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Our History

Chess for Success boasts a rich history spanning more than 25 years.

We began as a pilot program aimed at exploring the potential of chess to positively impact the lives of students in the Portland area. Following a resounding success during this initial phase, Chess for Success was formally established.

Throughout the years we have continually evolved, expanding our reach to over 100 schools and adapting our curriculum multiple times to better cater to the evolving needs of those we serve.

Our History Over the Years


The Portland Chess Project, a pilot program funded through a four-year grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust, was established in nine of the worst-performing schools in the Portland Public District; 200 students participated.


At the end of the pilot project, Chess for Success, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is established.


Chess for Success takes responsibility for presenting the Oregon State Chess Tournament.


Chess for Success curriculum is copywritten.


The U.S. Congress commissioned a study of Chess for Success that compared program participants to students from the same school who were not involved in the program.


The final report of the two-year study showed that Chess for Success had accomplished its primary goal of enabling children to be patient and analytical in all problem-solving situations so that there is an increase in their academic achievement and self-esteem. Chess for Success also had an impact on increasing the interest of a strong proportion of girls in analytical problem solving.


First Girls Play Chess Tournament at Harold Oliver Primary School


Chess for Success unveils an advanced curriculum to add to the curriculum used since the beginning of the program.


Chess for Success offers a paid program to schools whose demographics do not qualify for the free program. This is the first year over 100 schools are part of Chess for Success.


In response to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, Chess for Success offers online instruction through and virtual Tournament Practices and Tournaments utilizing the platform


Chess for Success clubs return to being fully in person and the state tournament is one again held in person.


Chess for Success pilots a new program “Learning and Wellness” in which we incorporate elements of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) in order to increase our programs benefits on mental health.


After the successful pilot program of Learning and Wellness, Chess for Success cancels L&W to instead implement elements of the program into all after school programming. 

Meet the People who created Chess for Success

Chess for Success was established based on the visionary initiative of three remarkable individuals: Frank Eiseman, Phillip Margolin, and Dick Roy. We thank them for their dedication to the cause. Their invaluable contributions have been instrumental in enabling us to make a profound difference in the lives of countless youth in our communities.

Frank Eiseman


Frank and his wife, Gerda, always were philanthropists and believed in the value of giving back to the community. They knew the hardships that many low-income children were facing in education, and saw chess as a way to provide the tools students need to succeed. (Gerda’s brother had developed a chess program in Seattle.) When the initial grant for the Portland Chess Project expired, at 82 years old, Frank spearheaded the fundraising efforts to ensure that the program continued. Frank passed away in 1998. His legacy lives on, and his family remains actively involved in the organization. 

Phillip Margolin


As a child, Phil says he was a terrible student with low self-esteem, a short attention span, and bad grades, which resulted in his being placed in a class for slow learners. In the 7th grade, he became fascinated with chess and learned that to succeed you must move slowly and think methodically. When Phil started winning against his teachers, his confidence improved and so did his grades. He looked at school the same way he looked at chess. Phil became a lawyer and New York Times best-selling author. He coached the Hayhurst Chess Club for 16 years before co-founding the Portland Chess Project. 

​Dick Roy


In 1976, Dick started a chess club at Robert Gray School for his son Jeff.  Soon, about 25% of the student body came to the library every Wednesday evening to play chess. Moving up through the school system along with his children, in 1989, his final year as coach, Wilson High School’s chess club won the National High School Chess Team Championship. It was the only team in the top five that was an open-enrollment public high school and was not coached by a chess master. That spurred Dick to create a chess program for at-risk children, and he is credited with securing the grant to establish the Portland Chess Project.  Dick is a graduate of Harvard Law School and practiced corporate law at Stoel Rives from 1970 to 1993.  He and his wife, Jeanne, co-founded the Center for Earth Leadership.

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