WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, IM Annie Wang, WIM Sarah Lu, and six other female coaches came together at Occidental College near Pasadena on Saturday, October 26th to instruct and inspire fellow female players in the Southern California chess community. One adult joined the 70 enthusiastic junior attendees as the day kicked off with a thought-provoking welcome by Occidental College’s Dr. Carmel Levitan, chair of the Cognitive Sciences Department. Dr. Levitan’s comment that she was the “only girl in my Calculus class, the only girl in my Physics class,…” was echoed later by Coach Anthea Carson who told the packed auditorium that she was the only female in her chess club for many years. Tatev said “That’s okay. Chess belongs to everyone!” Coach Eva Keshishian marveled at how many chessplaying girls were gathered together for this groundbreaking event.
After the introductions and inspirational words from all nine coaches, the girls were split into five classrooms for level-appropriate instruction. The top 20 girls were 1200-1800, and the newest group consisted of unrated 5-9 year-olds. Coaches spent time on basic mates, tactics, and endgames, as well as gambits, and advanced puzzle solving.
After a catered box lunch for all attendees, coaches, volunteers and the girls played chess, cornhole, chase (!) or simply hung out, chatting until the afternoon session commenced. The five groups continued with instruction and some play, then broke for a final hour of free play, with a room divided into casual, Blitz, and Bughouse.
Coach Eva Keshishian acted as emcee for the opening introductions and final parting words. Coach Tara Martinez assisted her in the young group. Other assistant coaches were Becky Kennedy, Marissa Kennedy, and Dr. Angela Nelson. Frederik Luhur directed the volunteers.
The 2019-20 Promoting to Queens program has three more meetings before the Spring. Feedback from all in attendance was very positive, but most added that they thought that including more interactive activities would help bond the women and girls who attend these events.
All of this was made possible by a US Chess Women Program grant from US Chess and the St. Louis Chess Club, with additional funding from the Crane Fund for Widows and Children, and sponsorship from FantaSea Yachts. California Youth Chess League, under the direction of Jay & Michel Stallings, organized the event. Special thanks to the administration and staff at Occidental College, especially FM (!) Ron Buckmire, the Associate Dean of Curricular Affairs, for his work to secure the facilities and help make the day a success.
Photos by Angela Nelson, Frederick Luhur, and Jiayao Yu