Facts about the U.S. Chess Center

Did you know?

Mission

To teach students, especially at-risk youth, to play chess in order to improve their academic and social skills.

History

  • The seeds of the U.S. Chess Center (USCC) were planted in 1989 by then-World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov who asked David Mehler, then a practicing attorney and now the President & Founder of the U.S. Chess Center, to teach a chess camp for children living in public housing. The camp received great reviews from the participating students and the media. Washington Post: FROM PAWNS TO KNIGHTS
  • Since 1992, USCC has taught the game to about 40,000 schoolchildren representing more than 150 schools in the National Capital Area.
  • Created/Organized and ran numerous Chess Leagues in the area over the years, which help promote chess and our programs:
    • Metro Area (High School) Chess League: 1991-2010; Relaunching in 2021
    • Elementary Team League (ETL) for students in grades 2 – 6: 1994-current
    • Potomac Youth Chess League for students in grades 4 – 8: 1997-2010
    • Public Charter School Athletic Association (PCSAA) Middle School League: 2020-current
    • PCSAA High School League, 2021-current
  • Student programs have hosted World Champion Garry Kasparov, the national champions of Nigeria and Montenegro, and several International Grandmasters including Maurice Ashley, the first African-American Grandmaster.
  • Students have played Internet matches with students from China, Czech Republic, Iceland, Montenegro, Norway, Spain, and Ukraine.
  • Our students have played in the World Amateur Team Championships (some years winning prizes) and we took several students on a great chess trip to Cuba.
  • Students have won the following national championships:
    • US Cadet (Under 16) Championship
    • US Junior Invitational (Under 21) Championship (twice)
    • US High School Championship (twice)
    • Denker Tournament of High School Champions (twice)
    • US Junior High School Championship
    • US Elementary School Blitz Championship (twice)`

Organization

  • 501(c)(3) nonprofit
  • Our fees are reasonable; we offer needs-based discounts and scholarships; and teach chess for free at Title I schools during the academic day
  • Our teaching methods are fun and effective; we teach chess and the associated skills (and not simply provide daycare/aftercare)
  • Our curriculum is unique, proven, and refined over decades of experience
  • USCC Teachers are nationally certified chess coaches; and are trained by David Mehler
  • David Mehler has nearly 50 years of chess teaching experience; 2012 recipient of the United States Chess Federation’s Scholastic Service Award and was Chess Coach of the Year in Virginia nearly 20 times.

Impact

  • Chess improves…
    • Cognitive Abilities & Academic Skills: Critical Thinking; Memory; Planning Ahead; Problem solving; Pattern recognition; Spatial awareness; Focus and Concentration; Creativity; Value of Hard Work; and Delayed Gratification;
    • Social & Relationship-Building Skills: Perspective, Self-awareness, Empathy, Patience, Impulse Control; Community; and chess allows students from varied socio-economic backgrounds to compete with each other on an equal footing;
    • Sportsmanship: Winning and losing with grace and dignity; Perseverance; Making the best of your situation; Avoiding complacency; and Striving to improve your position;
    • …and it’s FUN!
  • Teachers, school administrators, and parents report that their chess-playing students show improvements in both academics and behavior
  • Students have used chess to accomplish their academic and life goals: students have broken cycles of generational poverty by using the skills developed in chess to obtain college scholarships and professional occupations.
    • Two Rhodes Scholars
    • Hundreds of academic scholarships
  • We have received numerous letters of appreciation from teachers, parents, and students

Accolades

  • In 2017, the Center was honored with a Congressional Certificate of Special Recognition from Representative Jamie Raskin for our high-quality programs
  • 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

Future

With adequate funding we will bring the benefits of chess to more students and schools in the National Capital Area:

    • Target more Title I schools with in-person chess instruction
    • Create more leagues
    • Offer more support to financially challenged families
 

$50 gives a child a month’s worth of chess lessons
$360 provides a full scholarship for 30 weeks of lessons (2 semesters)
$3,400 provides a teacher to a Title I classroom for an entire academic year

To make a charitable contribution in support of the Chess Center’s work, click here.