I am planning to begin a chess club in the engineering college I study. I am an average player myself, but enthusiastic.

My question is how should we go about it, once its up and running?

One thing I get in mind is to organize games between members.

There's also watching lectures, but who decides what lectures will we watch?

I don't know if there are any existing chess clubs in my city, though it is unlikely. There are some government bodies which hold yearly competitions, and there are some institutes that offer tution, in neighboring cities. Thanks

4 Answers 4


I run a chess club at my college. We have two meetings a week, 2 hours each, one run by myself and one run by someone else. We have a locker for our chess boards, mats and clocks and a meeting place in a lounge area that's not super busy but with decent foot traffic. We update our meeting times every academic quarter/semester to work around our classes and send out a survey to our email list to see when our members are available.

At our regular meetings, we just play chess, it's very casual. Usually blitz 5+0 or 10+0. We switch players every few games. Sometimes we play bughouse if there are enough willing participants. Sometimes we'll look at a position from a game, an opening, or a puzzle/tactic if people want to or have something interesting to talk about. If someone doesn't know how to play we teach them, we're not popular enough to be exclusive.

We have enough funding from the school to go to USCF tournaments in and around our city. Usually they're within walking distance, otherwise we carpool. We also sometimes host tournaments with $1 buy in.

People often say they would be interested in "workshops" to learn chess, but I don't want to host them.

  • Interesting. Rather than workshops for clean slate beginners, I was thinking in line of lectures such as those of St. Louis Chess Club. Such as [this] [Lectures with GM Ben Finegold: youtube.com/playlist?list=PLVWaFpMwtaGiBxi79IUqnqn67WF5g5PR4]
    – Rohit
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 0:29
  • They are the gold standard. You have the liberty to run your club however you think is best, and you (and/or your members) will get out what you put in. I don't have the effort for lectures or workshops. Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 2:11

I also run a chess club, in Durham, NC. We meet once a week on Saturdays in the local library, which lets us use their facilities free. We have a small number of of sets and roll-up boards for those few who don't have their own. The club is 9 years old. We started with 2 players and have been averaging about a dozen players for the past few years. I rarely hold tournaments, since I find that they discourage the weaker players and I'm still trying to grow the club. We just play casual chess, with quite a few players who like speed chess. They bring their own clocks. What I've found most helpful in keeping up interest is writing a monthly newsletter with news, games and problems which I e-mail to them. I've generated a list of over 250 e-mail addresses over the years. They all of course don't always come, but with a rotating cast, we still keep up the average I mentioned. We've had a couple of team tourneys against other clubs and a simul by a visiting master, which brought out a lot of people. It's of course most important to have a dedicated leader to soldier on through thick and thin and always be there, which in our case is me. I hope some of these ideas might be helpful.

  • Very helpful. The last part though. I wonder what will become of my club when I graduate out...
    – Rohit
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 1:45
  • Duke Univ. nearby had an active club, which fell apart after their student director graduated. It's a legitimate concern. You'll have to try to groom a replacement while you're still there.
    – CConero
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 3:52

My question is how should we go about it, once its up and running?

One thing I get in mind is to organize games between members.

Members playing each other is the main attraction for most successful clubs which you can do by organizing club competitions. The second attraction is playing games against non members which you can do by entering one or more teams in a local chess league.

My experience is that if you just have people coming and playing who they want they often get stuck in a rut playing the same 2 or 3 openings against the same 2 or 3 opponents every week. Organized club competitions get them playing a wider range of opponents.

Most clubs will have a club championship which runs over the season and which has a standard time control in which one game lasts most of the evening. This can either be a Swiss or, if you have a lot of members, a hybrid where you have group stages followed by a knockout between the winners of the groups.

Something which is a lot of fun is to organize blitz tournaments which take place with all games played in one evening. You don't necessarily want to do this every club evening but once or twice a month is a lot of fun and a 9 round blitz (if you have enough players) will get people playing a wider range of opponents.

A further twist to get players out of their ruts is to have themed blitz tournaments. This is where all the games played in the tournament must be the same opening. For example if the theme for the evening is the Ruy Lopez then all games start after the moves 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 with black to move.

Apart from sets and clocks one other thing is very useful and that is a laptop with pairing software to help with organizing tournaments. Probably the best free program out there is the Vega pairing program. It is completely free to use on Linux and free on Windows for up to 30 players. Importantly it is simple and easy to use. It will also generate html for you to put details of your tournaments on your website if you have one.

There's also watching lectures, but who decides what lectures will we watch?

Having lectures is a more tricky subject. You obviously want these to be given by the stronger players in the club. If you don't have any strong players then it is going to be difficult to get an interesting lecture. Ideally you get a small number of players to agree to take it in turns to give a lecture, say once a month, on an "interesting" topic. "Interesting" probably means not an opening since whatever opening you pick means it is automatically not interesting to all the players who don't play it and don't want to play it.

I'd suggest two types of topics, one for serious study and one for fun. The "serious study" one would be on endgames and endgame technique. The "fun study" one would be where a strong player analyzes one of their own games or perhaps an interesting game played by one of the club members, say the club championship final.

I don't know if there are any existing chess clubs in my city, though it is unlikely.

Your best bet is to contact your national chess federation and ask them. They should be able to tell you if there are any other chess clubs in your area and give you contact details.


Having run clubs and tournaments and seen it done I suggest the following:

Focus on fun play. That is what club members want.

Have some optional tournaments but do not force people to play in them or ban them from casual games when they occur.

Keep costs LOW. Cover only expenses you cannot avoid. Prizes for tournaments should come from entry fees not club dues.

We sponsored TEAM tournaments for all local colleges and one for all in the region. They went well. Serious players enjoyed them. Casual players were not hurt by them.

Poll your members and see if they do want something else. Most clubs do not poll and most members are happy playing, but if you did something special on occasion, many folks will generally attend.

Many (most?) players do NOT want to have to pay for USCF or NCF dues. So if you have tournaments for the club they should be unrated unless you do your own local ratings.

Ladders can be useful if done right. Many are done poorly and discourage people from playing. 'Winners' should be those who score the most points. That encourages playing and playing more so as to accumulate more points. Clearly give fewer for beating low rated players and more for beating higher ones but do not subtract anything for losing as that discourages playing. Ladders done by win/loss and forcing people to play when they do not want to are counterproductive.

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