Chess for Girls gets a boost in America

by ChessBase
8/25/2004 – The inaugural Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, saw the winner earning a four-year full tuition and fees scholarship to the University of Texas at Dallas, worth up to $40,000 plus incentives! This is what professional management can do for chess. Illustrated report...

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World Champion Boost for Chess for Girls in America

By Paul Truong

The inaugural annual Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls was held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida from August 8 to 13, 2004 alongside with the US Open Championship at the Wyndham Bonaventure Resort & Spa. The winner of the event earned a four-year full tuition and fees scholarship to the University of Texas at Dallas worth up to $40,000 plus other incentives! There were four additional scholarships and all players received a small stipend.

This prestigious invitational tournament was created and sponsored by Susan Polgar and the Susan Polgar Foundation to give more opportunities to top young female chess players in the United States. It was a join effort by Mr. Dewain Barber (American Chess Equipment), Frank Niro (former Executive Director of the USCF), Susan Polgar and me. The tournament was hosted by the United States Chess Federation with the support and assistance from Mr. Dewain Barber, Ralph Bowman, Jack Mallory, tournament TD Erv Sedlock and Chief TD Carol Jarecki. 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.

Representatives from all over the United States

In its first year, while most people expected no more than 15-20 participants, the event drew a phenomenal 34 players from across the country, one as far as Hawaii. This is the first ever invitational girls’ tournament in the United States. At the conclusion of the tournament, the clear winner was WFM Roza Eynullayeva from the state of Massachusetts, scoring 5.5 out of 6. Alisa Melekhina from Pennsylvania (who won the 2004 All Girls’ Championship in Chicago), Anjali Datta from Kansas, and Elisha Garg from Northern California all tied for second place with 4.5.

Susan Polgar and one of the sponsors Mr. Dewain Barber presenting the champion’s plaque to the winner WFM Rosa Eynullayeva, who got the $40,000 scolarship for this victory!

Susan spent the entire six days with the players, talking, motivating, and giving them pointers. On the last day, the group was treated with a wonderful surprise visit by World Champion Anatoly Karpov. He came to Florida to attend the World Chess Hall of Fame induction ceremony. He himself was inducted into the Hall of Fame along with the late World Champion Max Euwe.

Chess Museum and Hall of Fame Executive Director Al Lawrence with World Champions Karpov and Polgar at the World Chess Hall of Fame, a must see place for all chess enthusiasts

After the last round all the young ladies and their coaches and families were treated to a fun pizza party before the official prize giving ceremony. Two other players in the tournament also received special awards: “Miss Congeniality” for the most friendly, hospitable, and sociable player and “Fighting Spirit” for the player who scored the biggest upset in the tournament. Stephanie Pitcher of Utah received the Miss Congeniality Award and Emily Nicholas from Idaho won the Fighting Spirit Award. The reasons for these awards are that Susan has always encouraged young players to be congenial and to fight hard on the board.

Miss Congeniality Stephanie Pitcher receiving her award

The Princesses

The players got together and presented Susan with a tiara. Jenna Haggar of South Dakota, Stephanie Pitcher of Utah, Susan Polgar and Elisha Garg of Northern California

Next year the event will be held in Phoenix, Arizona. There will be additional programs added to this invitational event. One of them will be the Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls Blitz Championship. The other will be the Susan Polgar National Training Program, open only to the participants of this invitational and its alumni. Both will be held in conjunction with the main tournament. Because of the tremendous success of this inaugural event, there will be additional scholarships and opportunities opening up in the future for young female chess players all over the United States.

The United States has never produced a Woman’s World Champion, Olympic Champion or Grandmaster. Hopefully, with tournaments like this and the All-Girls National Open Championship sponsored by the Kasparov Chess Foundation more and more young girls will be involved in chess. Perhaps one day, it can happen.

Participants of the SP National Invitational for Girls posing with Susan Polgar and Anatoly Karpov

Susan awarding Dr. Tim Redman of the University of Texas in Dallas the Polgar Medallion. Dr. Redman is the person responsible for building one of the best college chess programs in the US.

The Tournament Hall

Girls at play

The young ladies are looking at a newspaper article about them

Article and all photos are provided by Paul Truong

Below are essays by two of the participants of the Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls describing their feelings.

“Where’s my Attack?”

By Demetra P. Chernesky Fotis (Ohio Representative)
August 17, 2004

I am sitting at my sixth and final game and studying my board. I just finished my Sicilian Dragon Defense, and am trying to develop my pieces to get a good position and a strong center. Should I castle, and protect my king? Do I develop my white squared bishop? E6 looks like a good square for the bishop. Look at that guy playing to my left. The dude's hot! Does my opponent’s brother have to keep coming over to look at her game? Now he’s a distraction, too!

I like playing chess, but if you asked me to explain why, I might have trouble explaining it to you. Traveling, playing the game, and meeting new people are all integral parts of why I enjoy the sport. I find that strategizing for my attack can be intense, but enjoyable. If I’ve played a strong game, win or lose, I leave the table feeling that I have accomplished something. I can sit for 4-hours during a game and not even notice the time flying by. To say that I am in a parallel universe might be close to how I feel when I am involved in a chess game. I am aware of what is going on around me, but focusing on my game is my top priority.

To be chosen as Ohio's representative to the Polgar Invitational is an unbelievable honor for me, and I have been playing all week for a personal best. As an underdog in the rankings, there is nowhere to move but up! I am trying to win my games not only for myself, or my state, but also for my chess team at Columbus Alternative High School. I want to earn the spot of team captain for the CAHS Girls’ Chess Team. The fact that I am the only girl who plays tournament chess for CAHS will not ruin my vision. Have you heard the saying, “build a stadium, and they will come?” I am sure that there’s something in that message that would apply to girls and chess! Thanks for throwing the first ball, Susan!

My Experience at the Inaugural Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls

By Emily Nicholas (Idaho Representative)
August 19, 2004

Emily Nicholas of Idaho, winner of the Fighting Spirit Award

The Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls was the best tournament I have ever been to. It was very exciting because there was always something happening, always some girl to hang out with or watch the chess games with. It was cool to be around so many nice girls interested and serious about chess, and we hung out and laughed a lot. Having this tournament along with the Denker and US Open made it even more exciting. There were so many chess games to watch being played in the evenings. I was so involved with chess that I didn’t want to leave the hotel and do other things.

It was so much fun just to play whether you won or lost. It was so much fun to go over our games with all these other girls and talk about how we played. When I’m around the girls in chess, it puts more fun into chess. We even bought tiaras to wear while we played.

Meeting Susan Polgar made me feel important. She really made us feel like she cared about us and that she wanted us to keep playing chess. She made me feel like I could really do something and advance in chess, not just get better but like I could really go far in chess. She made me feel like this was not just some regular tournament but something special. Susan met with us to go through chess questions and give advice. She even had a pizza party for us at the end of the tournament. I hope that she keeps her tiara to wear next year.

I met so many other girls that I hope to be able to see again. I will work hard to try and qualify to go next year.

Polgar Essay

By Ettie Nikolova (Virginia Representative)
August 23, 2004

There is only one word to describe the way I felt as I walked from my hotel room to the reception area for the Polgar tournament. Nervous! Even my stomach had felt queasy that morning to the point that I had trouble eating breakfast. What if I tripped onstage, or all the girls in the tournament hated me, or I ended up losing every single game? These were just some of the questions plaguing me. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered how nice and down to earth everyone turned out to be. Even Susan Polgar, one of the biggest Chess celebrities, was as kind as could be.

When the reception was over and the first game began, I started to understand what the Polgar was all about. In Virginia, as in many other states, there are barely any girls past elementary school who play chess. Before I played in the Polgar Tournament, I could have counted the games that I had played against girls on a non scholastic level on one hand. When I played in the Polgar, I was in a place, for the first time in my life, where girls were not only excited about chess, but also advanced enough to play good games. As a result, the Polgar tournament has made me want to improve the way I play Chess because it helped me realize the true potential that women have in the world of Chess.

Although I didn’t win a prize in the conventional sense at the Polgar tournament, I certainly left richer than I was when I had first nervously entered the reception room. I gained good experience from the games that I was able to play at not only the Polgar tournament, but also the US Open, which was held at the same place. I was also inspired to develop my abilities with regards to the game of Chess. Most importantly, I left with a few new friends.

War Of The Girls

By Stephanie Heung (Florida Representative)
August 23, 2004

When it comes to chess, Grandmaster Susan Polgar’s words expressed the circumstances perfectly “Where are the girls?” The chessboard is strikingly glorious: alternating black and white squares dotting a mysterious and unpredictable realm of eternal battles and intuitive sacrifices. Yet hardly any girls savor and appreciate the meticulousness of the opening, the complex and breathtaking enchantment of the middlegame, and the apparently clear-cut yet intricate endgame. Fortunately for those Queens of this King’s Game, Susan Polgar has yet again devoted her time, energy, and money to generate a spectacular and dazzling display of youthful feminine potential - The Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls!

In this prestigious tournament, there was a ferocious competitiveness between contenders for the title, yet with little or any hostility or resentment, unlike some other national level tournaments. As soon as the competition blasted off with a marvelous reception and impressive opening ceremony, everyone was certain it would be a success, as this tournament was a flawless blend of chess and girls. It was quite a spectacle in the playing hall during the round: rows after rows of chess boards, each with a unique position, each with two determined and intensely focused girls mentally fighting in a silent room. Especially on the top boards, there the level of concentration seemed to be at the maximum the human mind could withstand without collapsing in fatigue. Participants reviewed their games together and blitz and bughouse dominated the skittles room.

Over the board, girls were archrivals, yet after the game the instinctive social personality of many of the girls prevailed. Complete strangers from coast to coast went out shopping together, and “girl talk” was plentiful. Some girls even wore tiaras and matching earrings during one game! The playing hall was a delicate blend of pale pink and light green, with a graceful flamboyance in the elaborate crystal windows on the ceiling. Outside the playing hall, gorgeous carpeting and sparkling chandeliers added to the impeccable elegance of the hotel. The intense and fiery excitement of the U.S. Open added to the spirited atmosphere of the tournament. Playing in the same hall with the renowned Denker tournament, the presence of Former World Champion Anatoly Karpov, and chatting on a more personal level with Grandmaster Susan Polgar made the tournament players feel more significant than a mere event.

Two ex world champions Anatoly Karpov and Susan Polgar

Like a faultless formula, this tournament masterfully combined a furious zeal and love for chess, the compassionate and gracious nature of girls, and the stunning décor of the host hotel into a milestone of chess history that will be remembered!

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