The U.S. Chess Center teaches chess to children and teens as a means of improving their academic and social skills.
We provide students from throughout the Washington metropolitan area opportunities to meet as friends and equals over the chessboard at our weekend classes, tournaments, and special events. Our student programs have hosted World Champion Garry Kasparov, the national champions of Nigeria and Montenegro, and International Grandmasters including Maurice Ashley, the first African-American Grandmaster. Our students have played Internet matches with students from China, the Czech Republic, Montenegro, Norway, and Spain.
As we enter our fourth decade, we are finding new ways to reach more students. Since 1992, we have taught the game to almost 40,000 schoolchildren representing more than 150 schools in the National Capital Area. View a map of the schools and places where we have taught chess or held events over the past 30 years.
Our goals include:
- Improving academic skills.
- 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.
In 2017, the Center was honored with a Congressional Certificate of Special Recognition from Representative Jamie Raskin for our high-quality programs on the occasion of our 25th anniversary.
In 2013, the Council of the District of Columbia enacted a resolution in our honor, declaring “Chess in the Schools Day.”
In 2012, the U.S. Chess Center received the
National U.S. Chess Federation Scholastic Service Award.
In 1996, Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, presented the U.S. Chess Center with an award from the Chess-In-Education Committee of the U.S. Chess Federation, honoring us for our Outstanding Youth Chess Programs and our work introducing the benefits of chess to “at risk” youth.
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 at the Capital Children’s Museum for 50 children living in public housing developments. 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.
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.
David Mehler, Founder/President/Teacher
Christopher McCleary, Executive Director
Chris McCleary is the Executive Director of the U.S. Chess Center and returns to scholastic chess after many years. While a student in high school, Chris founded and managed his school’s chess club and captained the school’s team to victory in the county championships. Chris is an experienced non-profit executive and seasoned fundraiser and has held senior management roles for a variety of non-profit organizations in and around Washington, DC, including cultural institutions, advocacy organizations, and think tanks. Before embarking on his non-profit career, Chris spent over a decade as a political consultant and fundraiser for dozens of campaigns across the country ranging from state judges to president. Chris is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and grew up in the South. During his time working in politics and fundraising, he has lived in many diverse places, but he and his family now live in Northern Virginia.
Georgina Chin is a retired Fairfax County Public Schools teacher. Throughout her twenty plus years of teaching Ms. Chin was heavily involved with scholastic chess as a coach, teacher and tournament director. From 2012-2020 Ms. Chin organized and helped direct monthly scholastic chess tournaments with students from Md, DC and VA. Ms Chin has a master's degree in education from George Mason University.
Norman Constantine, a nationally certified chess coach, has been a classroom teacher for over 40 years in exclusive independent schools, teaching math and computer science. He has been involved with scholastic chess both as a teacher and organizer since 1984. His programs developed two Maryland State high school champions, the first female middle school champion, and team championships in elementary and middle school. Constantine joined the U.S. Chess Center as a teacher in 2013. He loves to work with the little guys and girls.
Alex Eltobgi learned to play chess from a friend in 2004. Motivated and intrigued, he studied the tactical and strategic nature of the game, enjoying the range of opponents he was able to find. Since 2007 he has worked with children in elementary schools both as a part of their curriculum and as an after-school activity. He garners great enjoyment from watching them employ their critical thinking skills and still is amazed by the children who demonstrate their newly-found intellectual abilities.
Justin Swain has helped to run chess clubs and tournaments in the Washington D.C. area since joining the U.S. Chess Center as an instructor in early 2012. A graduate of St. Mary's College in southern Maryland, Justin has enjoyed chess as a pastime since he first learned to play in elementary school. After becoming acquainted with the U.S. Chess Center, he gained a new appreciation for the value of chess in an educational setting. Justin continues to be surprised at how chess helps to sharpen his students' minds, and the extent to which they can use problem-solving skills they have acquired through the game to succeed in the classroom.
Robert Teachey, a nationally certified Advanced Chess Coach, has been a U.S. Chess Center teacher since 2010 and for three years served as its executive director. Before immersing himself in chess, Mr. Teachey designed electronic data communications systems. While an undergraduate, he taught electronics to high school students. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Dr. Derrick L. Cogburn, Executive Director, Institute on Disability and Public Policy; Faculty Director, Internet Governance Lab; and Professor, School of International Service and Kogod School of Business, American University
Dr. Leonard Haynes, Senior VP and Special Advisor for HBCU Initiatives for Strategic Education, Inc.
Akshay Indusekar, Secretary, U.S. Chess Center; Founder, Chess Adaptive Reconditioning Program, U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command
David Mehler, Founder and President, U.S. Chess Center
Dr. Pablo Molina, Chief Information Officer, Association of American Law Schools
Anthony Priest, Chief Operating Officer, Washington Education Zone
Marc Rotenberg, Chairman of the Board, U.S. Chess Center; Executive Director of the Center for AI and Digital Policy
And our thanks to the many other individuals and families that generously support our work with donations small and large!
Gift Acceptance Policy
U.S. Chess Center solicits and accepts gifts that are consistent with its mission. Donations will generally be accepted from individuals, partnerships, corporations, foundations, government agencies, or other entities. In the course of its regular fundraising activities, U.S. Chess Center will accept donations of money, real property, personal property, stock, and in-kind services. Certain types of gifts must be reviewed prior to acceptance due to the special liabilities they may pose for the U.S. Chess Center. Examples of gifts which will be subject to review include gifts of real property, gifts of personal property, and gifts of securities.
U.S. Chess Center Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization and donations may be tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. Please consult your tax advisor for questions regarding the deductibility of your contribution.
For questions about donating to U.S. Chess Center please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
IRS Form 990s
Below you will find the U.S. Chess Center Foundation’s IRS Form 990 filings for the most recent 3 years. The Form 990 filing (officially, the “Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax”) is an IRS form that provides the public with financial information about a nonprofit organization.