The team behind Stockport based Chess Stars Academy have been forced to adapt their business in a matter of weeks due to the Covid-19 pandemic, shifting their school-based chess clubs online.
Prior to the outbreak, Sarah Hegarty, and husband Alex, ran from their Stockport office over 20 school Chess clubs , the England Junior training programme and organised the world’s largest junior chess competition ‘The Delancey UK Chess Challenge’ which welcomed over 40,000 children each year. Sarah said:
On 25th February this year we had our first child. For the first few weeks family came over to visit. On 23rd March this was no longer possible. At the end of spring term, our school classes had stopped and the UKCC competitions were no longer allowed to go ahead – we normally have around 50 events this time of the year with 8000 kids across the UK taking part. Our new office in Cheadle Hulme was closed and we could only have one member of our team other than my husband Alex and I.”
However, Sarah, whose passion and love for chess stems back to before she was 7 when she appeared on Blue Peter in 1996 with the then world champion Garry Kasparov, was determined that children will continue to be exposed to the game.
The Delancey UK Chess Challenge is now being organised and streamed digitally, while the Chess Stars Academy classes are being run for free via video-game streaming site, Twitch.
In addition to the free lessons they have an online chess club where children can have a more interactive learning experience through online chess lessons hosted on zoom followed by matches. These last 60 minutes in smaller group sizes of similar ability levels. Children can also enter the UK Chess Challenge where they compete against other children their age across the UK.
Sarah has just successfully run the English Chess Federation England Junior programme online. This has allowed 80 of England’s most promising juniors to continue learning from England’s best chess coaches.