Women’s Chess Gets A Boost

by | Apr 1, 2007

Some of South Africa’s top female chess players will be in action later this month when the Gauteng Junior Chess Association hosts the South African Ladies Open Chess Tournament at the Cresta Shopping Centre from 26 – 29 April.

(From left to right) Linda Oosthuisen, Carmen de Jager (SA Womens Closed winner 2006) and Melissa Greef (SA Women's Open Champion 2006). 

This is a tournament exclusively for female players from all over the country, of all ages, creeds and races.

In a statement, Cresta Shopping Centre said: “We are delighted to be hosting this extraordinary event. It allows us to enhance the awareness of women’s chess which, according to the organizers, ‘remains underrated’ in our country.

“Our contribution will further enhance this sport’s efforts to project the message that “girls who play chess are not nerdy but interesting, dynamic and attractive!

(From left to right) Linda Oosthuisen, Carmen de Jager (SA Womens Closed winner 2006) and Melissa Greef (SA Women's Open Champion 2006).“We are further overwhelmed that Chess Master supreme Jennifer Shahade has agreed to form part of this event.  Being her first visit to South Africa, her presence and support will undoubtedly enhance this event’s marketing efforts as well as attract media interest.”

Thirteen year-old Melissa Greeff is the defending SA Women’s Open Champion 2006, the youngest ever winner of this title. At such a young age, Melissa’s chess career has brought great success and reward.

Last year, she won the girls section of the African Junior Chess Championships (U20) in December 2006 in Botswana, and was awarded a Woman International Master title (WIM) and her first Woman Grand Master norm.

Her win in Botswana gave her qualification for the World U20 Championships in 2007, and she has also been selected for the South African Women’s squad to play in the All African Games in Algeria in July 2007 (the youngest-ever player to be selected).

Melissa and the other up and coming chess stars (including Carmen de Jager, SA Women’s Closed Champion 2006) will have the opportunity to rub shoulders with the Woman Grand Master, Jennifer Shahade, who has been invited to SA as a special guest.

Jennifer has agreed to do a simultaneous event at the tournament, which means that she will play a number of players at the same time, walking around a central round area making one move at a time per player, looking to beat most of them.

leftJennifer Shahade is the 2002 and 2004 USA Women’s Chess Champion, and will also be promoting her book, ‘Chess Bitch: Woman in the Ultimate Intellectual Sport.’

Jennifer told gsport that she can’t wait to come to South Africa: “I am very excited about the opportunity to learn about the people, chess culture and landscape of South Africa. My friends and family are all very jealous of me, especially my Mom, who expects that I will see elephants on every corner!

“I am hoping to get a sense of what women’s chess in South Africa is like, and to inspire women chess players there with my book, my play and my story.

“I see it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit such a faraway place, for such an interesting purpose. I want to learn as much as I can, while also giving as much as possible.”

‘Chess Bitch: Women in the Ultimate Intellectual Sport’ is an eye-opening account of how today’s young female chess players are successfully knocking down the doors to the traditionally male game, infiltrating the male-owned sporting subculture of international chess, giving the phrase "play like a girl" a whole new meaning.

The women Jennifer writes about are, for the most part, interesting, dynamic and attractive, destroying the common assumption that girls who play chess are nerdy and unappealing.

“The idea with this title was to spread the book outside the competitive chess world. I’m interested in attracting readers who love chess but play only casually, and feminists interested in male dominated fields,” says Jennifer.

And her advice for young female chess players: "Be aggressive! Take all the boys’ queens!”

Jennifer’s full-time job is Editor in Chief of the official website of the United States Chess Federation, where you can also read Jennifer’s blog. For more details on Jennifer Shahade, logon to her website.

For more details, logon to the South African Ladies Chess Open website, and for more about how to learn to play chess, logon to the LearnThat.com website.

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