Starting a school chess club

To start a [school] chess club you need

  • a supportive [school] structure (school management, parents).
  • a passionate chess educator/facilitator.
  • a proper training classroom.
  • basic chess equipment and other chess aids.

What chess equipment and aids do you need?

  • Chess sets (vinyl roll-up chess board and chess pieces). A chess set consists of a chess board and 32 chess pieces (16 white pieces and 16 black pieces).
  • Chess bags or plastic containers (ice cream containers!) to put the chess pieces in. The advantage of the chess bags is that both the chess board and the pieces can be put away safely.
  • Tables and chairs. It is very important that players have a comfortable or ergonomic optimised training setting – for practical training, discussing chess theory and completing assignments/writing tests.
  • Chess demonstration board (optional, but an advantage teaching chess to a group of players).
  • Chess clocks (optional in the beginning). One clock is required for every 2 players (time control of rounds).
  • Computers/tablets installed with chess programs (eg. Fritz), online chess such as ICC, FICS and Chess Online.
  • Motivational chess posters/photos/quotes/slogans to be put up in the classroom.
  • Lesson structure (see example for beginners) – be creative when preparing the lessons, especially for the “little-grandmasters-in-training”!
  • Chess books and other training information aids such as: teaching chess to a beginner, notation, the 3 phases of a chess game, chess games, chess puzzles, chess tips, teaching chess to learners with disabilities, learner assessment and more.
  • 4-Player chess boards adds fun to training (optional)!

Modifications for players with disabilities:

  • mild disabilities (the chess rules are modified).
  • moderate disabilities (the learners are assisted with special adaptive devices).
  • severe disabilities (the learners are assisted with modern technology such as a special “set of arms”, cerebral palsy standing frames or special chairs which have extra support in the trunk area so that the learner can focus on learning the chess lessons without thinking about trunk control!).

The classroom should be accessible to learners with disabilities (special needs).

Which chess administration tools do you need?

  • A yearly budget (to buy chess equipment, refreshments, pay team league registration fees and other tournament registrations fees, etc.)
  • A player registration list/form (with each player’s names, date of birth, parent contact details, etc.)
  • A player ranking list (eg. a player list for grades 1 & 2, grades 3 & 4, grades 5-7, under 15, 17, 19 age categories, rating categories). Players practise every week.
  • Select teams/individuals according to each player’s ranking position/rating on the ranking/rating list.

Which tools do the players need to learn chess?

  • A chess set to practise at home.
  • A flip-file to add chess lessons and notices (eg. tournament invitations and team announcements).
  • Other chess aids such as a computer or a tablet to study chess theory and practise games.

And a willingness to work hard!

Schools chess club activities

  • Weekly classes 60-90 mins. per training session (15-30 mins. for beginners/preschoolers/grade 1 & 2)
  • Prepare lessons for the different player levels (beginners, intermediate, advanced). It is preferable to have separate training sessions for the various player levels, eg. pre-schoolers, grades 1 and 2, grades 3 and 4, grades 5-7 or beginners, intermediate and advanced. The number of players will determine the number of groups you will have!
  • Homework – make training enjoyable for the players: give them chess puzzles and other fun chess activities to do.
  • Weekly play-offs
  • Quarterly in-house individuals competitions (with certificates or medals).
  • Quarterly in-house team competitions (medals 1st team, certificates 2nd and 3rd place teams).
  • Team quizzes (prizes: fruit juice, chips or any other motivational snacks!).
  • 1 player plays against 2 or more players (a simultan).
  • Chess exams (quarterly or annually – set up your own chess paper – be creative!).
  • Inter-school/inter-house chess tournaments..
  • Participate at District level chess tournaments or other friendly schools chess tournaments. Some schools host their own annual chess tournaments (1/2 day or 1 day 5 or 6 half an hour rounds [15:15] or one hour rounds [30:30]).
  • Play an instructional chess dvd or chess theme movies.
  • Invite a chess guest speaker to your school.
  • Incorporate chess as part of an inter-schools sports day or a school holiday program (to keep the learners off the streets!).
  • It is also very important to engage with your local schools chess structures (eg. attend chess teachers training workshops, register your school for league matches, register your players for tournaments and enquire about general administrative matters).

Benefits of a [schools] chess club

  • An extra-curricular [school] chess club is the most readily available and accessible venue for learners. Transport is not a problem as extra-curricular chess teaching takes place directly after school.
  • A chess club can motivate other educators to bring chess into their classrooms!
  • It keeps children away from the streets and away from crime!
  • It provides challenges for learners to play against other players.
  • It can help to build a learner’s self confidence and self-esteem.
  • Learning sportsmanship and other valuable skills.
  • It provides a positive form of socialisation and interaction with other players.
  • Learn and support from other players and peers.
  • Opportunities to play in tournaments (in-house, inter-school, etc.)

There are so many chess club ideas – be creative!

PS: Chess is an official school sports code – though some schools treat it as a cultural activity or as an after school sport/activity.

Positive contributions of playing chess

  • Chess can be played by both able-bodies learners and learners with disabilities.
  • Chess can be adapted for learners with special needs.
  • Learners can play chess on the internet with able-bodied players or players with disabilities.
  • Learners need both physical exercise (movement) and mental exercise. Chess can be included in their daily activity programs to keep them mentally stimulated.
  • Chess can be part of a family-together-evening where Mom, Dad and other siblings can share in the learner’s chess activity and progress.
  • A big chess board can be used as a training mat. The learners stand on the mat and execute the various chess moves on instruction of the chess educator (eg. “Susan, as Queen, show us how you move on the chess board.”. “James, as Knight, show us what makes your movements on the chess board different to Susan’s?”) “. This activity can be used to improve cognitive and mental disabilities, memory, concentration, attention span, learning and very important: for fun

Q: Memory and attention is crucial in the chess learning process. True …..   False …..

Q: Chess develops many important skills such as anticipation, attention span, self-esteem and identity, cognitive skills, understanding of cause and effect and social interaction. True: …..   False …..


Suggested reading

  • The two Kings, a chess story (Scharff and Minacci)
  • Teach yourself chess (Bill Hartston)
  • Learn chess in a weekend (Ken Whyld)
  • Chess for dummies ( James Eade)
  • Chess books for beginners: please visit our books section.

Computer programs

  • Chessmaster
  • Fritz
  • Battle chess 3D
  • Cellphone/tablet/iphone chess programs

Internet chess

  • Free Internet Chess Server (FICS)
  • Internet Chess Club (ICC)
  • Chess-online


  • Brooklyn Castle (disadvantaged kids who became winners through hard work!)
  • The Queen of Katwe


  • Chess and school performance
  • The Role of Chess in Modern Education (Marcel Milat)
  • Benefits of Chess for Children (Dean J. Ippolito)
  • The Case for Chess as a Tool to develop Children’s Minds (Dr P. Dauvergne)

  • A set in every classroom in every school in every community- a child who can’t play must be able to play!
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