6th Chess & Science Festival Hosted at U of A [US Chess Women Grant Recipient]

The Chess & Science Festival and Women & Girls Championship started as an idea back in 2013, but it didn’t come from nowhere. There is an ongoing discussion happening simultaneously in two parallel areas for many years – “How to get more girls engaged into ...?” Those two areas are Chess and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Chess incorporates many intellectual skills, from creativity to intuition, mathematics and logic. However, only about 10% of tournament participants are female. STEM has also suffered for years with skewed ratios as many bright and talented girls choose to avoid “male-dominated” areas. Being a 3-time US Chess Champion and having a Master’s Degree from New York University in Mathematics and Finance, puts me in a rare position of being highly successful in both areas, where, by odds, women “don’t belong." How can this situation be changed? What must be done to increase girls’ self-esteem, confidence and interest in competing with their male counterparts? Back in 1994 – 1999, I spent 5 years teaching chess in the New York public schools, with chess making it to the schools’ curriculum. Over that time, I taught over 1,000 children and observed that girls love to play chess when there are other girls around them playing chess. In the classroom settings with almost equal boys / girls’ ratios, both genders enjoyed the activity over many years. On the other hand, at my private chess school, girls were in striking minority and were quitting regularly, despite my best efforts. Based on those observations and my background of growing up and playing chess in USSR, it became apparent to me that girls have to be given a chance to first experience and enjoy social aspect of the game, without being concerned about “hurting anyone’s feelings." It is important for girls to learn that they can win the game and still be friends with their opponents. In 1998 – 2000, as a Chairperson of Women's Committee of US Chess, I actively advocated to create numerous All-Girls competitions in the US. 10 years later, after building a successful career in finance and starting my own family, I opened Belakovskaia Chess Academy and revisited the idea of offering all-girls competitions to attract and retain more girls in chess. Simultaneously, I began to teach finance at the University of Arizona. By chance I was introduced to the staff at U of A Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium and the idea to host an event there was born. Chess & Science Festival and All-Girls Tournaments were held in 2013 – 2017 and the All-Female Championship was introduced in 2019 - http://chessandsciencefestival.com/ The 2019 Chess & Science Festival  attracted hundreds of visitors and 19 participants in the Women & Girls Championship. To our surprise and delight, two of the players came from the Navajo Reservation – 6.5 hours away by car!

Most of the players were girls in the K-12, but “expanding the field” idea paid off with three adult female participants taking part in the event. To maintain high standards and provide outstanding experience for all, we were fortunate to get a sponsorship for the 2019 event from US Chess and the Saint Louis Chess Club, who awarded us a $2,500 Grant as part of the 2019 Grant Partnership fund. With these funds, we were able to buy the brand-new chess sets (that were given to each player to take home after the event), clocks, trophies, chess and science prizes and much more. Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium offered free admission to the Festival for everyone. As in the previous years, University of Arizona Math Department sponsored lunch for all the players, while Belakovskaia Chess Academy provided breakfast for the participants. Tucson Mayor, Jonathan Rothschild attended his 6th Annual Chess & Science Festival to address the participants and emphasize the importance of the idea. Check out a few games from the event:

[pgn] [Event "Chess & Science Festival"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.01.23"] [Round "?"] [White "Seiben , Imola"] [Black "Byers, Phoebe"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C55"] [PlyCount "123"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.01.23"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Nc3 Nxe4 5. Nxe4 d5 6. Bd3 dxe4 7. Bxe4 Bc5 8. Bxc6+ bxc6 9. Nxe5 Qd4 10. Qe2 O-O 11. c3 Qd6 12. d4 Bb6 13. O-O f6 14. Qc4+ Be6 15. Qxc6 Qe7 16. Nd3 Rad8 17. Re1 Rd6 18. Qf3 Qf7 19. b3 Bd5 20. Qd1 Qg6 21. Nf4 Qf7 22. c4 Re8 23. Nxd5 Rde6 24. Ne3 Qd7 25. Bb2 Qe7 26. Bc3 g5 27. c5 f5 28. Nxf5 Qf8 29. Rxe6 Rxe6 30. cxb6 cxb6 31. d5 Re8 32. d6 Qxf5 33. Qd4 Qd7 34. Qh8+ Kf7 35. Qxh7+ Ke6 36. Re1+ Kxd6 37. Qg6+ Re6 38. Rd1+ Kc6 39. Rxd7 Rxg6 40. Rf7 Rd6 41. f4 Rd1+ 42. Kf2 gxf4 43. Rxf4 Rc1 44. Bg7 Rc2+ 45. Kg3 Rxa2 46. h4 Ra5 47. Kg4 Rb5 48. h5 a5 49. h6 Rd5 50. h7 Rd8 51. Rf8 Rd4+ 52. Kh3 Rd3+ 53. Rf3 Rd8 54. Rf8 Rd3+ 55. Kh2 Rxb3 56. h8=Q Kb5 57. Qh5+ Ka4 58. Rf4+ Ka3 59. Bf8+ Ka2 60. Qe2+ Rb2 61. Qc4+ Rb3 62. Rf2+ 1-0[/pgn]
[pgn] [Event "Chess & Science Festival Tucson "] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.01.23"] [Round "?"] [White "Ramakrishnan,Mahathi"] [Black "Bezahaloni,Shundin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C48"] [PlyCount "114"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.01.23"] 1. e4 Nc6 2. Nc3 e5 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Bb5 Bd6 5. d3 O-O 6. Bg5 Be7 7. O-O d6 8. h3 Be6 9. Ba4 a6 10. Bb3 d5 11. exd5 Nxd5 12. Nxd5 Bxd5 13. Bxe7 Nxe7 14. Nxe5 Bxb3 15. axb3 Nc6 16. Nc4 Qf6 17. Re1 Nd4 18. Qg4 b5 19. Na5 Ne6 20. Re3 Ng5 21. Rg3 Rae8 22. Nb7 Re2 23. Qxe2 g6 24. Rxa6 Qxa6 25. Nc5 Qa1+ 26. Kh2 Ra8 27. Rxg5 c6 28. Qe7 Qxb2 29. Ne4 Qg7 30. Nf6+ Kh8 31. Rg4 h6 32. Rb4 Qf8 33. Re4 Kg7 34. Qb7 Qd6+ 35. g3 Rd8 36. Ng4 h5 37. Re3 hxg4 38. hxg4 Rh8+ 39. Kg2 Qd5+ 40. Kf1 Rh1+ 41. Ke2 Qg2 42. Qe7 Qf1+ 43. Kf3 Rh2 44. Qe5+ f6 45. Qe7+ Kh6 46. g5+ fxg5 47. Kg4 Qd1+ 48. f3 Rh5 49. Qe8 Qa1 50. Re5 Qd4+ 51. f4 Qa7 52. Re6 Qg7 53. fxg5+ Rxg5+ 54. Kh4 Qd4+ 55. Re4 Qf6 56. Re6 Rh5+ 57. Kg4 Qf5# 0-1 [/pgn]
[pgn] [Event "Chess & Science Festival"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.01.23"] [Round "?"] [White "Dean, Ginger"] [Black "Benito, Nicole"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C41"] [PlyCount "59"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.01.23"] 1. e4 e5 2. d4 d6 3. Nf3 Bg4 4. Be2 Bxf3 5. Bxf3 Nc6 6. dxe5 Nxe5 7. Nc3 Nf6 8. O-O Be7 9. Re1 O-O 10. Bg5 Qd7 11. Bxf6 Bxf6 12. Nd5 Nxf3+ 13. Qxf3 Bxb2 14. Rab1 c6 15. Rxb2 cxd5 16. exd5 Rfe8 17. Qc3 Rxe1+ 18. Qxe1 Re8 19. Qb1 b6 20. c4 Rc8 21. Qd3 Rc5 22. Qg3 Rxc4 23. Rb1 a6 24. h3 h6 25. Re1 Kf8 26. a4 Rxa4 27. Qe3 Ra5 28. Qxb6 Ra4 29. Qb8+ Qe8 30. Qxe8# 1-0 [/pgn]
[pgn] [Event "Chess & Science Festival"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.01.23"] [Round "?"] [White "Benito,Nicole"] [Black "Belakovsky,Ariela"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C48"] [PlyCount "62"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.01.23"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Bc5 4. Bb5 Nf6 5. h3 O-O 6. d3 a6 7. Bc4 h6 8. Qe2 d6 9. Be3 Bxe3 10. Qxe3 Nb4 11. Qe2 b5 12. Bd5 Nbxd5 13. Nxd5 Bb7 14. c4 c6 15. Ne3 d5 16. exd5 cxd5 17. Nxe5 bxc4 18. dxc4 d4 19. Nf5 Re8 20. O-O d3 21. Qe3 Qc7 22. f4 Qd8 23. Rad1 Rc8 24. Qg3 g6 25. Nxh6+ Kf8 26. Nhxf7 Qd4+ 27. Rf2 Ne4 28. Qxd3 Qxf2+ 29. Kh2 Nc5 30. Qxg6 Qxf4+ 31. g3 Qf2# 0-1 [/pgn]
Stay posted on Anjelina Belakovskaia's work here and on her Academy's facebook page.  See the full list of US Chess Women Grant partnership recipients here, and a more general look at our initiative here. 

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