Boy Scouts

The Scouting organzation has had a long time love affair with chess.   Boys' Life, their official organ, had run a world-class chess column for many years with the following illuminaries as editors:



Not long ago I received an email from Dwight Weaver, the incomparable historian for the Memphis Chess Club apprising me of the following information.

According to a scouting press release on Sept. 7, 2011:

         Boy Scout Merit Badge

(DALLAS, Texas—September 7, 2011)—Scouts will be able to add a new patch to their merit badge sash—a patch for playing a game. However, it’s a game that requires critical thinking skills, deep concentration, and abstract reasoning. The Boy Scouts of America will introduce the Chess merit badge in September, encouraging Scouts to enjoy an ancient game while acquiring life skills necessary for today.  



1.   Discuss with your merit badge counselor the history of the game of chess.
      Explain why it is considered a game of planning and strategy.

2.    Discuss with your merit badge counselor the following:
        a.  The benefits of playing chess, including developing critical thinking skills,              concentration skills, and decision-making skills, and how these skills can
             help you in other areas of your life
        b.  Sportsmanship and chess etiquette

3.   Demonstrate to your counselor that you know each of the following.
      Then, using Scouting's Teaching EDGE, teach the following to a Scout
      who does not know how to play chess:
        a.  The name of each chess piece
        b.  How to set up a chessboard
        c.  How each chess piece moves, including castling and en passant captures

4.    Do the following:
        a.  Demonstrate scorekeeping using the algebraic system of chess notation.
        b.  Discuss the differences between the opening, the middle game,
             and the endgame.
        c.  Explain four opening principles.
        d.  Explain the four rules for castling.
        e.  On a chessboard, demonstrate a "scholar's mate" and a "fool's mate."
        f.  Demonstrate on a chessboard four ways a chess game can end in a draw.

5.    Do the following:
        a.  Explain four of the following elements of chess strategy:
             exploiting weaknesses,
             force, king safety, pawn structure, space, tempo, time.
        b.  Explain any five of these chess tactics: clearance sacrifice, decoy,
             discovered attack, double attack,
             fork, interposing, overloading, overprotecting, pin, remove the
             defender, skewer, zwischenzug.
        c.  Set up a chessboard with the white king on e1, the white rooks on a1
             and h1, and the black king on e5.
             With White to move first, demonstrate how to force checkmate
             on the black king.
        d.  Set up and solve five direct-mate problems provided by your
             merit badge counselor.

6.    Do ONE of the following:
        a.  Play at least three games of chess with other Scouts and/or your
             merit badge counselor.
             Replay the games  from your score sheets and discuss with your counselor
             how you might have played each game differently.
        b.  Play in a scholastic (youth) chess tournament and use your score sheets
             from that tournament to replay your games with your merit
badge counselor. Discuss with your counselor how you might
             have played each game differently.
        c.  Organize and run a chess tournament with at least four players, plus you.
             Have each competitor play at least two games.

Chess Merit Badge worksheet

The Cub Scouts, on the other hand, have offered a chess pin for some time.

Tiger Cubs, Cub Scouts, and Webelos Scouts may complete requirements in a family, den, pack, school, or community environment. Tiger Cubs must work with their parents or adult partners. Parents and partners do not earn loops or pins.

Requirements for the Chess Belt Loop

Complete these three requirements:

    Identify the chess pieces and set up a chess board for play.
    Demonstrate the moves of each chess piece to your den leader or adult partner.
    Play a game of chess.

Requirements for the Chess Pin

Earn the Chess belt loop, and complete five of the following requirements:

  1.  Demonstrate basic opening principles (development of pieces, control 
 center, castle, 
       don't bring queen out too early, don't move same piece twice).
  2.  Visit a chess tournament and tell your den about it.
  3.  Participate in a pack, school, or community chess tournament.
  4.  Solve a pre-specified chess problem (e.g., 'White to move and mate in three')
       given to you by your adult partner.
  5.  Play five games of chess.
  6.  Play 10 chess games via computer or on the Internet.
  7.  Read about a famous chess player. Tell your den or an adult family member
       about that player's life.
  8.  Describe U.S. Chess Federation ratings for chess players.
  9.  Learn to write chess notation and record a game with another Scout.
10. Present a report about the history of chess to your den or family.

Chess Pin worksheet


  • 5 years ago



    interestingly enough I think that they should make it harder, like play three and get an even record, 1.5-1.5

  • 5 years ago


    I signed up last week to be a merit badge counselor for Chess and I'm going to start a class for our Scout troop here in Yuba City!  This is wonderful.

  • 5 years ago


    I personally will be working on the merit badge at future troop meetings.  At summer camp, a scout can take merit badge classes where they go to a class for an hour a day.  That is doable for this badge.  It would take work, but the only really hard part is finding a scout to teach how to play chess.

  • 5 years ago


    I agree that they seem to have set the bar too high. I was a Merit badge counselor for 5 Eagle required badges and the requirements weren't this tough. Furthermore, from the counselor's point of view, how long would all of this take to review? Does he/she really want to spend 2+ hours every time a Scout wants to get this badge?

  • 5 years ago


    Funny, the requirements don't mention sexual orientation. Have the BSA advanced into the twenty-first century on that issue?

  • 5 years ago


    Maybe could start giving out chess badges too! BTW Fischer wrote "A Bust to the Kings Gambit" for the BSA after Spassky beat him with it:

  • 5 years ago


    Strong requirements...but NICE

  • 5 years ago


    Thanks for posting this. I will utilize it.

    It seem that my two grandchildren could have gotten badges already as tiger or bears.

    They learned the game last summer and they passed a test that I administered.

    They are six and eight year olds.

    I have volunteered to teach a four/six lesson chess class for their den.

  • 5 years ago


    Pretty stiff requirements!  That would eliminate the vast majority of members from badge eligibility!  Cool

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