May 2, 2015


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CCF Mission and History


The Chicago Chess Foundation was formed in 2014 with a mission to provide chess instruction, training and competitive opportunities to all Chicago students at low or no cost. The CCF Board of Directors includes successful chess coaches, program directors, parents, administrators and members of the financial community. CCF is currently negotiating a partnership agreement with the Chicago Public Schools’ Office of Academic Competition aimed at supporting the district’s academic and competitive chess initiatives.

Why Focus on Chess?

Chess has a unique ability to rivet children’s attention and simultaneously teach important life skills. Forty years of research has shown that chess improves test scores, academic performance, concentration, decision-making, creativity, problem solving, and social skills.

CCF recently published a summary of the research that demonstrates the positive impact of chess on students’ critical thinking and academic success as measured by a wide range of metrics.. Click here to view the CCF Chess Research Summary.


The Chicago Chess Challenge.


Chicago’s existing chess program lags far behind other major cities. Approximately 1,500 Chicago students currently participate in chess programs compared to 23,000 in New York and 4,000 in many smaller cities. The best estimate is that roughly 10% of Chicago’s Title 1 schools have instructional chess programs, versus 59% to 100% in cities such as Philadelphia, Miami and Portland. 

Chicago schools are virtually absent from state and national competitions. The New York Times recently observed, “more students are enrolled in scholastic chess programs and are sent to tournaments across the country from schools in New York, which sends more teams to competitions than any other city; Miami; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; and even Brownsville, Texas.  It is unusual for a city as large as Chicago, with 2.7 million people, to have only one school enter a tournament as prestigious as the K-12 (National) Championships. By comparison, Los Alamos, N.M., population 18,000, also sent one school.”

Meeting the Challenge.


The formation of the Chicago Chess Foundation signals a significant change in the Chicagoland chess community. CCF is committed to providing every child in Chicago with opportunities to explore chess without worrying about cost.

Here’s how we intend to meet the challenge:

  • Building Capacity.  CCF recruits, trains and mentors teachers, chess players, parents and volunteers able to help build a new system for Chicago.  That system includes:
  • New Programs.  CCF provides startup advice, training and resources to new club directors, coaches, and school administrators. Find out more about one such program: Rook, Rattle & Roll.
  • Making Chicago Competitive.  High-quality tiered coaching aimed at students at all levels of ability helps clubs build capacity to participate in state and national championships.  A major focus of our Pawns to Queens’ Program is to bring titled and other top-tier coaches into our schools. Find out more about one such program: Pawns to Queens.
  • Coaching Marketplace.  CCF has set up a transparent online marketplace designed to offer schools choices when they select coaches and service providers. Visit our recently launched Marketplace for Chess Trainers.
  • Training and Professional Development focuses on the nuts and bolts of running a club, coaching techniques, classroom management, and the use of technology. Our handbook for coaches (“Teaching Chess to Groups”)  lays out our philosophy of coaching and provides tips and strategies.
  • Online Resources.  CCF board members have helped build a comprehensive package of online resources on the ICA website, which includes research on the benefits of chess, a step-by-step guide to getting a program started and choosing a curriculum, and sections on competition and tournament play. Visit our Resources page for our publications and some links to other online resources.
  • Tournaments. CCF host free scholastic chess tournaments for Chicagoland students in grades K-12. Find out more about upcoming and past tournaments.
  • Chess League and online matches. CCF will host a high school chess league to bring the excitement of team versus team matches to more students. Our first high school tournament was held at UIC on 1/14/17. Efforts are also underway to provide online capacity for school versus school matches for students at all grade levels.
  • Summer Camps. CCF hosts free summer camps, giving Chicago students opportunities to enhance their skills during the summer holiday. Find out about past summer camps.
  • Partnerships. CCF will establish partnerships with colleges, universities, museums and other cultural institutions to provide settings and opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds to participate in competitions and special events.
  • Fellows Program.  CCF will provide trained high school and college chess players to serve as coaches, mentors, tournament directors, and club assistants.  Fellows will receive credit for community service.
  • Raise Funds. To cover programming costs, CCF raises funds from foundations, corporations and private donors who share our vision.

Download a summary flyer of what we do (PDF)

Read our detailed proposal (PDF)

Learn more about how you can help by volunteering or making a donation.