I had the amazing and unique opportunity to sit down at a chess board to play against Martha Samadashvili as she took on 19 other players simultaneously in Key Hall at Proctor’s in Schenectady, NY, on her birthday, March 29th.
Martha is a very accomplished young person and is freshman at Emma Willard High School in Troy, NY. She has made a name for herself in competitive chess as 2018 New York State Girls Scholastic Champion and reigning North American & Pan American Youth Girls Champion. She has represented the United States in the World and Continental Youth Chess Championships since 2013.
Martha was the star of this “Spring Chess Simul @ Proctors!” event. As part of a positive spin to this event, canned goods were donated to the local homeless shelter. While Proctors provided the Key Hall and logistical support, City Mission organized and gave prizes out to young competitors and adults who were brave enough to challenge a FIDE Woman Chess Master. Mr. Philip Morris, CEO of Proctors and Mr. Mike Saccocio, Executive Director of City Mission were present at the start to open the simul with words of encouragement and promise to make chess big in and through Proctors. Whenever Proctors and City Mission come together, it is always Christmas for all the kids with plenty of prizes for winners and those who support a worthy cause!
Mr. Paul Wilson, a community volunteer who is a coach in our School, and I had the honor of taking a couple of the last few seats available at the simul after it was taken by majority of Scholastic players and some adults. I thought my opening game was going rather well, but I made a fatal flaw in the early middle game. As Martha made her way around the room and back to my board, I laid down my King, shook her hand and thanked her for the opportunity. Paul lasted a lot longer than I did. He played well throughout the middle game, but Martha’s pawn structure was superior, so he eventually conceded. On the whole Martha played a total of twenty one games against twenty players – majority of scholastic players and some adults like me who braved to take the challenge. Martha won twenty games with her signature grit and graceful finish, but suffered a loss to young Rijul Shah who converted the extra pawns in a same color bishop ending with precise play. Overall, we had an amazing time and we are further inspired to advocate for chess in our community.
Chess is a game that has countless benefits for young people and should be an integral part of our education system. I commend Martha Samadashvili on her talents and her advocacy for chess. When interviewed before the simul by Spectrum news, Martha stressed the importance of women being involved in chess and how unifying it can be.
“I think it’s really important for women to get involved because chess is a game with equal rights, and women can play it as well as men can,” Samadashvili said.
Young girls playing against Samadashvili Friday night say seeing her inspires them.
“I feel like I want to be like that. It motivates me to play better,” said one of those young girls.
Chess crosses cultural, ethnic and gender boundaries. I am happy to be a part of this community and to have taken part in an event that advocates for chess. I was honored and humbled to have challenged such an inspiring young person. I look forward to see Martha continue to lead and inspire. Happy birthday Martha!