FEMchess Hosts Second California All-Girls Scholastic Tournament



In August 2023, FEMchess made waves when 60 girls participated in its inaugural All-Girls Scholastic Tournament in Fremont, CA. Determined to sustain the momentum and continue championing women in chess, FEMchess recently organized their second All-Girls Scholastic Chess Tournament on Saturday, January 20, 2024, with 62 participants.

This event is believed to be the largest all-girls scholastic tournament in California's history. The tournament not only showcased the growing interest of young girls in the game, but also reaffirmed the potential for female players to thrive in the traditionally male-dominated world of chess.


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Despite the fact that female membership in US Chess has increased to 13,000 — up 70% since 2009 — this is only 13% of all members. As of April 2023, while females represent 12% of all US Chess members, they constitute 21.5% of members ages 10 and under (Chess Life Magazine, May 2023). These statistics underscore the importance of providing an encouraging environment to motivate young girls to continue with chess as they grow.


2024 FEMchess All-Girls Scholastic Championship Event Highlight

The event kicked off with a special welcome video from WGM Jennifer Shahade, former Women's Program Director at US Chess (2018 to 2023), two-time United States Women's Champion, and author of bestselling books including Play Like a Champion and Chess Queens. FEMchess's Honorary Advisor, GM Christopher Yoo, added to the encouragement by providing each participant with a signed copy of his personal chess books that played a role in his journey to becoming a grandmaster.


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GM Yoo during the 16-board simul (all photos courtesy FEMchess)


The grand finale of the event featured GM Yoo playing a 16-board simul against every player in the top section (for players rated over 800) section, as well as the top three finishers from each of the Unrated, Under-800, and Under-400 sections. While Yoo ended up winning all 16 games, it was not without some suspense. “It was a fun simul,” Yoo shared. “I won all the games, but one player, Tejas Wiswanath, though, gave me difficult problems. I blundered in the middlegame. I managed to swindle it back to win. In general, the event was well organized. I finished the simul in roughly one hour. They all gave it their best effort. Good vibes, parents were nice, so was the staff.”


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Yoo had to claw back after an early mistake against Tejaswini Viswanth, who was the last player to finish her game against the GM.

“I’m really encouraged to see that since participating in FEMchess's inaugural All-Girls tournament last August, many girls that played in the Unrated section have started competing in rated tournaments,” Allyson Wong, President and co-founder of FEMchess, shared.

“I’m excited to see the continued influx of novice players. Out of the 62 competitors in our most recent tournament, 19 players were in the Unrated section, with some players traveling several hours to participate,” Wong continued. “It was inspiring to witness girls of all ages and backgrounds coming together under one roof, united by their love for the game. This event exemplified the power of chess to break down barriers and create a sense of community. My hope is that through their positive experience participating in all-girls tournaments, receiving encouragement from role models, and fostering new chess friendships, they will continue their chess journey for many years to come.”

Shahade also shared her thoughts on the event, adding that, “The great turnout at the FEMchess All-Girls Scholastic Tournament is again a testament to the growth of women's chess and the determination of young girls to excel in the game. … A huge congratulations to FEMchess’s team for holding their second successful all-girls tournament.”


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LtR: Henry Lien (Founder, ChessPals), WCM Kally Wen (Ast Head Coach, FEMchess), WCM Allyson Wong (Pres/Cofounder, FEMchess), Kaelyn Dasovich (Coach, FEMchess), Kavya Meiyappan (Coach, FEMchess), Kavya Sasikumar (Cofounder, FEMchess), IA Abel Talamantez


FIDE International Arbiter and Hamilton Chess Team Director Abel Talamantez, who came to support the event as tournament advisor and TD. “It was so wonderful to see the amazing turnout and support for girls in chess,” Talamantez said. “Tournaments like these go a long way in keeping girls playing, and it was especially exciting to see Allyson shine in organizing and directing the event. She is a great role model not just for girls playing, but also in larger roles as directors and organizers.”

“The success of this large-scale girls tournament was truly a team effort,” Wong said, reiterating the community-first approach of her organization. “I’d like to give a special thanks to the amazing floor TD team: Talamantez, Henry Lien (Founder of ChessPals), and the FEMchess management/coach team of WCM Kally Wen (Assistant Head Coach), Kaelyn Dasovich (Coach), Kavya Meiyappan (Coach), and Kavya Sasikumar (cofounder). Lastly, a heartfelt appreciation to WGM Shahade and GM Yoo for their encouragement to the players!”


Empowering and Uplifting Underprivileged Girls through Chess

Established in 2020 as a student-led nonprofit run by nationally ranked and titled chess players, FEMchess has been on a remarkable journey to bridge the gender gap in chess. Their mission goes beyond teaching young women how to play the game; it focuses on instilling confidence and competitiveness in a positive environment. Chess serves as a valuable gateway to STEM fields and imparts essential life skills, fostering focus, critical thinking, self-confidence, and perseverance.

One of FEMchess's key initiatives involves providing free coaching, especially to underprivileged girls who would otherwise not have the opportunity to learn and compete in chess. Since early 2022, FEMchess has been partnering with Fremont Unified School District McKinney-Vento Student Services, providing lessons to unhoused girls.

"For these unhoused young girls, FEMchess's goal extends beyond the chessboard,” Wong said. “We use chess as a tool to uplift and encourage these at-risk girls. Chess helps them build confidence and a sense of belonging through friendships with other girls who share their passion for chess. FEMchess is incredibly grateful to have been awarded a grant for two consecutive years from US Chess, supporting our mission to empower girls in chess and helping us make chess accessible to at-risk youths. It will take time to move the needle, but I’m hopeful that it will happen with all of us continuing to empower women in chess!”

Learn more about FEMchess and their mission at FEMchess.org. To relive the excitement of last weekend’s tournament, you can watch the event video here.