Girls Club in Orlando: "Let's Go Back and Teach Chess to our Friends."

The final girls club of the year, held December 13-15 in Orlando, Florida at the National K-12 Championships, was a highlight to lead me into the holiday season, as I got a chance to meet hundreds of our young female members, their families, brothers and coaches.  The room started in 2016 at the same event, and a throwback to Vanessa Sun's inside look in 2017 shows a crowded town hall meeting with WGM Sabina Foisor and WIM Dr. Carolina Blanco. Since then the percentage of female members in US Chess has increased to an all time high, 14.6%, giving us both wind in our sails and a sign of how much work we still have to get to 50/50. A key mission of the room is to allow girls from different schools and areas a chance to meet, play and be inspired by female chess champions and leaders. You can donate using our online form to ensure the future of programs like these. Kimberly Doo McVay, who serves on both the women's and development committees, said,

All support is much appreciated and useful to help raise awareness for the broad interest in our programs, as well as help sustain our work.

Welcome I kicked off the packed schedule of activities with a well-attended puzzle session, including a crucial moment from Vera Menchik's famous 1937 queen sacrifice.

White to Move and Win Show Solution

The key move is 1. Rd7!! after which Qxd7 2. Qxh5 and Black can't stop mate because gxh5 allows 3. Bh7#. The hardest part of this combination is noticing that the immediate Qxh5 allows ...Qxh2!

[pgn] [Event "Semmering"] [Site "Semmering"] [Date "1937.??.??"] [White "Vera Menchik"] [Black "Sonja Graf-Stevenson"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D46"] [PlyCount "43"] [EventDate "1937.??.??"] 1. c4 e6 2. Nc3 d5 3. d4 Nf6 4. Nf3 Nbd7 5. e3 c6 6. Bd3 Be7 7. O-O O-O 8. e4 dxe4 9. Nxe4 Nxe4 10. Bxe4 Nf6 11. Bc2 c5 12. dxc5 Qa5 13. Be3 Bxc5 14. Bd2 Qc7 15. Bc3 Be7 16. Qe2 b6 17. Ng5 g6 18. Qf3 Bb7 19. Qh3 h5 20. Rad1 Ng4 21. Rd7 Qxd7 22. Qxh5 1-0[/pgn]
I gave the girls an abridged history of two heroes of chess history featured in this game, nine-time World Champion Vera Menchik, and  bon-vivant and US Women's Champion Sonja Graf. I elaborate on their incredible stories in this fireside chat with GM Yasser Seirawan, which shows how World War II and chess history intersected, with tragic consequences in Menchik's case. Tandem Time  Always a popular event, Carolina and I gave a rapid-fire tandem simultaneous exhibition to over 20 girls. Liora Ginzburg of California scored a draw in a complex position that led to perpetual attack. Congrats Liora!

  The Champ's Visit  The headliner of the weekend, US Women’s Champion Jennifer Yu, talked to a packed crowd about her penultimate victory vs. Anna Zatonskih at the 2019 US Championship.

[pgn] [Event "US Championship (Women)"] [Site "St Louis, MO USA"] [Date "2019.03.30"] [White "Anna Vitalyevna Zatonskih"] [Black "Jennifer R Yu"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D17"] [WhiteElo "2430"] [BlackElo "2273"] [PlyCount "66"] [EventDate "2019.03.20"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. Ne5 Nbd7 7. Nxc4 Qc7 8. g3 e5 9. dxe5 Nxe5 10. Bf4 Nfd7 11. Bg2 f6 12. O-O Rd8 13. Qc1 Be6 14. Ne4 Bb4 15. Rd1 O-O 16. Rd4 a5 17. h4 Nc5 18. Rxd8 Qxd8 19. Nxc5 Bxc5 20. Nxe5 Bxf2+ 21. Kh2 fxe5 22. Bxe5 Bd4 23. Bf4 Qb6 24. Qc2 Bb3 25. Qc1 Qb4 26. Bd2 Qd6 27. Bf4 Qb4 28. Bd2 Qe7 29. Bc3 Be3 30. Qe1 Bf2 31. Qd2 Bxg3+ 32. Kxg3 Qc7+ 33. Kg4 Be6+ 0-1[/pgn]
Yu also answered questions for almost an hour, and then signed 100 copies of her Chess Life For Kids magazine. Yu is now on the cover of the January Chess Life Magazine, so her fans will have a new one to sign next time.

  Yu, who was attending the event to stream the top boards for our channel was coming off some terrific news: early acceptance to Harvard University. She told the girls about how her application essays focused on her chess achievements, and the grit she exhibited from coming in last in her first outing at the US Championship in 2015 to leaving with the crown in 2019. Human Chess

Florida organizers Krista and Arthur Alton, a dynamic and energetic duo, put together and emceed a series of “pack and play” human chess games while Carolina and I directed the chess action, using games from top female players. On Saturday, I played White in Judit Polgar-Chilingirova, a miniature from one of the only women's events Judit ever played, the 1988 Olympiad. Judit was just 12 years old when she won the Women's Olympic gold medals for Hungary alongside her sisters Sofia and Susan.

[pgn] [Event "Chess Olympiad (Women)"] [Site "Thessaloniki GRE"] [Date "1988.11.23"] [White "Judit Polgar"] [Black "Pavlina Chilingirova"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B31"] [PlyCount "33"] [EventDate "1988.??.??"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. O-O Bg7 5. c3 e5 6. d4 exd4 7. cxd4 Nxd4 8. Nxd4 cxd4 9. e5 Ne7 10. Bg5 O-O 11. Qxd4 Nc6 12. Qh4 Qb6 13. Nc3 Bxe5 14. Rae1 Bxc3 15. bxc3 Qxb5 16. Qh6 Qf5 17. Qxf8+ 1-0 [/pgn]
For the second day’s game, we acted out and Apurva Virkud-Sabina Foisor from the 2017 US Women's Championship. In our recent podcast, Sabina explained the inspiration that led her to sacrifice her queen and score one of the most storied tournament victories in US Championship history.
[pgn][Event "US Championship (Women)"] [Site "St Louis, MO USA"] [Date "2017.04.09"] [White "Apurva Virkud"] [Black "Sabina-Francesca Foisor"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E32"] [WhiteElo "2262"] [BlackElo "2272"] [PlyCount "62"] [EventDate "2017.03.29"]1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. Nf3 c5 6. dxc5 Na6 7. c6 bxc6 8. g3 d5 9. Bd2 d4 10. Ne4 Rb8 11. Nxf6+ Qxf6 12. Bg2 e5 13. O-O Bf5 14. Qc1 Bxd2 15. Qxd2 h6 16. Qa5 c5 17. b3 e4 18. Nd2 Rfe8 19. Rad1 Rb6 20. Nb1 Qe7 21. e3 Bg4 22. Rd2 Nb4 23. exd4 e3 24. fxe3 Qxe3+ 25. Kh1 Rf6 26. Rg1 Qxg1+ 27. Kxg1 Re1+ 28. Bf1 Rfxf1+ 29. Kg2 Rg1+ 30. Kf2 Ref1+ 31. Ke3 Rf3+ 0-1 [/pgn]
I found the Foisor win to be a particularly effective choice for a human chess game, as it was relatively quick, many pieces got to move at least once and the final mate was picturesque and funny.

Ajedrez con Carolina  We also hosted a Learn Chess AND Spanish chess lesson with WIM and Dr. Carolina Blanco. This was a personal favorite of mine, as it showed how chess can draw out and combine different skills, in a similar way to my introductory chess history and puzzles lesson. One regular from the weekend Victoria, taught me my new favorite Spanish phrase: "jaque mate con salsa de tomate." Spread the Word On Sunday we wrapped up with a Q+A and Town Hall where the girls asked Carolina and I questions about how we started in chess, how to get better and how to create more local girls tournaments.  One girl, Mira, showed the spirit of the Women's Initiative. Mira suggested that all the girls go home and teach chess to other girls, who will then teach other girls till we increase our numbers to represent 50% of the players! Can't say I have an argument with that Mira, and if you're looking for a 2020 resolution you can accomplish quickly, teach a girl chess.

I'd like to give a huge thank you to Carolina Blanco, Jennifer Yu, Krista and Arthur Alton and to Maureen Grimaud and Kimberly Doo McVay of the women's committee for all their time and passion over the weekend. Special thanks to chess Mom Dawn Moore for the wonderful photos.  If you’d like to support future activities and editions of the girls club room, use our online donation form and make a tax deductible donation.