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Hamilton Chess

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     Chess Update


Program Director Abel Talamantez has rejuvenated the chess program and even taken the Hamilton Chess team to two Scholastic State Championships in Santa Clara. The first was in March 2022 where the team won first place in the rookie division. The second was in May 2022 with a step up to the beginner division. They took first place again. This is an amazing success story.  The Marin Independent Journal published an article on the team after the first win. Read it here.  We are thrilled with the success and the experiences the students have had, and with the leadership that Abel has shown. Learn more at


 The Program

We started the Chess program at Hamilton in 2016 to build opportunity for Hamilton students. At Hamilton, we didn’t see a lot of engagement, around education, sports, competition…and much of that was because opportunity was so limited. Whether at school, or away from school around the county, kids need engagement and challenge…where they learn sportsmanship, effort and reward…where they have fun, and build grit. Hamilton kids are every bit as capable as kids across the county, they just need opportunity. And that’s where chess comes in…determination, commitment, learning to win and learning from losing, it’s a great game that teaches life-long skills.  


In year one we offered 4th and 5th grades a chess club at lunch-time, starting from scratch learning about teaching chess from other programs, and using a lot of trial and error as our guide. Eventually we found a chess room, dressed it up, and started playing chess.


We had a bit of a following, so we added 3rd grade and middle school the next year... and the following year we included 2nd grade, added after school chess and began competitive chess, hiring a Chess coach, Women’s Grand Master, Carla Heredia…Coach Carla. The program was thriving with about 140 participants each week and well over 30 kids participating in tournaments.  We attended tournaments in Berkeley, San Rafael at Mark Day School, and hosted a tournament at the Hamilton Gym in December 2019. We still aspire to make Hamilton School a hub for tournament chess in the county and beyond.


After the pandemic struck, we took the Chess program online. Carla coached and instructed a core dedicated group of kids via Zoom and an online platform. We can't wait to get back on campus to resume the full chess program in September if not before! 


Abel Talamantez joined Rise during the 2021-22 school year as Chess Program Director. Prior to coming to Hamilton, Abel served for 3 years as the Chess Director of the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club in San Francisco, the oldest continuously running chess club in the country. He has a decade of experience coaching scholastic chess in elementary schools, as well as building community and culture within the club. 

Abel is a California native who has spent the last 10 years as a chess coach and organizer, spending the last 3 years as Chess Director of the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club in San Francisco, the oldest continuously running chess club in the country. He has co-organized many state and national championship events, including the CalChess Super States Championship, CalChess Grade Level Championship, Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championship, U.S. Junior Congress, U.S. Cadet Championship, and U.S. Amateur Team West. Abel is the 2020 US Chess Accessibility and Special Circumstances Person of the Year and 2021 US Chess Organizer of the Year. He has over 10 years of coaching experience at the elementary school level in schools throughout the Bay Area and is as passionate about introducing brand new players to the game, as well as developing and coaching a competitive team.


He strongly believes in the power of chess to bring communities together, and that chess can be used in schools as a tool for social empowerment, developing critical thinking skills, teaching sportsmanship and competition, and many other skills that children will use throughout their life away from the chessboard. The goal of the chess program at Hamilton is to make chess enjoyable and fun, to build community among the players, and to give kids a place to go where everyone feels valued. From beginner to experienced player, all are welcome at the Hamilton Chess Club.


Abel has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California at Berkeley. He is also a FIDE Arbiter, FIDE Instructor, FIDE National Instructor, FIDE School Instructor, US Chess Senior Tournament Director, and FIDE Chess in Education Lecturer. He is also the current Chair of the US Chess Clubs Committee.


You may contact Abel at


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hamilton chess hawk.png


We need your help!

If you are interested in playing chess, even if your knowledge is limited, please come join us.

The students would love to see some new faces!   

Contact Jay or Abel if you would like to know more. 


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