All Roads to Atlanta for HBCU Chess Classic!

The HBCU Chess Classic will kick off on April 22nd featuring several schools including Morehouse, Spelman, Clark Atlanta, Howard, Hampton, North Carolina A&T, Florida A&M, and host Morris Brown. This tournament will be a five-round, rated, Swiss tournament with both individual and team prizes.

This initiative is designed to build a chess community within one of the most important groups of institutions with the African Diaspora. According to The Black Odyssey (TBO),

TBO aims to bridge the heavily wedged gap between chess and the Black community and increase critical thinking and problem-solving skills through chess play.

~The Black Odyssey website

According to the TBO event website, “the 2023 HBCU Chess Classic  is a 5-round Swiss combining individual and team play.”

Tournament Details

  • Time Control: G/25 with a 5-second increment
  • USCF Rated
  • Each team may consist of up to five players.
  • Only the top four scores will be used to determine team prizes.
  • A team may have less than 4 players and still compete for the team prize.
  • Full rulebook: HBCU Chess Classic Rulebook
  • Ratings: Team average ratings are based on individual ratings taken as of January 2023

Players must complete a student eligibility form and submit rosters by April 18th. It requires signatures from the registrar to show that the student is duly enrolled.


Team & Individual Tie-breaks will be used as specified in the Rules. 

Team Prizes (Trophies/Plaques)

  •  Trophies to top 3 schools

Individual Prizes

  • Trophies to top 3 individuals by score
  •  Medals to 4th and 5th place.

Official Website:


  1. The Challenge

    As far back as the 1950s (and perhaps before), we saw activity at HBCUs. The Paragon Chess Club in Washington, DC was comprised of several Howard University graduates and they competed in local chess leagues. HBCUs have had casual players for many decades. Every now and then, a seasoned tournament player would grace one of the campuses, but there will be little support for formal activity.

    Paragon Chess Club of Washington, DC was featured in the July 1950 issue of Chess Life.

    Howard University has competed in the Pan-Am Intercollegiate for the past few years. There have been schools from the Caribbean who have also competed, but as far as HBCUs are concerned, participants in USCF team tournaments have been few.

    Dr. Steven Dowd wrote a March 2003 article in Chess Life on the Tuskegee Chess Club where he discusses the “Three Es of Running a Successful Collegiate Chess Club.” His story is about Jack Wilson a Tuskegee student who was not a tournament player, but enjoyed chess and wanted to start a chess club. He helped the student establish a start which resulted in guest lectures by IM Stephen Muhammad, a match with Howard University, and participation in chess leagues. They also received funding for the 2003 Pan-Am Intercollegiate but unfortunately, did not compete.

    In this article Dr. Dowd states,

    This short life span of collegiate organizers mean that the average collegiate club often loses its organizers and falls into a dormant state. Of course, there is a potential saving factor that most collegiate faculty advisors have long life spans and thus can keep the club running —Dr. Tim Redman at UTD and Dr. Alan Sherman of UMBC being two prominent examples.They still need help and cannot do it all on own. This means that collegiate clubs have to be constantly on the look out for new talent to step in and replace that enthusiastic president, secretary, and so on.

    ~Dr. Steven Dowd

    I had discussions with Dr. Dowd and can confirm these tremendous challenges as a professor and faculty advisor at Florida A&M. The HBCU Chess Classic hopes to be the beginning of a sustainable chess trend that will serve as a new type of network (even professional). It can also as a recruiting ground for high school chess players wanting the HBCU experience.

    Also see Daaim Shabazz, “Chess at American HBCUs,” The Chess Drum, 15 November 2006.

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