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

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Mechanics’ Institute -- Scholastic Chess Program

Mechanics' Institute Chess Club
2020 Fall Schedule


Mechanics' Institute Chess Club now offers all events through virtual online platforms.
Our Philosophy stays the same - click here to read it.


Classes - Clubs - Camps - Tournaments

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


Enrichment 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.


1. After School Enrichment Virtual Classes

Virtual classes are 60 minutes long and have no more than 10 student per coach, and all student are from the same school.
Do you have a group of kids from the same school or organizaiton, we can work with you to develop a class just for you.
Class will include: warm-up with chess puzzles & composition, mastering new materials, excercises to deepen the understanding of the new material, summarize and transition to to participate in an optional 30 mins online tournament.


2. Free Youth Outreach Programs

Mechanics' Chess offeres free chess education for selected schools in the San Francisco city area. These classes were made possibly by our generous donors & benefactors.
Please, reach out to us if you need more information, or if you have a school that would be a good candidate.


3. Mechanics' Chess Classes

Select from the following four levels that are offered on Thursdays:

  • Get those Chess Boards out! 
    As parents, many of us now see kids staring at a screen for hours during the school day. We understand having another online class may not be so exciting. What if we are able to offer a class for beginners where they can feel and interact with the pieces to capture an important part of the early learning experience?
    That's why we are introducing a new class for our young, beginner players! Let's get those chess boards out and use it during the class!
    Coach Colin will interact with the players via zoom, but they will talk, use the chess board, set it up and set up different positions, and learn and play on a physical board. No shared screen during the class! It's all interactive, using physical chess pieces!
  • Starting at Chess: This class is for new players that need to develop basic skills that will lead to improvement, such as learning notation, elementary checkmates, piece values, piece development, importance of the center of the board, and the most important part of chess learning, the value of learning from mistakes and losses and how to improve from it. This class will build the foundations from which all learning will develop and teach them learning skills that can be applied in many other areas of a child’s learning and development. Class is suitable for new players, non rated players, and players with a ChessKid rating under800.
  • Developing Players: This class Is for students looking to go beyond the basics and learn the building blocks of advanced chess learning. We will cover tactics, mating patterns, opening principles, middle game attack planning and endgame techniques. This class is suitable for kids with a ChessKid rating 800-1300 or who have had tournament experience. 
  • Mastering Your Chess: This class is for advanced scholastic players with tournament experience and understand tactics and mates who want to go beyond what can be calculated and think more abstractly about the game. We will go over middle and endgame theory, have students create their own tactics and learn positional play by going over historical games from the great players in history. Ideal for players with a ChessKid rating above 1300 or USCF rating over 800.

Please click on the day to get more information about the class structure, topics taughts, dates & fees and to register:


Class Class Time
with new session dates & registration!
Get those Chess Boards out! Tuesdays 4-5PM
Click for more info

Starting at Chess

Mondays 3-4PM
Click for more info
Developing Players Tuesdays 3-4PM
Thursdays 4-5PM
Click for more info
Mastering Your Chess Thursdays 5-6PM
Click for more info


Note: minimum 5 students to start the class, maximum 10 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.



Weekend Clubs
Ongoing on Sundays 4:00 - 6:00PM


2-hour fun and dynamic weekend clubs: learn from the best instructors and play against your peers.

4:00-4:15- students join/warm up puzzles
4:15-4:45- lecture of the week
4:45-5:00- weekly chesskid video incorporated with lesson
5:00-5:30-game analysis from weekly tournaments or any game student's had questions on
5:30-6:00- ladder play/any other questions. 

Mechanics' Scholastic Chess Club is a place where youngsters can freely learn and share their ideas with other like-minded students where they can learn, discuss, and play chess. Each week will include working all facets of their game and expanding their critical thinking skills through puzzles, lectures, additional content, time to play, and discuss openly their thoughts and ideas with others.
We also teach students the importance of sportsmanship and friendships through chess, and our ladder system is meant to encourage camaraderie and student interaction in a positive and supportive environment.

Our Mechanics' Sunday Chess Club combines fun with learning in a casual virtual class that is built around the Mechanics' Power Ladder. This creates a fun way for participants to challenge and play other class members. 

The way the Power Ladder works is that initially all players in the club will be ranked in order of their Chesskid rating. Players can then challenge to move up the ladder if they are within 4 spaces above them. For example, if a player is #8 on the ladder, they can challenge any player in position #4-7 to move up. A player must accept one challenge, so 2 games will be played during the club, one for a player being challenged, and one from a player challenging someone. These games will happen during class and we will use some of these games for instruction. Time control for these games will be G/8 +2. Challenges will be made the week before and games played the following week. The lower player on the ladder gets white for their game. If the game is between players in position #1-4, the color will be decided by coin toss.
Ladder will be updated on Monday and posted on the class webpage here:

Register at

Registration fee: $30/club class
                           $54/2 club classes (10% off)
                           $96/4 club classes (10% off)
                          Mechanics' Institute offers financial support for any student who might be in need!


Seasonal Camps

Fall Schedule:


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

Register Online for the regular virtual chess camps:

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

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.




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