The History of Chess in the Nation's Capital
The greater Washington area has been home to many notable chess events over the years, dating back as far as 1850, when Charles Henry Stanley and John Turner met in a match to unofficially decide who was the best chess player in the United States (before the official U.S. Championship had been established).  Since then, the U.S. Women’s Championship, the U.S. Open Championship, the U.S. Junior Invitational Championship, the U.S. Cadet Championship, and for several decades the U.S. Armed Forces Championship tournaments have all been held in or around Washington, D.C.
These pages describe some of the rich chess history of Washington, D.C., and its surrounding area.

Theophilus Thompson, the first African-American tournament player of record and a noted chess problemist, spent his life near the greater Washington area in Frederick, Maryland.  


One round of the 1907 World Chess Championship match was played in Washington, with World Champion Emanuel Lasker and his challenger Frank Marshall hosted by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt before the start of the game.


Oscar Shapiro, who won D.C. championship titles in the 1940’s and the 1990’s, is the oldest American ever to earn the title of master for the first time.  We’ve chronicled his playing career and his many contributions to local chess.


The 1989 U.S. Junior Invitational Championship, with a field full of American chess talent, took place in Washington. 

The U.S. Cadet Championship, the top tournament for Americans under age 16, has been hosted in the D.C. area nine times since 1993.


The Capital International tournaments, the strongest round-robin chess events held in the Washington area, ran for two years in 1989 and 1990.

More Chess History

The following nuggets of history are not specific to the Washington area, but our students typically find them interesting nonetheless.

For centuries, chess players from novices to grandmasters have competed for the favor of Caissa, the Goddess of Chess.  Who is she, and how did she become such a big piece of the chess cultural lexicon?  Here is what we know.

Benjamin Franklin was a pioneer and innovator in many diverse fields, from politics to science to philosophy….to chess.  This Founding Father of the United States was also the first chessplayer in the Thirteen Colonies that we know by name.  (Franklin page coming soon!)