Inside the Girls Club Room at the K-12 Chess Champs

For months, the US Chess Women’s Committee has been collecting data with surveys asking why girls quit chess, what they like about chess, and others information about female chess players. Beyond this, the Women's committee have been working on the best way to promote chess to women and girls. After all, the committee motto is “To Empower, Teach, and Inspire Women and Girls to maximize their potential in the Chess Community.” The US Chess Women's committee has addressed this with mixed experimental initiatives, such as a push to having every U.S. state host a girls championship. New York State did that earlier this year, which granted free tournament entries to winners, as well as trophies.
Aria Hoesley
The general consensus has been that it takes volunteers, organizers, coaches, and parents to hold events and encourage a good community and support for females who want to play chess. The committee itself is starting to take a more proactive approach than ever before, as shown in this year’s K-12 National Championship.
Sophia Rohde, Kimberly Doo, Sabina Foisor and Carolina Blanco, Photo Vanessa Sun
On Sunday, the US Chess Women’s Committee held a “Town Hall Meeting,” which featured US Women’s Champion WGM Sabina Foisor, WIM Carolina Blanco, International Arbiter Sophia Rohde, and Women’s Committee Volunteer Kimberly Doo. Sabina and Carolina answered questions about their careers, while Sophia and Kimberly helped with the more logistical questions such as poor attrition rates for girls in chess.
Girls Club Room, Photo Vanessa Sun
The meeting focused on initiatives that parents and anyone who wants to support more girls playing chess can take to improve conditions for females in their chess communities. With over 50 people in attendance, both young girls and parents got a lot out of the discussion.
Sabina Foisor and Carolina Blanco
Sabina and Carolina were both asked why they never quit chess. Sabina expressed her passion for chess- it was not something she felt she could quit because she loved the game so much that she could not conceive living her life without it. Carolina talked about how it was necessary for her to build up her chess community and support. When she temporarily gave up chess at some point, it was her brother who reminded her how much she loved chess. Hopefully, the girls in the room were inspired by their anecdotes to stay with chess.
In the Girls' Club Room, Photo Vanessa Sun
Over the next few years, it is clear that the Women’s Committee has a lot of work ahead, including collecting data, consolidating the reason why they think many girls quit chess, and developments to encourage girls to play and stay with the game. Along with all the success of the Girls Room, plenty of girls did well throughout the tournament. Maya Figelman became the co-champion of the 2nd grade section, having scored 6.5/7 and beating some higher rated players. Entering the tournament with a rating of 1270, she gained over 100 points from this tournament. She even drew a 1900 rated player!

[Event "rsinq's mini-tournament XV"]
[Site ""]
[Date "2017.12.10"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Wongso, Steve"]
[Black "Figelman, Maya"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B84"]
[PlyCount "162"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2017.12.18"]
[SourceVersionDate "2017.12.18"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Be2 a6 7. a4 Be7 8. O-O
O-O 9. f4 b6 10. Bf3 e5 11. Nb3 Bb7 12. Kh1 Nbd7 13. g4 exf4 14. Bxf4 Ne5 15.
g5 Nfd7 16. h4 Ng6 17. Bg3 Nde5 18. Bg2 Nc4 19. Qd4 Rc8 20. Nd2 Nxd2 21. Qxd2
Rc4 22. Rad1 Qa8 23. Qf2 Bxe4 24. Bxe4 Rxe4 25. Nxe4 Qxe4+ 26. Kg1 Qxa4 27.
Qxb6 Qxc2 28. Qd4 d5 29. Qd2 Qxd2 30. Rxd2 Rd8 31. Rfd1 Bc5+ 32. Kg2 Ne7 33.
Rc2 Bb6 34. Re1 Nf5 35. Rc6 Ba5 36. Re2 Nd4 37. Bc7 Bxc7 38. Rxc7 Nxe2 39. Kf2
Nc1 40. Rxc1 f6 41. gxf6 gxf6 42. Rc6 Kg7 43. Rxa6 d4 44. Ke2 f5 45. Kd3 f4 46.
Ra1 Kf6 47. Ke4 Rb8 48. Rb1 d3 49. Kxf4 d2 50. Ke3 Rxb2 51. Rd1 Rb4 52. Rf1+
Kg6 53. Rg1+ Kf6 54. Kxd2 Rb2+ 55. Ke3 Rb3+ 56. Kf4 Rb4+ 57. Kg3 Rb3+ 58. Kg4
Rb4+ 59. Kh5 Rf4 60. Rg8 h6 61. Rf8+ Ke5 62. Rxf4 Kxf4 63. Kxh6 Kf5 64. h5 Kf6
65. Kh7 Kf7 66. Kh8 Kf8 67. h6 Kf7 68. Kh7 Kf8 69. Kh8 Kf7 70. Kh7 Kf8 71. Kg6
Kg8 72. Kf6 Kh8 73. Kg5 Kg8 74. Kg6 Kh8 75. Kh5 Kg8 76. Kg5 Kh8 77. Kf6 Kg8 78.
Kf5 Kh8 79. Kg4 Kg8 80. Kh3 Kh7 81. Kg4 Kxh6 1/2-1/2

Ellen Wang placed 10th in the 5th grade championship, Iris Mou placed 15th in the 3rd grade championship, Whitney Tse placed 7th in the first grade, and Ashlyn Crowell placed 7th in the Kindergarten section. Tianhui/Cindy Jie placed 13th on tiebreaks in the tough 11th grade field. Earlier this year, she was also the only girl who played in the Denker Tournament of High School Champions.
Sheena Zeng, Photo Jim Doyle
Sophie Morris-Suzuki placed 15th on tiebreaks in the 10th grade section, just ahead of Sheena Zeng, who was 17th. Sophie was excited to meet WGM Foisor for the first time at the tournament.
Sophie Morris-Suzuki and Sabina Foisor, Photo Vanessa Sun
Also notable was NEST+M’s all girls kindergarten team, which placed 6th for top teams in the section. There were many more girls who played good games and showed off their skills throughout the tournament. It is crucial to celebrate the achievements of female players to encourage them to stick with chess- the girls I met in Florida highlight a bright future. See more information on the Women’s Committee and how you can volunteer here. For more on the K-12 Champs, find our tournament wrap-up, Kindergarten Championships highlight video, and browse full standings and pairings.