Scholarships for Chess Players

The famed German writer Johan Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward. They may be beaten, but they may start a winning game”. The metaphor of chess-as-life repeats many times over history, but the basic idea remains the same. The game, which revolves around sacrifices of certain pieces to strike towards your opponent’s king, bears resemblance to moving through adulthood. Sacrifices of money or time must be made. But, eventually, if you make the right moves, you can reach your goal. Here’s an incomplete list of scholarships chess players may want to check out:

A close-up shot of a chess set.

US Chess Federation Scholarships

Deadline: Varying

Amount: Varying

Since its inception in 1939, the US Chess Federation has focused on honing the skills of young chess players nationwide. Today, it prides itself on sponsoring many tournaments for blossoming players to show off their aptitude. According to their website, the USCF has over 80,000 members and currently sanctions over 10,000 chess tournaments. The USCF sponsors a multitude of scholarships and awards for burgeoning chess players.

Most of the awards revolve around the USCF’s tournaments. But some, like the Scholar-ChessPlayer Award, require academic skill as well. The latter scholarship awards students who “promote a positive image of chess…[and] have shown outstanding merit in academics, sportsmanship, and chess.” The scholarship offers a total of $7,500 to eligible students, who must have competed in at least 30 US Chess matches in the previous year. Other awards go to the winners and placers of USCF tourneys, with criteria for some taking age, gender, and skill level into account.

University of Maryland Baltimore County Chess Scholarships

Deadline: Varying

Amount: Varying

One of the premier colleges for chess enthusiasts in the nation, the University of Maryland Baltimore County prides itself on being the “kings” of the game. Their teams hold the record for most Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess championships (ten). They have qualified for the “Final Four” of the National Chess Championship 15 times, also a record. Think of the UMBC program like they’re the Yankees of chess; they have a history of winning and you must perform at a high level. To continue their tradition of excellence, UMBC is constantly seeking out young chess players to take on the mantle of their predecessors.

The university currently offers three scholarships and multiple other rewards for placing in tournaments, sponsored by the large chess program. Incoming freshmen that compete—and win—in certain chess tournaments receive enough reward money to pay for one full year of tuition, as well as enough funding to help pay the bills each subsequent semester. Tremendously apt chess players sometimes remain at UMBC for their graduate program, when they can apply for the Chess Fellowship. More information on the scholarships, and the chess program as a whole, can be found on the UMBC website.

General Awards

In addition to the specific scholarships listed above, several state and public universities offer more general awards for chess champions. Louisiana State University, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State, although perhaps known for their football programs, also have a substantial amount of students interested in chess. The school offers these students financial rewards for winning state and private chess tournaments prior to their enrollment. Some community organizations, such as North Carolina’s Henderson County Community Foundation, incentivize their local youth to play chess through six $300 scholarships. There are many, many more awards available nationwide for winning chess tournaments, even more so locally than nationally.

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