As the school year kicks off, one city prepares for the after-school and scholastic tournament season with a special distinction. Philadelphia was recognized by US Chess as the Chess City of the Year at the US Chess Annual Awards at the 2019 U.S. Open, held in Orlando, Florida. As Martin Collette, Director of Chess Programs at ASAP (After Schools Activities Partnerships) accepted the award on behalf of the city, he said:
Whether it’s an after school club, a monthly weekend tournament, the Liberty Bell Open, or a casual game in Clark Park, chess players can be found all over Philadelphia. The city has a long, rich history of chess and is also home to the second oldest chess club in the United States, the Franklin Mercantile Chess Club. School teams such as the Vaux Chess Team, who won several national championships in the ’70s and ‘80s and more recently with the Masterman Chess Team.
However, chess in Philadelphia is about more than just history. More and more young Philadelphians are picking up the game every year. The organization I work for, After School Activities Partnerships, reaches over two thousand scholastic chess players a year. These players meet in schools, libraries, rec centers, and other venues throughout the city on a weekly basis. In addition to their weekly meetings, we see 150-200 students regularly competing at our monthly events as well as at the Philadelphia Scholastic Chess League.
You’ll see many players facing off at the MasterMinds Chess Club, which was founded in 2001 by Ernest Moore and National Master Elvin Wilson. Currently, the club is run by long-time coach and tournament director Bradley Crable as well as chess enthusiast Melannie Brennan. The MasterMinds chess tournaments are often a who’s who of chess players in the Philadelphia area and even beyond.
Of course, chess in Philadelphia would be nothing without the dedicated and talented chess coaches who share their love for the game with the next generation of players. So to that end, thank you US Chess for shining a light on all the work that is being done in the city.
The city of brotherly love was singled out this year for a number of reasons:
- Philadelphia is home to some of the most important Open events on the calendar, such as the World Open, the Philadelphia Open, the Liberty Bell Open and the National Chess Congress.
- ASAP Chess has over 150 clubs throughout Philadelphia offering chess to over 2,000 of the city’s youth. Working with students grades K-12, ASAP Chess clubs meet in schools, community and recreation centers and libraries. Checkmate Violence, an annual chess marathon organized by ASAP shows the power of chess to inspire young minds and harness youthful energy.
- Philly chess has continued to grow due to creative efforts from organizations like ASAP, the Philadelphia Chess Society, the Masterminds Chess Club and the Franklin Mercantile Chess Club.
- The girls of the Philadelphia Chess Society played a starring role in the “Girls in Chess” video that debuted in the New Yorker Magazine last summer.
As the US Chess Women Program Director, I’ve had a close look on the great strides Philadelphia has made in promoting girls and women in chess.
#ASAPChess partner & friend and @USChess icon, @JenShahade really impacted the lives of our girls during the #phillygirlsplaychess camp @USChessWomen Student Daphne's mom shared the impact of this community on the life of her daughter. TY for supporting @PhilaFound #proudpartner pic.twitter.com/qWy85vD6kR
— ASAP (@PhillyASAP) August 23, 2019
ASAP hosts a popular all girls chess camp for the last four summers, and the latest edition was written up in a nice piece in MetroKids.
In addition the Philadelphia Chess Society, founded by Jason Bui and Gabrielle Moshier was one of eleven grant recipients for the US Chess Women Program Grant Award, where they will organize local Girls Club Rooms similar to our National Event rooms, as well as send a bus full of girls to the 2020 Kasparov Chess Foundation All-Girls nationals, under the banner of the “Philadelphia Girls Chess Society.” The Philly Girls Chess Society season kicks off with the Delaware Girls Championship on September 28 in Philadelphia.