Schools and Chess

by Bill Wall


The Annenberg Foundation is one of the biggest contributors to chess in America’s public schools.   In New York, the Annenberg Foundation gave $200,000 to implement the in-school weekly program in eight New York City schools as part of the Chess-In-The-Schools (CIS) program.   A list of other sponsors is listed at


Since 1986, Chess-in-the-Schools, a non-profit organization, have touched 400,000 students in the New York City public schools.  In 2007, 20,000 students were involved in the Chess-in-the-Schools program.  In 2008, Chess-in-the-Schools raised over $1 million to support chess in New York schools.  In 2009, college bound high school seniors involved in CIS received 84 college acceptances and more than $525,000 in scholarships and financial aid.


 The Manhattan School for Children is an Annenberg Challenge School and an Annenberg New York City Partnership for the Arts School.  One of its clubs it sponsors and supports is the American Chess Foundation Chess Club.


 The Annenberg Foundation donates to the Philadelphia Scholastic Chess League, comprised of 24 high school teams from around the city.  The Philadelphia Scholastic Chess League has 220 active chess clubs with 3,000 participants playing weekly.


 The Annenberg foundation provided financial assistance to the HEAF (Harlem Educational Activities Fund) chess club in Harlem, located at the Police Athletic League/Phipps Center.


 In Chicago, the Chess Academy is an approved on-site after-school enrichment provider for Chicago Public Schools.  It is an approved Professional Development Provider by the Illinois State Department of Education.  Also in Chicago, the Renaissance Chess Foundation works with the Chicago’s Mayor’s Office of Special Events to provide chess activities at community events.  They also act as a consultant to the Chicago Public Schools Chess Programs.


 In 2008, the Department of Education invested $120,000 for chess in 100 public schools and expanded this fall to 100 more.


 The United States Chess Federation estimates 500,000 students in the public school system are being taught some aspect of chess.


 America’s Foundation for Chess (AF4C) has developed a program called First Move.  It is being taught in 26 states at the 2nd and 3rd grade level.  It uses chess as a learning tool to teach higher level thinking skills, advanced math and reading skills.  It also uses chess to build self-esteem in students.  First Move was recently featured on NBC’s Today Show.


 In Washington State, King County (Seattle) provided $25,000 to fully fund the AF4C First Move chess curriculum in 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms.


 In Philadelphia, the 7th largest school system in the country, 18 of the 280 public schools have added the AF4C First Move chess program to their curriculum.  Additionally, the Philadelphia Eagles NFL football league has made a commitment to chess in the Philadelphia schools as part of its Eagles Youth Partnership After-Schools Activities Partnership (ASAP) program.


 The Maryland State Department of Education granted $10,000 to 24 public schools to support a Chess in Maryland Schools (CMS) program.


 In 2007, the University of Aberdeen sponsored a Chess in the Schools and Communities International Conference (CISCCON).


 In the UK, the British Schools Chess Championship has been held every year since 1958.  At its height in the 1970s, over 1,000 teams took part.  In 2008, there were 135 teams.  In 2007, there were only 93 teams, the lowest ever.


 In Detroit, the Michigan First Credit Union (formerly the Detroit Teachers Credit Union) has donated $20,000 to chess in the Detroit Public Schools.  The Detroit public schools have produced several national scholastic chess champions.


In Baltimore, about 1,200 students are playing chess in 60 public schools as part of the Baltimore Kids Chess League, which started four years ago with 20 schools.  The effort is sponsored by the Abell Foundation and the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.  Each school gets about $2,000 in grants to support chess.  In 2007, the Maryland State Department of Education provided 24 chess programs with up to $10,000 each in grant funding to support a Chess in Marylands Schools program.  Statewide funding for chess in the schools totaled $255,000 with 750 students participating.


 In California, the Berkeley Chess School (BCS) offers chess free of charge to 500 children from Oakland’s underserved public elementary schools.  The BCS Oakland Chess Program  provides weekly classes to 500 3rd-thru-5th graders from five low-income schools in Oakland.  Sponsors include the Hellman Family Foundation and a grant from the Irene S. Scully Family Foundation.


 In October, 2008, elementary school children in the USA played a chess match with astronaut Greg Chamitoff, who was on the International Space Station.


Idaho included a budget up to $60,000 to finance chess instruction in their schools.


In March 2012, the European Parliament endorsed the ‘Chess in European schools’ program, a cooperation  between the European Chess Union (ECU) and the Kasparov Chess Foundation.


 An unfortunate incident occurred in the Washington, D.C. public school system in 2007.  $73,000 was donated to support chess in the public schools.  However, a school business manager ripped off most of the money.  He used the school’s ATM card more than 100 times to steal from the public school chess fund.