From a Yacht to Online: Promoting to Queens Zooms Ahead

Jay Stallings, founder of the California Youth Chess League, planned four special events to promote women and girls' chess in the 2020-2021 school calendar year and received a US Chess Women program grant in partnership with the Saint Louis Chess Club. Read about a previous Promoting to Queens event here. The fourth event was planned for the Spring. Due to the scourge of COVID-19, this event will be moved to a series of educational Zoom Webinars featuring some of the inspiring stars in this article, allowing for even more intensive and targeted instruction.   

On beautiful day in February with just the right amount of clouds overhead, nine female coaches welcomed seventy excited girls onto FantaSea One, the flagship yacht in the fleet of FantaSea Yachts. Less than a month earlier, the owner of FantaSea Yachts had offered this beautiful yacht to be used for the third meeting of the Promoting to Queens program.
The Captain missed his "First Mate!"
Eyes widened as the guests explored the splendor of the four decks, each with its own function and beauty – lounge, dining, party, sunshine! The memorable day kicked off with a slideshow welcoming everyone, an educationally entertaining Quiz Show we called  “America’s Cup or Sinquefield Cup?” A real treat followed as Class A player Courtney Lauren Penn, now a movie producer, told the girls how chess had made her career possible. The girls were all smiles as she revealed her realization that you often had to lose in order to grow. Interestingly, Courtney played in the K-12 Champ section at the first ever SuperNationals (1997, Knoxville) alongside future chess professionals Jennifer Shahade of US Chess, “FunMaster Mike” Klein of, Adam Weissbarth of Silver Knights Chess, Macauley Peterson of ChessBase, and Todd Andrews of the Nashville Chess Center, among others. All the while, coaches handed out Stellar Student stickers, of which over 160 would be needed for each team (Dolphins, Starfish, Sea Horses, and Penguins) to open their team’s treasure chest! … Curious? Read on!

Throughout the five-hour event, the girls earned stickers through a wide range of chess (and some non-chess) activities – playing against WGM Tatev Abrahamyan or IM Annie Wang in a simul, participating in a top-student simul (either as giver or player), earning skill stickers (like Q + K Mate), completing a chess puzzle (no, a real puzzle), and even creating fun Perler Bead chess pieces with their friends! In the end, as some teams reached their sticker goal, girls offered their extra stickers to the other teams so that they could open their treasure chests as well!

In the end, all chests were opened, and the girls were delighted to each receive a special Promoting to Queens charm bracelet! This program was made possible by a grant from US Chess and the St. Louis Chess Club, with funding from the Crane Fund for Women & Children, and FantaSea Yachts (which also supplied the venue along with staffing, coffee, tea, and cookies too!). Jay Stallings and Dr. Angela Nelson, of California Youth Chess League, organized the event.  Look for more news from Jay on his Zoom programming to close out the "Promoting to Queens" season.

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