Mechanics’ Institute -- Scholastic Chess Program | Mechanics' Institute

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Mechanics’ Institute -- Scholastic Chess Program

*** All in-person classes, camps, and events are suspended until further notice! We miss the kids and hope we can return to normal operation very soon! Please, check back with us often to see any updates, or email us to chessroom at ***
Our Philosophy stays the same - click here to read it.

Mechanics' Institute Chess Club moved to offering all events through virtual online platforms.


Virtual Chess Camps --- Online classes --- Online Tournaments

If you wish to get updates on our online offerings, including assignments, and tournaments,
please fill out our google form:


Virtual Summer Chess Camps 2020

June 1 - Aug 7
Week-long Morning Camps Monday through Friday 9AM - 12PM

Tentative Schedule
9-9:15 warmup games on and wait for everyone to show up on zoom.
9:15-10: first lecture
10-10:30 tournament/games
10:30-10:45 break (bathroom, snacktime)
10:45-11:00 warmup games/wait for everyone to get back to computer
11-11:30 second lecture
11:30-12:00 tournaments/games/puzzle competition

Upcoming Week: Aug 3-7 - LAST WEEK
Min 4 students to start, max 10 students in each camp.

Register Online for the regular virtual chess camps:

Camp Registraiton Fee: 3 hours for $39/daily fee or $189/week


7/13-17: Master Camp with FM Paul Whitehead
Register online:
Special Camp Registraiton Fee: 2 hours for $35/daily fee or $150/week

Refund policy: Full refund minus a $5 administration fee if cancelled more than 24 hours before the start of class. No refunds within 24 hours of the start of class.


Small Group Virtual Online Classes

During our interactive online classes coaches are sharing their computer screen and use a chess program to demonstrate positions, puzzles and go over games. Occasionally short and fun videos will be used to introduce new topics and paused intermittently to reassure understanding of the material. All kids will join - a safe and secure platform for kids - to play games against each other and will have the ability to participate in scholastic online tournaments organized by the Mechanics' Institute through Classes are coached by a live lead coach and monitored by additional staff, so students are never alone in a meeting. Classes are also recorded so if any child misses a class, the recording can be shared. Classes are safe, interactive, and convenient alternative way without sacrificing quality in chess instruction.

To see available classes and register:

Day Time Coach Level Link
Monday 4-5PM Coach Andy Beginner
Tuesday 3-4PM Coach Andy

Friday 2-3PM Coach Andy Intermediate

Class Fee: $25 for single class, $45 for two classes (10% off), $80 for 4 classes (20% off), $100 for 5 classes, $120 for 6 classes

Note: minimum 4 students to start the class, maximum 8 student in each class.
Information with link to join the class will be sent via email after your registration.
Classes are online: student must have laptop, with mic and webcam, and good internet connection in order to participate in classes!
Refund policy: Full refund minus a $5 administration fee if cancelled more than 24 hours before the start of class. No refunds within 24 hours of the start of class.

Online Tournaments via

We offer two types of online touranments:
- Daily FREE tournaments: open to any scholastic players, non-rated, no pre-registraiton neccessary.
More information here:

- Weekly USCF Online rated tournaments: open to any scholastic players. Special trophies or medals are awarded to the Top 5 overall players and Top 3 in the under800 and under400 category. Players must have USCF membership and register through jumbula prior to the event. Welcome email is sent to those who regsitered for the event.
More information here: is a safe, secure and fun platform for kids to learn and play chess, and participate in a wide variety of activities, including listening to lectures, doing puzzles, play with their friends, and participate in online tournaments.
If you are interested in getting emails about our online scholastic tournaments, please fill the following form:

Tournament Schedule and more information, please visit:



Our coaching philosophy

The Mechanics' Institute Chess Club, established in 1854, is the oldest chess club in the United States, and we are proud of its rich history and legacy.
Our enrichment program focuses on two important areas with our fun chess classes:

  • Developing chess skills: Teaching chess to beginners and providing advanced instruction to experienced players, thus improving critical thinking and problem solving in a fun and supportive atmosphere. 
  • Developing social and emotional skills: promoting good sportsmanship and learning from mistakes, skills that benefit kids beyond the chessboard.

Our professional and talented staff of coaches are trained to teach students of all levels, from beginner to advanced and keep them engaged in chess throughout the semester.

Beginner students will learn the name and values of the pieces, how they move, basic concepts of chess, purpose of the game. Class will also learn basic opening principles, easy to master tactics and basic check mating ways. Advanced students will learn mate in 1-2-3 techniques, opening lines, more advanced tactic concepts as well as get trained to use chess clock, and other important aspects that are useful for rated tournaments. Basic chess knowledge is required to take this class.


Seasonal Camps

*** Please note that the summer camps are tentative plans, and we will make adjustments as the national and state health situation changes. ***

Seasonal camps are the best way to have an intensive course in chess, and spend the break with educational yet fun activity. We aim to offer chess camps for all groups: from absolute beginners to advanced groups.

What days to choose?
You can choose one day, or multiple days from each camp. We list prices for all scenarios, or if you don't see what you are looking for, email us and we can find a solution!
Full day or Half-day? Our camp is running from 9AM to 4PM, every day, for anyone who would like to stay for the full day. Morning only kids should be picked up by 12:30PM, and afternoon only kids should be dropped off at 12:30PM.

For more details, such as schedule, food options, pricing, and policies, please click on the link for more information for each camp.

Chess in Schools: Lunch and After School classes  

*** All at-school classes are suspended until furhter notice. Please, check back with us later to inquire if and when any of the classes resumes. ***

Mechanics' Institute Chess Club is offering chess classes in schools in and around San Francisco city. 

Two different type of classes are offered:

  • Free Youth Outreach: free club type of class offered for all students at qualified schools. These classes were made possibly by our generous donors & benefactors.
  • Fee-based classes: fee for service based chess classes offered during after school period. Parents should sign up at either through school page, or through our Jumbula registration page.

Refund policy: While we understand plans change, we also need to ensure that cancellation of classes happens only when absolutely needed. Generally, we'll be offering partial refund until the start of the 3rd or 4th class. All refunds carry an admin fee ($20.) Please, reach out to us to discuss the details.

Late pickup policy: students are expected to be picked up within 10 minutes of the class end time. Anytime when they are picked up later than 10 minutes after class end time, we will ask parents to pay $1/minute late pickup surcharge.

Weekend Clubs

*** All in-person classes are suspended. We'll post information here once classes resume. ***

We offer weekend clubs during the weekends at multiple locations. These 2 hour fun chess clubs are great for beginners to intermediate players.


Scholastic Tournaments

*** All tournaments are suspended until further notice. We'll post new schedule once situation improves. ***

We hold montly scholastic tournaments for kids. All players have to be USCF (United States Chess Federation) members.
Swiss tounaments start at 10am and have 4 rounds. Time control is G/30 (game in 30 minutes.)

More information can be found here:


Need chess at your school? Contact us for more information.

Mechanics' Institute Chess Club and it's team are ready to bring chess to your school and organization. We have different comprehensive packages to serve any type of school and community.
For detailed information and start the discussion how to make it happen, please reach out to Dr. Judit Sztaray, General Manager for the Youth Outreach Programs and Special events at jsztaray at



From our Camps & Classes

"Thank you very much for having the intermediate chess camp this year.  I had a great time.  It was a valuable experience and am only sorry that I could not attend the full week." David R.

"I really enjoyed the 3 days that I was able to attend." Mike B.

"My son had a great time last week at the intermediate class! We wanted to write an email to express our thanks. He really likes the current class format, which is more about teaching/ learning and less on chess-playing during class time among classmates. He loves the topics teachers chose and the examples they went over. Even though we live further away we feel that the commute was well worth it. " Mark H.

"My husband and I have been very impressed with your Coaches and how the class is being run. My son is actually anxious to share the new chess moves with me! We are very happy with your program." Sharon K.

Fom our Free Youth Outreach programs

"The students really enjoy chess and learning with Richard, we have had a great working relationship with him and look forward to continuing his fun classes here at AVS.  We even have students who seek out Richard as soon as he shows up on campus to help him set up and chat, it's quite adorable!" Ms. McNutt, BookEnds Director and Art&Tinker Teacher, Alta Vista School

" The Mechanics' Institute Chess program has made a huge difference at Marshall Elementary. The students who attend our school are primarily from immigrant, working class families that struggle to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the world. This chess program has provided opportunities for students to develop spatial reasoning, attentiveness and sportsmanship. Mr. Nick (GM Nick de Firmian) has a gift for working with new players of this age."  Mrs. Judy Viertel, Librarian, Marshall Elementary School, SFUSD

"The picture most adults have teens and tweens now days is of a hunched over a kid, staring mindlessly into a smartphone.  Maybe swiping at pictures or playing video games.  I think most adults would be surprised to come into the school library at Visitacion Valley Middle School.  First, to dispell the stereotype, it is not quiet and instead, there is a buzz of activity.  There are no computers, instead, students are playing games, reading comics and doing crafts. By far the most popular game is chess.  The students, whether they know how to play or not, are drawn to the chess boards especially when there is a chess teacher from the Mechanics Library.  They are usually shy at first saying, "I dont know how to play.".  When I tell them that is what the teacher is for and that six years ago I did not know how to play either and learned from the students, they hestitantly shuffle over to the chess tables.  Quickly they are playing, laughing, asking questions and having fun.  Students like the names of the pieces and how each one does something different, they like that there is a strategy, and that a beginner can really beat a more advanced player.  I use chess in other ways in the library, thanks to the Mechanics Library.  I read once that people who struggle to read can use chess as a strategy.  There is research that shows that thinking, looking at the chessboard and moving pieces with the hand can help struggling readers.  We have a significant number of students struggling to read and when they get frustrated in their reading classes they often come to the library, play some chess, and then return to class ready to try again, feeling calmer and more assured.
At VVMS we are all very appreciative of the chess program at the Mechanics Library and look forward to working with the teachers each year."  Callen Taylor, Teacher Librarian, Visitacion Valley Middle School SFUSD

" Both Assistant Principal Collins and I have been very happy with the chess program. We greatly appreciate the fact that it is provided to our students free of charge. Our students receive great benefits from engaging in positive social interactions through playing chess." Dr. Barbara Berman, Principal, Tenderloin Community School, SFUSD

"Chess class is truly wonderful! Coach Colin is impressive and the parents and students are very grateful." Adam Marquart, Director of Operations, Golden Bridges School, SF

"I like Chess Club because we get to play a game of chess at the end of class.  And we get to do cool techniques.  And sometimes we take turns doing techniques at the end of class before we do the game and that's fun.  Sometimes we do games, like from Paul Morphy.  Our teacher shows us the game--Paul Morphy--and sometimes other famous chess players and that's cool.  I can't wait to get to the next Chess Club class with Coach Colin!"    -- Francisco W., Golden Bridges School

"Chess Club is great! I give it two thumbs up."   - Student at Golden Bridges School

"My son is teaching me how to play. He plays with gusto and knowledge. I am grateful his has an opportunity I never had as a child.""Ishaan has enjoyed chess club immensely and expressed a lot of enthusiasm for playing in the tournament!"   "Chess club has been such a wonderful addition."  - Parents at Golden Bridges School