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Girls compete in chess for national competition

Feb 27, 2017 04:41PM ● Published by Natalie Mollinet

Girls from K-12 compete in the Utah State Girls Tournament at Beacon Heights (Natalie Mollinet/The City Journals).

Gallery: Girls compete in chess for national competition [2 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Natalie Mollinet | natalie@mycityjournal.com

Around 50 Utah girls showed up at Beacon Heights Elementary for the annual All-Girls State Tournament, a competition organized by the Utah Chess Association (UCA). Girls in grades K-12 were invited to take part in the event for a national title.

“We’re trying to encourage girls to play chess, because girls can be as good as boys,”  said Tina Lee, the event coordinator with UCA. “We believe we need to have this kind of tournament that there are other girls players, and they can be as good as boys and it’s for everyone.”

The tournament included five rounds with no elimination, when the rounds ended the girls who had the highest scores were based on their wins and which pieces they’d taken from their opponent. At the end of the five rounds the two girls with the highest scores will represent Utah, if they choose, at either of the two national competitions.

“The organizers of these events only invite the top player from each state,” Lee said, “except Texas and California because they have more people, but other than that there’s one girl from each state who will compete for five days with nine rounds.”

The two competitions will be held in St. Louis and Virginia. The US Chess Federation (UCCF), who is holding The US Chess National Girls Champion Of Champions in Virginia, rewards the winner with a chance to compete in the 2017 World Cadet Championship for scholarships and prizes. The competition in St. Louis, called the Susan Polgar Foundation Girls’ Invitational, will be held this summer.

“Chess provides a lot of the same benefits as STEM provides, and includes a few different elements including art, because you have to think creatively,” said Jamie Olsen-Mills, the highest-ranking female champion in Utah and chair of the scholastic chess committee. “Everyone here that’s playing is very young and there’s so many opportunities with chess.”

Lee said that after she suggested a chess club at Beacon Heights, over 80 students joined and since she had so many, she had to turn some away. She has been impressed with how much the parents want to be involved and because of that, the UCA thought Beacon Heights Elementary was the perfect place to hold this tournament.

“Beacon Heights is a wonderful school,” said David Day the president of UCA. “Principal Louie and the chess club here are very supportive they’ve offered us to hold it here and it’s a great venue and we’re happy they let us do it here.”

The two winners of this competition came from West High: Anna Lee, a 7th grader who is in the school’s extended learning program, and Jacinda Lee, a 9th grader. Anna scored a perfect 5/5 —her same score as last year—and Jacinda came in second with a score of 4/5. Anna will be representing Utah at the 2017 National Girls Tournament of Champions. Jacinda was invited to represent Utah at the Susan Polgar Foundation Girls’ Invitational, however, due to a chemistry scholarship, she won’t be able to attend the competition this summer, so the runner-up will be invited to go in her place.  

“I only run girl’s tournaments,” Lee said and added how she likes the atmosphere. “…All the girls are just mellow, quiet and gentle and they don’t trash talk, there’s no sore losers or braggers and that’s the most ideal chess tournament.”

The next tournaments the UCA will be holding are the 2017 State Junior High School Tournament and 2017 State High School tournament. Both will be held at Ecker Hill Middle School in Park City for kids grades 6-12. And the Utah State Elementary Chess Tournament will be held March 18 at BYU.

You can find out more about registering for the events at www.utahchess.com

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