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Sports & Recreation

Best Test of Mental Mettle 

Mechanics' Institute Chess Room

When gold was found and San Francisco was in its infancy, more was needed to occupy the minds of the young city's denizens than whiskey and cutthroat commerce. An integral part of fostering education and inspiration for the pioneer city's creative class — the writers, engineers, and inventors who turned the roughneck frontier town into the imperial Paris of the West — the Mechanics' Institute boasts the oldest chess club in the United States, with April 24, 1855 pegged as its founding date (though top-notch chess was played here a year or two prior, when the French consul was a top-rated player). Today, beginners can learn from grandmasters in organized classes, and embark on the path to mastery themselves via regular tournaments every weekend and on Tuesday nights, for when you can't devote an entire weekend to the game of kings. If a match ends in defeat, lick your wounds and ponder what went wrong in the classic, well-apportioned library — the ideal setting for consulting a resource for plotting your next move: revenge.

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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