Welcome To Berkeley Chess School

The Berkeley Chess School is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that offers chess instruction, regional chess tournaments (including an all-girls tournament), winter, spring and summer chess camps, a Friday night chess program in Berkeley, San Ramon, Walnut Creek and Mountain House that includes a class and a USCF rated tournament, as well as advanced classes and master classes during the week.  We also offer chess in the classroom in Title One schools, and have an international chess exchange program.

There is a great article about us here! Chess-Site

Our Mission

True to our mission of enriching the lives of children from all backgrounds, we have undertaken ambitious new outreach programs in Oakland and Richmond Title I elementary schools. Click here to learn about the BCS Oakland Chess Program and how you can help.

Our Story

The things that Elizabeth Shaughnessy loves about playing the game are tactics, problem solving, and of course, winning. But what she loves most about chess itself is its ability to cross boundaries and appeal to all ages. Read more.

Meet Our Team

Berkeley Chess School Board of Directors

Queen Graham, Chair (9 years of service) Ms. Graham served more than twelve years as president of In Dulci Jubilo, Inc., a nonprofit educational and grantmaking organization supporting creative teaching and learning projects in Berkeley public schools, with a special focus on helping low-income and at-risk youth. Ms. Graham has served as executive assistant to the Berkeley Board of Education and to five superintendents of the Berkeley Unified School District. She is a longtime Sunday school teacher at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Richmond, California.


Elizabeth Shaughnessy, Founder and President (25 years) A graduate of the University College in Dublin, Ireland, Ms. Shaughnessy is an architect by training and was part of an international team that traveled to Yugoslavia to build New Belgrade. Ms. Shaughnessy built schools and hospitals in Dublin, London and the United States. She served two terms on the Berkeley Board of Education, including one term as president. A former Irish Women’s Chess Champion, Ms. Shaughnessy was elected to the boards of CalChess and the USChess, and is the president and founder of the Berkeley Chess School. Ms. Shaughnessy co-chairs the Chess School’s building committee.


Stephen Shaughnessy, Vice President (22 years) An environmental studies major at U.C. Santa Cruz, Mr. Shaughnessy has been a chess player since age five, and was the 1984 Scholastic Chess State Champion of California in the Under 12 Division. A chess instructor since 2000, he is a principal teacher in the Berkeley Chess School’s Title 1 schools outreach program, and has taught over 10,000 children, including thirty state champions. Mr. Shaughnessy has served on the board of CalChess since 2012.


Roger Poehlmann, Secretary (17 years) Mr. Poehlmann is a UC Berkeley alumnus and a retired software engineer. A National Chess Master since 1986, he has won the Berkeley Chess Club championship five times, and has coached national scholastic champions. Mr. Poehlmann now works extensively in the Berkeley Chess School’s outreach programs for underserved and at-risk children and youth in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.


Ravi Rajendra, JD(newly elected in 2023) Mr. Rajendra is the Deputy County Counsel of Santa Clara County. He is a member of the Social Justice and Impact Litigation Section, and he advises the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement and the Office of Immigrant Relations on a variety of issues. Before he joined the office, Mr. Rajendra represented labor unions, low-wage workers, and nonprofit organizations at Altshuler Berzon, LLP, a public interest law firm in San Francisco. He brings his legal expertise to BCS, and is the proud parent of a BCS student!


Thomas Boyd, MBA, CFE, CHFP (newly elected in 2024) Mr. Boyd is the President and CEO of AfterCare Nursing Services, a highly respected, home healthcare service provider, and the only nursing agency in upstate New York area that is employee-owned. An experienced healthcare professional, Mr. Boyd was the former Vice President of Reimbursable Services for SimiTree, a large healthcare consultancy that helps post-acute care centers achieve financial stability and improve patient outcomes. He brings his financial and organizational acumen to the board, and is a stalwart of the BCS adult tournament program.


Wendy Muse Sinek, Ph.D., Director (newly elected in 2021) Dr. Sinek is a lecturer in the Political Science Department at the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Sinek holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley and an M.A. in International Policy Studies from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California. Her research has centered on the question of how citizens can―and cannot―organize effectively for political change, examining how NGOs navigate between corrupt politicians and drug traffickers to make life better for the residents of Brazil’s favelas. She is a mother, a baker of extreme cakes, and a chess and cat aficionado.