Club Affiliate Of The Month: Columbia Chess Club

Club Affiliate Of The Month: Columbia Chess Club

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May’s Club Affiliate of the Month is the Columbia Chess Club in South Carolina. It was an absolute pleasure to learn more about the Columbia Chess Club and their president, James Brandmair. James wears many hats within the South Carolina Chess community as Vice President of the South Carolina Chess Association, tournament director, organizer, and coach, all while being President of the Columbia Chess Club.

Despite being around for decades, the Columbia Chess Club is not your grandfather’s chess club; under James’ direction this club has totally embraced an online presence to connect with their community and beyond, incorporates speed chess & variants, and accommodates casual players through to serious rated play.

What inspired you to take more of a leadership role in the club?
During Covid, I got a position at my job that allowed me to work during the day. I immediately wanted to check out the local chess club, and found out that it had shut down due to quarantines and lockdowns. So I took it upon myself to start the Irmo Chess Club, Irmo being a suburb of Columbia, in August of 2021.

Our first meeting had 10 players show up after hearing about it through Facebook. Then the local paper did an article on us, and the President of the South Carolina Chess Association heard about me. He visited the club and showed me how to be a tournament director, and I started running events every week.

The previous leader of the Columbia Chess Club found out about what I was doing for the local chess scene in October at the State Championship, and the following month he gave me the reins to run the Columbia Chess Club.

A well-attended monthly Tunnelvision Tournament.

Can you share a little more about the history of the Columbia Chess Club?
The Columbia Chess Club has existed continuously in one shape or another since WWII, as the Palmetto Chess Club, till it changed its name in the 1990s. It has met at various locations in its history, starting at the YMCA downtown, then in various buildings on the campus of the University of South Carolina, then in the Blue Cross & Blue Shield building's conference room, then in a local hotel.

In the 1990s there was a "Columbia Chess Center''. After that closed down, the club would meet in Lorick Park, and local bookstores, before eventually moving into a restaurant called Shoney's. After that, it moved into Ashland Methodist Park for about 10 years before moving into its current location at Firefly Toys and Games.

The Columbia Chess Club has run the Columbia Open annually for over 30 years. We also ran the 2023 SC Rapid and Blitz Championship, which saw 85 players and $3,000 in prizes, downtown in a venue 18 stories up that had a 360-degree view of Columbia. We have also started doing a monthly tournament called "Tunnelvision '' where we award $1,000 in prizes.

The Columbia Chess Club leaves no stone unturned when it comes to venues and opportunities to play!
We meet on Monday evenings at the local library from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., for casual chess and coaching for beginners. Our main meeting is on Thursday nights from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at a local game store, where we host casual chess, instruction, tournaments, and simuls/lectures from titled players or other special guests.

The monthly “Tunnelvision” tournaments are held at a local church. We also meet once a month at a local coffee shop that also sells beer and wine in the evenings for more casual chess, and chess variants. Occasionally we will also meet at local coffee shops in the mornings or play in local parks.

Columbia Chess Club at a local coffee shop.

Would you recommend other clubs to join the Club Affiliate Program?
Of course! It's a win-win relationship for your club and, as well as a win for growing chess.

As an OTB club, why do you think it's important to have an online presence?
It's important to have an online presence as an OTB club because we live in the digital age. Everyone uses the internet to see what's going on and to connect with people.

Additionally, even if someone can't meet us in person, they can still interact with us online. So many people look up "local chess club", or "chess near me" and search engines scour the internet looking for that information, so you want to be the first thing that player sees so they know about your club.

Columbia Chess Club members teaching local scholastic students.

Learn more about all the amazing things that the Columbia Chess Club is doing to serve their members, grow the game, and be a great example for chess clubs in the whole interview here.

Interested in checking out the Columbia Chess Club?
Columbia Chess Club on
Columbia Chess Club on
Columbia Chess Club on Facebook
Columbia Chess Club on Instagram

Enjoyed the blog? Read about previous Club Affiliate of the Months below: