About Chess Sparks

Our mission at Chess Sparks is for chess to be accessible to all no matter your age, gender, race or socio-economic background. We believe that the skills and knowledge gained from chess should be available to every child across the world. We believe the skills that can be gained from chess can be applied to other aspects of education and life.

We know that young people may be interested in playing just to beat their older brother, to increase logical thinking skills or to one day become a grandmaster. At Chess Sparks, we make chess fun and we understand that every child has a different goal or dream.

No dream is too little or too big and we act as a stepping stone to turn that dream into reality. Our key is that high-level chess training is both accessible AND affordable. 

Please look at the ‘Our Services’ page which has information about our different packages

 

Well done for the excellent results. And thank you for all the organising that went into it! I believe it was a wonderful weekend of chess, competition, and having fun!         

Chess Mom, V.M.

Thanks a lot, Max has been very happy to join and has learnt a lot.     

Chess Mom, E.B.

About the director

Over the last 20 years, Lateefah, a national chess champion and experienced coach has been involved in the wonderful, dangerous and bizarre game that is chess. During that time she came to thoroughly understand the challenges that both chess juniors, parents and schools face in their ability to access key information so they can grow. She noticed that although chess is universal it is not necessarily accessible for everyone. At Chess Sparks this is something we want to change. She has taught thousands of juniors over the past ten years hence has an advanced knowledge of why and how chess improves children’s learning.

Lateefah started playing chess when she was 7 years old. After losing horribly several times to her father she vowed that one day she would beat him. It took 3 years for that dream to be achieved and by that time she was playing chess regularly at her school and at county levels.

A couple of years after this happened Lateefah was invited to play for the England Junior Chess Team. In 2004, at the age of just 13, she came 3rd in her section at the World Schools Chess Championships. She received a chess scholarship from Wellington College where the school were National U19 chess championships for two years. Lateefah went on to be the Top U18 Girls Champion 3 times. At 20 she was the highest rated U21 girl in the country.

She was received chess and academic scholarships from universities in America but after much deliberation decided to go to Newcastle University where she studied Accounting and Finance. During university she continued to play and became an advocate for chess. She founded Newcastle University Chess Society and was the president during the 3 years that she was at University. Initially the society was run by an all-female management team. Lateefah also ran a charity chess boxing event. During her presidency the university competed in the British Universities Chess Championships.

Lateefah has been the guest host at girls events, done motivational talks about chess and life, wrote children’s chess books and a number of other chess projects throughout the years.

Lateefah realised her love of teaching when she started a junior chess club in Newcastle and then moved into teaching in schools. After university she was scouted to runs the chess programme at a top prep school in London. The school was one of the top chess institutes in the country and also competed in events internationally.

 

Her Work in Schools

Lateefah is recognised as one of the UK’s leading chess coaches for young people. Lateefah’s work in schools meant that she produced one of the strongest junior chess teams in the country. The school was recognised nationally by the English Chess Federation as a Leadership school for its role in the positive promotion of chess across the UK. It had also been awarded the British Chess Educational Trust Award, a national award, for the schools continued work in chess. On several occasions, under my leadership, the school won the National Primary Schools Award.

As yearly finalists, they competed in both the English Primary Schools and the National Schools Chess Championships. They had received an accolade of titles over the years including the English Primary Schools Chess Association’s Champion several times. They came third in the National Chess Finals and fifth at the Primary Schools Chess Finals and held English Primary Schools Chess Association’s National Small School Champion title for eight years running.

Lateefah led a group of very dedicated and highly skilled chess coaches who helped to develop and guide chess players through the school and other competitions including among others one of the top ten Grandmasters in the country and an International FIDE Arbiter and Chess Federation President.

At the time as part of the schools curriculum, there were comfortably over 100 children in the school who could play chess, and the number grew year upon year.

Chess flourished over the years. A new senior school chess club was then developed. Lateefah was part of a group to help initiate U13 chess competitions and national titles with the ECF (English Chess Federation). The schools U13 team came 3rd in the Junior Team Chess Challenge, a national competition and even with stiff competition qualified for the following stage of an U19 National Chess Championships despite not having a team over the age of 13. 

It has always been important for Lateefah to foster a chess culture in which a large number of girls play chess, and while working in schools the number of girls playing and competing rose year after year. Four female chess coaches inspired and offered guidance to the girls playing, and we had a girls-only chess club incorporated into our weekly club cycle. The school regularly partook in girls-only chess tournaments and last year we made it to the finals of the English Girls Chess Championships. Our youngest player competing was just 6 at the time!

What set the school apart compared to others is that the school regularly competed several times on an international platform. Hosting an international final; even scooping up the title of British Champion in the 1st Yes 2 Chess competition. The body ‘International Chess in Schools’ selected the school two years in a row to play in the White Rook International School Team Championships (the only British school to compete at the event). Members of the school have also competed in the World Rapid, and Blitz Chess Championships in Belarus and some of our pupils have represented the England Chess Team both at home and abroad.

Every year our players had the opportunity to see the best chess players in the world at the London Chess Classic tournament. With regular talks, exhibitions, competitions and workshops, Lateefah created a chess club that was the epitome of a successful chess institution. These elements meant that our players harness a love, keen passion and talent for chess. Chess is truly inclusive. No matter your ability or your age you have a chance to thrive, to learn and to enjoy the game from our wonderful coaches. This is the energy and passion that we want to bring to each individual school.