Rock River Chess

Rock River Chess is a chess organization based in Rockford, IL. Our mission is to provide fun, friendly, and safe places to play chess casually and competitively in the Rockford, IL, and Rock River area. To carry out our mission, we host regular club meetings and organize chess tournaments and events in the area. Rock River Chess is an official Affiliate of the Illinois Chess Association and Affiliate #A6049595 of the United States Chess Federation.

As an Affiliate, Rock River Chess has the ability to:

  • Host official, rated chess tournaments and events
  • Bid for state, regional, and national championships
  • Work with the ICA and USCF to advertise events throughout the state and nation using their official announcement services and the official USCF magazine Chess Life

Rock River Chess was many years in the making...

Founded in April, 2017, Rock River Chess is aimed at one goal: to grow and promote chess in the Rock River area.

Over many decades, several chess organizers have made Rockford their home and consequently Rockford has been home to some great chess events and history. Rockford has been host to at least 3 national title tournaments and several Illinois championships. The last tournament hosted in Rockford was the Illinois K-8 Championship, hosted at the Clock Tower Resort by organizer Chuck Beach. Chuck Beach organized and operated Rockford Scholastic Chess for many years. He successfully put chess sets in EVERY classroom in Winnebago County and even sent chess sets to schools in surrounding counties. Rockford Scholastic Chess still operates today, running a "Rockford Chess Challenge" for K-8 students 4 times each school year.

Due to the hard work of dedicated coaches, scholastic chess in the Rock River area has been strong. Rockford high schools, specifically Guilford, were instrumental in the early stages of IHSA chess back in the 1960s. Coach Gary McLammarah of Guilford started a team in 1965 and organized inter-scholastic tournaments with teams from across northern Illinois. The Guilford team stopped competing sometime in the early 1970s. The Guilford team was reborn in 2012 when coach Erik Czerwin organized a team and they began competing in the 2014-15 school year. Auburn High School founded a team in 1986 which operated through 2005, winning the State title in 1992 and 1993 and earning second place 3 times. Auburn has formed a new team that is competing starting in the 2017-18 school year. Jefferson High School had a competitive team from 1987 to 1999, and organized a new team that began competing in 2010. Along the way, Rockford Scholastic Chess has been organizing clubs and competitions for K-8 students. Outside of Rockford, Stillman Valley has one State title and 2 third place trophies, and Poplar Grove (North Boone HS) has two State titles, 4 second place trophies, and 2 third place trophies. With all this scholastic success, it's no wonder that the Rock River Valley is home to a deep tradition of chess.

Throughout the years, a group of chess players developed a regular Rockford Chess Club. Through 2011, the Rockford Chess Club met at the Borders Bookstore at the corner of East State St. and Perryville. It was a great setting and the club drew in 20-40 attendees every week. Ages ranged from 6 years old to 80 years old. It was a thriving club that acted as a hub of chess in the area. When Borders closed and Mr. Beach moved away, Rockford Chess was left without a home...

For a couple years, various groups tried to carry the chess torch onward with several disparate groups meeting in locations around the city. Restaurants, churches, and parks were all tried, but none of them found a way to gather the group that used to meet at Borders. Without a single home, chess seemed to go fallow in the Rockford area despite the fact that there was still hunger for chess.

Fast forward to 2016... In collaboration with the Illinois Chess Association, the concept of Rock River Chess was born. That concept is to gather all the separate chess groups in the Rock River Valley under one umbrella. After months of searching for just the right location, The Gaming Goat opened; it's a store that sells niche board games and card games while also hosting events for board game groups. Setup for gaming, The Gaming Goat seemed a great place to begin the journey. In April 2017, Rock River Chess will hold its first club meeting, beginning a journey that will hopefully lead to a resurgence of chess in the Rock River area.

Acting as an affiliate club of the Illinois Chess Association and the United States Chess Federation, Rock River Chess hopes to bring chess to many locations in the area, all under the name of the Rock River Chess Club. Once we have established a strong chess community, we can start acting as a single group to extend the reach of chess in the area. Also, we hope, Rock River Chess can grow to a point where we can once again bid on and host regional and even national tournaments to bring attention to Rockford and the surrounding area. We have a great community, and chess events can be a great way to show off the strengths of our community.

Our hope in starting this club is to provide a central presence for Rockford chess players so that we will always have a place to come together. We're hoping to continue building Rockford's tradition of being a chess town and to ensure that our chess community stays connected for many years into the future.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions.