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Play Chess in Scotland
Welcome to Chess Scotland! This page helps you get started by finding the chess organisation closest to you, and by giving a summary of what each type of organised chess activity does. As an individual, you have a wide choice of venues and types of play – membership (in most cases) is not compulsory, and entry fees are modest.
Chess Scotland (CS) is the governing organisation for all chess played in Scotland, though much chess activity is decentralised locally and run by leagues, clubs, tournament organisers and affiliated organisations. On this site, we are concerned primarily with over-the-board (OTB) play for both adults and juniors. Email and postal chess are organised by a separate, but affiliated body, the Scottish Correspondence Chess Association.
The main purpose of CS is to promote Chess in Scotland, by providing a framework of rules, guidelines, services and nationally organised events. CS is also the body which represents Scotland internationally in FIDE, the world chess federation.
Individuals may elect to join Chess Scotland directly – this helps support the national association and to finance the administration of the game in Scotland. Individual membership entitles you to certain benefits; membership info and benefits.
Clubs are organised on a local basis, under a variety of banners. Some are exclusively junior (run by schools or youth organisations); some are exclusively adult (work teams); most will accommodate adults and juniors in a convenient community location at least once a week.
Clubs may elect to join one or more local leagues, and/or Chess Scotland directly. The advantages of the former are principally local competition, and of the latter having club championships and other events graded. Clubs affiliated to CS may elect representatives on to the CS Council.
Individuals need to join clubs in order to play in club competitions and in league matches. Membership fees are usually modest, with reductions for juniors, OAPs, unemployed, etc. Most clubs will allow prospective members to sample the facilities before charging admission, and most will actively assist juniors and beginners to improve.
Find a Chess Club
One of the first things most new players want to do is find a local club. We have a Google map displaying all the Chess clubs in Scotland and how to get in touch with them. The map is available here.
Leagues are organised on a geographical basis to provide competition for local clubs. CS organises the Scottish National Chess League (SNCL), which is the top league standard in Scotland. Other leagues are more regional in nature, and most concentrate on adult chess (though many areas have junior leagues which may be independently operated from the “adult” leagues).
League organisers may be dedicated to the league only, or be a wider body which organises regional events (Edinburgh and Lothians; Tayside and Fife are both examples of wider chess associations). Leagues may or may not be affiliated to CS – the main reason for joining is that league games are eligible for grading. Affiliated leagues may elect representatives on to the CS Council.
Individuals do not join leagues; clubs are the members. But most league organisers are excellent sources of information regarding local clubs.
More information on Leagues
For more information on Leagues please visit our Leagues & Associations page.
For a small country, Scotland has a rich variety of Chess events and tournaments on the CS calendar. The most popular type of event is the 5-round “Swiss” tournament (so named because the method of pairing players originated in Switzerland). This usually runs over a weekend, and entrants are guaranteed 5 games regardless of whether they win, lose or draw in each round. Other popular events are rapid- or quickplay tournaments, where the action is faster, and where 5 or more rounds can be compressed into a single day. There is a vibrant junior scene with events organised regularly throughout the year.
Most local events are independently organised by enthusiasts and club members. Almost all events cater for all ages and strengths of player, and matching systems are used wherever possible to pair players of approximately equal strength. Event organisers may elect to affiliate to CS, in order to receive support in organising the tournament, and to become eligible for Grand Prix points (keen players can follow the weekend circuit around the whole of Scotland!) and for games to be graded.
CS itself organises events on a national basis. The most important of these are the Scottish (individual) Championships, usually held in July; team championships (Richardson, Spens and Campbell trophies); and the national league (SNCL). A large number of junior events are hosted by CS, which also organises training days and international matches for top junior players.
Individuals can enter chess events without being a member of a chess club, though it is usually sensible to have gained experience of competitive play (particularly keeping a game score and using a chess clock) beforehand.
Forthcoming events are listed in the website calendar. Entry forms and full details of tournaments can be found on these pages and there will be a contact name where further information is available. Some events will be restricted to players of a certain rating, age or from a particular geographic area but generally most events are open to all. Players will have to budget for travel, entry fees and possible accommodation costs but they might win a cash prize.
Rules and Rating
A list of tournament rules is published by Chess Scotland (available for free download) but most players get by without reading them. Once you have played a couple of tournaments or in club or league chess you will automatically appear in the Chess Scotland Rating list. To find out how the grading system works, please click here.