Chess is a game generally played behind closed doors – but next week more than 100 chessboards will be dotted around Bradford’s Mirror Pool and anyone is invited to come along and have a go.

The game is fast growing in popularity and enthusiasts and experts such as Winston Williams are busy promoting it within schools and communities.

Enthusiasts claim chess can assist with academic success, and aim to get the game onto the National Curriculum. In Bradford schools chess has already has a significant impact on academic results and children’s confidence.

The game has also been used in pupil referral units, catering for children who have been excluded or are in danger of being excluded from a mainstream setting.

Chess clubs have sprung up in schools district-wide and are helping youngsters with team-building, concentration skills, confidence, self esteem and preparation for exams.

Next week, chess will be showcased in a very public arena in Bradford. An event called Chesstival taking place in City Park is the first event of its kind for the city. The idea to highlight chess in such a way came from the Bradford and District Chess Association.

The event, on Saturday, September 14, is being held to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Great Bradford Chess Congress which took place on August 18, 1888 at the former Alexandra Hotel in the city centre.

“It was a really grand event and the first time a British championship was held outside London,” says Winston.

It is understood that a relative of Bradford-born composer Fritz Theodor Albert Delius helped to organise the congress all those years ago. In tribute to the Delius family’s involvement, musicians will perform pieces by the composer during the Chesstival.

The event, which will be opened at 11am by the deputy Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Joanne Dodds, is also seen as a tribute to Marsha Singh, the late Bradford West MP who was a keen chess player.

Five Grand Masters have been invited to participate, including last year’s British champion, Gawain Jones, from Keighley, and three international masters including Richard Palliser from York who has written books on the game.

“I think it’s important to try and attract as many people as possible to the game and events like the Chesstival are fantastic for that,” says Gawain, whose father taught him to play chess when he was four. “When I was growing up, I was obsessed with all sorts of games, but something about the creative elements to chess hooked me and I was fascinated.”

Gawain joined a chess club when he was six and has since made a career out of the game. “I’ve always wanted to be a chess professional. The game gives me a creative outlet, it’s allowed me to travel over the globe and make many friendships. It’s been a very positive element of my life.”

Chesstival will see 125 chess boards set up around the Bradford’s Mirror Pool. The chess masters will play 125 people simultaneously.

“It will put Bradford on the map because there is no other city that has done this,” says Winston. “We are taking the game to the public. We are putting it smack in the city centre as an outdoor event.

“Traditionally, it has been an indoor game played on a Tuesday night in some club or pub. It needs to go out and be played by everyone, not just men but by women, and not just by adults but by children and all the communities as well.

“We are really aiming for a fun and friendly family event. It is mass participation and we don’t care what people’s level of chess is.”

Winston believes the event will also provide a platform to raise awareness and educate people about the game and to encourage young people to try it.

“Chess has so many spin-offs for every age,” says Winston. “For children it will help them in school and in life, but it is also believed to stave off dementia because you are doing brain work, you are keeping yourself mentally fit.