Chess has been around for at least 1,500 years. According to David Mehler, director of the DC-based US Chess Center, people still play because it’s “limitless.”
“People can enjoy it at any level,” he says. “There’s a risk to it that many people feel is exciting. There’s a level of intellectual courage that chess players get to demonstrate. And the competition is fun.”
You can learn this classic game of strategy in an afternoon and spend a lifetime mastering it. Tournament play and pickup games in parks such as DC’s Dupont Circle draw an interesting mix of players. Seven- and 70-year-olds can compete with one another.
The US Chess Center (1501 M St., NW; 202-857-4922; chessctr.org) began in 1992 as a way to improve the academic and social skills of inner-city kids through chess. It now offers classes for children, teenagers, and adults—both beginning and advanced, group classes and one-on-one instruction. Most adult classes are held weeknights; a four-week class usually costs $50. The goal is to make each student capable of playing a “credible game.” You may not walk out ready to take on Garry Kasparov, but you could give the Dupont regulars a run for their money.
If you’re a seasoned player, joining the DC Chess League (dcchess.net) is a good way to try your hand at competitive play; it links to local clubs. You don’t have to have a team—the league will place individual members on a team of five others. Matches are usually held monthly; the cost is $20 or $30.
Local clubs are another option. The Arlington Chess Club (members.cox.net/arlingtonchessclub) —one of the country’s biggest—meets Fridays at 7:30 in the Lyon Village Community House (1920 N. Highland St.). Annual dues are $30. For many Maryland clubs, visit serve.com/mdchess. The US Chess Center also has club information.
Online chess is increasingly popular. At ChessManiac.com, you can compete at your computer. The site lists which players and teams are online and matches you with appropriate opponents. Also offered are recommendations and chess forums.