Monday, October 22, 2012

Something is missing in Chicago . . .

Last year, I ran some numbers. More than one-third of Chicagoland residents live in the city of Chicago itself. About one-quarter of all U.S. Chess Federation members in Chicagoland live in the city. Yet in 2010, 90 percent of all open, rated chess competitions in Chicagoland took place in the suburbs. In 2011, it was a little better: 87 percent. But out of 18 events held in Chicago, that's counting 12 that were kids-only scholastics.

There were more than twice as many open, all-ages chess events held in Moline in 2011 as there were in Chicago.

It's been 22 years since Jules Stein's Chicago Chess Center on Southport Avenue closed its doors, 34 years since the Chicago Chess Club, going nearly nine decades strong, left the Loop and faded away. Now, of the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the United States (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Washington, Miami, Atlanta and Boston), only Chicago is without a primary metropolitan chess club serving the center city as well as surrounding areas.

Along with Bill Brock, Albert Chow, Chris Christmas, Alyse Hammonds and Hector Hernandez, I'm working to establish a new Chicago Chess Center, because we think a world-class city deserves a full-time chess center, and we think it should be in the city.

We want to create a welcoming, attractive and comfortable gathering place for chess players of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels. We intend to provide a regular schedule of chess classes. We plan to serve players in the city as well as the suburbs with a full calendar of rated tournament chess. And we hope to become the focal point of an active, vibrant and expanded chess scene, a place where the benefits of chess are accessible to everyone, where anyone can walk in off the street and find a game and a community.

This costs money.

We're looking to raise $100,000 so that we can secure a site, build it out, open our doors and know that we won't have to worry about whether we can pay the rent in our first year of operation. Early stability is key to making the Chicago Chess Center a viable and enduring civic and cultural institution. Speaking solely for myself, I'd love to see us raise $40,000 in the next 30 days so that we can be open for business in early 2013.

That's where you come in, dear reader. Your generosity will provide the regularly scheduled instruction and training. Your generosity will provide the central site where chess players from all over Chicagoland -- and beyond -- can gather and establish a learning and playing community. Your generosity will help curious beginners and experience-seekers to see chess as an enjoyable and beneficial activity that everyone can participate in and to discover that chess competence is within their reach. Your generosity will create a place where parents know they can bring their children for high-quality chess instruction in a safe and friendly environment. And your generosity will bring Chicago back into the company of America's top-shelf chess cities. It's you who will make all this possible by becoming a founding member of the Chicago Chess Center.

But donations aren't all we're asking for. We'd also like to ask you to help us spread the word. Tell your fellow chess players -- casual, serious and in between -- but also tell educators, civic boosters, patrons of culture, business owners, board members of other nonprofits. To make it easier, we've created a Facebook page that you can connect to and share with others. You can also sign up for our mailing list to receive announcements and updates on our progress. And if you'd like to get more directly involved, you can give your time -- particularly if you have experience with nonprofit finance and governance, business administration or community outreach. Send a secure message through our website, or e-mail us directly at

Let's change those numbers!


Chicago Chess Center NFP Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All donations are tax-deductible.


Bill Brock said...

Time to turn vision into reality.

If we grow the Chicago chess community, everyone benefits.

Alyse H said...

Well said

Anonymous said...

What's the organizational structure?

What's the decision-making process?

What's the business model?

Keith Ammann said...

Any of us will be happy to discuss those things in person with individuals wanting to get involved. Drop us a line at