When I was 8, my parents put me in a chess school in the city centre for additional education. It was a state-owned school with free education.
My teacher Pavel Zhozefovich was a great person and great chess teacher who had a great passion for chess. He was the first coach of Teimour Radjabov - an Azerbaijani chess Grandmaster and former chess prodigy.
The teacher said that it is better to start around 5 or 6 years old if you want to be a professional chess player. But even though 8 years old was a little bit late to start, he took me after some examinations. In that chess school I learned everything from zero. The teacher showed me the figures and taught me what they were called. I was watching and listening with much interest. I started as a beginner and step-by-step was improving my skills. I even had chess homework and chess exercise books. I visited the school twice per week. Then we had in-school chess degree competitions. I got 4th degree on the first try. And later I got 3rd degree also on the first try but 3rd was already much more difficult to get. In Azerbaijan we use the Elo rating scale, where 4th is the lowest and 1st is the highest degree, and then you get to master and grandmaster.
At home I played a lot with my dad or my sister, or with whoever was there and could play chess. It is important to train as much as possible. Chess teaches you to sit on one place and concentrate. I find it very useful for kids who are learning to concentrate. It helps with general development and even with studying other subjects at school. Chess teaches us to see things differently: don't touch before you are sure how to move, think many steps ahead, don’t make fatal mistakes, and be careful.
Other than chess school competitions, there were also chess competitions at my middle school where 6 best chess players were selected to represent our school in inter-school-competitions. We were a chess team with 4 guys and 2 girls (my sister and me). For many years we competed and always got 1st place in the city. It was very interesting and an exciting time. I remember before each competition our team was meeting and playing against each other to train. I made many friends during that time.
I remember once there was a competition held in another school. After all the games were over I was the last to play against a guy from another school. It was already too late and even our teacher who had to look after us, had to leave home. I didn't want to give up till the end. Everyone was telling me to come on, just leave it. But I fought till the end although it was late and after I did it I was screaming: I did it!!! I won!! So… never give up! :D
Later, after my teacher knew that I’d been to China, every time I met him he asked if I knew how to play Chinese chess (it’s different than International chess) and unfortunately I had no idea. But he was so interested that kept asking all the time and couldn’t stop talking about Chinese chess :D Maybe I should go back to China to learn it!
I find chess very interesting and it's a pity that I quit professional training some years ago. It takes a lot of time and practice to continue to play well at chess! But I still like playing sometimes even today, though I’m a little out of practice. It is a good hobby and I’m happy I had a chance to learn this interesting game, which counts as a sport, by the way. In fact, in Azerbaijan, chess is one of the most popular sports. It became popular when the Soviets started chess schools in the 1920s, and has only gotten more popular since then. Garry Kasparov - a chess Grandmaster, former World Chess Champion, writer, and political activist, considered by many to be the greatest chess player of all time, was born in Baku also. He was one of my inspirations for learning to play chess.
Let's play a game of chess? E2 - E4 :D