Chess in Idaho – Ultimate Guide To Chess in the Gem State

Do you want to boost your chess skills, compete, or even start from scratch. Well you can get all the support you need from our ultimate guide to playing chess in Idaho.

This guide is a combination of resources that will provide insights and keep you informed on chess issues in the Gem State. 

Idaho chess map

In the era of social media and video games, one of the world’s oldest games is coming back. The game’s popularity and availability online have contributed significantly to its rapidly increasing demand.

The state of Idaho hasn’t been left behind in this chess resurgence. The Gem State has taken significant measures to create an environment that promotes chess in schools and among adults. As such, Idaho is a regular host of many chess matches and tournaments.

The Idaho Chess Association (ICA) is the commissioned affiliate of the United States Chess Federation (USCF). The nonprofit chess organization began in 1947 and has since continued to promote chess in the state. The ICA organizes chess tournaments, enrolls players, and awards official titles like the Idaho Scholastic Chess Champion to deserving winners. 

The organization is also a source of valuable information on chess tournaments, clubs, and developments in the state. For more information, visit the Idaho Chess Association website.

It’s no coincidence that great minds in the world love this game. You can apply the strategies involved in the game to every aspect of your life. That’s why in 2008, Idaho State’s Department of Education introduced chess to the school curriculum. The game has cognitive benefits and can help boost attention in class. Introducing chess in Idaho schools was a fantastic way to help students develop their critical thinking ability.

The History of Chess in Idaho

The State of Idaho has a rich chess history that dates back to the early 1900s. In the mid-1940s, chess players would meet unofficially in individuals’ homes to play friendly games. The strongest player was Dr. Melvin Drake, who was indomitable back then. Other notable players were Bob Coad and Everett Martin.

Idaho State seal

In 1946, Dean Blair saw a picture in the newspaper showing people playing chess. This inspired him to start the first official chess club, the Twin Falls chess club, which Mel Schubert eventually transformed. Initially, the locals used the club to play unofficial games, but it gradually became the chess headquarters of Idaho.

Mel Schubert plays a significant role in the history of chess in Idaho. He introduced organized chess and inspired the creation of the Idaho Chess Association in 1947. He then got the organization sanctioned by the USCF.

That same year, Mel directed and participated in the first Idaho State Chess Tournament, which C.H. Stewart won. Mel later won the 1948 tournament. Although Mel died in 1970 at 55, his efforts to bring chess to Idaho formed the earliest foundations for its chess community. 

The first official tournament, the Idaho State Championship, ran every year from 1947 to 1957 and was open to all residents. During this ten-year run, the top chess player in the state, Sven Gridseth, was crowned the first Idaho State Champion.

Chess Players in Idaho

The state of Idaho has made its mark in the United States chess scene. Although it has not produced grandmasters yet, it has made great players, many of them with world-class chess ratings, over the years. 

Older Chess expert cartoon

Luke Harmon- Velloti is currently the highest-rated player in Idaho, with a rating of 2500. Harmon – Velloti began playing chess at age 4, and by 12, had become a National Master. He later earned the FIDE title of International Master in 2013 when he was 14. He is currently a five-time All-American Team winner and a three-time National Chess Champion.

Larry R. Parson, who has a rating of 2000, has made history time and again by winning 19 Idaho Closed State Championship games since 1973. He holds the title of National Master and is among the oldest champions in Idaho. He was preceded by C.H. Stewart, 82, Glen Buckendorf, 71, and Hans Morrow, 71. 

Glen Buckendorf has won the championship ten times and participated in the first-ever championship in 1947.

Other notable players are Tam Nguyen, both a Candidate and National Master, and Michael Cambareri, with a first-category rating of 2000.

Chess Scene in Idaho

Chess clubs in Idaho have been developed to help students and adults participate in the game.

Chess clubs for all ages

Students under 18 make up a large part of the fast-growing community of chess players. So it’s safe to assume that the inclusion of chess in the Idaho school curriculum is a factor. The fundamental aspects of the game are taught through chess programs, school clubs, and lessons. In the process, students fall in love with the game and continue to play even after school. 

After the pandemic and the subsequent hike in demand for online games, thousands of millennial players flocked online to play chess. Internet chess is an excellent way for chess players to interact with each other globally and improve their skills. If you are not big on person-to-person chess games, this one is for you.

The Idaho Chess Association makes it easy for new players to sign up, find tournaments, and join local chess clubs.  

Chess clubs in Idaho

Idaho State has a lot of diverse chess clubs that nurture talent. These clubs provide a friendly community of like-minded people to chess newbies, allowing them to learn all about chess and practice with equally matched opponents. 

Some of those clubs include:

Chandra Alexis Chess Club

Located in Boise, this chess club provides training and education to national and international players and directors. They provide affordable private lessons and have well-trained coaches to guide you through your chess journey. The club has been active since 2007. 

The lessons are offered online or in person, so you don’t have to worry about commuting if you’re from far. To apply for the classes, you can reach them through their website.

Coer d’Alene Chess Club

The CDA chess club welcomes all players of all levels. The players at the club range from beginner level to master’s level. The club offers casual games, thereby will help you improve your game. Admission to the club is free.

They also have a competitive side, as their coordinator is Master Jim Maki, who might let you in on some of his strategies.

Boise Chess club

The Boise Chess club was brought back in 2014. It offers many USCF- rated tournaments free for all players in attendance. It also holds weekly meetings on Monday afternoons at All About Games in Boise. This is a fantastic club for anyone that wants to compete in official chess games.

The current president of the club is Jamie Lang. 

Chess Tournaments in the State

If you are looking for some competition, Idaho provides FIDE-rated tournaments to help you improve your rating. These events happen regularly, so there’s a good chance that you can attend at least one of them every year. 

large chess competition

Some of these tournaments include: 

Wekkington Served Rare

This event is hosted by the Chandra Alexis Chess Club and takes place every Monday at 5 pm. It is a USCF and FIDE-rated tournament, so expect to meet highly-rated chess players here. You can only play an opponent once a month. 

Registering for the tournament can be done online or onsite. To play, you must be a registered USCF member. The entry fee is $10 for all tournaments.

MexInsurance FIDE Open

This tournament in Boise has two FIDE-rated sections: Elite and Reserved (U-2200). The Chandra Alexis Chess Club organizes it. Players must pay an entry fee of $100 to participate. The winner of the game walks away with a $2,500-dollar cash prize

This year’s tournament will be held on December 16, 2022, at Barber Park, 4049 S Ekert Road, Boise. To register, you can check the details on their website.

Western Idaho Open

The Idaho Chess Association sponsors this annual event. 

This year it will be held in Mount Home public library on December 10, 2022. The entry fee is $20, and there are cash prizes to be won. There will be two sections, Open and Unrated. To participate, you can register online on the West Idaho Open website.

Best Chess Shops in Idaho

Whether you are a beginner or an expert looking to upgrade your chess set, there are game stores all over the state where you can get quality products. Some of the shops include:

road sign in Idaho with chess pieces


At Gameopolis, you can enjoy quality chess sets without going over budget. Not only is it home to the best board games, but it also has the most affordable chess sets. It stocks boards with exciting and unique designs and stock models, so it’s easy to find something to your taste. 

If you’re having trouble deciding, the pleasant staff is always on hand to help you find everything you need to get set up.

All About Games

All About Games is the perfect place to get your equipment if you’re also interested in meeting other players. They have tables where you can try out your set or play games with other patrons. The store offers good quality sets that are worth every penny. 

ABU Games

ABU Games is a friendly game store with a large selection of board games. They stock free games, including chess, which you can try out in the large gaming areas provided. There are stores around Idaho, so you may not have to travel long to get your set. If you are looking for a gaming community, this place is definitely for you.

Jenna Ostria
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