The Best Chess Clubs

How to Choose the Best Chess Club

Whether you’re looking for a great chess club or hoping to start your very own, we’ve got tips on what makes a club truly outstanding.

The Best Chess Clubs

What makes a chess club truly outstanding?

For friendship and camaraderie, as well as merciless attacks and takedowns, there’s no place better than a well-organized chess club. It doesn’t matter if you’re a shaky beginner who doesn’t know a pawn from a rook or a seasoned chess strategist – you’re sure to find a place where you can learn, hone your skills, or find someone to match your talents head-to-head. While many people play this time-honored game in its digital version online today, there’s nothing like facing off with an opponent across an actual board in person.

If you’re looking for the best places to play chess around the world, we’ve researched all of the top ones and put all of the need-to-know information together for you. If you don’t have any sort of chess-themed organization in your area and are thinking of starting one up, we’ve got tips on that, too. From informal gatherings to formal clubs that provide lessons and take part in tournaments, we’ll tell you all about what makes a great chess club. Because it’s the perfect game of strategy for all ages, we’ll cover clubs for adults, as well as ones that have programs for kids, as well.

To learn everything you ever wanted to know about chess clubs, read on! When you’re done, check out our individual club pages to learn more about different organizations around the world. No matter where you are, there’s likely one near you. And if there isn’t…what are you waiting for? Whether you plan to join one that’s already established or found your very own, this is your go-to resource.

If one of them happens to be in your area, we highly recommend you check out the following exceptional chess clubs:

St. Louis Chess Club

Located in a city that has become America’s chess capital, the St. Louis Chess Club is one of the largest in the world. It sponsors chess-related school programs and plays host to a wide variety of tournaments and World Chess Hall of Fame Events.
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Marshall Chess Club

Founded in 1915, the Marshall Chess Club is the second-oldest in the United States. It was the location of the 1956 Game of the Century in which Bobby Fischer faced off against Donald Byrne and continues to entice both beginners and chess experts alike.
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San Diego Chess Club

For West Coast chess clubbers, the San Diego Chess Club is the place to be! While it doesn’t hold events for teaching newbies, for those who know how to play (regardless of age), the San Diego Chess Club hosts weekly tournaments as well as large annual events such as the San Diego County Championship and the Southern California Open.
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Denver Chess Club

Founded in 1859, the Denver Chess Club is the oldest chess club in the state of Colorado. With a diverse membership and a variety of events and tournaments, it boasts much more than just a scenic mile-high setting.
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Battersea Chess Club

Operating continuously since 1885, the Battersea Chess Club has become an establishment in the London chess world. It’s a place where chess newbies and chess masters can feel equally at home as they sip a drink and plan their next move.
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Dean of Chess Academy

One of the best-known and most reputable chess clubs in New Jersey, the Dean of Chess Academy has been sharpening the minds of chess players for almost 20 years. From classes to cool events, we review all they have going on for their members and students.
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Bangkok Chess Club

Whether you live in Thailand or are just traveling through, the Bangkok Chess Club is a must for chess lovers. Our review dives into the huge events hosted by the club annually, as well as the benefits of becoming an active member.
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The Knights of the Square Table

Located in Edmond, Oklahoma, The Knights of the Square Table is a kids’ competitive chess team that’s bringing it to other teams all throughout the state. We like that they encourage daily online chess practice – and we love their awesome team T-shirts.
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Norths Chess Club

With a history that stretches back all the way to 1908, the Norths Chess Club is one of the oldest in Australia. Today, it’s still offering up good fun and fierce chess competition.
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Portland Chess Club

For over 100 years, the Portland Chess Club has been graced by some of history’s most elite chess players. It’s also shaped the chess community in the northwestern U.S. Today, the club is still going strong and hosting some of the country’s largest chess events.
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Downend & Fishponds Chess Club

Founded in 1949, the Downend & Fishponds Chess Club started out as a group of friends who enjoyed meeting for a game or two in the evenings. Since then, it’s grown into one of the foremost chess groups in all of southwest England.
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UT Dallas Chess Club

The UT Dallas Chess Club is just one part of the extensive UT Dallas Chess Program. From college students who have already exhibited high levels of achievement on the chess board to beginner players who don’t know a rook from a pawn, the UT Dallas Chess Program has something to challenge everyone.
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Chess Clubs 101:

So what, exactly, is a chess club and what makes one better than the other? What should you look for if you’re hoping to join one? Where do you start if you want to found your own? In this next section, we’ll take on these kinds of frequently-asked-questions to provide you with all the answers you need.

What Is a Chess Club?

First things first: what is a chess club? If you have a group of friends that get together regularly to play, then technically, that’s a chess club – albeit an informal one. Many schools organize after-school groups to teach kids the basics of the game and help them improve their skills. Adult chess groups and leagues are also very popular. Membership in these ranges from people who are hoping to learn the game and beginners who are eager to give it a try to super-skilled players who study chess strategy and are gurus when it comes to the game. In a nutshell: a chess club is any forum in which a group of people gather to play the game on a regular basis.

Chess Clubs for Kids and Adults

A chess club is any forum in which a group of people gather to play the game on a regular basis

What Makes a Good Chess Club?

When you’re researching this topic, how do you know what factors make one organization stand out from the rest? In our opinion, these are the things to look for when choosing the best chess club.

1. A Diverse Membership

The main factor in an excellent chess club is a diverse membership. This means people of both genders, all ages and backgrounds, but it especially means having a membership that ranges across all skill levels. When this is the case, everyone will be able to come to the table and feel well-matched, whether it’s someone who is just dipping their toes in the chess waters or a seasoned player who is looking for a real challenge.
A Diverse Membership

2. A Rating Method

A truly organized group will have a method of rating its players. This helps each person know where they stand in terms of skill level. A rating system helps ensure that members can be paired for play in an appropriate manner, but more importantly, it gives the players bragging rights and an objective number they can seek to improve as they work to move up in the ratings.
A Rating Method

3. Opportunities to Play

Beyond that, people generally choose where to play chess based on the amount of opportunities they’ll have to play with players inside the club itself, as well as facing off against players from other clubs. Playing in tournaments is an exciting way to up the ante and engage in stiff competition with chess players from around the country – or even around the world.
Opportunities to Play
Adults and Kids Play Chess Together

Everyone should be able to come to the table and feel well-matched

How Can I Start a Chess Club?

It can be disappointing to discover that there’s nowhere to play chess with people in your area, but if this is the case, don’t lose heart! Even the biggest organizations had to start somewhere, so you can always take the initiative to start your own.

Step One: Gather a Small Group and Establish the Rules

If you’re ready to get started, the first step is to find a group of friends who love to play. You’ll need to meet and discuss the guidelines of the club and create a constitution that will lay out the rules and restrictions. Will the group be open to the public or members-only? Will you charge a fee for people to join? This should all be included in the club’s constitution. If you charge dues, it’s a good idea to create a less expensive rate for younger members to make the organization more accessible to them. If the club will provide the equipment for players – chess tables, chairs, chess sets, chess clocks, etc. – it’s important to make sure you collect enough dues to pay for it as your numbers grow.

Step Two: Establish a Meeting Time and Place

The next step is to agree on how often you’d like to hold meetings and find a place to hold them. When you first start out, you can hold them at members’ houses (rotating to a different home each time), but as things begin to grow, you’ll need to branch out and find a larger, more public space. Talk to your local community center or library to see if they have a room you can reserve biweekly or monthly for meetings. You may get a local restaurant to agree to allow you to use one of their party rooms (after all, they’re guaranteed to sell more food when your group converges on it). Bookstores and schools are also good ideas for potential meeting places.

Step Three: Get the Word Out

After you’ve gotten your chess club started, you’ll want to focus on growing it. Social media is a great way to reach people, so make sure you’re set up on at least a few different social media sites. One great way to advertise is to have members set up games in public areas like parks. When people stop to watch or chat with the players, tell them about the club, ask them to follow you on social media, and invite them to attend your next meeting. Word of mouth is how most clubs advertise at first. You might also jockey for a shout-out or a link on your favorite chess site (like the one you’re reading now!)

Step Four: Keep Your Members Entertained and Engaged

Once your organization is running well, your players can become members of and obtain ratings from the US Chess Federation or other groups within the World Chess Federation. As we mentioned before, these rankings provide incentive for improvement, as well as ensuring that players are evenly matched when they face each other in tournaments.

Make sure to keep things interesting by scheduling plenty of events (and announcing them on social media, as well as to local news, TV, and radio stations). Tournaments, contests, and invitations for chess grandmasters to visit your club and give simuls will keep current members interested and new members signing up.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to joining a chess club, there are too many benefits to name. Most people first get involved because it’s an excellent way to meet other people who share a passion for the game and its long history. An organization that features members of all ages provides an excellent way for kids to learn the basics of chess (and those are like learning to ride a bike; once kids learn them, they’ll never forget!). Meanwhile, a chess club for adults provides a grown-up outlet for those who want to get out and make friends in an intellectually stimulating setting.

No matter what, meeting and playing with others provides an opportunity to improve your game and sharpen your skills in a way that online play simply can’t match. You’ll be able to battle opponents face-to-face, as well as talk with other members and get tips on the mental acuity and strategy needed to become a top player.

A Chess Teacher and His Students

They provide an opportunity to improve your game and sharpen your skills in a way that online play simply can’t match

Which organization is best for you will depend on your personality and specific goals. You’ll be able to check out different groups based on their level of formality, for example. Do you prefer one that’s more like a gathering of good friends or do you want one that has more of a professional polish to the organization? Size also matters; some members may want a smaller, more intimate feel, while others are enthusiastic about the idea of being able to meet dozens or even hundreds of other players at various skill levels.

If you live in an area where there’s currently no chess club operating, start one! Chances are that there are other people just like you who are looking for somewhere to get their game on and so far, they’ve also come up empty-handed. Who knows? Maybe your group could be where the next Bobby Fischer or Garry Kasparov gets their start!

Whether you’re thinking of starting a chess club or joining one, the goal is to simply put yourself out there and take the first step. An entire world of competition awaits you!

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