16 and under champ Karsten McVay, looking at the game of 18 and Under winner Krista Selby.
by Betsy Dynako
The Fourth Annual All-Girls Open National Championships were held over St. Patrick’s Day weekend in Chicago, Illinois at the lovely Palmer House Hilton Hotel. The event was organized by the Kasparov Chess Foundation in association with USCF and Chess Wizards. One-hundred thirty-six girls from kindergarten to 12th grade competed in the event and 19 states and one province were represented.
Many more girls were expected to play in the tournament but a snowstorm that swept through the northeast kept a third of the field at home. Fifty girls from New Jersey and New York were unable to attend due to canceled flights. Even Irina Krush, who was scheduled to play a simultaneous exhibition, was grounded in New York. Michael Khodarkovsky of the Kasparov Chess Foundation was fortunate to have been on the earliest flight from the New York Area on Friday morning. When he arrived in Chicago, he learned that the teams of girls he saw and the coaches he visited with at the airport had not made it out of the city.
Girls wave hello to those back home and stuck on the East coast from the main playing floor.
GM Dmitry Gurevich was gracious enough to come and take Krush's place in the simul. Khodarkovsky said, "I appreciate that Dmitry agreed to come so quickly and without question." Gurevich even stayed to sign autographs and pose with the trophy winners during the awards ceremony.
Anna Matlin, of New Jersey, played in the 12 and under section. She was one of those lucky East Coasters to make it to Chicago. Matlin said, “I miss my friends left behind in New York and New Jersey. We usually hang together at tournaments.” She looks forward to the All-Girls Open each year and has played in each one. When asked why she said, "Girl-only tournaments are fun because boys often get on your nerves. Girls are polite to each other."
Girls young and old liked not having the boys around. Devon Mitchell, who lives in Chicago and attended the event with her father, said she likes girls-only tournaments because, "Usually in regular tournaments, there are a lot of boys and I don’t get to play girls my own age often." Epiphany Peters says, "It’s not so much that I like to play against other girls. I play scholastic chess for the titles."
More relevant than the absence of boys were the talented girls that did play. Here are a small fraction of the event's games that display their skills:
Kathy Wu of Virginia won first place in the U12 by defeating Karen Marcjan from Washington.
The game between Linda Diaz of New York and Anna Matlin of New Jersey to determine the second place finisher.
Diaz and Matlin agreed to a draw and taking home second and third place and leaving Marcjan with fifth place.
U12 winners: Left to Right: Linda Diaz, 3rd place Anna Matlin, 2nd place and Katerine Wu, 1st place.
In the U16 section, Karsten McVay (1900) of New York was the top seed. McVay admitted to being worried during her fourth round game against Shiny Kaur (1480) previous representative for her home state of Illinois to the Polgar Girls Invitational.
Had time not been a factor McVay felt Shiny could have had a win and even offered a draw at one point. Kaur was disappointed after the game and said: “It was a strong game but one mistake can cost you.”
If you looked at the sea of chess players studying moves during their games at the All-Girls National Championships the dresses, pig tails, and stuffed animals may have lead you to believe that the players weren't very serious. Most boys would consider those girly things a sign of weakness, but GM Dmitry Gurevich said after the simul, "The girls made a great impression, lots of young talent." In game after game, the young ladies at this tournament fought each other to the death over the board. Yet showed kindness and compassion often hugging one another after rough games. This tournament shows that the future of women’s chess in the United States is a bright one.
16 and Under first place team, led by Karsten McVay
Emma Sonder let her Irish side show, as well as her game face.
8 and Under 1st place team, the McKenzie School from Illinois poses with GM Dmitry Gurevich.
Julianne Cronin is the only girl in her advanced chess class and she is happy to play in all girls' events.
Girl with Frog
10 and Under winners: Shown left to right 3. Crystal Liu, WA, 1. Ashley Xue, VA2. Caroline Zhu, TX
Madina Mathis of Cass Tech placed 2nd in the 18 and under section.
1. Jessica Zhu, Ca
2. Rachel Eng, AZ
3. Margaret Hua, MO
8 Under team
1. McKenzie School, IL
2. Blooming Grove Academy, IL
3. Riverwoods Montessori, IL
1. Ashley Xue, VA
2. Caroline Zhu, TX
3. Crystal Liu, WA
10 Under team
1.CGPS New York
2. Latin School, IL
3. Forest School, IL
1. Katherine Wu, VA
2. Anna Matlin, NJ
3. Linda Diaz, NY
12 Under team
1. Algonquin School IL
1. Anjali Datta, TX
2. Sukhada Kulkarni, OH
3. Cheryl Liu, IL
14 Under team
1. Cass Technical High School, Michigan
1. Karsten McVay, NY
2. Shiny Kaur, IL
3. Brianna Conley, OH
16 Under team
1. Spence High School, NY
2. Latin School, IL
1. Krista Selby, IN
2. Madina Mathis, MI
3. Ashley Bish, MI
18 Under team
1. Cass Tech High School, MI
2.Lane Technical High School, IL
3. Vanderbilt High School, IL