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

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Mechanics’ Institute -- Scholastic Chess Program

Mechanics' Institute Chess Club

Classes - Clubs - Camps - Tournaments

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

What's new? Check out our Summer Camp and Summer Classes!


Summer Chess Camps ONLINE and In-Person

Summer Chess Camp Schedule:

Date Time Type of camp Location Link to Register
June  7-11 9AM - 12PM Regular Online via Zoom
June 14-18 9:30AM - 3:30PM Regular In-Person @ MI
June 21-25 12PM - 3PM Advanced Online via Zoom
June 28 - July 2 9AM - 12PM Regular Online via Zoom
July 12-16 9:30AM - 3:30PM Regular In-Person @ MI
July 19-23 12:30PM - 3:30PM Advanced
for adults & kids
In-Person @ MI
July 26-30 9AM - 12PM Regular online via Zoom
August 2-6 12PM - 3PM Advanced online via Zoom
August 9-13 9:30AM - 3:30PM Regular In-Person @ MI



  • online via zoom - zoom link is shared in the Camp Welcome Eamil a few days before camp
  • in person @ MI: these camps will be held live, in-person in the historic Mechanics' building at 57 Post Street, SF.


Type of Camp:

Regular: Ideal for all chess lovers or anyone who is interested in chess! For beginners, we'll show you how to play and basic rules in a fun learning environment. While intermediate students, those who are under 1000 USCF rating or under 1200 ChessKid rating, will build on their basics with seeing game examples, learn and work on tactics, learn how to strategically open a chess game and to defend common opening traps, and of course get to play with other kids who are learning chess as well! Regular camps will include an advanced group once we reach enough students (x number of students).

Advanced: Ideal for players with USCF 1000+ rating, or 1200+ ChessKid rating. Players should know the pieces and how they move, basic checkmating patterns, opening principles and ideally have experience with USCF rated tournaments. Students will see game analysis of masters games, work on tactical patterns, learn opening theory, and have opportunities to play new and old friends. 

** All camps need a minimum 5 camper to hold the camp. Decision to cancel the camp in case under-enrollment will be made Friday evening the week before. Please register ahead of time to make sure we can plan accordingly.



Camp Registration Fees:


- Online: $225/full week camp.

- In-person: Morning or Afternoon half day (3hr): $225 or $450 full day (6hr)


- Advanced Online: 3 hours: $275/full week

- In-person Online: 3 hours: $300/full week


Camp Registraiton Fees:

Refund policy: 

- Online: 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.

- In-person: Full refund minus a $5 administration fee if cancelled more than 5 days before the start of the camps. 50% refund if cancelled within 5 days of the start of the camp. No refund if cancelled on the day of the camp.



Summer Chess Classes ONLINE
Summer Session: 10 classes - week of Jun 14 to Aug 20

Class Class Time
Spring Sessions
All Girls Class
with Coach Colin
Mondays 4-5PM
Register HERE
Intermediate Class with Coach Andy Thursdays 4-5PM
Register HERE
Advanced Class with Coach Andy Thursdays 5-6PM
Register HERE
Tactics, Tactics, Tactics with Coach Andy
for players rated 1000+ (ChessKid rating)
Friday 4-5PM
Register HERE

Note: minimum 5 students to start the class, maximum 10-12 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.



2020-21 School Year -- 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 organization, 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 offers 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

Spring Session: 10 classes - week of March 29 to May 31

Class Class Time
Spring Sessions
All Girls Class
with Coach Colin and Coach Abel
Mondays 4-5PM
Register HERE

Intermediate Class with Coach Andy

Tuesdays 3-4PM
Register HERE
Intermediate Class with Coach Andy Thursdays 4-5PM
Register HERE
Advanced Class with Coach Andy Thursdays 5-6PM
Register HERE
Tactics, Tactics, Tactics with Coach Andy
for players rated 1000+ (ChessKid rating)
Friday 3-4PM
Register HERE

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
On hold for now


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:


Registration fee: $40 for a single club class
                           Monthly passes offer 20% discount: $128/months for 4 club classes
                          Mechanics' Institute offers financial support for any student who might be in need!


Online Tournaments via

We offer two types of online tournaments:
- Daily FREE tournaments: open to any scholastic players, non-rated, no pre-registration necessary.
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 registered 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 its 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




Online programming

"My kids have been playing chess for about two years, and it’s been great for them to have an activity they can continue doing during the pandemic. Thank you for offering so many online chess classes and tournaments for kids." Jill C.

"Thank you so much for your partnership this year. I'm so glad we were able to work together, despite the strangeness of this year. I so appreciate you creating a smooth and engaging online experience for our girls. I know they really enjoyed it!" Laura B.


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.

From 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 dispel 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 hesitantly 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