Empowering Girls through Chess: FEMchess Hosts Successful All-Girls Scholastic Tournament

Image Caption
All photos courtesy of the organizers


The inaugural FEMchess All-Girls Scholastic Chess Tournament took place on August 20, 2023, in Fremont, CA, showcasing the growing interest of young girls in the game. With over 60 enthusiastic female participants, the event also underscored the potential for female players to thrive in the traditionally male-dominated world of chess. As of April 2023, females represent only 12% of US Chess Federation members.


Uniting for a Common Goal

The FEMchess All-Girls Scholastic Chess Tournament stood out as one of the largest girls-only scholastic chess events in California in recent years. With players converging from various corners of the state, it was inspiring to witness girls of all ages coming together under one roof, united by their passion for the game. This event exemplified the power of chess to break down barriers and create a sense of community.




Championing the Cause: US Chess Women

A significant contributing factor to the tournament's success was the support of US Chess Women. The sponsorship of this all-girls tournament not only showcased their dedication to advancing women's chess. The special video greeting from WGM Jennifer Shahade, two-time US Women's Chess champion and Director of US Chess Women, provided a source of inspiration and encouragement for the young participants, reminding them of the endless possibilities that await them in the world of chess and beyond.

Jennifer Shahade shared her thoughts on the event: “The great turnout at the FEMchess All Girls Scholastic Tournament is a testament to the growth of women's chess and the determination of young girls to excel in the game. I loved to see such a vibrant and enthusiastic community coming together to celebrate chess. US Chess Women was honored to award a grant to support FEMchess’ mission to empower girls in chess and to support their inaugural all-girls tournament. A huge congratulations to Allyson and her team for the success of this tournament. We look forward to their continued push to promote girls in chess.”


Image Caption
The Hamilton team


The Hamilton Chess Team from Novato, CA, demonstrated their commitment to promoting chess among girls by bringing their female players to participate in the tournament. Their involvement highlighted the importance of providing additional opportunities for young girls in the chess arena. Director of the Hamilton Chess program, Abel Talamantez, shared his thoughts on the event: "It was a pleasure to bring some of the girls from the Hamilton Chess Team to the FEMchess All-Girls Championship not only to support more girls playing chess, but also to support the amazing work of Allyson as both a TD and organizer! It was a wonderful experience for all our players and they loved the friendships and camaraderie as much as the competition. Congrats!”

Talamantez also kindly provided annotations of a game between two of his students:



Additionally, FIDE International Arbiter and Chess.com Director of Chess Club Relations Dr. Judit Sztaray, represented Chess.com to support the event and highlighted the role of online platforms in fostering inclusivity and accessibility, allowing players to connect and compete regardless of geographical boundaries. Dr. Sztaray shared her feedback on the event: "As a representative of Chess.com, it was truly inspiring to witness the dedication and energy of the FEMchess team executing an amazing event. I had a lot of fun connecting with girls and their families and it was fun to see the enthusiasm of the participants at the FEMchess All-Girls Scholastic Tournament. This event showcased the importance of creating opportunities where girls can come together to learn and grow in chess together. Can’t wait to see what this new school year brings to this organization and girls in chess in general!”

The success of this inaugural all girls tournament was a team effort. Special thanks to US Chess Women for sponsoring this event and to WGM Jennifer Shahade for sending a warm video greetings to encourage the plays. Thank you to Hamilton Chess Director Abel Talamantaz for bringing his team to compete, to Dr. Judit Sztaray for representing Chess.com to support the event. Last but not least, big thanks to our FEMchess management/coach team WCM Kally Wen (Assistant Head Coach), WCM Aksithi Eswaran (Coach), and Kavya Sasikumar (co-founder) for being amazing floor TDs!


Image Caption
Pictured from left to right: Kavya Sasikumar (co-founder FEMchess) WCM Allyson Wong (President and co-founder FEMchess) WCM Kally Wen (Assistant Head Coach FEMChess) WCM Aksithi Eswaran (Coach FEMchess)


Empowerment through Chess: FEMchess's Mission

FEMchess, established in 2020 as a student-led nonprofit run by nationally ranked and titled chess players, has set out on a remarkable journey with the goal of helping bridge the gender gap in chess. Their mission is not just about teaching young women how to play the game, but also about instilling a sense of confidence and competitiveness in a positive environment.

One of FEMchess's most impactful initiatives involves partnering with school districts to provide lessons to unhoused girls. Through partnerships with schools, such as Fremont Unified School District McKinney-Vento (lacking stable housing) student services, FEMchess is extending its reach to girls facing challenging circumstances. By leveraging chess to create connections and friendships, FEMchess is nurturing a supportive environment for these girls to thrive.

Melissa Espinoza, Fremont Unified School District Family Liaison Student Support Services shared “FEMchess’ dedication to providing free chess lessons and tournaments to underserved students, particularly to Title-1 and girls lacking stable housing, is a testament to their commitment to inclusivity and equal opportunity.”

Allyson Wong, president and co-founder of FEMchess, shares the organization's mission: "For the unhoused young girls, FEMchess's mission extends beyond the chessboard. Our goal is to use chess as a tool to uplift these girls, encourage them, and help them gain confidence by building friendships with other girls through a shared love of chess. By fostering a supportive environment that transcends their circumstances, FEMchess instills in these girls a sense of self-confidence. In conjunction with FEMChess, serving as Board of Director of Fremont Education Foundation (FEF), a public non-profit serving Fremont Unified School District, I hope to work with FEF to provide support and empower these students to excel.”

To relive the excitement and passion of the tournament, you can watch the event video here.

The inaugural FEMchess All-Girls Scholastic Chess Tournament showcased the power of chess to bring together girls from diverse backgrounds and encourage them through competition and camaraderie. FEMchess hopes to pave the way for a more inclusive and diverse chess world. Learn more about FEMchess and their mission at femchess.org.