Why Chess? Chess is a social game of logic, strategy, creativity, pattern recognition, psychology, and analysis. It has been shown to improve cognitive abilities, emotional intelligence, and academic performance. Besides being good for you, it’s fun, affordable, and incredibly easy to host at a library.
Who Can You Expect to Attend? Chess appeals to people of all ages and backgrounds. I’ve attended the chess club at the Bismarck Veterans Memorial Public Library on several occasions, and everyone from young children to retirees stop by to play; study problems, openings, and endgames; and just to kibitz. Chess crosses cultural boundaries and language barriers and its rich global history spans more than 1,500 years. All people have something to contribute to chess, everyone becomes both teacher and student.
What You’ll Need: the basic requirements to play are a board and a full complement of pieces. For storage purposes, having a bag for each set is also a good idea. The United States Chess Federation (USCF) makes it very affordable to get all three components for a budget-friendly $18.95. You will probably want multiple sets for your chess club–starting out with three to five is reasonable. If things really take off, you can always get more (invariably some folks will bring their home sets in, too). Players also appreciate having pencils and paper available, so they can record their games.
I also recommend having a set of the official rules on hand. You can either buy a copy of the rulebook, or print off this Wikipedia entry. It doesn’t take long to learn the basics (how to set up a board, how the pieces move) and I’d definitely recommend investing a few minutes to get that down before your inaugural club meeting.
The final requirement is space. Chess is most comfortably played at tables and with some degree of separation from noise and bustle. That’s not to say players won’t talk, but the opportunity to quietly contemplate is essential. Consider allowing lidded beverages into the area, as well.
Help Getting Started: If there’s a chess club at your local high school, contact the coach to let him know you’re planning to start a casual club at your library. You may even score some free resources or a floating tutor out of it! Barring the existence of a school club, you may want to simply contact local science and math teachers and see if any of them would be interested in helping out. Chess has a natural affinity with STEM curricula, so you can often find allies there.
That being said, you really don’t need an expert to start a club. If you provide space and chessboards on a regular published schedule, you will bring people into your library and enrich their lives through the wonder of chess.
Bonus Fun: If things take off and your club is well attended, you should definitely think about getting some chess books and DVDs for your library, possibly subscribing to Chess Life, and maybe even getting a chess clock or two so your clubbers can play timed games and indulge in blitz and bullet matches. You may also want to consider hosting a casual (re: non-sanctioned, non-rated) tournament with prizes.
Free Chess Resources