I want to get into chess. Where do I start?

Most of the teams in Divisions 2 and 3 have regular opportunities for keen newcomers. Under the “board” system used in team chess events, the strongest player on a team is named to Board 1, the next strongest to Board 2 and so on down to Board 5, then they face off against the player on the same board from the opposing team. So you’ll find the league’s strongest players on Board 1 in Division 1, and the beginners on Board 5 in Division 3. How long it would take you to go from “how does the horse move” to “beginner” varies – losing games of chess is a great learning experience, and if you’re okay with the possibility of doing some heroic learning, there are clubs that will pick you for a league team almost immediately.

Of course, you don’t have to get into competitive play as soon as possible. There are lots of players who go along to club meetings just for fun. Check the descriptions below when you’re choosing a club to attend, as some of them don’t have regular meetings outside of their league fixtures.

I want to get into chess and I’m under 18 / my child is under 18. Where do I start?

Jesmond and Forest Hall both run junior sections. The Northumbria Junior Chess Association can put you in touch with them, or you can come along to a Forest Hall C or Jesmond Wasps match. If you’re in County Durham, there’s also a junior club at Darlington. Other adult clubs have individual policies regarding juniors, and may ask for a parent to be present, so please get in touch via and we’ll work out what’s best.

Where are the clubs?

Here they are, helpfully colour-coded by geographic area. Those in italics are friends of the Northumbria League, not competitors in it. Full addresses are below.

Jump to:
Northumberland (Rothbury, Alnwick, Morpeth, Tynedale)
Berwick Chess Club play in the Borders League and are affiliated to Scotland.
Haydon Bridge Chess Club play in the South Tyne League.
Tyne and Wear North (Gosforth, Jesmond, Forest Hall, Tynemouth)
Tyne and Wear South & Durham (Gateshead, Leam Lane, Hebburn, South Shields, Durham City)


Wednesday 7pm – just turn up
The Queens Head, Town Foot, Rothbury NE65 7SR
How to get in touch: visit the club Facebook page – main website is under construction!
Opportunities for league chess: No, they don’t have a league team (yet).
Opportunities for social chess: Yes, that’s what the club is all about, and they need your help getting themselves established!

Thursday 7.30pm – just turn up
Alnwick RFC, Greensfield Avenue, Alnwick NE66 1BE
How to get in touch: visit the club website
Opportunities for league chess: Possibly – their single team seems to have quite a few reserves already, but go along and beat a few of the regulars, and who knows?

Opportunities for social chess: Plenty. They’re in the unique situation of playing all their league matches, home and away, at Morpeth Chess Club on Wednesdays, so their Thursday club nights are never disrupted by league fixtures and are purely for social and practice games.

Wednesday 7.15pm – just turn up
Morpeth RFC, Grange House Field, Mitford Road, Morpeth NE61 1RJ
How to get in touch: visit the club website
Opportunities for league chess: There’s a title-chasing A team, a yo-yo B team and a newly established C team and they could all do with at least two extra squad members.
Opportunities for social chess: There are usually a few players around to give you a game, friendly or club championship.

Tuesday 7.15pm – just turn up
The Angel Radcliffe, Main Street, Corbridge NE45 5LE
How to get in touch: visit the
club website
Opportunities for league chess: Generally good, but the stakes are high this season – new members will normally play a few matches in the South Tyne League to get themselves into shape for a Northumbria League Division 3 team that will be pushing hard for promotion, or a Division 1 team that will be fighting hard against relegation.
Opportunities for social chess: Excellent. The club is very well attended on non-league nights, and if you’re after something more structured than 5-10 minute games, their club championship works on a ladder system where you can play as many or as few matches as you want.

Tyne and Wear North

Tuesday 7.30pm – just turn up
Spring Gardens Inn, Albion Road West, North Shields NE29 0JB
How to get in touch: TBC
Opportunities for league chess: Definitely. Tynemouth have five teams covering the entire range of abilities. Their 5th team needs a regular supply of willing beginners, and their first team have now gone a decade without a league title and would welcome another star or two to help them over the top.
Opportunities for social chess: Tynemouth have one of the most active club nights around. They even have a second internal competition designed for players who can’t commit to the formal club championship.

Monday 7pm – just turn up
Empire Club and Institute, 32-34 Salters Road, Newcastle NE3 1DX
How to get in touch: call Geoff Harrison 0191 2661990
Opportunities for league chess: Definitely. Gosforth have taken the plunge and added TWO new teams this season. Your chances of turning up for the first time and being signed up for a league match, regardless of your ability, are probably higher at Gosforth than anywhere else.
Opportunities for social chess: There’s always a casual opponent to be found on a Monday night. Players from rival clubs have been known to drop in for a quick game. Beware of strangers asking what you like to play against 1.d4 – they may be spies from Jesmond.

Friday 6.45pm – contact first
The Royal British Legion, 3 West Jesmond Avenue, Newcastle NE2 3EX
How to get in touch: email Chris Wardle (that’s me) –
Opportunities for league chess: Can you make a difference* to a mid-table Division 1 team, or are you under 18? Our Division 3 team is supposed to be juniors-only, but is sometimes short of players for away matches if you’re willing to travel. Jesmond have always been a bit famous for their junior setup, which currently includes three England internationals.
Opportunities for social chess: We’re intending to meet once a fortnight rather than once a month this season. Whether that will develop into a proper club night remains to be seen.

*we’re not expecting a league title just yet, but finishing below G*sf*rth Empire might trigger an apocalypse and we’d rather not risk that

Forest Hall
Friday 7.15pm – just turn up
Ex-Servicemen’s Institute, Crescent Way North, Newcastle NE12 9AR
How to get in touch: call Mike Smith – 07717718761
Opportunities for league chess: Sometimes – they like to make sure players can hold their own against opponents of league standard before throwing them in the deep end, but there’s plenty of coaching available to get you to that level. The C team is juniors-only and Fridays-only and while it’s currently catering for mostly younger and less experienced kids, Mike has asked me to point out that graduates of the Forest Hall junior programme have won four county championships (to Jesmond’s one and a half!)
Opportunities for social chess: Plenty, of a vigorous and tactical variety. In between the social snooker, football discussion and (cheap) drinking, of course!

Tyne and Wear South & Durham

Thursday 7.15pm – contact first
Carlton Club Low Fell, 11 Belle Vue Bank, Gateshead NE9 6BQ
How to get in touch: TBC
Opportunities for league chess: Yes. Gateshead are running 5-player teams in two county leagues and have a total membership of about 6. So could anyone who can handle a Najdorf Sicilian can beat their Dad knows how the pieces move, please get in touch ASAP.
Opportunities for social chess: Email and check – the club has lost quite a few members lately and it’s not clear whether club nights will get going again.

Leam Lane
Currently inactive.

South Shields
Thursday 7pm – just turn up
The New Ship Inn, 403 Sunderland Road, South Shields NE34 8DG
How to get in touch: email Stan Johnson – stanley[at]stanleyjohnson[dot]wanadoo[dot]co[dot]uk
or visit the club website
Opportunities for league chess: South Shields play in the forgiving surrounds of Division 3, and have a very good track record of getting new players into the team. Plus, I want them to have enough players to bring back their second team next season, so please go to South Shields, everyone!

Opportunities for social chess: Reasonable, especially if you arrive slightly later in the evening.

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