How do you run your school chess club?

I am the sponsor of a high school chess club. Being that it is new and relatively small, I just let the kids play games against each other at will without any formal coaching. We meet once per week for an hour and a half after school.

I guess I am looking for any input from people in similar positions on how they have structured their scholastic chess clubs to improve the players’ abilities, without losing the fun aspect of actually playing games each week, and not just running through drills or watching tutorials.

I would recommend the first 30 minutes be used for a lesson. Then the last hour can be used for play.

If you're looking for instructional material, ChessKid offers a free chess curriculum for parents and coaches. From the website link, you can  download a free sample but you'll want to send an email to get the full curriculum, a 550-page PDF.


Our HS club also meets once a week for 90 minutes, during the winter (about four months).  Here's what we do.

We elect officers at the 2nd meeting.  They help set the schedule for the season, which usually includes a variety:  a 3-week slow tournament, a few 3-round Game/15 tournaments, a speed tournament, a bughouse tournament, a 2 vs 2 long game session (usually earlier in the season, pairing a vet with a newbie, I instruct the vet to teach the newbie "everything you know about chess"), one computer night where everybody has to have/get a laptop and someone (officer?) leads them on a chess tour of all the good chess websites online.  Etc.

Early on in the season, I have all the players (who can) play in the "Online Club Championship", a slow tournament (1 move every 3 days) at  You can design custom "medals" for the top three finishers, and I do.  (Past medals were Lord of the Rings, Marvel heroes, Harry Potter them, and stylized school logos.)  It takes a few steps: 1.Send me your online name 2.I send out Invites, then 3.Respond to your online invite by the tourney start deadline to be in the tourney.  It takes work to set up, but once it starts, you can forget about it, and the students will daily be thinking chess for two months.  Good investment.

When I have energy, I also set up an online tactics contest, either at,,, or similar.  Players send me a screenshot of their tactics score and # of problems solved after the contest start date, then another screenshot before the contest end date.  I rank them by 1) score and 2) number of problems attempted, then average the two.   It helps to have some sort of prestige prize (top three displayed during the season?), and actual prize at the end.  Delegate this to an officer if you can.  (Delegate everything if you can!)

Concur with Brother7 above - Lesson, followed by play is a good way to go.

We attend a couple tournaments, and we play in a league against other schools, the top five in our club "make Varsity" in league, and the league awards nice All-Star medals and plaques, so that adds fun & spice to the club.

Good luck and have fun!


Thank you for the suggestions. I hope to use some of these with my team.


I don’t think it’s necessary to have too much coaching - 5/10 minutes per session is fine. 30 minutes would be absolutely insane.


I would definitely suggest running some kind of tournament whether it be all play all, or Swiss, something where they can see how they’re doing - if they’re only playing friendlies they will quickly get bored/antsy/. 

JamesColeman wrote:

I don’t think it’s necessary to have too much coaching - 5/10 minutes per session is fine. 30 minutes would be absolutely insane.

I think it depends on the goal of the club. If chess improvement is the goal, then a structured lesson of reasonable length is desirable. From the OP, "I am looking for any input... on how they have structured their scholastic chess clubs to improve the players’ abilities, without losing the fun aspect of actually playing games". My reply in post #2 was intended to address those specific desires.

The OP mentioned that it's a high school club, implying members are age 14-18. A 30-minute lesson is surely tolerable at that age. And it's only 1/3rd of the entire 1.5 hour session. If one thinks 30 minutes is too long, then perhaps 20-minutes is a reasonable compromise.

Thank you all for the feedback. I will keep these ideas in mind going into the next school year.

I think 30 minutes of learning is ideal. It's not too long. I would split it in half though, a 15 minute entertaining video followed by 15 minutes of discussion of what that particular video lesson was about.

Then bam! Let the games begin. Let em go at it to try to apply what they just learned.

And tournaments every few sessions r a very good thing, and fun. Maybe 1 day each month a 3 round Swiss of at least 10 minutes on each clock. Competition makes everyone better in all areas, not just chess.

What is a 3 round Swiss?
JimUrban2718 wrote:
What is a 3 round Swiss?


That Wikipedia link explanation is long but simplified its this:

each round a player gets paired with an opponent that has the same score, or as close to it as possible. If u lose ur first game then in round 2 u play another player that has 0, or lost their first round. The winners (all 1 pointers) play each other in round 2. The ones that drew ( half pointers) play each other in round 2. The ones that keep winning end up paired as the rounds go on. That is how pairings work through each round. Basically the better players play each other as the tournament progresses and the same for the weaker players and the ones in the middle. The more rounds the better, they get sorted out more accurately. But only 3 rounds seems doable in 1 hour if u have 10 minutes on each clock for the game. A win is 1 point, a draw is a half point, and a loss is 0 of course.


Your post is rather general.  But good for you for starting a chess club.

I ran a chess club for the past 2 years, and I don't think I could have kept the club going without a clear goal for the club.

My goal was for the club to participate in a specific local scholastic chess tournament. I view a chess club like sports. E.g. if the school's football team doesn't complete, then it removes the motivation for training and practice. Plus, it removes a lot of the fun too.  Same with a chess club.



We record results of games played during practice and have a ranking system. This has been a great motivator for our students. My team is younger than high school, so they are using I set up chesskid challenges for them, such as attempt X puzzles or complete X lessons in a certain time period. I also set up two chesskid fast tournaments per month. This gives the kids motivation to practice outside of club meetings. A lot of the kids hated doing puzzles until I set up a contest. Just by doing a lot of puzzles they saw improvement and do them on their own now.

All the practice motivators have been helpful, but the single best thing we've done is participate in scholastic team tournaments. Out of about 35 kids I've taken to tournaments, 34 were hooked and wanted to do it again. We focus a lot on the team, which means during practice after you win you show your teammate where they went wrong so someone on another team doesn't do the same thing to them at the next tournament. 


Please be kind to tell how to organize a correspondence tournament for kids on Thank you very much.


Email and I'd be happy to share with you sample curriclum to use.


I an interested in what school based chess coaches use for a ranking system for their clubs.  In my high school club (1960s) I think we all started with 500 points and then added 10% of your opponent's total if you won and subtracted 5% of your opponent's total if you lost.  What systems do you use?


Our HS club met every day (at lunch).


Creb351, we have a volunteer(s) who operate a free rating system here in the Pacific NW USA, and it's one of the contributors to scholastic chess growth here.


Our team just plays matches and we coach each other ourselves our actual leader does a recap and have people who are good "challenge" for chairs.