Birmingham City Schools prepares for NEW student chess center

Birmingham Chess Team
Students competing in the Birmingham City Schools Chess Tournament. (Coach Jeff Byrd)

Birmingham City Schools is getting an exciting new program—chess! We talked to Professional chess player Coach Jeff Byrd, who’s eager to bring this activity to Birmingham schools. Keep reading to see what we learned.

Byrd knows firsthand how impactful chess can be for students

Coach Jeff Byrd started playing chess at Glen Iris Elementary in after-school care when he was just six years old and he knows all the ways chess can benefit young minds.

Byrd was inspired by his late mother, Rosalind M. Byrd, to begin a chess center where he can coach and teach kids to play chess. Since this summer, he’s been going to various after-school programs, including Washington K-8, Phillips Academy and Tuggle Elementary to help pave the way for the next generation of chess players.

“I wanna do more than give a kid something to do, I want it to be a life long journey for them, life long skill, life long activity…its something that can last a lifetime for a student.”

Coach Byrd of Byrd Brother’s Chess Center

Benefits of chess for Birmingham students

Birmingham Chess Students
Coach Byrd helps his team practice three times a week. (Coach Jeff Byrd)

Coach Byrd expressed how much he thinks chess deserves to be treated the same as any other sport among school systems.

After all, sports are meant to challenge an individual and to teach them new skills. What better skill is there to learn at a young age than making strong-minded and well-thought decision—and sticking to them?

“90% of chess players I know who play competitively, and I know a lot of chess players have well high-paying STEM jobs.”

Coach Byrd of Byrd Brother’s Chess Center

The Birmingham City Schools chess tournament 

Birmingham Chess Center
Coach Byrd was excited to celebrate his winning chess team students. (Coach Jeff Byrd)

This past August 26, Alabama chess player Ceaser Chess directed a back-to-school chess tournament, and Coach Byrd’s students came to represent.

In fact, here’s a few notable awards the team came home with: 

  • Tuggle Elementary won 1st place as a team 
  • Tuggle Elementary individual award, Ethan Bishop, won 4th place overall
  • Ramsey High School individual award, Isa Shabazz, won 1st place overall

There’s more where that came from. Last year, Coach Byrd hosted an inner-city school chess tournament between Washington K-8 and Phillips Academy. The teams played four rounds of six-on-six games and competed until there was a winner. Washington won 18-6. This was a triumph for both schools, and Coach Byrd believes that this is just the beginning. 

Do you or your student want to get involved?

The Byrd’s Brothers Chess Centers biggest goal is to create a Birmingham inner-city-wide chess league. Byrd also noted that there are many chess scholarships that go unclaimed every year. 

They want to try and get 300 students involved in their program by the end of the year. In order to do that, students need access to chess sets and laptops so they are able to practice virtually. 

“We want to produce students who can be disciplined through the game of chess, who appreciate the beauty of decision making and concrete strategy we want them to be able to have that confidence.”

Coach Byrd of Byrd Brother’s Chess Center

If you, your student or your school would like to get involved with this great program you can contact Coach Jeff Byrd at or go to 

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Sadie Sue Long
Sadie Sue Long
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