Many girls dropping chess for lack of benefits, opportunities
Posted: July 18, 2010 – 3:05pm
I received many questions about chess for girls over the past few months. Therefore, I am devoting this week’s column for this topic.
Mikhail Botvinnik, one of the great world champions, said the following: “Chess is the art of analysis.” He also added: “Chess mastery essentially consists of analyzing chess positions accurately.”
He’s correct. It is very hard to improve properly if one does not know what or how to study and self-evaluate. I was fortunate enough to learn chess the right way early on. With hard work and dedication over the years, I was able to win four separate World Championships, 10 Olympiad medals including five Gold, and stayed in the top three in the world for around 25 straight years.
Over the past decade, I have closely followed the transition and progress of chess among females. Chess is getting as popular as ever among girls. Women in chess have made big progress since I became the first woman to earn the Grandmaster title through traditional FIDE requirement. But there is still a long way to go.
Can girls play chess as well as boys? Can women play chess as well as men? The answer is yes. So how come there are not more females at the top of the overall rating chart? I strongly believe that it is possible but they need proper training. Males and females approach chess differently. We evaluate things differently. We have very different perspective about chess. Unfortunately, many young female chess players are not taught properly. There is no one-size-fits-all chess-teaching method for boys and girls.
That is why I developed an exclusive system to teach girls based on my own experience and knowledge in chess. I will share it with some of the top players at the upcoming Susan Polgar Girl’s Invitational, which will be held at Texas Tech from July 25-30. The top girl from each state will be on campus to compete for the prestigious title, chess scholarships and prizes, in addition to having the opportunity to improve their games. I hope that this will revolutionize women’s chess in this country for years to come.
Some of the important traits to be a good chess player are:
• The ability to recognize the problems before you.
• The ability to come up with sound solutions.
• The ability to successfully implement the correct solutions.
These are also good traits to be a successful person in life! I was fortunate to have devoted parents who gave my sisters and me lots of help. That’s where our professional chess careers started. For a long time after that, I spent my entire playing career concentrating on being the best. My sisters and I proved that women can break the gender barrier and that we can play chess as well as men.
Today, I have a specific mission for women’s chess in America. It all started in a discussion from 2002 between me and Mr. Frank Niro, the former executive director of the U.S. Chess Federation. We talked about the problem of young girls dropping out of the USCF after the third or fourth grade.
I was asked to help find the cause of the problem, supply a solution, and then help the federation fix it. This is a very worthwhile project and it goes hand in hand with helping the USCF promote women’s chess in America.
During the following year, I traveled to many national scholastic events across the country to promote scholastic chess. I spoke to countless young female chess players, their parents, coaches and members of the scholastic council. I also considered my own experiences as well as my sisters. The following is my conclusion of some of the main problems:
• Many girls do not approach chess the same way as boys. Many of them enjoy chess for its artistic and social benefits instead of the pure brute force of a chess game.
• Many girls are apprehensive about the lack of social acceptance for female players. Too many people still believe that chess is not for girls. One participant told me that she almost quit chess because boys are intimidated by smart girls. She also said that a few of her teachers thought that it would be better for her to take up tennis or softball because it is more acceptable.
• Many girls do not have equal opportunities to excel or enjoy the game on an equal footing with the boys. There are not enough female trainers who can better relate to the girls on certain levels.
•Many girls do not see enough benefits or rewards for staying with the game. There are not enough tournaments where girls can feel comfortable. Nor are there enough chess scholarships for girls.
•There is a lack of positive female role models for girls. Since there are fewer female players, women are less visible in the chess world. And those that are visible work or compete and do not have time for chess promotions.
One solution that we have implemented is the Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls. It is an invitational event and each state is entitled to nominate one representative under the age of 19. The state representative could either be the winner of the state girls’ championship, qualifying tournament, or the top rated girl of that state.
The inaugural annual event was held in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 2004 at the Wyndham Bonaventure Resort & Spa. We are now in our seventh year. Here are the past champions:
•2004 (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.): Champion: Rosa Eynullayeva (Mass.) 2113 5.5 / 6
•2005 (Phoenix, Ariz.): Co-Champions: Anya Corke (Calif.) 2261, Alisa Melekhina (Pa.) 2067, Abby Marshall (Ohio) 1928 5 / 6
•2006 (Oakbrook, Ill.): Champion: Abby Marshall (Va.) 1974 5.5 / 6
•2007 (Cherry Hill, N.J.): Co-Champions: Julia Kerr (N.Y.) 2017, Eunice Rodriguez 1759 5 / 6
•2008 (Lubbock): Champion: Courtney Jamison (Texas) 2062 5.5 / 6
•2009 (Lubbock): Champion: Yang Dai 2079 (Va.) 6.0 / 6
•2010 (Lubbock): July 25-30 at Texas Tech.
Because of all-girls events like this, they will be able to see that they are not alone and there are many girls who share their passion for chess. No matter what they achieve in chess, I would be most proud if they conduct themselves like ladies, be great role models for younger generations, plus take what they learned and apply it to life. Together, they can make a difference, they can make history. In fact, they are part of history.