By Laura Doman
Eight Georgia girls timed it just right when they attended the 12th Annual Kasparov Chess Foundation (KCF) All-Girls National Championships on April 17-19, 2015. They traded a rainy Atlanta weekend for beautiful spring weather in downtown Chicago, where they could enjoy the local sights between rounds of competitive play.
Everyone was glad to return to the city after last year’s exile to the village of Northbrook, some 25 miles north of Chicago. The Championships were held at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place convention center and attracted over 350 girls from all over the U.S. and Canada who played six rounds in six age divisions over the three day weekend.
Sisters Olivia and Lexi Resnick played in the Under 8 section, as did Gabriella Slezinger. Olivia said that the tournament was “fun, but the games were challenging. I like that we get to play only girls. I never get to play other girls at home!” Lexi chimed in: “I like meeting other girls, but I also had fun hanging out with (older schoolmate) Rachel. It was fun skipping school and spending time away from the little kids in my family.”
Gabriella had fun “playing tag (running up and down in the McCormick Place Building) with my friends Louisa (Higgins, her opponent in round two, from NY), and Sophia (Arias, Louisa Higgins’ opponent in round five, from IL],” proving that new friends can be easily made even over a competitive game of chess. Once at home, Gabriela’s coach WIM Carolina Blanco reviewed her games and showed her where she could have made different choices. The following is the game from her sixth round, in which Gabriella played White against a girl from New York. Carolina represented Gabriella’s point of view as she noted:
1.e4.e5 2. Bc4 Nh6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4. Ng5?? (It was a blunder of my knight. I didn’t think enough to make sure that my knight would be safe in that square.) 4…Qxg5 5. d4 (Now I have to rely on my plan with a discovered attack to the black queen.) 5… exd4 (A bad move for black, since she should have moved the queen instead to Qxg2, for example, and I would have been in trouble.) 6. Bxg5 Bb4 7. Bd2 Bc5 8. 0-0 0-0 9. Qf3 d6 10. Qg3 (I had the idea to pin the black king on g8 and threaten the knight on h6.) 10… a6?? (Black didn’t see my threat and blundered the knight.) 11. Bxh6 g5?? 12. Bxf8?! (This was a fast and unnecessary move. I just missed checkmate in 2 moves after 12. Qxg5+ Kh8 13. Qg7++) 12…Kxf8 13. Qf3 Ke7 14. Qxf7+ Kd8 15. Qg8+ Ke7 16. Bf7 Ne5 17. Qe8+ Kf6 18. Bg8 Ba7 19. Qd8+ Kg7 20. Qxg5+ Ng6 21. Qd5 Nf4 22. Qf7+(Check and forking the black knight on f4.) 22… Kh6 23. Qxf4+ Kg7 24. Rd1?(It was a fast move again. I wanted to bring another piece to help on my checkmate plans, but I missed my bishop on g8. However, I still have a decisive advantage.) 24… Kxg8 25. Rd3 c5 26. Rg3+ Bg4 27. Rxg4+ Kh8 28. Qg5 Rg8 29.Qxg8++
Georgia had three players in the Under 12 section: Rachel Doman, Zoe Justice, and Vaishnavi Vuyyuru. Rachel said that she “really liked exploring Chicago and meeting girls from all over the country, especially hanging out with other chess girls like me.” Zoe’s favorite thing about the tournament was “having it back in Chicago again!” This was Zoe’s fifth year to compete in the All-Girls Nationals, having played in the tournament each time that it was held in the Chicago area. She and her mom Susan knew how to see the town: they spent the day before the tournament on a three hour bike tour through downtown and Lincoln Park, taking in all the sights.
Zoe’s favorite game was her round three win against Amy Chan from California. She was able to get both rooks centralized behind her center pawns and had an interesting checkmate: 1. e4 c6 2. Nc3 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. Be2 Bg4 7. O-O e6 8. a3 Be7 9. Re1 O-O 10. Bf4 Bd6 11. Ne5 Bxe2 12. Qxe2 Nxd4 13. Qd3 Nc6 14. Nxc6 bxc6 15. Bxd6 Qxd6 16. Ne4 Qe7 17. Nxf6+ Qxf6 18. b3 Rfe8 19. Ra2 e5 20. f3 Qh4 21. g3 Qf6 22. b4 Qe6 23. f4 e4 24. Qd1 Rad8 25. c3 d4 26. Rd2 d3 27. Re3 h6 28. g4 Qf6 29. Qc1 Qxf4 30. Rg3 e3 31. Rdg2 d2 32. Rxd2 exd2 33. Qc2 d1=Q+ 34. Qxd1 Rxd1+ 35. Kg2 Qf1# 0-1=
Aviva Smith and Saithanu Avirneni both competed in the Under 16 section. Saithanu also played in the Blitz tournament early on Friday afternoon and won 4th place.
Perhaps the spirit of the weekend was summed up best by Vaishnavi: “Don’t underestimate the power of girls!” No doubt that Georgia will be well-represented there again next year.