Boston Chess Club

"Have Game Will Travel"


Origin of the Boston Chess Club

In October of 1845,  about 20 gentlemen interested in chess brought the amateurs of the city of Boston together. A preliminary meeting was held Monday, October 27 at the United States Hotel and a committee was appointed to draft a constitution for the club.  They rented and furnished a room for the club at 1 Montgomery Place (now Bosworth Street), a short, 1 block street in south side Boston, east of the Burial Grounds above the Boston Commons that ran from Tremont St. to Province St., sandwiched between and parallel to School St. and Bromfield St. Most of the structures there were private residences and boarding houses.

 The new club proved fairly popular and in a short time reached 40 members. However, after its initial popularity, it stagnated and the membership started to dwindle until 1848 when the club was disbanded. Some of the most active members of the former club continued to meet and play on a less official basis at the United States Hotel. The other amateurs of the game would sometimes be fortunate enough to meet a rival in private circles. There was not any effort made to bring the players together again. That is until the advent of the 1st American Chess Congress and the arrival of Paul Morphy on the American chess scene which rekindled the interest in chess.

With the opening of the year 1857, the first number of Chess Monthly was issued. This publication started with the announcement that the leading players in the country were to contend for a national championship in New York: the 1st American Chess Congress.  A bustle of preparation began, brushing up on openings and endgames, an overhauling of standard chess works and much study and practice. Boston was not idle.  A half dozen players from Boston were present at the congress, including Dr. Horace Richardson, fresh from contests at the Café de la Régence (the European center of chess in Paris). He deservedly won a high position amongst the foremost players of the country, and established a reputation for Bostonian Chess. 

Meanwhile, back in Boston, lovers of Chess wondered why there were not any regular meetings for the practice of the game, and appeals to the players, urging them to reunite and reorganize the Boston Chess Club, were made through the columns of the Evening Transcript in connection with notices of the new magazine and items of chess news. In September of 1857, several gentlemen, by invitation only, assembled for play at 8 Hayward Place. These meetings continued through October, and on return of several others from the Congress in New York, the circle was enlarged and in November numbered twelve. Horace Richardson proposed the meetings should be made public and a notice was published in the daily newspapers.  On December 11, 1857 about 30 gentlemen were present, including many members from the 1846 club.  The Boston Chess Club was once again an entity.

In 1858 the club roster was: President: Dr. Horace Richardson, president. George W. Smalley, secretary. Edwin J. Weller, treasurer. 

"The Boston Chess Club seemed to prosper and upon Paul Morphy's triumphant return from Europe, the members feted him at the Revere House Hotel. Among the invited guests were Dr. Horace Richardson." - Book of the 1st American Chess Congress by Daniel Willard Fiske.

A December, 2002 Harvard Magazine article by Paul Hoffman stated: "The Harvard Chess Club, founded in 1874, is one of the oldest chess clubs in the country. Harvard played its first correspondence game in February 1879, against the Boston Chess Club. The surviving score sheet is incomplete, so that it is not clear who won." We're hoping the Boston Chess Club won. :) So in 1879 the Boston Chess Club was still alive and well.

The following information is cited from the Boston Globe archives. In the fall of 1901, to promote spirited rivalry among chess clubs in the area, Boston Chess Club member Franklin K. Young founded the Metropolitan Leagues. At that time, there were eight teams from the Boston area, including the Boylston Chess Club, Harvard Club, Lynn Chess Club, Boston City Chess Club, MIT Club, and Dorchester Chess Club. In Jan 1923, the Boston Chess Club won the Metropolitan Chess League series and in December of that year, they moved to their new location on Park Street.

  The "Bridge Years" In October 1926, the club moved from Park Street into their new quarters at 26 Pemberton Square.  To share the costs of the new club location, they elected to allow bridge players in.  So by 1929, even as Boston Chess Club members played in a simultaneous exhibition against future World Chess Champion Alexander Alekhine, they also won the Eastern Bridge Championship in New York! What a club! However, as interest in bridge rose along with a number of bridge clubs in Boston, interest in chess remained static.  The club roster soon became filled with mostly bridge players and, a few years later, they decided to put out the chess-playing minority. The Boston Chess Club  turned from wooden kings and queens to the pasteboard kind. They continued in favor of the card game for over fifty years well into the 1980?s.  Ironically, they kept the name "Boston Chess Club" the entire time, despite the lack of any formal chess playing!  Eventually, the bridge players took the name the Cavendish Club instead and moved to Dedham.  The Boston Chess Club was finally gone...or so it seemed.              

The Chess Program In the mid 1990's, the "Chess-In-The-Schools" organization, based in New York City, sponsored several chess programs throughout the country including Boston.  At the time, Cye Strowman, member of the Boylston Chess Club, was hired as a local director. He passed along his responsibilities to fellow club member Hector Perez. Hector, in turn, hired other instructors including his wife, Nicole Perez, and National Masters Lawyer Times and Libardo Rueda. Together they taught at various elementary, middle, and high schools throughout Boston including Brookline, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, and Roxbury. Literally, hundreds of children were taught how to play. The part of the program's intention was to initiate interest in chess and, hopefully, allow the program to continue on its own. Media attention was drawn to the program when a final tournament was broadcast on local cable network news. Three of the instructors played with time odds simultaneously against invited special guest Grandmaster Patrick Wolff. (He won all three games easily!) Unfortunately, the schools themselves were unable to finance the programs to continue and no other sponsorship was found. So, after a few short years the program stopped.

However, in 2009, Nicole Perez volunteered to teach chess at her son's elementary school, the JP Manning in Jamaica Plain. The program was a great success with innovative presentations, including the use of computer software, large demonstration boards and DVD's. Plus, a yearly staff versus students tournament. Several adults, including parents and teachers, expressed a desire to both learn and improve after losing to the children. It occurred to Nicole and Hector that other adults and seniors may be willing interested in lessons as well. Private adult students were acquired and were taught in their own homes as well as online. Classes were taught at various locations including the Boston Center for Adult Education and the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. Public demonstrations were given at the Farnsworth House, an elderly residence building, as well as at the Cambridge Police Department. To be officially recognized, the new program needed to register as an affiliate of the United States Chess Federation. It would need to catch people's attention and immediately connect it to chess. After 60 years of being a misnomer and after an additional 25 years of disuse, the new name for the program would be the "Boston Chess Club". The club officers would be the Perez family and its members would be all of its students, including those online. Today, the Boston Chess Club continues as instructional chess program for everyone.  This is our official USCF affiliate entry:

BOSTON MA. BOSTON CHESS CLUB (USCF ID A6036488). Affiliate Type: Chess Program. "Have Game Will Travel", BOSTON. Contact: HECTOR PEREZ. Contact Phone: 857-719-7782. Sponsor: Perez Family. email: [email protected]. Web Site:, Casual Play, USCF Rated Events, Unrated Events, Matches, Sets Available, Clocks Available, Chess Items for Sale, Classes Offered, Lectures Offered, Private Lessons Offered, Simuls Offered, Beginners Welcome, USCF certified coach, USCF Tournament Director.

The rest, as they say, is history...