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WHY We Support Chess for Girls

Posted by on 5/6/2016 to Community
All Girls Chess Tournament
Photo: Jorge Barrera for the National All-Girls Chess Tournament

We are delighted to report that this is the fifth year in a row that we have chosen to support to the National All-Girls Chess Tournament. With so many worthwhile causes out there, you may wonder why we choose, year after year, to devote our time and financial support to a chess tournament for girls.

We believe that chess symbolizes intellectual achievement in a male-dominated arena. Part of our mission is to level the playing field in terms of women’s self image, self-esteem and intellectual development. The National All Girls Tournament helps deliver on that mission. This year, we once again donated three of our belt bags as prizes for the First Place Finishers in three categories. In addition, for the third year in a row, we partnered with Renaissance Knights Chess Club, host of this epic event, to help sponsor an entire team of girls to compete! We sponsored a team of 5th and 6th grade girls from Kinzie Elementary, a public school in the city of Chicago. As we grow as a company, we hope to eventually sponsor a scholarship paying the way to the FIDE World Youth Championship for the winner of this event. We would love to do whatever we can to help girls “stay in the game.”

The best news is that we are seeing tremendous progress in this arena. Although the number of girls participating in this National tournament has been steadily increasing year after year, this year has seen the greatest jump ever - from 359 last year to 448 this year! That’s a 20% increase in just one year, the greatest of all time! We are thrilled to see this dramatic increase and we are reposting an excerpt from our blog from April of 2013 entitled Helping Girls Stay in the Game to help people understand why this matters.

Helping Girls Stay in the Game

“It's not about Kings, Queens, and Rooks, but rather, quadrants and coordinates, thinking strategically and foreseeing consequences. It's about lines and angles, weighing options and making decisions,” writes Wendi Fischer, the Scholastic Director of America's Foundation for Chess. “It might just be the perfect teaching and learning tool.”

Research clearly shows there is a strong correlation between learning to play chess and academic achievement. Numerous studies have clearly proven that students who received chess instruction scored significantly higher on all measures of academic achievement, including math, spatial analysis, and non-verbal reasoning ability.  It teaches higher level thinking skills such as the ability to visualize, analyze, and think critically. Sadly, girls are not taking advantage of this learning opportunity.

According to Ruth Haring, president of the U.S. Chess Federation, chess teaches you how to evaluate a complex situation and make a decision. "That's a skill that is not easy to learn and it carries over to other parts of your life." Based on these studies, many school across the country are clamoring to get chess incorporated into the classroom or at least offer after-school programs to take advantage of this “ perfect teaching and learning tool.”  

But why are so many girls missing out? Would it surprise you to learn that girls make up less than 3 percent of the tournament community? This means fewer of them are competing for scholarships, fewer are eligible to play at the world-class level and fewer are training in the analytical skills the sport is grounded in, said Ruth Haring, president of the U.S. Chess Federation.

The reasons girls stray from chess are many, Haring said. “For those who learn to play as youngsters, they may leave because the activity is male-dominated and not considered cool, she said. When girls go to tournaments and meet-ups, they have no one to talk to and no one they feel a connection with, she said.”

"If we could make chess a cool thing for girls to do … we could also solve the problem of why we don't have more female engineers, or more females in math and sciences," Haring said. "It's something we have to address so that girls can have some role models — and that's what this type (The National All-Girls) of tournament will create.”

"Sometimes girls simply shy away from chess because it pits them one-on-one against boys, whose attention and favor they are trying to capture, said Robert McLellan, the executive producer of "Brooklyn Castle," a documentary about one school's immersion in the sport.

"Girls are taught early not to beat boys," he said. "They will sometimes throw games and lose on purpose. Men don't view (competition) the same way."

"Sometimes it's hard because when you play against boys, they think it's going to be a real easy game," reveals Shayna Provine, age 13, from Naperville, Il.  "Some boys, when I start beating them, they get kind of angry and slam their pieces down, or hit the clock real hard. I just stay calm the whole time. I focus on the game and try to stay composed no matter what."

The truth is, the world continues to be a very sexist planet. Although the laws in the US seem to protect women from discrimination, much of that discrimination is woven so deeply into the very fabric of our society, it is almost impossible to “see.” It arises from expectations (or lack thereof) inadvertently imposed by family members, teachers, the media and girls themselves. We have seen how chess can level the playing field in terms of women’s self image, self-esteem and intellectual development and that’s why we are 100% behind it!

For more more information of the benefits of chess, check out the following sites: