Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Girls Chess

not a lot of girls here 

 I'm just back from Grade Nationals and I have some pressing thoughts about girls chess to share with you. 

The USCF should change the scoring at all regular nationals to be the top five scores, one of which must be female. Do it for two years and look at the results. I would guess that this (temporary if you like) rule change would massively increase the attention and effort paid to encouraging girls. One of the first big things I learned as a teacher is that "people do what is measured." Just measure it; let people well in advance of the rule change, and BOOM, the insolvable problem of poor female participation in chess is suddenly solved. And you will see the results for years, because most adult players are former scholastic players. 

Someone will say it isn't fair, or isn't reflective of who the strongest team really is, but lots of things in the scholastic world aren't fair. Did you know that private school students are all a year older than their public school contemporaries? That's why private schools invariably win the lower grades-- 6 year olds are infinitely more capable than 5 year olds.  In New York, we have a private school that regularly recruits public school students, but makes them all repeat 5th grade! One year, three talented triplets won the K-5 state championship two years in a row-- as fifth graders both times. But no one says anything because the private school coaches control the politics of scholastic chess. 

I love the idea of a girls room at nationals, but I have a few changes to propose. I went in there once last weekend and a very nice older man thanked me three times for coming in. Sure, buddy. But there wasn't anything that made me want to stay. 

If I was running it --

You need a fun atmosphere: string lights, Taylor Swift playing, fruit, chocolate, tea, juice, maybe inflatable yoga balls to bounce on (I have these in my classroom and kids love them-- they allow you to be childlike and physically silly in a way that's a good release from playing chess.) Chess sets and clocks should already be out and available for use. The Girls' Room should be closer to team rooms and they should do outreach to parents. It should be a comfortable, fun place to hang out. Not an empty room far away from everything with nothing in it. 

Activities: I don't think girls want to meet or play high rated female players. It's awkward and weird. They want high quality game analysis with little/no wait. Hire two female A players or experts who are experienced coaches and have them offer drop-in game analysis all day for three days. Let parents know. 

Have meetups for girls from different areas at specific times (Texas, Saturday at 4:30, NY area, Friday at 10 am, etc.)  Moms want their girls to be friends with chess playing girls in the same region. 

 I actually went in the girls room there looking for a tampon. Why are there no tampons in hotel bathrooms? They give you toilet paper and soap, and don't charge for those, but I spent an hour running around to different bathrooms and markets trying to find a tampon. I finally spent $12.99 on a pack of 10. Robbery. In NYC public schools, we recognize that girls have a right to (and need) free menstruation products. C'mon Hyatt, step up. Or the girls room could supply them. 15% of girls need them on any given day. It might at least get them in the door. 


Gurdonark said...

When I was 14, I'd have valued an in-depth analysis of my game by an expert far more than I would have valued playing in a simul against an IM or GM. When I was 18, I did play in simuls against
Walter Browne and an IM. They were great fun. I would have enjoyed an analysis of one of my games better. Even when I held a draw once against the IM during a local shopping mall simul, I probably would have preferred to have a 2100 analyze one of my routine Swiss tourney games. So your position on that makes perfect sense to me.

In addition to regional meet-up times, perhaps a bughouse schedule would be fun.

Leila D’Aquin said...

The Girls Clubs at scholastic nationals offer a variety of things, and the one at the 2023 Grades was no exception. Boards are always set up and available for use, and game review is offered throughout the weekend. Having run these now at 4 events annually for 8 years, the Women’s Committee knows that girls begin flowing in 45 minutes to an hour after each round starts, attendance peaks 2 hours later, and the room empties out 15-30 minutes before the next round. The schedule of activities is planned accordingly. It sounds as if you ducked into the Girls’ Club only briefly and just as a round was starting, Elizabeth. (That’s understandable since you’re usually in your team room to work with your students as they are finishing their tournament games.) Of course, when a round is just starting, the players—including the girls—are at their boards in the tournament hall.
At Grades this time, GM Irina Krush was the “special guest,” and was a huge draw. She reviewed games, offered lectures, and did fun stuff with the girls. (Who’d have guessed she’d be into hip-hop dance!) WIM & orthodontist Carolina Blanco was also on hand to analyze, visit, and play, as she has been frequently since the very first Girls Club in 2016; so were the coaches from Tampa’s Alton Academy 4 Chess. Besides simuls, lectures & game analysis, the Club offered snacks, a nail salon, 2 human chess games, puzzles, trivia, a teen pizza party, a town hall meeting, crafts, books, and info about future girls & women’s events.
Constructive suggestions are always welcomed and appreciated (having period products on hand is a GREAT idea!), but please don’t assume that just because some particular activity wasn’t underway when you briefly popped in on your harried search for a tampon that means it never happened at all.