US Chess sent a delegation to the 2019 London Chess Conference, held November 30-December 1, to offer our contributions to the programmatic theme of “Chess and Female Empowerment.” The conference featured a variety of presentations, workshops, and round-table discussions that focused on bringing more women and girls into chess as well as the challenges related to sustaining their interest. Other presentations focused on a variety of other topics involving women in chess as well as more general topics related to chess governance and education. After the conference itself, education workshops continued into the next week alongside the London Chess Classic and the final of this year’s Grand Chess Tour.
This annual conference has evolved from its roots in education to focus on broader topics this year. US Chess Executive Director Carol Meyer led a delegation that included Maureen Grimaud, Sophia Rohde, and Kimberly Doo with each of them making a presentation or chairing at least one session. After the event Rohde observed, “USChess is leading the way in the development of programming for female chess initiatives.”
Carol Meyer, Executive Director of @USChess: ‘We have doubled the number of female members in the last 19 years…. But 14% female membership out of 100,000 members is nowhere near enough.’ @FIDE_chess @ECUonline @ecfchess @ChessPlus pic.twitter.com/XQ7ox4tDgY
— London Chess Classic (@london_chess) November 30, 2019
Meyer presented results from the US Chess Girls Club (these clubs have been a regular feature of US Chess national scholastic events in recent years) surveys during the opening plenary presentation and summarized key findings. Highlights included:
- Girls see themselves as competitors and want to win at the board;
- Girls don’t like it when they lose and have people ‘scream’ at them because they lost;
- Peak age of girls club attendees is 10 years old.
The remaining members of the delegation participated in sessions about US Chess activities for girls and women describing girls club activities, regional events, and the grants to US Chess affiliates for supporting girls and women’s programs that were made possible with support from the Saint Louis Chess Club. The presence of the US Chess delegation provided the attendees with some concrete ideas about many ways to increase engagement of girls.
The European Chess Union (ECU) Women’s Commission member Alice O’Gorman presented her findings from an ECU-wide survey of its federations. She noted that despite investments made in top women players across the ECU, there appeared to be limited or no impact on the number of women breaking into top 100 lists across ECU member states. She suggested that impacts could be improved with other priorities being funded.
Perhaps, simply by being held, this conference has already had an impact. In a Tweet on December 1, attendee Tanya Jones wrote:
But the highlight for me, the bit that brought a few happy tears, was hearing about the US Chess Federation's inclusive transgender policy. 'There is a seat for everyone at the chess table' they say, and their unanimous, humane and common sense stance provides real leadership.
— Tanya Jones (@decombustion) December 1, 2019
David Grimaud, current chair of the Senior Program Subcommittee, tells US Chess:
I went to support my wife (Maureen Grimaud) having little expectation that the conference would be engaging. I was pleasantly surprised that this annual conference, much like the business conferences and conventions I attend, brings together the international chess community and creates valuable networking opportunities.
In addition to the extensive discussion of women in chess, there were high-level presentations about chess and its impact on social and scientific themes. GM Judit Polgar spoke to women’s chess and the dichotomy of being a professional woman while raising a family. GM Jonathan Rowson, in speaking about his chess career, philosophized eloquently on themes from his new book, The Moves That Matter. GM Matthew Sadler and WIM Natasha Regan spoke with enthusiasm about the AlphaZero project and their book on the AlphaZero/Stockfish match, Game Changer.
Any one of these speakers would be worth seeing, but to get to learn from all three of them, coupled with the usual networking benefits of such a conference.. it was astounding. Bravo to John Foley and his team for pulling this off.
See here for more about US Chess and Women: https://new.uschess.org/category/women/