From Princess Leias to Queens of Chicago: the 16th KCF All Girls Nationals

On the weekend of April 12-14, the Chicago weather went from early Spring 60 degrees on Friday to a snow storm on Sunday. Han Solo and Darth Vader roamed the city during an international Star Wars Convention. The only part of the weekend that seemed standard was the return of the Kasparov Chess Foundation All Girls National Chess Tournament, presented by KCF and Renaissance Knights Chess in association with US Chess. The main playing hall was moved to make room for the intergalactic travelers but the stiff competition was in full force in six sections, from Under 18 to Under 8. The only perfect 6-0 score of the entire tournament was earned by Alexandra Phung of New York in the Under 8 section. The 7-year-old star is also a golfer, and was recently quoted in an online golf magazine:
“In some cases, golf and chess can be the same,” Alexandra said. “When you play golf, you need to be focused. The same with chess – you have to be focused.”

  The Under 10 Section ended with co-champions, both with 5.5/6. The first place trophy was awarded to Riya Kanury of Massachusetts and second to Mary Elisabeth Tracy of North Carolina.

In the Under 12, Iris Mou, who qualified for the Under 10 Section, took first with a half point lead. Mou played up in order to be with her Dalton School of New York teammates. The Dalton team also finished first.

Mou’s only draw was to Celina Zhou of Missouri on Saturday morning. Stuck in the airport on Sunday night, Mou retained her high spirits and spent the extra time annotating her final round victory for CLO.

[Event "All Girls"]
[Site "Chicago"]
[Date "2019.04.14"]
[White "Mou, Iris"]
[Black "Lee, Yesun"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B22"]
[PlyCount "79"]
[EventDate "2019.??.??"]

1. e4 c5 2. c3 e5 $5 {This is not a common opening. The idea is to prevent
white from playing d4, with the hopes of getting in ...d5 without allowing
white to take control of the light squares.} 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. Be2 (4. Bc4 {
This is another move that I could have played. It might be better because it
defends the key d5 square and keeps the bishop active. The problem with Bc4 is
that the bishop may eventually be a target.}) 4... Be7 5. O-O Nf6 6. d3 O-O 7.
Nbd2 d5 $1 $15 {Black breaks open the position before White gets a chance to
do so. This allows her to connect the rooks easily and make it hard for White
to find play.} 8. exd5 Qxd5 9. Nc4 {White must develop the bishop before it's
too late. I was hesitant to play this move because of ...b5, chasing my knight
away.} b5 $1 {Kicking the knight away from its ideal position.} 10. Ne3 Qd6 11.
a4 b4 $11 {Though White now has the c4 square, Black has many moves, including
a possible break of ...e4.} 12. Nc4 Qc7 13. Be3 $15 {At this point, I was not
very comfortable with my position. She played really well! This is a tough
game and I do my best to try equalizing position in each move.} bxc3 14. bxc3
Be6 15. Nfd2 Rfd8 $1 {Making sure 100% that white never gets a chance to play
d4.} 16. Qc2 Nd5 17. Ne4 Nxe3 18. Nxe3 Rab8 19. Rab1 Na5 20. Nd2 Bg5 21. Nf3
Be7 (21... Bxe3 {This is a line to consider. Black wins a pawn, but White gets
play along the kingside.} 22. fxe3 Bb3 23. Qc1 Bxa4 24. Qe1) 22. Nd2 Bg5 23.
Bf3 Be7 24. Ndc4 $5 {White accepts doubled isolated pawns in order to control
d5. I felt my position was getting better now. We each had about 12 minutes
left.} Nxc4 25. dxc4 Bg5 26. Nd5 Qa5 27. Be4 h6 28. Rb5 Rxb5 29. axb5 Bxd5 30.
Bxd5 Bf6 31. g3 Kh8 $2 {By this time, we were both under five minutes. One can
understand why she did this - to get out of the pin. But, unfortunately, she
went the wrong way.} ({If she wanted to get out of the pin, a better move is}
31... Kf8 {, but after} 32. Qh7 { Black's position is very hard to hold.}) 32.
Bxf7 Qc7 33. Bd5 {The outpost on d5 is unbearable, and black cannot do
anything about it. White has lots of time to play Kg2, Ra1-a6, and take
advantage of the light-square weaknesses near the black king.} Qa5 34. Re1 Qb6
35. Qg6 {The white pieces are starting to dominate the black defense.} Qd6 36.
Ra1 Qe7 37. Ra6 Rf8 {She had less than one minute left. Under time pressure,
this move allows a 3-move checkmate.} 38. Be4 Kg8 39. Qh7+ Kf7 40. Bg6# 1-0

Sophie Tien of Washington State was crowned the Under 14 champion while IS 318 took top team honors.

One of the unique parts of female only chess tournaments is the bonding of the players. Over the years many girls have repeatedly played in the All Girls tournament to bond with friends from other states. Natalie Wisniowski of Chicago shared, “I don’t know I just feel better playing a girl, playing the same gender, just feels better.”

In last year’s “Girls in Chess” video, filmed at the 15th edition of this tournament, girls of all ages talked about why these tournaments are so important. Angelie Feliciano-Soto of Esperanza Academy in Philadelphia told me the draw of the All Girls Nationals comes down to the camaraderie. “When you have your friends around, they inspire you to do better and stay strong, be confident about yourself.”

Anna Miller an 11 year old, traveled from Chesapeake Bay Maryland to play in her first girl’s only tournament. Anna heard about the event from Chess Girls DC founder Robin Ramson, who recently appeared on the US Chess Podcast, "One Move at a Time." When asked to compare and contrast her experience to playing in an open tournament, Anna said, “I think both are really cool but this is nothing like I expected and it is really interesting. I like it a lot.”

Even though friends are inspiring, the battles waged over the board in the Under 16 section proves friendships are paused once the clocks start. Iris Zhou, 2100 came in from Missouri in hopes of winning the champion title. Zhou and Sheena Zeng, last year’s Under 14 Champion, drew in round 3. Zeng, who is from Kansas, kept herself in the running for the title with a win in the fourth round. Meanwhile, Aria Hoesley, sporting a 2024 rating from Chicago, earned her fourth win in a row by defeating Zhou. Hoesley entered round five looking for a perfect score but Zeng held her back with a draw. Arya Kumar, 2071 from North Carolina eventually drew with Zeng in the final round ensuring both of them a finish in the top five.

After the final round the four girls were spotted having a fast paced conversation. They often got so excited they spoke simultaneously, yet they all followed the conversation. The games were over and their time together was coming to an end so every second of bonding time mattered. Little bits of their talk included helping Hoesley pick what game to have published. Other snippets included: “I didn’t play the King’s Indian because I know you play the King’s Indian.” “I wanted to copyright that move.” “No one plays Knight d5 (there). “I have been playing Knight d5 since I was 8 years old.” Aria sent her win over Arya Kumar to CLO, with light annotations.

[Event "2019 All-Girls Nationals "]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.04.13"]
[White "Kumar, Arya"]
[Black "Hoesley, Aria"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E94"]
[WhiteElo "2073"]
[BlackElo "2001"]
[Annotator "ariah"]
[PlyCount "62"]
[EventDate "2019.??.??"]
[SourceVersionDate "2019.04.15"]

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nf3 d6 4. c4 Nc6 5. Be2 e5 6. Be3 exd4 7. Nxd4 Bd7 8. Nc3
Nf6 9. O-O O-O 10. f3 a5 {I wanted to prevent a queenside expansion and I was
trying to provoke some queenside weaknesses as well.} 11. Qd2 a4 12. Nxc6 Bxc6
13. Bg5 Qe8 14. Rab1 Qe5 15. Bf4 Qa5 16. Rfc1 Nd7 17. Be3 Qe5 {This was a bit
passive, I'm not really sure what I was attempting to achieve. Rfe8 or Nc5 was
probably a better option.} 18. Nd5 Bxd5 19. cxd5 Nc5 20. b4 axb3 21. axb3 Ra3
22. Bc4 Rfa8 23. b4 Na4 24. Bf2 b5 25. Bd3 {At this point, she was getting
under a decent amount of time pressure, but 25. Rb3 was necessary to not lose
material.} Nc3 26. Rb2 Nxe4 27. Bxe4 Qxb2 28. Qxb2 Bxb2 29. Rb1 Ra1 30. Be3
Rxb1+ 31. Bxb1 Ra1 0-1

Familiar faces played in the Under 18 section. New Jersey native and Women’s FIDE Master Sanjana Vittal spent most of her time on board one. Her rating of 2163 put her 200 points ahead of Expert Alice Lee of Minnesota and 300 points over Natalie Wisnioski (1814). All of these young women have extensive chess experience including playing internationally. Lee also broke the record for the youngest US Chess Expert the very same week that Rachael Li (also 9), accomplished the same feat. While Vittal was favored to take the title, few players expected 9-year-old Alice Lee to play in the section.

Alice Lee took first place in the Under 8 section in 2017. In 2018 she placed 9th playing up in the Under 14 section. Lee played up again this year after being encouraged to do so by the father of NM Nastassja Matus. Lee lost her round two game to Bella Buitrago of Illinois. Vittal had the only perfect score for the section until Natalie Wisniowski of Illinois, held her to a draw in round five. This draw left the top prize up for grabs as Vittal and Lee faced off in the final round. Lee left the site with the title of Champion, a trophy, a purse from Hipster 4 Sisters, and the right to represent the USA in the World Youth Championships later this year. Can you find Lee’s pretty forced mate in the following position, against Beatrice Low in round five?

Black to Move 

Show Solution

[Event "KCF ALL GIRLS 2019"]
[Site "Chicago"]
[Date "2019.04.14"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Low, Beatrice"]
[Black "Lee, Alice"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B80"]
[WhiteElo "1683"]
[BlackElo "1975"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "3r2k1/5ppp/2p2bq1/2N4r/5Pb1/1PR1B3/P1Q4P/R4K2 b - - 0 30"]
[PlyCount "11"]
[EventDate "2019.??.??"]

30... Bh3+ 31. Ke1 Bh4+ 32. Qf2 (32. Bf2 Qg1+ 33. Ke2 Qxf2#) 32... Qg1+ 33. Ke2
Bg4+ 34. Qf3 Qg2+ 35. Bf2 Qxf2# 0-1[/pgn]
Kimberly Doo McVay spearheaded the US Chess Women's table in Chicago, and along the way got some amazing photographs of winning teams, coaches and Star Wars characters.

The snow that swept through Chicago on the closing day of the tournament did not cool of the competition in anyway, but it did make returning home more difficult for the players who came from 30 different states. New York brought the most players, 126. They will surely return in force next year when the All Girls is held about an hour outside of Chicago. The tournament will be hosted at the Westin Chicago North Shore of Wheeling which is known for being the home of the Chicago Open. In the meantime, the players will work hard on their games while they Facebook and Instagram to stay in touch. For friends are precious and chess friends are for life. All Girls - Prizes - 2019 Hipster 4 Sisters Bags (U-18 U-16 U-14) 1st place in each section: Alice Lee, Aria Hoesley and Sophie Tien  Brighten Wallets (U-18 U-16 U-14) Sanjana Vittal, Sheena Zeng and Aayushma Rai  2nd place in each section: Face Values the Foundation of Beauty by Deida Massey (50 Books) (U-18 U-16)Placed at the table 1st Round Pinwheels w Happy Faces (U-10 U-8) at the table 1st Round 5 Wooden Chess Sets (U-18 U-16 U-14 U-12 U-10) placed under Queen 2nd Round Star Wars Chess Set (U-8) placed under Queen 2nd Round

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