am to 4pm, the time spent with us is no longer than a day at school. Essentially the coaching takes place within 4 sessions of one hour and there are breaks in between. During those breaks kids and parents are free to ask any questions and the children generally have a great time socializing with others whether playing chess or kicking a ball around in the playground. 

Why is it better to sign up for the whole course rather than individually one CD (Coaching Day) at a time?

As you will soon read, there are occasions when it may be worthwhile to sign up for an individual day’s tuition. However if you are intending to complete the course then the initial bigger outlay constitutes a big saving even if there is a possibility that you may have to miss one of the days. Remember that unlike an individual day, purchasing the full course also includes the cost of the exam that we automatically order for you upon registering.

Is it a requirement to attend all of the coaching days in order to complete the course?

In this context ‘complete the course’ refers to ‘sit the exam’ and the fact is that IOC exams are taken nationally now and therefore without having attended any KJCA coaching days. Obviously as most of you will have paid for the full course (making a saving on buying individual days) when signing up, it is shame to effectively lose that money by missing a day. However we are also aware that there may be the odd unavoidable clash (e.g. illness or Aunties wedding!) and don’t want to be unreasonable. The truth is that we don’t want to put anyone in for an exam that we think might fail and indeed pride ourselves on an excellent pass rate. The exams are taken on the 2nd day of the 2 day courses and the final day of the 4 day course. Clearly it makes sense to be at both of the 2 day classes but we also request attendance for at least 3 of the 4 course levels 3-5. We may consider exceptions but again the emphasis is on the likelihood of success in the exam.

Why are they split between Saturdays and Sundays?

Different families with different sizes have different commitments. One family may like to attend church every Sunday whilst another may have a child who has an invaluable role in a Saturday morning football team. In having 2 Saturdays and 2 Sundays we are reducing the impact of having to duck out of such an activity. The same principle will apply to the KJCA Grand Prix tournament days and whilst being selected to represent Kent at Under 11 level will involve a Saturday date, a training day for such an occasion is more likely to be a Sunday. 

I am not a chess player myself, but how can I help my son/daughter?

Please do not think that because you can’t play chess yourself, you can be of no use. Aside from obvious chauffeur duties you can offer encouragement in many other ways. You may find it fun to start learning the game with your child but at the very least you can print out the relevant revision guide(s) from the website and help them to go through it either online or from the hard copy. This is a shortened version of what they will be learning on the coaching days but it can never hurt to get a head start or have a revision after the day. Of course they may pick up the chessy parts much quicker than you but there could always be reading/English language issues that you can help with.

Is it okay to just attend the morning/afternoon?

It is obviously not ideal but if on one day it can’t be helped then so be it. It should be noted though which subject(s) may have been missed and an effort should be made to catch up on them.

My child has completed level 2 after the first 2 coaching days. What can they do now?

Perhaps in an ideal year your child will complete the level 1 course in CDs 1 and 2 and then after passing the exam, go on to sit and pass the level 2 course in CDs 3 and 4. That means that they will be perfectly primed to start on the significantly tougher level 3 in the following season. The tricky situation arises when someone starts with level 2 and passes and having enjoyed themselves wonders what can be done on CD 3 or CD4. It will of course be too late to start the level 3 course but if keen, I would advise getting a taster. Why not sign up for an individual day’s tuition on either or both of those days. You will no doubt learn some useful things and start to get prepared for the following season with no pressure of having to sit the exam. 

Rather than do the whole course, can I just send my child along for a day’s coaching?

Sure. Even if you are not ultimately after taking any exams, the point of our coaching days are to educate. An individual coaching day will always help to improve chess ability, so simply select that option when registering.

What if my child is ill on the day of the exam?

This of course can’t be helped, whether they were too ill to attend or even left during a coaching day. To some extent the same advice applies to having to miss any of the days for any reason although the additional factor is that they missed the boat regards taking the test. Don’t panic, we do lay on another couple of occasions when you can appear elsewhere to sit the paper and those will be announced.

Does my child have to take the exam?

Absolutely not! We are happy to discuss any individual cases but certainly we have no intention to force worried children through what may be perceived as a stressful situation and indeed wouldn’t even try to talk them around if we feel that there is a chance that they might fail. The vast majority of children at our courses breeze through their exams but for example for a level 3-5 student to sit their exam on CD 4 is not compulsory. Obviously it will be the most convenient opportunity but there will be another date supplied for those who were either unavailable or not ready to sit it then. 

When are the exams taken and how long are they?

Level 1 and 2 exams are taken in the final sessions (from 2.30pm) of CD 2 and CD4 when they will also be sat for levels 3-5. Level 1 is a 30 minute exam, level 2 is 45 minutes, level 3 an hour, level 4 is 75 minutes with level 5 being 90 mins. 

Why is it necessary to have exams in chess?

Well of course they are not necessary. Indeed I suddenly find myself wondering what piano exams Elton John took or what fencing grade Robins Hood made! Okay maybe not the latter(!) but whether in agreement or not, it seems that for just about everything these days exams are a part of our culture.

Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of that, what is undeniable is that they enable us to quantify where an individual is at in their chess education. If a junior has passed level 3 then we can assume that they have a reasonable understanding of the useful areas covered in that course and are therefore ready to address some of the more advanced topics in level 4.  

My child is very young and/or may have difficulty reading the exam paper and/or writing the answers. Will they manage?

We are very considerate of such scenarios. Those overseeing the exams offer assistance with any comprehension issues or writing and the examiners are very lenient and understanding. Marks will certainly not be docked for spelling mistakes or poor English. If the examiners believe the student knows the answer from what they have written, they will be awarded the marks.

How should my son/daughter prepare for their exams?

It is definitely a good idea between coaching days for them to go over what they have been taught in the relevant revision guide. If there is anything that they don't understand, they should ask their coach to explain it at the next coaching day - they won't mind, they want everyone to understand what they are being taught. If you want to check how your son/daughter is progressing, the Institute of Chess do sell past papers, which come with answers (except at Level 5). These are only £4 per past paper (all Levels) or £9 for a booklet containing 4 past papers (Levels 1 - 4 only). These can be ordered online at or sometimes directly from representatives of the Institute of Chess at coaching days.


Why are the coaching days at different locations?

The KJCA like to offer opportunities to the whole county and as far as those go, Kent is a big one! Consequently although we may host a lot of our events at traditional mid-Kent areas such as Sevenoaks or Maidstone, venues will also appear at the nearer London end such as Dulwich or close to Sussex in Sandhurst. We apologise to those that have to travel longer distances, but (also being limited to what our voluntarily run organisation can afford) we try to make it fair for everyone.

I think my child is too good for their current group, can they move up?

To reiterate, the idea is for juniors to progress from one group to the next and there is a sufficient gap in standard that for example there should never be an example of someone wanting to jump from level 2 to level 4. The main issue is the group that they have started in as a newcomer and as a reminder it is on the very first morning of a course where an assessment can be made. If we feel that someone knows the material to be covered and would be wasting their time then we would surely promote them.

The key though is that we want our juniors to absorb our teaching, understand the subjects taught and to apply that knowledge in their real games rather than be in a race to get to and complete level 5 as quickly as possible.

Will attendance at coaching days make my child a better player?

In either the short or long run, 100% ‘yes’! Ultimately it is all about partnering the theoretical with the practical but there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a pupil successfully apply something they have learnt in a tournament game. Sooner or later the penny drops that topics and positions covered on a demonstration board are not so abstract after all and techniques seen there can be applied in real games thus improving results.

My child has now sat and passed one of the higher level exams. Does that make them a guaranteed selection for the Kent team?

No it doesn’t, although the likelihood is that it will improve their chances. Again it is all to do with practical application. When it comes to junior team selection, the managers will (along with advisors) essentially pick who they believe to be the best candidates to win games of chess for the Kent teams. At U-11 and U-9 level it is possible to become an automatic pick for the squad by qualifying through a combination of coaching and playing. You will see that explained elsewhere on this site but what is ideal for a manager is that they want to have players in their team that they know understand a lot about the game AND are able to put that into practice to win games of chess. Outside of the automatic qualification places, a manager has license to pick who they want. As representing the county is about playing games against other people, then given the choice of picking a player that has never taken an exam but has won lots of tournaments or one that has passed lots of exams but rarely plays practical encounters then they should pick the former. Were the challenge simply about writing papers then it would be the other way around. It’s not!   

I have already missed a coaching day. Is it too late for me to get involved now?

The KJCA is doing its best to make people aware of the excellent opportunities available but inevitably something like this will happen, even if it is just a case of someone only just moving into the area. Anyway you are always welcome and it’s never too late. If you are after a 2 day course then it might be better to sign up for the CD3 and CD4 package but enrolling for CD2 as an individual option is also available. If you are after a level 3-5 then simply book the full course. This will as usual include the cost of the exam but please remember though (in accordance with above advice) that we would really advise attendance for those remaining 3 Coaching Days in order to sit it.