Since September 2023, CSC has been working on a unique programme with Google DeepMind, a leading artificial intelligence research laboratory, and UCL Academy, a non-selective state secondary school in north London. Google DeepMind Chess Pioneers aims to increase the number and diversity of students pursuing AI-related subjects in higher education. 

UCL Academy students enrolled in the programme have studied a bespoke 30-week course in AI and chess that includes academic study, and practical exercises on subjects from machine learning to AI ethics and creative applications. Visiting speakers have included Kanwal Bhatia, founder and CEO of Aival, Grandmaster Matthew Sadler and Women’s International Master Natasha Regan, authors of Game Changer, the award-winning book on AlphaZero, and Antonia Paterson, Science Manager for Responsible Development and Innovation at Google DeepMind.


As we reach the end of the course, the students received a real treat: a chance to visit the King’s Cross offices of Google DeepMind, to find out what it’s like to work there, and to test their chess skills against a couple of very special guests.

During the visit, our Pioneers engaged in workshops with leading research scientists in robotics and the AlphaFold programme and took part in careers’ panels with a wide range of Google DeepMind employees. They grasped every opportunity to question the DeepMinders on their work, their own career paths, and their experience of working for a ground-breaking tech firm.

Then it was onto the chess. CSC’s most well-known ambassadors, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and Google DeepMind CEO and co-founder Demis Hassabis spoke to the students of the profound influence chess has had on their lives, and how the skills they developed playing the game as children have helped them in their careers. Rachel and Demis each then took on two of our students simultaneously, in games that were extremely hard-fought. For a while it looks as though our students might claim a famous victory, but in the end experience shone through, with Rachel and Demis winning by a combined 4-0.

Teachers spoke of the demonstrable impact the experience has had on the students’ academic results. Students spoke of how much they have enjoyed the programme and how it has influenced their plans for A-levels and beyond. It has opened their eyes to the many different opportunities for careers in artificial intelligence, opportunities they seem set to grasp. We look forward to hearing of their future pathways into the technology field.

Our huge thanks to Google DeepMind for supporting and funding this exciting project which we hope to continue and expand to other schools in future years. For more details, please contact [email protected]. Our students' visit to Google DeepMind featured in the BBC's Tech Life podcast, starting at 15 mins.