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Chess In the Schools – ChessUSA

There are very few who would not agree that chess is a great game for keeping the mind sharp. It is well suited to the young and old alike – some research suggests playing chess can help protect against cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Likewise, it helps the developing brain in pattern recognition, analytical processing, and even patience.

While chess has always been a popular activity in high school, middle school, and even elementary school, we have noticed an uptick in the past several years. One potential reason might be due to tightened budgets for schools nationwide. While arts, music, and other extracurricular activities might get their funding reduced for being to expensive, chess is an extremely affordable activity. In fact, for less than 100.00, a teacher can get enough chess sets to keep 20 students occupied. With all of the other benefits, even in our current cost conscious climate, it is an affordable alternative that still allows a student to grow cognitively while also having a lot of fun.

There are a number of organizations around the United States that help promote chess in the schools. ChessUSA has worked for many years now with one such organization: Chess In The Schools. Chess in education is so very important to us, so we wanted to let the world know a little more about this important non-profit organization that brings the joy of chess to kids throughout New York City.

From Anna Thongthap, Chess in the Schools:

Organization Mission, History, and Programs

Chess in the Schools is a nonprofit educational organization with a mission to improve academic performance and build self-esteem among public school children in New York City. Our programs use chess as a means to encourage academic achievement and social development, and are tailored to meet the needs of public school students in disadvantaged communities.

Chess in the Schools was originally a program of The American Chess Foundation (founded in 1955), which began offering chess instruction in schools in 1986. The program grew rapidly, reaching more students each year and generating enthusiasm among some of the most celebrated chess players and aficionados. In 1997, the Foundation changed its name to Chess in the Schools. Over the past 26 years, we have taught over half a million students – not just how to play chess, but how to apply the skills they learn to build a better future for themselves and their communities.

Our programming builds the foundation for a rewarding future for thousands of New York City public school students. Four programs make up the core of Chess in the Schools’ services:

The School Program
The Chess in the Schools School Program brings chess with its academic benefits into the classroom and provides an after-school chess club for students. All elementary and middle schools served by the School Program are public and have low-income populations. During the school year, there are 50 elementary and middle schools participating in the School Program. That means 13,000 students learn to play chess each year! And during the summer, students continue to hone their skills in our summer camps.

The Scholastic Tournament Program
The Scholastic Tournament Program offers competitive chess tournaments in New York City during the academic year. Each weekend and school holiday, our tournaments draw between 400 and 850 players from kindergarten through high school. Chess in the Schools organizes and directs these events ensuring that students are challenged and encouraged throughout the tournament. Our tournaments are offered free of charge to competitors and are open to all children in New York City.

The College Bound Program
The College Bound Program provides comprehensive college preparatory services to help our students graduate high school on time and attend college. The College Bound program continues to be a success with 100% of the class of 2012 graduating from high school on time and all seniors entering college in the fall. The College Bound Program also includes the Middle School Initiative. This Initiative is designed to introduce middle school students to the College Bound Program and to offer college tours so students can begin thinking about college early and envisioning themselves attending college.

Project Chess
Project Chess aims to increase the number of public school educators in New York City that can effectively teach chess to students during the school day as part of a standards based curriculum and in after-school chess clubs as part of a safe, structured enrichment program. Project Chess provides workshops, materials, and support to help classroom teachers implement a comprehensive chess program in their own school.

Anna Thongthap

There are many such programs in the US, but remember they are non profit. We urge you to support chess in your local school districts as well as nationally so more people, young and old, can enjoy the game of chess.

If you’d like to donate, volunteer, or otherwise become involved, please contact Anna Thongthap at: [email protected], or contact me and i’ll pass your information along.

Quentin Turner

PS: If you have a chess club or organization, or if you are an artist that makes a unique chess game and would like to tell the world about yourself, let us know! Just send me an email at [email protected] with a little about yourself and your organization / product and you can appear on our chess blog sometime soon.

6 comments to Chess In the Schools – ChessUSA

  • Stacey

    By child attends PS 198 in Manhattan and I was wondering how to find out if the schools qualifies for the Chess in Schools program. Please let me know.


  • Hi Anna )Thongthap),

    My name is Jo-Anne Dressendofer and I stopped in last week when you were on the road. I dropped off 3 decks of the game which is a huge hit in Germany and I am about to launch in the US. I would like to speak with you about the launch and the possibility of Chess in School’s involvement. Is it possible to meet as I literally have my office a 1/2 a block from you at 347 W36th? Double Cross was created for a child and has blossomed to become an app that has been called the “word with friends of chess”. It’s cool, modern but still adheres to the pure rules of chess…making chess easier to learn with added excitement. Best of all there is little cost in manufacturing much profit is available for fundraising. I would like to help and be a part of your great cause. We are just too close and doing too many similar things not to know each other.

    Looking forward to the opportunity of meeting with you,
    Jo-Anne Dressendofer

    • Hi,

      I think you’re actually looking for Chess-in-the-Schools themselves. We’re actually a chess store on Long Island. We’ve worked with chess in the schools in the past, and our post is about that.

      Did you want me to forward over your message? I’ll be happy to do so if you want!

  • garry


    We’re looking to start a chess club and use it in our K-8 school of several hundred students located in St. Paul MN. What suggestions would you have for us? Thank you!

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