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!

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.


  1. How about adding a girls section to Nationals and allowing girls to play in either the girls or open section? This is what the FIDE does at World Youth events and seems to be quite popular. This might encourage schools to form girls chess teams and help grow a community and support network for young female chessplayers.

    • The problem with this is many could take this as women being less than men in chess. in sports there is a reason for the speration (men being bigger and having more muscle mass) while in chess, i think at lower levels it is quite irrational, the top female players are significantly lower rated than the top males (i have no clue why) but at lower levels there really isnt a difference, so i dont see what the advantages of this seperation would be

      • Even at the lower levels, there are fewer girls and the boys tend to dominate the top places. Having a girls section will encourage more girls to come out to Nationals and chess tournaments in general and go for trophies. As more and more girls compete in tournaments, more and more strong female chessplayers will emerge and serve as role models for those who would follow.

        In sports, young girls often are stronger and more coordinated than young boys because they mature earlier, yet we still have separate sports teams for girls and boys. We also often allow girls to compete on boys teams, and it’s important that young female chessplayers get to play in either the girls section or the open section in chess tournaments. FIDE has had a girls section and an open section for decades in their World Youth championships. It’s worked well. I don’t hear complaints. Moreover, both Garry Kasparov and Susan Polgar organize All-Girls events in the US. They know what they’re doing and know how important it is to promote chess for girls in this manner.

  2. I am inspired and motivated by your Girl’s In Chess Program. We are located in Central, florida-Rural America at it’s best. I started a chess Club 2 years ago ..Very successful, however would like to focused more on my girls mentoring group, because they appear to be intimidated by the boys. Many show excellent skills but they don’t give 100%. I have 3 chess instructors.
    Any suggestions?

    A. Duke

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