Where to Play Chess in Boston: 4 Places to Checkmate Around Town

It’s time to dust off the discarded tennis racket, rummage through the closet for a forgotten Tommy Bahama shirt, and say “hello, old friend” to the summer blues. Although it’s far from the most physical activity (although a three-minute game of blitz is sure to get your heart rate up), chess is a great addition to your repertoire of sunny activities. , by the river or in the park.

The game has exploded in popularity over the past few years with the help of the 2020 record-breaking Netflix miniseries “The Queen’s Gambit” (or as I like to call it: 1.d4 d5 2.c4) and the tournament of Internet celebrities streaming series “PogChamps”. Sales of boards and accessories have skyrocketed throughout the pandemic, grandmasters are now streaming live for fans on Twitch, and it seems the rise in popularity isn’t just a fad: the site free online game Chess.com reported 5.3 million new users in the last quarter of 2021 alone. If you’re dying to show off your vicious Stafford Gambit preparation, or your tactical mastery, or just your love of the game, here are four places in the Boston area where you can play chess.

Harvard Square

This is the battlefield. Every day, outside the Pavement Coffeehouse in Harvard Square, you can find an array of chess tables armed with the grizzled hustlers who for many years served as a litmus test for promising New England players. It’s pretty fun just watching the trash talking from the sidelines, but nothing compares to the rush of playing these speed demons and inevitably dropping a few bucks. The scene has been around for decades and remains the Union Square Park of the Massachusetts chess world. Plus, you always have the option of heading over to Leavitt & Peirce to pick up some nice boards and play a few games upstairs for $2 an hour. 1350 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge.

Boylston Chess Club

Tired of losing to the scholars of Harvard Square? If you’re looking to get serious, head to the Boylston Chess Club. Boston’s largest chess club, the Boylston Chess Club was founded in 1919, though its roots date back to the 1850s, according to the club’s website. Over the years the club has seen top players such as Harry Nelson Pillsbury (albeit before its official establishment), Grandmaster Larry Christiansen and International Master Carissa Yip, the current US Women’s Chess Champion .

“Having a full-time club permanently open in a space dedicated to chess makes a big difference,” said Boylston Chess Club President Andrew Hoy. Massachusetts is “not quite on the level of New York or St. Louis…but behind those, I would say it’s certainly very close.

The Boylston Chess Club hosts tournaments and events several times a week, both in-person and online, as well as occasional conferences to help you along your chess journey. 40 Norris Street, Cambridge. boylstonchess.org

Jamaica Plain Chess Club

Founded just under a year ago, the Jamaica Plain Chess Club bounced around for a while before finding a home outside of Jamaica Plain’s JP Licks last October. You can find the group there every Thursday evening, for occasional matches and tournaments of several time controls. The club is free to join and welcomes players of all levels.

“We’re more like cafe failures,” said founder Jamie Williams. “It’s not just the game of chess itself. For us, JP Chess is about connecting people in the community. 659 Center Street jamaicaplainchess.com

Medford Chess Club

Every Saturday afternoon you can find the Medford Chess Club gathered outside Riverside Plaza playing games on the square’s two built-in chess tables and the dozen sets the club brings . If you’re looking for a little exercise, try playing a game on their giant chess set with quick time control; you are sure to exercise.

“It’s a very inclusive group, welcoming all ages,” said Chris Donovan, one of the club’s organizers. “You never know who you’re going to run into. »

Like the Jamaica Plain Chess Club, the Medford Chess Club is free. The group also occasionally offers events such as simultaneous exhibits, Donovan said. Riverside Avenue and River Street, Medford. meetup.com


Sam Trottenberg can be contacted at [email protected]

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