If you look at any chess bookstall you’ll find a lot of books written for young beginners. I should know: I’ve written several myself. You’ll also find a lot of books written for tournament players: some aimed at lower level players, some at higher level players.

There’s very little, though, which will take you from being a novice to being a serious competitive player (about 100 ECF/1450 FIDE). There are many sources which contain useful material but nothing putting it all together.

I now produce my own coaching materials, based on nearly 50 years’ experience teaching chess and a database of nearly 17000 games played, mostly at this level, at Richmond Junior Chess Club between 1976 and 2006.

I believe that a complete course designed to take novices to serious competitive players should:

  • be written for teachers, parents and older readers, not for young children, who lack the maturity to teach themselves at this level.
  • cover all aspects of the game thoroughly: openings, middle games and endings.
  • be based on what actually happens in games played at this level, not what happens in grandmaster games, nor everything that might happen.
  • provide all the knowledge and skills required to succeed in adult or higher level junior competitions.
  • teach each aspect of the game in a logical, structured, step-by-step way.
  • develop chess thinking skills by explaining how to go about solving different types of puzzle and playing different types of position.

The course starts with four instructional books:


  • CHECKMATES FOR HEROES (eBook published on Amazon Autumn 2019) takes students from simple one-move checkmates through to more complex examples involving mates in 2, 3, 4 or more moves. There are more than 500 checkmate puzzles to be solved.
  • CHESS TACTICS FOR HEROES (eBook published on Amazon Autumn 2019) teaches basic tactical ideas such as trapping pieces, forks, pins, skewers, discovered attacks and deflections before showing you how you can put ideas together to make combinations. Again, there are more than 500 tactics puzzles for you.
  • CHESS OPENINGS FOR HEROES (eBook scheduled for publication early 2020) starts with general opening principles, moving on to look at recurring tactical ideas in the opening such as queen forks and tactics on the e-file. We then look at several strategic ideas which are seen across different openings. Now it’s time to look at the most popular openings starting 1. e4 e5. We then move onto a general introduction to positional ideas before considering other replies to 1. e4 and other first moves for White.
  • CHESS ENDINGS FOR HEROES (eBook scheduled for publication early 2020) begins by teaching the basic KQ v K and KR v K mates. We then look at the most important KP v K positions before moving onto more complex pawn endings. Then we look in turn at queen endings, rook endings and minor piece endings. As well as puzzles there are positions to play through to enable students to develop their endgame technique.

There will then follow two books of coaching materials designed to reinforce and expand the lessons learnt in these four volumes, as well as introducing more advanced and complex ideas.

CHESS PUZZLES FOR HEROES will test and develop tactical skills.

  • Positions will include checkmates, combinations winning material, defensive questions, questions where you have to avoid making a blunder, opening questions, endgame questions, but, as in a real game, you won’t know exactly what you’re looking for.
  • There will be a mixture of multiple choice and open choice questions, to develop different methods of thinking about chess positions.
  • There will be space to write down, either using words or variations, the reasons for your choice, with extra points available for good answers.

Provisional chapter headings:

HEADS OR TAILS (which of two moves would you choose?)

ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS (which of three moves would you choose?)

TRICK OR TREAT (is this move good or bad?)

SPOT THE BLUNDER (in this position the player to move made a blunder: can you guess what it was?)

FREE CHOICE (simple ‘find the best move’ puzzles)

CHESS GAMES FOR HEROES uses the familiar ‘How Good is Your Chess’ method to test a wide range of chess skills.

  • Exercises will be either short games or short extracts from longer games, with about 12-15 questions each.
  • At various points you are asked what move you would play: points are awarded for good guesses. There will also, in some cases, be bonus (what if…) questions.
  • At the end of each game you get a rating.
  • The full scoring system is suitable for private tuition, or for more serious chess clubs where 45-60 minutes is available for lessons.
  • For shorter lessons, for instance in school chess clubs, you should ignore the scoring system: instead, hands up and a point for the first student to select the best move.

Provisional sections:

Short games selected to reinforce general opening principles and simple tactics

Games grouped by opening to reinforce the lessons learnt in CHESS OPENINGS FOR HEROES

Extracts from longer games designed to teach specific middle game themes (king side attack, minority attack, IQP positions etc)

Extracts from longer games designed to teach endings and reinforce the lessons learnt in CHESS ENDINGS FOR HEROES

In theory, any number of books in these series could be written using the same template. The first CHESS PUZZLES FOR HEROES and CHESS GAMES FOR HEROES books are expected to be available late 2020 or early 2021.

For further information on the CHESS HEROES project please contact Richard James (richard@chessheroes.uk).

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