Girls Chess Team Places at States

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Three lower school students, Anja, Viraya and Anaïs, represented GISNY in the K-3 Section of the NYS All Girls Scholastic Chess Championship in New York City in April, coming in sixth place!

This is our school’s first girls’ chess team, and our first student in the Top-100 — Anja made the United States Chess Federation’s (uschess.org) Top-100 USA Girls, placing 72nd out of 100 seven-year-olds.

The three petite players studied and prepared over the spring break for this battle of the minds, in one of the most prestigious chess tournaments in the State.

Mr. Jon Rigai, chess teacher and head coach of the GISNY chess team, encourages the girls to play in both regular and all girls’ tournaments. “I always remind my female students that precision beats aggression every time,” he says, noting that boys can seem more aggressive than girls in chess. “The chess puzzles, which I hand out regularly to my students, help them to reinforce tactical vision, and is a critical component to succeeding in chess. All the girls who’ve been in my class have improved considerably. I’m optimistic that they will continue to perform well in tournaments and flourish as students overall.”

Chess Grandmaster Susan Polgar lobbied the United States Chess Federation (USCF) to organize all-girls chess events. “I strongly believe that, if given equal opportunities, women are just as capable in chess, and many other STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, as men,” she wrote. “It was my dream to revolutionize chess for girls.”

All girls’ chess tournaments provide a weekend of fun for female chess players and provide a setting for girls to feel empowered and supported. Though they are no less fierce than the boys when they wage their battles over the board, these tournaments are also filled with camaraderie, encouragement and friendship.

When asked about chess, the girls have a lot to say:

Anja: “In chess, I love that when the pawn reaches the end of the board, it can become a queen, which is the most powerful piece in the game. I love endgames where my pawn becomes a queen, because then I would win.”

Viraya: “Chess is like life. I was born to be a brave fighter – in chess and in life.”

Anaïs: “I like it when Coach Jon teaches us tactics. Then I like using these tactics when I play with my friends.”

In addition to chess, the girls have several other interests and activities. Anja is a Black Belt in tae kwon do, does gymnastics and dance, and plays the piano. Viraya plays tennis, dances ballet, sings and plays the piano. And Anaïs is a figure skater, swimmer, hip hop dancer and loves to paint and draw.

Hats off to these young chess masters in the making!