Getting started

So you want to learn how to play chess? I’m going to assume you know how to move the pieces.  Perhaps a family member showed you once.  Perhaps that was a long time ago and you need a refresher.

You’d be surprised at how many people I meet who say things like “I used to play chess when I was a kid but haven’t played for years” or “I’ve always wanted to learn how to play chess properly“.  It seems wherever I go I meet people who have a passing interest in learning this ancient game but are reluctant to do so for a number of reasons.  Most commonly it is a lack of belief or fear that they will be crushed by me or my club mates. As if I’m the walking embodiment of  Gary Kasparov or Magnus Carlsen or something.

Well trust me. Im not that good at chess (and I certainly don’t calculate 20 moves ahead, thats just a myth).

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Anyone can play chess! Photo credit The Bristol Pub Chess Knight

There is nothing scary about a game that has fascinated human kind for 1,500 years.  People of all ages, abilities, class, ethnicity and gender have played the game to varying levels of success and therein lies its beauty.

Chess can be whatever you want to be.

Whether that is a place of meditation and escape from the busyness of the modern world or a social community of camaraderie and competition.  Most importantly, none of those things have anything to do with how good you are at the game.

This website is here to help you start the journey into a game that can last a lifetime but never truly be mastered.  Here at the Bristol Chess Times we hope you enjoy discovering the game and gain the confidence to explore chess further.  Here is our simple three step process:

1) Start to watch & play online

In the age of the internet its now easier than ever to find a game of chess and play against people all over the world.  Ignore everyone who tells you to hire chess coaches immediately, you don’t need those yet.  There are a large number of places to play online but the two best (with great apps for your phone) are:

  • 24,000,000 members and counting.  An excellent site full of news, stories and opponents for the budding amateur. has a series of scaled paid memberships but its free to join and offers everything you would need initially.
  • Lichess: A completely free chess service that offers excellent website and app although not as much news, articles, videos or community based activities.  Excellent range of daily tournaments for the budding competitive player.

As well as starting to play online there are also a number of great places to watch chess being played and get tuition and advice on how to improve. Two recommendations on Twitch and YouTube include:

  • Ginger GM: Grandmaster Simon Williams offers weekly streams and videos online covering everything from exciting blitz games against other masters to tutorial videos. Dates and times of his releases can be found on his Twitter
  • Chesspatzers Unite: A friendly bunch of self acknowledged chess blunderers from around the globe led by the “daddy patzer” Jacques Tivillier.  Full details of when and how to watch can be found on their main website or email Jacques.

All of the above places allow you to dip your toe in the ocean of chess without feeling intimidated or embarrassed at your level of ability. You are guaranteed to find a game that suits your level as well as learn a thing or two along the way. Until you are then ready to…

2) Play casual chess in the pub

Huzzah! Beer! The second greatest reason for playing chess.

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Always ready to take on a fresh face, The Bristol Pub Chess Knight has been running in the King William pub since 2006

In all seriousness, having honed your skills online you probably now want to engage in a bout of real chess over the board.  But it can be tricky to find an opponent (especially when the hustle and bustle of league chess can feel so intimidating).  Don’t worry! There are two pubs in Bristol that are very welcoming to new comers looking to play a casual friendly game of chess:

  • The Bristol Pub Chess Knight (see what they did there?): Established in 2006, this mostly crew of wood pushing chess fans meet every Wednesday night from 19:00 onwards (sometimes earlier although it depends) in the King William pub, Kings Street, Queens Square, Bristol.  The group is administered by Dan German who hosts a page on Facebook for the group;
  • Southside Bar and Kitchen Chess Night: Relatively new to the Bristol Chess Scene, this group meets every Tuesday in Totterdown, BS4 2AL.

I will add new chess friendly pubs and cafes as we identify them so please do get in touch if you know of a new casual chess group (

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Friendly games in flow (just like the beer…) Photo credit The Bristol Pub Chess Knight
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Many people play chess in Bristol for the social scene as well as seeking improvement over the board. Photo credit The Bristol Pub Chess Knight

3) Find a club and join the league

If you have gotten this far then its likely you have been bitten by the chess bug and also improved your confidence over the board (with or without the aid of beer). The Bristol & District Chess League is over 100 years old and in the 2018 / 19 season has 17 clubs, 41 teams and over 300 regular players.

You are guaranteed to find a suitable game for your level of chess as well as a group of like minded souls to learn from.  Visit our Find a club page to find the nearest chess club in your area.

Thats it!

Chess is an ancient beautiful game that has the ability to inspire but at the same time can be scary to know where to begin. In 2018 it is now easier than ever to find like minded individuals both online and in the real world. Reasons to play can be varied from simply stimulating the mind online, meeting socially for a casual drink or all the way through to fierce competition, self-improvement and the quest to lead your team to glory!

However you want to engage with chess, we hope you found this guide useful.

See you at the board!

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