Girls Club on ZOOM: A Student's Perspective

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Jen giving a simul at the Orlando K-12

When I first got the invitation to join up with WGM Jennifer Shahade and the US Chess Girls Group, I was ecstatic - little did I know that it wasn’t just a one-time thing – The Girls' Club has met with more than a dozen strong, sought out female champions and Grandmasters from around the globe!

Our classes, which are also filed on YouTube as "Class in Session" for all to enjoy, go beyond instruction. They also feature tips for your chess play off the board -  doing your best under pressure, dealing with discrimination in chess, balancing chess and schoolwork, and how many of the elite guests (and Jennifer!) accomplished these things themselves. 

There is also a great range in experience, from young players below 1000 to girls on their way to top master status! The meet-ups generally include a warm up/ice breaker to begin, a lesson with questions, puzzles and polls, then a Q&A to finish up. So far, the classes have 100+ participants each and climbing!

A new offering has emerged as well- teen classes geared towards ages 13-19! It’s a smaller group that focuses on chess instruction, but also delves into issues such as college and chess, or balancing school, social life and chess. 

So far, the guests have been (In order of appearance):

  • (WGM) Sabina Foisor - The pilot/kickoff  guest of the classes!  Sabina won the US Women’s Championship in 2017. Lucky me-by playing in the 2018 K-12 Scholastic Championships in Orlando, I had the opportunity to meet Sabina and her husband, GM Elshan Moradiabadi.

  •  (WGM) Tatev Abrahamyan - A powerhouse player, Olympian, and chess commentator! She is also a spectacular teacher and I truly enjoyed her class.

  • (IM, WGM) Carissa Yip - An amazing 16 year old IM (!!!) Her"> lesson was on attacking an uncastled king, and not only was instructive, but inspiring to see such a strong player close(r) to my age!

  • (WFM) Alexandra Botez - One of the most popular chess streamers in the world (twitch.tv/botezlive), WFM Alexandra"> Botez gave an insightful lesson on the Queen Sacrifice, a.k.a the "Botez Gambit." 

  • (WGM) Jennifer Yu - The US Women’s Champion! Her"> class focused on how to win tough/lost positions, and never giving up! I'd had an earlier opportunity to learn from Jennifer (Yu), as she joined WGM Jennifer Shahade and spoke at the most recent live Girls’ Room at this year’s past K-12 Scholastic National Championship in Orlando.

  • (WFM) Thalia Cervantes -This talented 17-year-old FM is one of the top rated players in the US! Her class was focused on hanging pieces. I sadly had to miss this particular class, but was in luck as we can catch partial replays of missed Class in Sessions on Youtube. Sometimes the YouTube lessons even have content that don't make it to the full class!

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  • Girls To Grandmasters Founders Karsten McVay, Nicole Maffeo & (IM, WGM) Rusa Goletiani –Rusa is a former US Champion who I had the privilege to meet as well as her daughter at the  Girls to Grandmasters (https://www.g2gm.org/), an awesome event in NYC’s Central Park this past winter. She"> gave a lesson on a beautiful king hunt, which you can watch here. 

  • (WIM) Sabrina Chevannes – Is a British chess queen and the Managing Director of the Chevannes Chess Academy."> She led a class focused on opening principles, and was a true teacher! She is also the author of two books, the Batsford Book of Chess for Children, which has an activity book to accompany it.

  • (IM, WGM) Anna Rudolf - Not only a great blogger and chess streamer, but an excellent storyteller and instructor too! Her lesson focused on thriving under pressure and revealed a moving story about her beginnings and trajectory of her chess career.

  • (WGM) Katerina Nemcova – This was the first class I attended with the “Teen Girls Group” which focused mainly on puzzles - some hard, some easy – Katerina made it exciting and it was all tons of fun! I also met some new Zoom chess mates in this group. Katerina also returned to give a lesson on "Forcing Moves" to the bigger class, a super-instructive series of puzzles that helped us identify candidate moves. 

  • (WIM) Ivette Garcia Morales - Ivette is a super popular streamer and coach, whose class deeply focused on her experiences in chess…. and learning Spanish as well! Please see a peek into her session and some of the Spanish terms we learned below!⬇⬇Fun Fact: Ivette is also the Spanish voice for Chesskid (so cool)! 

  • (WIM) Beatriz Marinello - Beatriz is originally from Chile (speaks Spanish too of course) and was the first ever female president of the US Chess Federation! She’s a well-known coach, player and advocate for girls, women, and chess for all - her lesson talked about both overcoming obstacles as well as some inspiring examples from her own career. 

  • (FM) Alisa Melekhina – on Executing a Chess Plan, which featured a fantastic lesson and slideshow! 

  • Chess coach and the 1st Kasparov Chess Foundation All Girls Nationals Champion Stephanie Ballom spoke"> to us about "Seizing the Initiative."  

The Class in Session classes last about an hour and are full of lively questions and activities with a non-stop chat happening on the sidelines. After the classes, I usually have a hard time seeing anything other than the board! 

Below is a glance into a class - Ivette Garcia’s Chess and Spanish class! (July 2nd 2020). 

In this class, we learned many new chess moves as well as Spanish terms for them! Along with that, there were a number of great questions from the Zoom participants:

“What was your motivation to study and play chess?” -Sanjana G.

“Who is your favorite grandmaster?????” -Daisy/Chase Y

“What is your favorite piece?”  -Unknown

“Como preparas por un torneo de ajedrez en general??” (How do you prepare for a chess tournament in general?) -Triyakshari V 

Spanish terms we learned:

Dama = Queen

Rey = King

Alfil = Bishop

Peon = Pawn

Caballo = Knight

Enroque Corto = Castle Kingside

Enroque Largo = Castle Queenside

Columna = File

Fila = Rank

Columna Abierta = Open File

Idea = Idea

Clavada = Pin 

Ataque Doble = Double Attack 

Captura/Comer = Take

Mate de la última fila = Back Rank Mate

Caballo Pulpo = Literally “Octopus Knight”, Knight in the center attacking 8 other squares.

Casilla = Square

Peon Pasado = Passed pawn

Celada = Decoy

Jaque mate = Checkmate

Jaque = Check

So far the classes have been an amazing experience. For anyone interested in learning more, check out a Playlist with over"> a dozen clips from Class in Session! I hope to see even more girls joining the group in the future. 

These classes are free to girls who are current US Chess members. Contact jshahade@uschess.org to be added to the list. 

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