Chess in Illinois – A Guide to Chess in the Prairie State

In this post, we’ll highlight the resources you might need if you ever find yourself wanting to play chess in the great state of Illinois.

The game of chess, whose origins lie deep in ancient Persian lands, has grown to become one of the world’s most played games. With millions sitting down to play it every day.

Chess map of illinois

It’s a popular game because it can be fun, stimulating, and engaging while requiring little equipment and physical talent. As long as your cognitive functions are not impaired, you can learn to play chess and become skilled at it.

In the digital world today, global internet connectivity has made it possible for people who would never otherwise get the chance to sit for a game of chess together to connect immediately and play against each other online. No matter where in the world they may be. This has caused a resurgence of interest in chess, and it only grows stronger daily.

Even though online gaming has encouraged many of us to take our chess-playing and learning activities to the internet. There are still plenty of physical resources, connections, and facilities available for anyone hoping to learn and play. Or even compete in the game of chess.

Wherever you are in the United States. Be it Alabama, Nevada or Washington. You can be sure to find everything you need.

Playing Chess in Illinois

Illinois is located in the United States Midwest and has the fifth-highest Gross Domestic Product in the country. Also known as The Land of Lincoln. Illinois got its name from the French settlers who first came onto the land. Which they named after the Illinois Indian native tribes who they encountered.

Illinois is regarded by many to be a bellwether state because it seems to represent the United States as a whole. Contrary to what many might assume, the state’s capital is Springfield, not the much larger and well-known Chicago.

Smiling young boy learning chess

This microcosm of American demographics, culture, and politics is why politicians, entertainers, and researchers are constantly seeking people’s reactions in Illinois whenever public matters are in question.

Chess in Illinois can confidently be said to have come in with the French settlers. Who carried it over with them as they came from Europe.

Today, you’ll find chess being played across the state, becoming more popular than ever. You’ll find it especially prominent in educational institutions where chess clubs and teams are set up to encourage younger generations to pick up the game. Institutions of this kind with great chess programs include Joliet Junior College, the University of Illinois, Illinois High School, and many more. 

playing chess in illinois university

Outside these institutions, various chess clubs are open to the general public. Where people of all ages and skill levels can come together to learn, practice, and compete with one another. Under the guidance and vision of the Illinois Chess Association, numerous tournaments and chess events are popping up all over the state. Effectively raising the profile of chess not only in the state but across the United States.

Chess Masters in Illinois

In 2022, the Illinois Chess Association had over 400 players of different skill levels on its books.

Plenty of new players in Illinois are picking up the game of chess across all ages and demographics. Chess clubs and organizations are constantly registering new members.

Chess master in a suit

The Illinois Chess Association is constantly organizing and setting up tournaments to attract local chess enthusiasts to attend.

At the top level of the chess hierarchy, professional players strive to earn the title of Grandmaster. Grandmasters are individuals who have earned official recognition as being at the top of the chess world. Even though millions of people play the game worldwide. There aren’t many Grandmasters in the world because of how hard it is to attain the title. 

In the state of Illinois, there aren’t any Grandmasters that are current residents. But there are certainly many noteworthy individuals in the chess world to be found here. Among them is Eric Rosen, who has had an incredible chess career and may be on his way to earning the title of Grandmaster in the future. Rosen has worked his way to claiming the FIDE International title. As well as the FIDE Master title back in 2011 as well as in 2015.

All this isn’t to say that you won’t have the chance to meet any Grandmasters while in Illinois. As part of their efforts to raise the profile of chess in the state. The Illinois Chess Association organizes an affiliate chess program whereby aspiring chess players can get personal lessons from international Grandmasters. 

Chess Clubs in Illinois

Wherever you are in the United States. Some of the best places to meet up with fellow enthusiasts to learn, practice, and compete in the game of chess are chess clubs.

Chess clubs for all ages

Illinois has its fair share of prominent and active chess clubs. These include:

  • The St. Charles Chess Club. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, a small group of chess enthusiasts would meet to play chess at the Baker House Community Center’s basement. Either playing amongst themselves or organizing matches against other clubs. Once it became an officially registered entity, it began organizing scholastic tournaments involving children as young as kindergarten age. To this day, the club prides itself not only on the skill of its membership but on the success of its efforts to spread knowledge of chess among the community. St. Charles, Illinois, is home to this chess club.
  • Renaissance Knights Chess Foundation. This non-profit organization is aimed at providing as many communities as possible with the benefits and advantages that learning and playing chess brings. They facilitate engaging chess programs geared towards attracting students in elementary and high school. They have played a role in the lives of more than 60,000 young learners since the organization was founded in 2005. They are operational in over 150 schools in Chicago alone and hold more than 15 chess tournaments each year. Meetings and playing times will vary depending on which school they are active in.

Examples of online pages you can look into include Illinois Chess Club. The Illinois Chess Association, Southern Illinois Chess. The Illinois Chess Association, and Chicago Area Chess.

Chess Tournaments and Events in Illinois

Chess enthusiasts in Illinois will never lack opportunities to watch or play competitive chess, as there are numerous tournaments and events held in the state throughout the year. In Illinois, you’ll find both open tournaments and scholastic games, even though most open tournaments are restricted to adult competitors. 

Open tournaments held in the state include the Quad Cities Chess Open. Evanston Bi-Level, Minnesota International Chess Festival, Quad Cities Summer Open. Annual Chicago Class Blitz, Annual Chicago Class. Springfield Open, and Midwest Chess Congress.

large chess competition

For younger players, there’s no shortage of tournaments where they can compete against other young players. These include the Pan-American Youth Chess Festival, KCF All-Girls National Championship. CPS Elementary School Playoffs, CPS Elementary School Championship. CPS High School Championship, Scholastic Team Tournament, and the Summer Scholastic.

You aren’t restricted to physical chess in Illinois. If you wish, you can participate in many of the online tournaments available. Including the Online Rapid Scholastic Challenge, Online Classical Scholastic. And also the Online Countrywide Rapid Scholastics. All of these are US Chess Online Rated events.

Chess Shops in Illinois

If you’re interested in the game of chess, you’ll need to have the right equipment for it. To get the best quality and find items you will need to visit a dedicated chess shop. Such outlets in Illinois include:

Chess shops
  • Grandmaster games. If you’re looking for anything chess-related, you can be sure that you’ll find it here. They are primarily a magic the gathering store though.
  • Red Raccoon Games. This is a speciality Games Shop that strives to supply anything and everything that game players might want. They are fully stocked with a vast array of board games, role play and trading card games

Final Thoughts on Chess in Illinois

Aside from the pure enjoyment of the game. Playing chess has been shown to help increase attention span. It also boosts cognitive function, develop strategic thinking skills, and cultivate social skills, among others.

Illinois is a great state for chess players owing to the availability and variety of places where you can learn, practice, play, or compete.

Illinois map

Whether you’re a seasoned expert or a brand-new learner of the game. You’ll be sure to find all the resources and support you might need to cultivate or sharpen your skills. Wherever you are in the prairie state, here’s hoping that this guide helps you find your way to all things chess-related in Illinois. 

Jenna Ostria
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