Watford Chess Club no longer meets at Watford Town & Country Club due to its closure.

The club now meets every Monday evening at West Herts Sports & Social Club, Park Avenue, Watford, from 6.30 to 10.45.  Chess is played in the Function Hall and members and visitors have access to the separate and comfortable lounge bar area - as well as alcoholic beverages, the bar serves tea, coffee, soft drinks and a limited range of snacks including rolls.

The first hour is set aside primarily for juniors so, although adult club members are welcome during this period, they may find there is more noise than normal.   Competitive play usually starts at 7.45.    There is ample free parking on Mondays at the new venue.


Club champion Andrew Stone takes on 25 opponents in his marathon simultaneous display on 15 September 2015

Watford are reigning Hertfordshire club champions, having won this title for the last five years.   The club runs five  teams in the Hertfordshire League - one in each of the top four divisions and a fifth in the "under 120" league restricted to weaker players.   Starting September 2017, it will also compete in the elite 4 Nations Chess League.   It also holds various internal events, including a club championship. Juniors are eligible to, and do, play in these events and junior teams also compete in the Hertford & District League (against adults) and in the Junior 4 Nations Chess League.

Members of the club include 4 adults rated above ECF 200 (FIDE 2200) while several of its junior members have represented England.   However, it sets out to be an egalitarian club and includes members of all playing strengths, from occasional player up to master. Newcomers are encouraged to attend up to three times as guests to sample the atmosphere before deciding whether they wish to apply to join.

 Barry David, seen here (left) with  the President of Armenia Deaf Sport, finished 6th in the World Deaf championships held in Yerevan, May 2016

Last year's events included an ECF-sponsored day where the high point was a simultaneous display by international grandmaster Keith Arkell.


L to R, Maanav, Theo and Layla in play against Keith Arkell (simultaneous display, August 2016)


Kian, Christian, Ralitza, Karan and (background) Maanav hard at work against grandmaster Keith Arkell 


Kian Shah, 9, ran grandmaster Keith Arkell close but former Zimbabwe international Ernest Karumazondo (background) was the only one to beat him


Youngest (Harish) and oldest (Simon) players at Keith Arkell simul


Juniors are encouraged to take full part in club activity but the first hour (6.30 - 7.30) each club night is allocated for juniors with an experienced club member present to provide encouragement and guidance.  However, the club cannot accept responsibility for childrens' welfare while on club premises and therefore asks parents to accompany their children.

Juniors who are club members can normally remain beyond 7.30 but others may be expected to leave at that time.

Restrictions on space and resources means that the club has had to impose an upper limit on junior numbers, a figure which has already been reached, so a waiting list is currently in place.   However, in order to encourage chess among juniors, the club has in recent years also organized free coaching/training sessions on Sunday evenings from 6 until 8.

The purpose of this initiative is to encourage chess among children in Hertfordshire, and indeed beyond the county boundary, so these Sunday evening sessions are open to all children and not restricted to club members.   Until October 2017, these sessions took place at The Happy Hour pub in Eastbury Road.   However, following its closure, the sessions have transferred with effect from 12 November (but not 24 or 31 December) to the Coach and Horses at Croxley Green.

Above: Venkat 2015 simul at The Happy Hour

Club officers regularly receive requests from parents requesting chess lessons for their children, often very young children.  We do not expect to have to teach the absolute basics - how the pieces move and that the object is to checkmate the opponent - any more than football coaches expect to have to explain that one kicks the ball and the object is to score goals.  The absolute chess basics can be downloaded from any of a number of chess sites and the laws of chess can be found at various sites including http://www.fide.com/fide/handbook.html?id=171&view=article,

However, the FIDE laws are very legalistic and - from a practical point of view - most children would benefit from spending some time instead on a decent learning site such as https://www.chesskid.com/

Once a child has learnt the basics, he or she can start to play although initially probably without too much skill.  For a young child, the best place to start to play is by playing against other children - a school chess club is an ideal place - and by practising against close relatives such as parents if they play.   However, there is no minimum age - one of Watford's juniors joined the club at age 5 - and children are selected from the club's waiting list on the basis of ability.

Above - five Watford juniors in analysis mode at the St Albans Congress in March 2016 - L to R, Jeff, Divyesh, Kian, Om, Harshil

Once a child gets beyond the "absolute beginner" stage, what next?  Although parents can reach for the cheque-book (grandmasters typically charge £50 per hour for coaching), most top coaches are very reluctant to take on young children who are near-beginners.  They will normally point out that a near-beginner does not require high-level assistance.   Also, there is likely to be a limit on what a young child can absorb from an hour's intensive coaching.   So, if there is a local chess club which encourages juniors, that's arguably your next point of call.

Jeff Tomy, joint winner of London under-10 championship, December 2016, with Southern Counties junior organiser, Angela Eyton

At Watford, as explained above, we have two sessions for juniors each week.   These are drop-in sessions with the result that the numbers vary from week to week but six to 12 is not atypical.   Sunday sessions are normally casual play against other juniors supervised by an experienced adult who will make suggestions for improvement.   On Monday evenings, we hold coaching sessions, simultaneous displays and mini-tournaments.  These are played with chess clocks and often are arranged as "rapidplay" events where each player has 20 minutes per game to make all his or her moves.   

These mini-tournaments are primarily designed for juniors who know how to play and have developed a reasonable level of skill but have played no, or little, competitive chess.   The results of games in these mini-tournaments go forward to the English Chess Federation's database for rating purposes and, every six months, the Federation produces a ratings list which enables juniors to see whether they have improved and, if so, by how much.


The club is open longer than most junior clubs, where sessions are often restricted to 60 to 90 minutes, and this means we can also give our juniors regular practice at standard games (these results also go forward for rating) where each player has, typically, 60 minutes for his or her moves and the Laws of Chess require players to record the moves played.


Watford J4NCL team in October 2016 - seated L to R, Christian, Karan, Kian, Jeff

Another way of improving is to improve tactical ability.   Our "Chess puzzles" page features a selection of positions whether you are invited to find the best move.   The puzzles vary in difficulty from Level 1 (easy) to Level 5 (hard).   As a rough rule of thumb, if a child can solve the Level 1 problems, he or she should be able to compete in our mini-tournaments.

Once someone becomes regularly successful in these internal events, he or she may wish to consider a further step.  Within the club, our stronger juniors compete in the Junior 4 Nations Chess League.   This event, for teams of four, takes place over three weekends each winter.   A junior team also plays in the Hertford & District League against adult opposition - these are evening matches but usually arranged during school holidays or half-term. 

March 2016:  Watford 1 team (L to R, Aman, Jeff, Dhruv, Avi) with the J4NCL runners-up trophy 


Watford Juniors 1 (L to R, Avi, Kian, Aman, Roshan) at October 2017 J4NCL



Watford Juniors 2 (L to R, Alexander, Dharmik, Bruno, Param.  Not shown, Karan) at October 2017 J4NCL 


Watford Juniors 3 (L to R, Zak, Siena, Avie, Theo.  Not shown, Lettie) at October 2017 J4NCL

Club annual subscriptions (please read carefully):  

The club's executive committee recommended to the 2017 Annual General Meeting on Tuesday 5 September 2017, and the said Meeting agreed, that annual subscriptions for the 2017-18 playing season (excl. English Chess Federation fees) should be as follows:   

Membership category

Adults (being those over age 18 but not falling into the exception categories mentioned in the paragraph below)

Juniors (being those under age 18) 

Level 1



Level 2



Level 3




Students (being those over age 18 but under 25 and in full-time education) are charged at 50% of the above adult rate.  Concessionary rates may apply for members on means-tested benefits - details from any committee member.   All ages are attained ages as at 31 August 2017.

These rates were unchanged from the 2016-17 season which introduced a £5 across-the-board increase in junior fees to reflect the increased cost of participation in J4NCL.    Please note there is a waiting list for juniors.

The three levels of membership are: 

Level 1 – full membership, which entitles a member to participation in all Club activity

Level 2 – inter-club playing membership, which entitles a member to take part in the Club’s inter-club competitive activities (but not the Price Cup) but not otherwise to use the club’s facilities on club nights, except for such activities as may be designated by the Executive Committee as open to Level 2 members

Level 3 – social membership, which entitles a member to full use of the Club’s facilities on club nights but not to participate in any of the club’s competitive activities (including the Price Cup), except for such activities as may be designated by the Executive Committee as open to Level 3 members.


English Chess Federation

Those wishing to play competitive, as opposed to social, chess are strongly advised to join the English Chess Federation.  Full details can be found at http://www.englishchess.org.uk/membership/info/ but, in summary, the basic ("bronze") membership level expiring 31 August 2018 costs £15 for adults, £8.50 for juniors, if paid online.

Parents of juniors will want to know that a concessionary scheme applies whereby, for the first registration year only, free junior membership ("silver" level) is available if appropriately applied for.   Details from any committee member.  

"Bronze" level members covers all intra-club, inter-club and inter-county play but not outside tournaments organised by third parties.  This requires "silver" level ECF membership (£22.50 for adults, £16 for juniors, for 2017-8 if paid online except in the case of new juniors as explained in the previous paragraph).

To participate in internationally recognized events, "gold" membership (£33 adults, £26.50 juniors) is required.

Non-registered players, or those registered at too low a level, are liable to be charged "Pay to Play" fees for competitive games they play - the rules governing this are somewhat complicated.  In the main, these fees go towards the cost of grading these games.   No fees apply for social ('friendly') games.