About Us

Teaching Kids To Think. Learning A Skill For Life.

Congressional recognition with Garry Kasparov

The U.S. Chess Center teaches chess to children in the D.C. metro area as a means of improving their academic and social skills. In 2017, the Center received a Congressional Certificate of Special Recognition from Representative Jamie Raskin on the occasion of our 25th anniversary. Since 1992, we have taught the game of chess to more than 35,000 schoolchildren in more than one hundred schools in the National Capital Area. Many studies have indicated that learning chess at a young age is highly correlated with academic achievement. A 501(c)(3) charitable organization, the Chess Center focuses on children in need in Washington, D.C., and its surrounding jurisdictions.

The Chess Center offers weekend chess classes, chess camps, scholastic tournaments, and classroom-based chess training. The Chess Center also supports school chess clubs and works closely with public and charter schools in the Washington, D.C., region to promote chess. Our program teaches students to make positive choices and produces people who can enter higher education or the work force with the critical thinking skills they need to succeed. The foundation we help children build improves their academic and social skills.

Through your donation, we can teach chess to children who are unable otherwise to afford our services, giving them the thinking skills they will use for life.

Students at playHistory

The concept for the U.S. Chess Center started in 1989 when World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov came to Washington, D.C., to introduce the idea of using chess to battle drug use among children. He secured support for two weeks of summer chess camp for 50 children living in public housing developments held at the Capital Children’s Museum. David Mehler, then a practicing attorney and now the President & Founder of the U.S. Chess Center, taught the camp, which received great reviews from the participating students and the media.

The children who learned chess thrived on the game, starting chess clubs upon returning to their schools in the fall. Their teachers were impressed with the students’ newfound interest in intellectual subjects and encouraged more chess activity.

The following summer another series of chess camps for District youth was run at the Museum. Again, the program was a great success. Children from the camps started chess clubs at their schools. Teachers noted that students' behavior improved upon learning chess.

Feeling that chess could serve many valuable goals, several community leaders started forming the idea that was to become the U.S. Chess Center.

The goals included:

  • Improving academic skills and test scores.
  • Increasing children’s attention spans.
  • Teaching young people that they have control over much of their environment, so that the decisions that they make will have consequences in the future, even if not all of those consequences are immediately apparent.
  • Bringing together students from a wide range of backgrounds in a safe, fun setting.
  • Increasing students' self-confidence.
  • Awakening an interest in learning and achievement in students of all ages.
  • Improving the resiliency of youths so that they avoid negative temptations.

DC Council Resolution After an intensive year of work, in the summer of 1992, the third session of the summer camp became the initial program of the newly established U.S. Chess Center. Since then, the U.S. Chess Center has offered a wide range of classes in various locations in the city and its suburbs.

Success Stories

Among our students are two Rhodes Scholars, a recipient of the George Washington University Trachtenberg Scholarship, and thousands of high school and college graduates.

Our programs in underserved areas of Washington is providing encouragement as well as intellectual training to students. Each week during the school year, our chess teachers meet with hundreds of students in some of the most underperforming schools in Washington. Many students who learn to play chess succeed academically far beyond their peers.

The majority of our funding comes through modest fees we charge for chess classes and tournaments. We rely on private donations to make up the difference. Contributions are deductible to the fullest extent of the law, as we are a charitable, tax-exempt organization.