Berkeley Chess School


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RE: New in town from Brooklyn ()

Welcome! For chess, definitely check out the Berkeley Chess School, with both in-person and virtual camps. In non-Covid times, they had weekly tournament games as well:

Archived Q&A and Reviews

April 2016

RE: Casual Kids Chess Games?

I think you should give the Berkeley Chess School a chance. My daughter has done both their after school program and their main program, and it is actually a great, informal environment to learn chess. Yes, they do start with a lesson, but the rest of the class is just playing chess. The teachers are all enthusiastic and just enjoy sharing their love of chess to the kids. Now the main Berkeley program does have a tournament after the sessions, but that is optional (my daughter opted out). My daughter is not at all competitive, but loves chess and it's the one activity she requests to do. Marie

The Berkeley Chess School is awesome. They teach and host chess tournaments, but it is low key, age appropriate and fun. If your child loves chess and wants to play, check out the Friday night chess events. There is a class, then one tournament game. Kids are paired against kids at the same level, learn the ''touch move'' rules, how to use a clock and, as they advance they learn how to record games. The kids learn focus, patience and sportsmanship along the way. There are also camps in the summer and school breaks. It's all good. Some kids catch the bug as early as kinder and 1st grade. If your child loves it, great. If not, stop going. My son discovered chess late -- 5th grade. He started with the Berkeley Chess School. He is now a grandmaster and professional chess player, who owes his career to the early exposure and encouragement he got at BCS. Sam's Mom

July 2014

Re: Camp for my 10 y.o. son?
I have a similar kind of son (8 years old) who can tend to annoy others, especially with his need to ALWAYS have someone to play with. I haven't found the perfect camp that combines everything he needs, but I do have a mix of camps that ends up working out pretty well. One week for the smart kid in him, alternating with a week for the super-active sporty kid he also is. He has absolutely LOVED The Berkeley Chess School Summer Camp. He is not a chess fanatic (just enjoys playing it) but still seemed to fit in perfectly with the kids there.

April 2014

RE:  Looking for a chess class/club for my 5 year old

If you haven't discovered the Berkeley Chess School, then you need to check them out. They are a great organization, with camps, classes and tournaments for kids year round. BCS holds Friday evening classes, followed by a tournament. If your son hasn't tried them, he should. They are low key competitions, and they are a great way to learn how to play tournament chess (use chess clock, record moves), improve at the game, and -- perhaps most important -- find other chess-minded kids. My son (now a grandmaster) got his start there. There also is the chess room at the Mechanics Institute in San Francisco. They run local tournaments and hold classes (Saturday mornings) and lectures (Tuesday evenings). The tournaments are for adults, but kids play in them too, once they have gotten the hang of tournament chess at places like Berkeley Chess School.

The CalChess website ( has listings of local events and tournaments (click on the ''scholastic'' link for the kids' tournaments).

Have fun. Chess is a great game, and the chess community has a lot of great kids. Sam's Mom

Sept 2009

RE: Chess teacher or class for adults

Hi Chess Fan, I would suggest that you contact the Berkeley Chess School - you could google them for the contact info. The Berkeley Chess School is primarily a non-profit that teaches chess to children (and an award-winning one at that!) but from time to time they have adult classes - I think they had one for a while aimed at boosting memory and adaptive thinking for (baby)''boomers'', and I know they host a weekly adult chess tournament on Friday nights.

They do really great outreach throughout the Bay Area, and they have been around for decades, so if they aren't actually having an adult class right now, they might be able to make a recommendation. I agree that learning by yourself from a book might be overwhelming (there are *so* many chess books); the Berkeley Chess School's approach to teaching chess emphasizes learning strategy and the basic principles of the game in order to develop your own playing style, instead of memorizing a bunch of positions, or getting lost in the analysis of a single game. (If you have ever had a lesson from a chess master who was out of touch with the beginner's perspective, you know what I mean!) Good luck! It's addicting!

Another poster recommended the Berkeley Chess School, which I second. There also is the Chess Room at the Mechanics Institute in San Francisco. They run local tournaments and hold classes (Saturday mornings) and lectures (Tuesday evenings). The classes, like those at BCS, are mostly for kids, but there might be some adult students too. And there are players (adults and kids) who play both in Berkeley and at Mechanics who would be happy to be paid to teach you privately. My son teaches chess; he won't take on a beginner, but he may have some ideas for you. Sam's Mom

Aug 2009

RE:  After-school chess for 8th grader

The Berkeley Chess School is alive and well, and has classes and tournaments.

The Mechanics Institute also has a chess club, with classes for kids and frequent tournaments.

The practical challenge for your child will be that most of the classes are oriented towards grade-school kids. There is relatively little casual/recreational chess for older kids: By the time they are in middle school, kids are either serious chess players (i.e., playing with/against adults), or they have moved on to other things. Chess mom

May 2008

Does anyone have information Berkeley Chess School? Does your school offer Berkeley Chess School as an alternative? How is it working for you?

Berkeley Chess School is absolutely the BEST. They administer their program well and the my son's math and concentration has improved since starting the Chess class at his school. He has taken it two years now and still learns something in every class. Catherine

My school has the Berkeley Chess School for one of its enrichment programs. My son did it last year as a kindergartener, and LOVED it. I was astonished at how fast he picked it up, and even more astonished at how he was suddenly OK with both winning and losing (before chess, playing games with him could be a little nightmarish -- he'd do absolutely anything to avoid losing). He went to a week of their camp last summer, and now does the newspaper chess puzzle with his dad. This year he had to choose between chess and martial arts, and chose the latter, but it was a really tough choice. Karen

March 2007

I noticed on the Berkeley Chess School website that they offer a summer camp program. Anyone have any experiences to share, especially regarding a 7 year old attending? Also curious to hear about the full day vs. half day programs. They've been doing the camp for 17 years and I couldn't find any reviews on the Parents Network website. Many thanks! Lise

My six-year-old attended the Berkeley Chess School's camp for a week last summer, and she loved it. We did the full-day option, which is basically a half day of playtime (good playground and art stuff is available) and a half day of fun chess class and games. The funny part was that when I asked her what she did in the ''free time'' half of the day, she always said she played more chess. They spent that time outside for the most part, from what I could see, but the kids were having so much fun with the chess that they just kept it up. Everything I've seen about the program and the staff is positive. I can recommend the camp for a young child. My now-seven-year old is going again this year. a camper's mom

February 2003

Re: Seeking chess class for 10 year old
The Berkeley Chess School is the best. Check out their website and a telephone number 510-843-0150 All sorts of great chess learning opportunities for kids of all ages and skill levels. My kids (7 and 10yrs now) have followed their programs - summer camps, afterschool classes, tutors, chess club and competitive local team for 4 years with great success and joy. Judith

Best place to start is the berkeley chess school. Phone number is 843-0150, or for private tutor Ben Russack was good working with our son who is now 7. He is USCF rated and has taught for 5 years. 510-665-6074 or email benjamin_russack AT kathryn

The Berkeley Chess School is a good place to start. Visit They run chess classes at bay area schools but also offer a friday night session and summer school. Mary

June 2002

RE: Chess groups for 6 and 8 year olds

The Berkeley Chess School is great. They have summer camps this summer, teach classes in many of the local schools as well as their own Friday evening class, and run a VERY low key US Chess Federation kids' chess tournament every Friday night (except in the summer; they start again on Sept. 6). The Director, Elizabeth Shaughnessy, is a former Irish National Champion, and a wonderful, colorful character. Check out their web site: Leslie

Berkeley Chess Club is an excellent resource for chess for all ages. They have a web site. They have a 'tournament' for children and adults every Friday night at Epworth Church in North Berkeley. My 6 year old enjoyed it the one time we were able to make it. They also have a summer camp which we will be trying out later this summer; and they teach a lot of the after school chess classes at various schools. Hope this helps. ellen

Our 6 year old son started with The Berkeley Chess School at Berkeley Montessori when he was 4. We moved to Washington School this year and he continued with the afterschool program (even though the minimum age was supposed to be 1st grade). He played kids up through 5th grade. He enjoyed it for the first semester, then felt that they weren't learning anything new. He started tournament chess with kids his age in December or so, played in three tournaments and then has taken a break from the whole scene. I think the Berkeley Chess School is great. The tournaments were pretty intense (some ''stage dads'' evident and it was almost entirely boys). He won his first game and felt very positive about it. Then he lost and drew on his next two games and at age 6, I think that bummed him out. We play with him at home so I am sure he will pick it up again. The after school club is pretty low key and available at many of the Berkeley Public Schools. The number for the Chess School is 843- 0150. The Chess School is also running summer camps. Kathryn

The Berkeley Chess School runs a summer chess camp for children. It also runs programs during the school year at many of the public schools in Berkeley and around the bay area. Phone 510-843-0150 for information. Pamela