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Subject: Looking to Commit Some Heresy

OK, I've been doing this correspondence thing for something like a year and a half now, and it's been a terrific experience, both personally and in terms of my game. But I have to confess that I still feel a little...empty. I miss the thrill of person-to-person chess, and "live chess online" is just not doing it for me. So I'm thinking of giving into an urge that's been flitting about in my brain for some time: since there is no chess club in the mid-sized suburban town I call my home, I think I have to organize one.

It's a scary prospect, since 1) I've never done such a thing and 2) I really don't like dealing with people. (You may think this is contrary to my impulse for OTB chess, but to me these are completely separate.) I seem to recall that, when I was a kid, there was a USCF-affiliated club in town with perhaps 15-20 people, and that's the sort of thing I'd hope to recreate.

And so I come before you, gentle chessplayers, in search of some advice. Has anyone done this in their town? How did you gauge interest, and how did you eventually get the word out? In your experience, are people willing to pay some nominal membership fee to defray costs of equipment/USCF dues/etc.?

Any advice/stories/warnings you could offer would be most helpful--especially if there's a "don't waste your time" point I haven't thought of. And of course, if you're a GK player in SW Connecticut, USA, who would be interested in such a thing, don't hesitate to send me a message.

I'm just tired of feeling like a violinist (ha! more of a kazoo player) whose string quartet (i.e., kazoo band) meets over the phone.



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I haven't done it, but...

I occasionally play at a very small club that meets at the local library. I'd recommend starting with something like that.....ask the library if they've got a public room available where you could meet and put up a few posters ther, at a few churches, grocery stores, etc. andon the internet if the town is large enough to have its own website. Buy a few cheap plastic set and be prepared to start small. You'll get all kinds - kids, duffers, fine players. Be flexible, friendly and be prepared to start small and build it over time. Good luck!



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Should have read your post first ...

... before starting mine!

I've done some traveling and while traveling I always tried to find a chess club to go get some games and meet people. The hardest thing is that most folks that start little clubs don't do much in the way of advertising, and then you can't ever find them!

Do some internet/yellow page research for your area. Are there any other clubs you can find? If not, what kind of population do you have in your area? If you have over 25k population, and there are no other clubs, my guess is you could build a good sized club pretty quickly over the course of a few months by putting up some posters at the schools/grocery markets, etc. Also, try to get on some interent chess club directories ... especially the USCF one.

People love chess, and if they know you are there, they will come. You would just need to try to overcome your "really don't like dealing with people" issues. (:-P) An organiser needs to do that.

In Bangor, Maine (population about 30k) one gentleman approached the folks at the Barnes and Nobles book store. There was a coffee shop section with maybe 15 little tables or so. He asked if one-night-a-week they could meet there, and the B & N folks agreed. On any given Wednesday, we would have anywhere from 4 to 16 people show up. This with very little advertising. In my SMALL hometown of 4000, one fellow had a little club in his house, and we had about 5-6 come.

I would start small like this and then decide if you think you can 'take it to the next level' ... ie paid membership, tournies with prizes, training, equiptment and book sales etc. etc.

I think if there's going to be money involved, you really need to offer something special.



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Exposure matters!

The idea can be initiated by you & one or two other players, & can grow from there; however, make certain you play where you can be noticed (schools, libraries, churches, a city park, etc...). This exposure will draw onlookers just by itself--from the simply curious to actual players who've been looking for such. The longer this goes on the better, since it will attract publicity (getting it in the local paper pays dividends)! After that, the sky as they say is the limit! Good luck & gp get 'em!



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I formed a club in my town (which was at that time a small rural town (no longer - been yupified). We arranged to meet once a week at a Church, that kindly provided us space free of charge. We imposed dues (and I think some dues are crucial - weed out the freeloaders) for which we purchased inexpensive sets and clocks and a few basic books (like "Basic Chess Endings").
The younger players preferred blitz play and the older plays a more relaxed time control. But everyone could play. We drew over 30 people for the first meeting - (publicity for this sort of event is easy to come by - and free). We even had some matches against some nearby towns. It went very well - and it wasn't so much work.
It went very well for several years - but when I could no longer run the club, for some reason it fell apart.
It's not that hard to do and a tremendous satisfaction. But you won't want to run things forever - the mistake I made was in not finding people who would keep the continuity. That is very important - you won't want to do this forever.
Even though the club eventually died, many people took up the game have continued to the present. It is also likely that somewhere burried nearby is a master who will give lectures and lessons - it's amazing what people will do for free.
You can do this - and good luck.



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Hi bucklehead ...

Well USCF used to offer a booklet about tips for Chess organizing like clubs. I dont know if the New Improved NEarly Bankrupt USCF offers it anymore or not. ?! (They should probably raise the membership rates dont you think so ??? It worked so well in the past ... {for those elsewhere...this is sarcasm})

We got a lot of publicity once holding a match between corporate clubs and it was an entire section of the Omaha World Herald, tho that was not necessarily the intent of the event. Anyway, advertising something in company newsletters helps. Or finding someone in them to have a company tournament or club .
Being a USCF affiliate is always an idea. And member of your state assoc. To see what is going on areound you... Just some thoughts
As an affiliate or director for an existing one you could advertise a tournament for free Chess Life (i think it may still be free?!) and then include a plug for your club activity in the announcement by holding a club activity on that day too...



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in the meantime you could try Skype

If you have a microphone and speakers on your computer, or a plug in headest you can use Skpye to talk for free to anywhere in the world


I always recommend people research a programme before they install it.

So far I have only used Skype to call interstate - and it doesnt cost anything. So you can chat to your co-player ( a term suggested by ccomcallister - now I have spelt it wrongly) while you play chess. I know it is still phone contact, but it is a human voice rather than a virtual move.:)



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starting a chess club

I started a club in Princeton that lasted about 10 years, and I have helped organize clubs.

For a small fee, you can purchase a mailing list from the United States Chess Federation, with names and addresses, by zip code. This will provide you with the names and addresses of active USCF members in your area; you can contact them by sending out a flier. My experience has been that this works beautifully. It hooks you up with more or less active players. You can find out more at the USCF website,

The above is important because it is hard to start a club with folks completely new to chess. It can be done, but you are more likely to be successful with a mixture of players with varying expertise and experience When I started the club in Princeton, I spent four months trying to find people who were interested--not knowing about the USCF mailing list. I located exactly 3. When I sent out a flier using the list, I had 30-40 interested players on my list within a week of dropping the mailing off at the post office. :-) From there, it was easy.

The hard part is not finding the players, provided there are some in your region. By far the most difficult part of getting my club going was finding the space. I don't know what it is like in CT, but I have to tell you, in NJ, public meeting space is at an absolute premium and was very hard to get hold of, particularly if you want to play USCF rated games at more or less normal time controls, which means you may need the space until 11 pm or so.

Starting and running a club was actually quite fun, but it can be a fair amount of work and can wear you out and down over time. So one important thing to do, if you manage to get the thing launched, is set up some simple governance and recruit some fellow organizers who will share the work of keeping the club afloat. If you can find these folks, make sure the onerous tasks get split more or less evenly. Then you won't necessarily feel overwhelmed, and there will be nights where you can enjoy your club as a "member", rather than an organizer.

By the way, I could not agree with you more. There is no substitute for the fun of OTB (Over the Board) play.

Best of Luck,

Ned Walthall



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Thanks one and all...

...for the very helpful posts and PMs. I've decided it's definitely something I want to pursue, but it's also something I need to pursue carefully. I think I'm going to begin by getting myself down to some of the other chess clubs in the region (there are two USCF affiliates, each about 15-20 miles away, which is much less convenient than it sounds), talk to the organizers, and try to get a feel for what that job entails. I'm not super concerned about space, since I think there are more than a few local opportunities, but I am starting to wonder about duration (meetings would need to be weekday evenings, but if, say, the library meeting rooms close at 9, this could mean dealing with adjourned games if players use longer time controls).

The USCF list idea is spectacular, and pretty much just what I needed. I'm most concerned about is getting the word out to active, adult players (I have no objection to teaching or working with kids, but it's enough work trying to keep my five-year-old from playing openings such as 1 h4 e5 2 Rh3)--I don't think I'd mind laying out a modest amount for supplies if I knew there was going to be interest and regular attendance, but I'd hate to be stuck with a dozen plastic sets and have no one show up. If there are 100 USCF members in my 50k town (a wild exaggeration, probably!), though, I can get mailing labels for the for just $25 and not be very much out of pocket.

Again, thank you all for your input, and if you have any more suggestions, I'm excited to hear them!

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