The U.S. Chess Center offers a variety of programs to learn chess:
After-School Chess Clubs (for Grades 2-6)
During-School Chess Classes (for Title I Schools in DC)
Saturday Chess Kids (for Grades K-6)
Theophilus Thompson Chess Club on Sundays (for Grades 7-12)
Online Chess Classes (for Grades 3-7)
Adult Beginner/Novice Online Chess Classes
Summer Chess Day Camps (for Rising Grades 2-9)
Registration for 2023-2024 After-School Chess Clubs is NOW OPEN!
After-School Chess Clubs for students in grades 2 – 6. Since 1993, the U.S. Chess Center has been running chess clubs in elementary schools throughout the national capital region. Check our list of active/upcoming after-school clubs here; or ask your PTA/PTO to contact us about starting a club at your school.
In our after-school chess clubs, players are grouped by ability, not age. We teach the rules to beginners and strategy to experienced players. Chess teaches responsibility, discipline, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Chess players learn how to make the most of their opportunities and how to turn a bad situation to their advantage. They learn not to make excuses for their setbacks, and to win and lose graciously. All instructors are certified chess coaches.
Membership in an after-school club includes:
- One after-school meeting each week at the school with instruction and supervised play
- Opportunity to participate in our Elementary Team League. This fun competition takes place on eight Saturdays at 1:30 pm from November through March. Students in our Northern Virginia clubs represent their schools in friendly matches with students from other schools.
During-School Classes for students in grades 2 – 8. As part of our charitable mission, we work with Title I schools in the District of Columbia to teach chess during school hours as a compulsory class. In this way, we are better able to reach students who can benefit the most from chess instruction—those students least likely to volunteer for an after-school chess club. To bring chess to your school during the academic day, ask your Principal or Teacher to contact us.
Registration for 2023-2024 Saturday Chess Kids is NOW OPEN!
Saturday Chess Kids for students in grades K – 6. Chess Kids, which has been operating since the U.S. Chess Center’s founding, is an individualized, highly structured program for students in Grades K – 6 that meets on Saturdays from 10:00 am – 11:30 am over four-weeks per session. It is designed to foster an interest in chess among those who may be too young to be able to handle the complex abstract concepts involved with serious chess, and to generate enthusiasm for those who are ready for the full game. We want kids to grow with others of the same age and have them form friendships as they improve their skills. They learn that improving at the game is the fun part, not winning. So long as they are trying to do their best they will improve (win or lose). Chess Kids students are placed in groups based on their ability and everyone plays games each week and receives lessons. Students are welcome to register for multiple sessions as lessons for each group build from the previous lessons. Through Chess Kids, we make learning chess fun!
Registration for the 2023-2024 Theophilus Thompson Chess Club (Sunday Chess) is NOW OPEN!
Theophilus Thompson Chess Club for students in grades 7 – 12. The Theophilus Thompson Chess Club (previously Sunday Chess) is a weekly class on Sunday from 1:30pm – 5:00pm ET. The class meets in-person on the second floor of 1340 Old Chain Bridge Rd, McLean, VA 22101 (Map).
Our teachers provide instruction to beginners and help more advanced players improve their strategy. Lessons are challenging and informative for all students.
Sometimes we play with other students from across the country and around the world. We have had online matches with students from China, Czech Republic, Iceland, Montenegro, Norway, Spain, Ukraine, and Zambia. We have hosted teams visiting Washington from a variety of states. Some of our students have played in the World Amateur Team Championships (winning prizes for three years in a row) and we took several students on a great chess trip to Cuba.
The Club is named after Theophilus Thompson, a trailblazing chess player and problemist: learn more about him.
Registration for our 2023-2024 Online Chess Class (Bishops & Rooks) is NOW OPEN!
Online Chess Class for students in grades 3 – 7 (Upper Intermediate Level or Higher). Our online classes are live and interactive with a certified chess coach; we do not use videos. Lessons are designed to help students develop confidence without boring them, and students are encouraged to share their ideas and questions with their group.
This class is for children at the upper intermediate level or higher. The lessons for players at this level still involve tactics like forks and pins, but the exercises here usually involve planning two, three, or more moves ahead to set them up. At this level, we expect the students to be considering each move carefully and looking for opportunities to take advantage of mistakes. Some children in this class will have experience playing competitively and may do tactical and endgame exercises at a level where even adult tournament players of normal strength would be challenged.
Each online class is 60 minutes, once a week from 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm ET (UTC -5). Each class has 20-30 minutes of instruction via Zoom and 30-40 minutes of supervised play via Lichess. The Fall 2023 semester begins October 4, 2023 and the Spring 2024 semester begins February 7, 2024. Students may register and join the class at any time, but we do not offer discounts for late registration or missed classes.
The U.S. Chess Center has found that students learn best if challenged appropriately and we use a proprietary rating system to track student progress. If we discover that a child is finding things too difficult, or not difficult enough, we’ll speak to the student and parents.
Our online classes are designed for students that already know the rules, vocabulary, and basic strategy of chess. If your student is completely new to chess then they are not eligible to participate in our online classes; and if that is the case, we encourage you to consider our Saturday Chess Kids program or one of our after-school chess clubs (if available at your student’s school).
We are phasing out Online Chess Classes and thus the 2023-2024 class of Bishops & Rooks (our most advanced) will be our last.
Registration for Online Adult Classes is OPEN!
Classes begin on a rolling basis as soon as there are sufficient students.
Online Classes for Adults Only. Our experienced chess teachers help adults in the novice ranges advance to play a confident game of chess. Classes meet online for 60 minutes once each week for four weeks. Lessons are live and interactive with one of our experienced and nationally certified chess coaches; we do not use videos.
This class is especially great for parents or teachers who wish to develop a solid foundation in the basic strategy of chess and/or improve their ability to play competitively with their children or students; but it’s also open to any adult who wishes to learn how to play chess properly. Our goal is to put you on the path toward a lifelong love of the game. New classes begin on a rolling basis as soon as we have a minimum of four students registered.
Registration for 2024 Summer Chess Day Camps should begin in March 2024
Summer Chess Days Camps for students rising into grades 2 – 7 or rising into grades 3 -9. Our week-long Summer Chess Day Camps consist of chess instruction and play, as well as recreational activities. Thousands of students have participated in our camps, with many enjoying camp so much that they return year after year and dozens continue to play at a master level.
Our nationally certified chess teachers are experienced with all levels of ability. Camp will be challenging and interesting for all and our focus is on improving chess skills through practice and lessons. The teachers place more emphasis on learning than on winning. Good sportsmanship is the key to having fun.
There will be about one teacher per ten students and enrollment is capped at 30 campers total for each week. Depending on the week and camp location students rising into grades 2-7 or rising into grades 3-9 are welcome. Camp starts at 9:00am ET and ends at 3:00pm ET. Aftercare (until 5:00pm ET) is available for an added fee.