In St. Louis, the World Chess Hall of Fame is hard to miss.
With the world's largest chess piece on its doorstep, the museum makes a statement in the Central West End neighborhood, an area filled with boutiques and sidewalk cafes.
The massive 20-foot, 10,860-pound mahogany king marks the entrance to the museum, a testament to the rich history of chess in the St. Louis area.
The World Chess Hall of Fame was originally located in New York City, but settled in St. Louis in 2011, making the city one of the premiere chess destinations internationally.
Now the museum belongs to the St. Louis Chess Campus. Across the street is the St. Louis Chess Club, which opened in 2008. The club holds classes and tournaments, including the intense U.S. Championship chess tournament each year. It also hosts the Sinquefield Cup, the first-ever Super Grandmaster tournament to be held in the city.
Because of the vibrant chess community, the U.S. Senate declared St. Louis the "Chess Capital of the United States," drawing visitors from all over the world.
Inside the Hall of Fame, visitors can play the game on chess boards inside or move life-sized chess pieces around the front patio. There are also more traditional chess relics in the museum, such as trophies from past championships and stories about past chess Hall of Famers.
Every six months, exhibits are switched so there is always a variety on display. For visitors who have returned more than once, the museum almost always looks different.
Other chess-related attractions are nearby. The Kingside Diner across the street serves classic American food. The diner is known for offering breakfast all day, along with hearty sandwiches and shakes.
The Q Boutique just inside the World Chess Hall of Fame is a colorful gift shop that sells all kinds of chess-related merchandise. Shop items include T-shirts, jewelry, and an array of chess sets, ranging from a silly cats-versus-dogs set to expensive collectors sets priced over $1,000.
“We make the museum and chess accessible to everyone,” said worker Sarah Walters. “Anyone can enjoy coming to the museum, whether they play chess or not. That’s part of what makes it so popular.”