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Chess tournaments in California: Where to look for the best ones?

Updated: Jun 29

California is a paradise for chess fans, as it offers many chess opportunities all year long. You can participate in an event that suits your skill level and preferences, whether you are a novice or a master. In this guide, we will reveal some of the most renowned chess clubs and establishments in California and the regular tournaments they conduct.


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Chess tournaments in Los Angeles and Southern California


The Los Angeles Chess Club is a very unique club to join, fostering chess as a social tool and mind-nurturing activity. The club is more inclined to attract young people with a 'fresh' and 'cool' environment.


They gather at Rosewolff Studio at 1317 E 16th St


Los Angeles Chess Arena (LACA) is a new and modern chess center that offers a variety of services and activities for chess enthusiasts. LACA has a spacious and comfortable playing area, a chess shop, a chess library, and a chess cafe. LACA hosts USCF tournaments and chess lessons for players of all levels. Some of the tournaments you can join at LACA are:


  • LACA Classical: A monthly tournament on the first Saturday of each month, open to players of all ratings. The format is a 5-round Swiss system, with a time control of 60 minutes per player plus a 30-second increment per move. 

  • LACA Blitz: A weekly tournament on Wednesday nights, open to players of all ratings. The format is a 9-round Swiss system, with a time control of 3 minutes per player plus a 2-second increment per move. 

  • LACA Scholastic: A monthly tournament on the third Sunday of each month, open to players under 18 years old. The format is a 4-round Swiss system, with a time control of 30 minutes per player. There are trophies for the top three players in each grade level, and medals for the top three players in each rating category.


Credits: Los Angeles Chess Arena


For more information and tournaments visit their website.


Make a Move LA combines chess with community spirit, offering what they call "an electrifying experience". It's a fun, engaging event for all ages, full of surprises, half-time shows and cash prizes.




The SCCF is the governing body for chess in Southern California. They host a variety of tournaments throughout the year, including both rated and unrated events.


Some of the tournaments they organize are:

  • Adult TLAs (Tournaments Limited by Average): Regular events with various time controls and sections based on player ratings.

  • Scholastic TLAs: Dedicated tournaments for young players, categorized by age groups.

  • USCF-Rated Tournaments: Official US Chess Federation events contributing to your official rating.

  • Special Events: Blitz tournaments, rapid events, themed matches, and more throughout the year.

  • Annual State Championships: Prestigious events like the Lina Grumette Memorial Day Classic and SuperStates attract top players.


Additional Key Points:

  • Membership: Offers benefits like discounted tournament fees and a subscription to "Rank and File" magazine.

  • Resources: Clearinghouse for tournament schedules, results, and chess news.

  • Support: Promotes chess in schools and organizes teacher training workshops.

  • Inclusive community: Welcomes players from all backgrounds and abilities.



ChessPalace is your one-stop shop for all your chess needs. Either if you're looking for cool chess gifts for friends and family or a casual play on the weekends. They host chess tournaments, provide chess lessons, and sell chess sets, books, and accessories. It also helps organize the annual American Open, one of the largest and most popular chess tournaments in the country.


Some of the regular tournaments that ChessPalace offers are:

  • Scholastic Tournaments: for players in Kindergarten to 12th grade, and requires an active US Chess Federation membership. they're held frequently in different locations around CA. Trophies are awarded to the top finishers.

  • Wednesday Knights: is one of the chess club’s tournaments with classical time control. Four or five rounds are depending on the number of Wednesdays for the month. 

  • Saturday Tournament: A one-day, US Chess-rated tournament, at the store.This tournament is open to all ages and levels. It is held weekly unless otherwise noted.


It is important to note that this institution offers over 100 tournaments a year! They're located at 5246 LAMPSON AVE. GARDEN GROVE.


For more information visit their website or follow them on Facebook.

Credits: Chess Palace


The L.A. Chess Ladder isn't just another chess club; it's a unique community designed to help you improve your skills and compete across Los Angeles. Forget waiting for formal tournaments - the Ladder offers a dynamic system of challenging matches against players of similar skill levels. It's free to join, open to all ages and abilities, and fosters a fun and supportive environment for chess enthusiasts.


Events:

  • Challenge Matches: The core of the Ladder, these 2-out-of-3 games allow you to climb the ranking ladder and face increasingly skilled opponents.

  • Free Tournaments: Regularly held across Los Angeles, these tournaments offer various formats and time controls, catering to diverse preferences.

  • Chess Socials: Gatherings for casual games, analysis, and chess discussions, promoting community and learning.

  • Chess Game Viewer: Upload and share your games for analysis and discussion with the community.


Key Points:

  • Free to join: Membership is free, making chess accessible to everyone.

  • Open to all levels: Beginners and seasoned players alike are welcome.

  • Challenge-based system: Matches against similar-skilled opponents ensure fair competition and steady improvement.

  • Diverse events: Tournaments, socials, and online resources cater to different needs.

  • Community focus: Fosters a friendly and supportive environment for chess enthusiasts.



Visit their event calendar for more information


The Temecula Chess Club is a friendly and welcoming chess club that offers tournaments for players of all ages and skill levels. It is located in the heart of Temecula, and has a spacious and comfortable facility with chess boards, clocks, books, and computers. It also has a team of experienced and enthusiastic coaches who can help you improve your chess skills and knowledge.

Some of the regular tournaments that the Temecula Chess Club offers are:

  • Saturday Night Blitz: This tournament is a fast-paced and exciting event that is open to players of all ages and ratings. It is held on the second Saturday of every month, and has four double rounds with a time control of 5 minutes per player. 

  • Sunday Swiss Tradition: This tournament is a more serious and competitive event that is open to players of all ages and ratings. It is held on the last Sunday of every month, and has four rounds with a time control of 30 minutes per player. 

  • Scholastic Chess Tournament: This tournament is for students only, and is a great way to practice and have fun with chess. It is held on the fourth Tuesday of every month, and has three sections based on rating. 

For more information visit our calendar or follow them on Facebook.


 

... Want more?

Read this cool LA Times article named 7 Chill Places in L.A. to Play a Pickup Game of Chess

Chess tournaments in San Francisco and Northern California


The Northern California Chess Association (CalChess) is the largest chess organization in Northern California, with dozens of local clubs and hundreds of tournaments for all levels and ages. It is affiliated with the US Chess Federation and promotes chess education, development, and enjoyment in the region. It also selects and sponsors the representatives of Northern California for the national scholastic championships.


They have this AMAZING map of chess clubs in northern California, make sure to check it out!


Some of the notable tournaments that CalChess organizes or supports are:

  • Denker Barber & Rockefeller National Qualifiers: These tournaments are the official qualifiers for the Denker Tournament of High School Champions, the Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions, and the Rockefeller Tournament of Elementary School Champions, which are held alongside the US Open every year. They are open to the top scholastic players in Northern California and are held in March or April. 

  • CalChess Grade Level Championship Qualifiers: These tournaments are the qualifiers for the CalChess Grade Level Championship, which is held in December. They are open to all scholastic players in Northern California, and are held in October or November. They have 13 sections based on grade level, from kindergarten to 12th grade. 

  • CalChess Scholastic Super State Championship: This tournament is the ultimate scholastic chess event in Northern California, and attracts hundreds of players every year. It is open to all scholastic players in Northern California, and is held in April or May. It has 11 sections based on rating and grade level, from kindergarten to 12th grade. 

  • CalChess Regular (open): Regular Tournaments are open to all players. Since Northern California is one of the top scholastic areas in the U.S., this frequently includes many strong junior players as well! There is often one open division and several other divisions based on USCF rating.

For more information visit their website or follow them on Facebook.


The Berkeley Chess School, boasting the title of "Best After-School Program in the East Bay" by Diablo Magazine, offers a vibrant tournament scene for players of all ages and skill levels. Whether you're a seasoned competitor or just starting out, the school provides a platform to challenge yourself, learn from others, and have fun in the process.


Some of the torunaments they organize are:

  • Adult Friday Night Tournaments: This six-week series, currently ongoing, features weekly rounds with rapid time control (G/90 + 30 seconds increment). Open to adults and advanced minors (13 years or older with a minimum 1300 rating), it offers a $500 prize fund and USCF rating. The next round is on February 23rd.

  • Weekly K-12 Tournaments: Held at the Chess Center in Berkeley and other partner locations, these tournaments provide regular practice and competition for students. They attract up to 100 players and serve as a stepping stone to larger statewide events.

  • Annual Statewide Competitions: The Berkeley Chess School facilitates student participation in major California chess tournaments, exposing them to a wider competitive pool and valuable learning opportunities.


The Kolty Chess Club, named after American chess legend George Koltanowski, carries a rich history of fostering chess competition in the South Bay since the early 1900s. Open to players of all levels, the club offers a welcoming environment for both casual and serious players to sharpen their skills through tournaments.


Tournaments:

  • Kolty Blitz Series: This ongoing monthly series features fast-paced games with 5-minute time control. Perfect for honing tactical skills and quick decision-making, it's open to all players and offers prizes for top finishers.

  • USCF-Rated Tournaments: Held periodically throughout the year, these tournaments contribute to your official US Chess Federation rating while providing a challenging match against rated opponents. Formats and time controls vary based on the event.

  • Special Events & Tournaments: The club hosts occasional special events and tournaments, including rapid tournaments, themed matches, and even team competitions. Check their website for upcoming offerings.



The club meets every Wednesday evening at 1675 Winchester Boulevard in Campbell. Take a look at their event calendar to learn more


The Contra Costa Chess Club prioritizes casual, social, and over-the-board chess in a welcoming coffeehouse atmosphere. Players of all ages, skill levels, and backgrounds are encouraged to join, from aspiring novices to seasoned masters.


Key points:

  • Meetings: Wednesdays & Sundays, 3 PM - 8 PM at Starbucks in Clayton

  • Open & Inclusive: Everyone is welcome, regardless of experience or affiliation.

  • USCF Affiliate: Official club with opportunities for rated tournaments.

  • Community Focus: Fosters learning, growth, and enjoyment of the game.

  • Dues: Voluntary donations support the club.


Make sure to take a look at their event calendar.


The Fresno Chess Club, established in 1930, boasts a rich history of promoting chess in the Fresno area. This long-standing club caters to players of all ages and skill levels, aiming to both popularize the game and provide opportunities for members to play, learn, and connect.


The Sacramento Chess Club, a US Chess Federation affiliate with free membership, invites players of all ages and skill levels to join their vibrant chess scene. From casual enthusiasts to serious competitors, the club offers a welcoming environment to learn, compete, and connect over the classic game.


Key Highlights:

  • Weekly Meetings: Gatherings every Tuesday evening at Great Escape Games provide regular social and playing opportunities.

  • USCF-Rated Tournaments: Regularly organized tournaments allow players to earn or improve their official US Chess Federation rating.

  • Junior Programs: Dedicated events and activities nurture the chess development of young players.

  • Open & Inclusive: Everyone is welcome, regardless of experience or background.

  • Instructional Resources: Beginner classes and workshops help newcomers learn the ropes.

  • Affordable & Accessible: No dues and various event fees cater to different budgets.


Go to the SCC event calendar to learn more about upcoming events


The Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club is the oldest and most prestigious chess club in the United States, founded in 1854. It is located in the heart of downtown San Francisco, and has a rich history and tradition of chess excellence. It hosts chess tournaments, lectures, classes, and other events for players of all levels and ages. It also has a library with over 12,000 chess books and magazines, and a chess room with over 30 chess sets and clocks.

Some of the regular tournaments that the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club offers are:

  • Mechanics' Institute Monthly Scholastic Swiss: In-Person Over-the-Board Event. Open to the scholastic community. One Saturday every month. Standard US Chess rules apply. 

  • Mechanics’ Institute Quads: These tournaments are USCF rated, and are held on the third Saturday of every month. They have four-player sections based on rating, and have three rounds with a time control of G/60, +5. The entry fee is $25, and cash prizes are based on the number of entries.

  • Mechanics’ Institute ALTO Tournament: These tournaments are FIDE and USCF rated, and are held on the last Sunday of every month. They have two sections: an open section and an under-2000 section. They have four rounds with a time control of G/60, +10. The entry fee is $40, and cash prizes are based on the number of entries.


For more information and tournaments visit our website or follow them on Facebook.


Bay Area Chess is a chess school and club located in San Francisco. It offers a variety of classes, camps, and other programs for all levels and ages. It also organizes and supports many chess tournaments in the Bay Area, and has a team of professional and experienced coaches who can help you improve your chess skills and knowledge.

Some of the notable tournaments that Bay Area Chess organizes or supports are:

  • Bay Area Chess Championship: This tournament is FIDE and USCF rated, and is held four times a year: in January, April, July, and October. It has six sections based on rating, and has six rounds with a time control of 40/90, SD/30, +30.

  • Bay Area Chess Scholastic Championship: This tournament is USCF rated, and is held four times a year: in February, May, August, and November. It is open to all scholastic players in grades K-12, and has 13 sections based on grade level. The entry fee is $49, and trophies are awarded to the top finishers.

  • Bay Area Chess Grand Prix: This tournament is USCF rated, and is held on the first Sunday of every month. It has four sections based on rating, and has four rounds with a time control of G/45, +5. 

  • Bay Area Chess Blitz: This tournament is USCF rated, and is held on the second Sunday of every month. It has one open section, and has 12 rounds with a time control of G/3, +2. 

For more information and tournaments visit our website or follow them on Facebook.


The Berkeley Chess School (BCS) is a non-profit organization that offers chess instruction and tournaments for students of all ages and skill levels. BCS holds weekly chess tournaments during the academic school year and camp programs, including an all-girls tournament. BCS also facilitates its students’ participation in annual statewide competitions. BCS tournaments provide the motivation that encourages students to master their games, develop focus and concentration, celebrate wins, learn from losses, and build confidence in their own abilities.

Some of the chess tournaments that BCS offers regularly are:

  • BCC Championship: A nine-round Swiss tournament held on Friday nights from October to December. The tournament is open to all players.

  • Spooky Swiss: A four-round Swiss tournament held on a Saturday in October. The tournament is open to all players and has a Halloween theme.

  • San Ramon Quads: A three-round quad tournament held on a Saturday in November and December. 

  • BCS Cash Quads: A four-round quad tournament held on a Saturday in November and December. The tournament is open to all players and has a rating limit of 2000. Fairfield Quads: A three-round quad tournament held on a Saturday in December.

For more information and tournaments visit our website or follow them on Facebook.



Chess tournaments near San Diego


The San Diego Chess Club is one of the largest and oldest chess clubs in the country, with about 160 members of all levels. It is located in the beautiful and historical Balboa Park, where it holds its weekly Gambito and Wednesday Night tournaments.The club also organizes several annual events, such as the Dreaming King Open, San Diego Open, SCCF Senior/Junior Open, and the Southern California Open.

Some of the upcoming tournaments at the San Diego Chess Club are:

  • Weekly Classical Game: The SDCC hosts Wednesday Night USCF tournaments,  New players, including kids, are welcome to play in this event. Consists of one game a week over a span of 5-7 weeks depending on the number of rounds in the tournament. 

  • Saturday Gambitos: A Weekly Saturday Tradition. This weekly classic Gambito has been running for over 23 years. New players, including kids, are welcome to play in this challenging event. This tournament is a single day 4-round rapid event.

  • Scholastic Tournaments: Scholastic events are for kids K through K12 (ages 5 - 17)  held on some Sundays at the club. USCF membership  is required ($20/year).    General information about our scholastic tournaments.  Visit our scholastic calendar to see all scheduled scholastic events.

For more information and tournaments visit their website.


Conclusion

Chess is a wonderful game that can enrich your life in many ways. It can improve your mental skills, such as logic, memory, concentration, and creativity. It can also provide you with social benefits, such as making new friends, joining a community, and having fun. California is a chess paradise, as it has many opportunities and resources for chess players and enthusiasts. Whether you are a beginner or a master, you can find a chess club or a tournament that suits your needs and preferences. We hope that this guide has given you some useful information and tips on how to participate and enjoy chess tournaments in California. We wish you good luck and good chess!


Improve your game before any tournament


Talking about the right places. Are you looking for the right place to improve your skills? Learn from our Masters online either in private lessons or group lessons.


We'd love to hear your ideas on how to make this better! Share them with us and we'll update this post ASAP! And remember to subscribe to our Newsletter so that you will get all of our awesome online monthly tournaments!

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Meta Description: This blog post introduces you to some of the best chess institutions and events in California, and provides you with some useful information and tips on how to participate and enjoy them.

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