The Mechanics' Institute Chess Club in San Francisco is the oldest chess club in the United States. The first meeting of the Mechanics' Institute was held on December 11, 1854, and it was incorporated on April 24, 1855. At the time, San Francisco was a frontier city that had grown from the California Gold Rush.
The first world-class player to visit San Francisco was Johann Zukertort, who spent nearly a month in the city in July 1884. George H. D. Gossip visited the city and the club in 1888, writing an account of chess in San Francisco for the June 1888 International Chess Magazine. Many leading players have given exhibitions or played at the Institute including Harry Pillsbury, Géza Maróczy, Frank Marshall (1913 and 1915), Borislav Kostić (1915), Samuel Reshevsky (1921 and 1956), Arthur Dake (1937 among many others), Georges Koltanowski (1939), Svetozar Gligorić, and Tony Miles. The Institute has also been visited by many world champions, including Emanuel Lasker (1902 and 1926), José Capablanca (1916), Alexander Alekhine (1924 and 1929), Max Euwe (1947 or 1949?), Bobby Fischer (1964), Vasily Smyslov (1976), Tigran Petrosian (1978), and Anatoly Karpov (1999).
Tournaments are the lifeblood of the Chess Room with weekend events and Tuesday Night Marathons the anchors. The Chess Room also holds weekly classes for children, beginners, and women.