All-Girls Chess Camp

“Wait, are you the only girl here?”

Ever since a close friend asked me that question years ago, I haven’t been able to push it out of my head. How is it that at basically every chess tournament, in a room of hundreds of people, I was one of maybe a couple dozen women?

Other startling details started popping up everywhere for me, like how in the list of the top 100 players in the world, there is only 1 woman. In the list of the top 100 players in the nation, there are only 2 women. I remembered how when I first learned chess in elementary school, there were plenty of girls in the club but a year later, I was one of the only girls still actively playing.

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In order to try and combat this gender gap, I started the All-Girls Chess Camp back in 2014 which tries to remove potential social and financial barriers preventing young girls from becoming involved in the game. The camp provides a safe and comfortable environment for young girls to get to know other girls interested in the game and learn from the top junior female players in their area. To make sure that financial situations are never a problem, each participant gets to walk away with a chess set and a basic strategy book to facilitate continued learning after the camp. The most rewarding moment of the camp so far, and a testament to the potential it has, was when two girls from the first camp came back to teach this last year.


Unfortunately, the materials and work put into the camp to make it happen do not come free. Especially with our expansion to the Long Island and Washington, D.C. area this last year, we need funding more desperately than ever. It takes about $1,500-$2000 to run a single camp (dependent on size of the facility and as such the number of participants we can accept) and we simply are not able to provide the funding for all three locations and potential expansions without your help. Please help us bring this wonderful game to more girls and help create a safer and more comfortable environment for girls in the game overall, a donation of any amount counts.

In other news on the status of the camp, this last summer has been a great period of growth – we are now in the process of becoming an official non-profit organization and have also been accepted into the Clinton Global Initiative’s Commitment Challenge, a competition between 50 projects based on who can pull the most funding. It is also with this in mind that we ask for your generous support to help establish this program and other projects (e.g. tournament and chapters throughout the country).


To follow the All-Girls Chess Camp, you can visit our website, or like us on FacebookIf you have any inquiries about our program, please feel free to contact Alice at and/or check out our sites below.

*To comply with the Commitments Challenge’s regulations, the maximum donation per individual is $250. All donation quantities are greatly appreciated.

Photo for GoFundMe

What Counts as a Healthy Tournament Schedule?

Growing up around tournaments have always made me wonder – what counts as a healthy frequency for tournament play? If there were multiple tournaments within a single weekend… should you play both tournaments?

Up until tournaments began to interrupt my ability to complete all my schoolwork, I would compete in what tournaments I could almost every week. I was always completely fine with it as I enjoyed going to tournaments and thus taking breaks from academia. I always thought that such a schedule was normal but now that I look back, it seems almost crazy to be playing so often, especially as school curriculums become more and more difficult.

So what counts today as a healthy schedule for tournament play – especially for students? Per usual, this is dependent upon what the students themselves are like – but I still believe that there is a threshold that people can use to determine what’s best for their kids or for themselves. The most important thing in my opinion is that as long as you are still interested into playing the tournament by the end. The worst thing one can do to oneself or one’s kids is force them to continue playing when they are already having issues concentrating during their current games.

“It’s fine to show up late, no one cares”

About a decade now into playing chess, I , for the first time ever, regret arriving to a tournament game late. Okay, that’s false – the first time was when I remembered the time of a round wrong… and forfeited my first (and as of today, my last) game. But this time was different – to be honest I don’t think I was even late when I got to the tournament hall, as the announcements were still going on.

For some background, this was the last round of World Open, right after my first win of the tournament. With 2.5/8, I was set to play up again and a point above the players with the lowest number of points in the section – and honestly, my score is not as bad as it sounds as I had played 6 games against players rated either 2200 or higher. I was playing solid 4-5 hour games and pretty satisfied with my game quality as someone who hadn’t played since January nor studied since before entering college. When I walked up to the standings that round, I remember staring in confusion as my name was nowhere to be found in the 4-5 boards of players with 2.5 scores and as I looked down, I realized that I had been withdrawn without my knowledge and given a zero point bye. As with other problems, I immediately went to the TD desk, where I was told that they’re not sure what happened and to wait for the head TD who was making the announcements at the time.

After he came out of the main tournament hall and the other TD’s caught him up on what happened, I was given two options: either take the withdrawal or play the player who had a one point bye, a player rated about 1600 FIDE. Ultimately, I chose to not play the last round as I saw no point in playing down so much when I had finally just won a game and while not in the greatest mood from finding out about the withdrawal in the first place. Inside, I was honestly pretty upset. Competing in Philadelphia isn’t just hard on me, but it’s also extremely hard on my parents who drive me an hour to and an hour back every single day. Just because I had arrived to the standings minutes late, I was unable to play the game I deserved and had wasted a couple hours of my parents time having them wait for me to finish to go home. So next time, note to self, just arrive early – it’s better than allowing yourself to be removed or paired incorrectly.


It’s funny, everyone tells me distance kills friendships and relationships, but at the same time if that were true, how would anyone in the chess community still be friends with each other? With the creation of social media also came the ability for us to keep in touch with people across the country, even across the world, from us. I have friends in California, in Europe, in Asia whose lives I keep in touch with thanks to various social media platforms. Just the other day, a friend who I haven’t seen in about two years now if not more, messaged me and we were able to have a conversation like we’d never stopped talking, as though the tournament where we met was just yesterday.

In fact, fellow ChessSummit writer Vanessa Sun and I theoretically met through a mutual friend – online. It wasn’t for months even until we officially met at Millionaire’s last October. Especially since going to college and participating in tournaments less, I have been surprised to find that I am able to reconnect with people from the chess world so easily even after no contact for an extended period of time. 

The above interactions prove what I feel like I’ve repeated many times here already – chess is always something you can come back to. The people, the game, the community. So once you’re in – sorry, we’re not letting you go. 

Coming Home

If you’re following me on any social media or have interacted with me in any way in the last year or so (and actually based on the topics I have been covering recently), you probably know that due to college and some personal things, chess has been sitting in the backseat for about the last year of my life. I’m happy to say that I will be jumping – maybe stupidly diving is a better term – back into my chess career during the upcoming World Open.

So I’m an extremely superstitious player. And for some reason my past performances at World Open have been half the tournaments great and the other half is trash. But that was back when I still competed relatively consistently. Right now, all I really want is to not blunder away any games through piece drops.

My friend and fellow writer Vanessa Sun recently asked me why I haven’t been focusing more on chess, was it because of different priorities? Or just being busy overall? I would say that it was a combination of believing that I should be prioritizing school and the lack of a real chess community around where my college is. The closest chess hub to my school is probably in Philadelphia – still about a forty minute train ride away. There is also the small issue of how there is no chess club at my school yet (something I plan on changing this coming year since I have grasped how to take care of myself better in college now). Without a chess club or community around you, there is no one to play with, no one to have weird debates with about tactics.

Sure, there are always those amazingly supportive friends that want to challenge you or ask you to teach them, but it is still different with having fellow tournament players nearby. While our team wasn’t amazing, just having a chess team in high school really helped to spur my continued passion and participation in the game as my schedule grew busier and busier. As I catch up with those friends, I hope to also be re-discovering my love and drive to improve myself, step by step, as I try, as well as I can by myself, to relearn how to study and figure out what I personally need to finally get myself to master.

Online Ratings: A Myth?

I often hear people talk about how our online ratings are supposed to be inflated versions of our official ratings. Oddly enough, I’ve almost always had an online rating lower than my actual rating, on both my ICC and accounts (both of which, unfortunately, have been rather inactive in recent years due to school).

For the longest time, I thought, maybe I’m overrated? But at the same time, my rating still steadily increased over time. In fact, for basically the entirety of my chess career and for as long as I’ve had my ICC account, my online rating has been at least a hundred points lower than my actual rating.

Evidently, that disparity, although it incited some teasing from some fellow chess players, did not stop me from actually improving my ability to study and progressing both on and off the board.

So don’t let your online rating, whether it be the blitz ratings or the tactics ratings, either boost your confidence too much or drag you down too much. As long as you work hard, you will improve and you will make it.

Facing Reality

I came into college believing that I’ll have more free time, more time overall to play tournaments and to study chess, after all, college provides a more flexible time sheet, no?

Boy I could not have been more wrong.

I remember my junior year of high school, I was talking to a friend of mine who played chess who was in college and we were just catching up since I hadn’t seen her in a year or two. One thing that stuck with me that she said after she found out I was already a junior but was hoping to break master before going to college was that I didn’t have that much time left. I remember thinking to myself, “Really? But there’s still two years plus the summer before college.” Yeah, I was wrong then too.

Maybe it’s different for students at schools with chess clubs or chess teams, but I keep finding myself in a repeated cycle where I keep saying I’m going to play a tournament, or study one day, and then by the time I get around to it its already 2 am or something. And I’m not sure if I exponentially aged in college or something, but I most definitely cannot pull all nighters or survive on tiny amounts of sleep like I did in high school (Yay TV, thanks for ruining my sleep schedule!). So logically, I chose to sleep over studying chess or dragging my night out longer to add that into my schedule.

Just remember, whenever someone tells you that you’re not going to have as much time as you think you well as you progress in life – they’re probably right. And speaking from experience. So listen. And take advantage of the time you have now before you graduate and move onto an even busier part of your life.



Choosing a Coach

Whenever I’m at a tournament, I find myself being asked “Do you think who and who is a good coach? What about this other person?” Usually, I answer with what I know – which is something along the lines of “Yeah, I’ve heard good things about them!” (and I do mean it, I rarely hear negative comments about coaches).

I’ve had four coaches over my chess career thus far – and I can honestly say that each one of them has helped me in one way or another, whether it be furthering my interest in chess, helping me develop my opening repertoire, or even just helping me to understand, embrace, and broaden my playing style. Every coach has something they can add to your play. Honestly, every person you come into contact with in the chess world can help add to your play – whenever I teach, even at the most beginner levels, it forces myself to try and think about chess in a different way, to re-emphasize the basics of chess in my mind and keeping it fresh.

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Fabiano Caruana and Bruce Pandolfini – then and now (a great example of an amazing student-coach dynamic!)

So in such circumstances, how are we supposed to choose a coach? Obviously, it’s different for every player, but I’ve found that finding a coach with a similar playing style as you (usually this means positional vs. tactical player) helps in that the coach will be able to cater your openings to your playing style as they will have a lot of experience in these types of games. Now, of course, it is also important to keep in mind that openings are not all that one needs to care about. Make sure that the coach is also well-rounded in terms of their understanding of endgames and BOTH positional and tactical play. If you’re really intent on understanding and knowing a coach beforehand, there is also always the possibility of looking up their games and seeing how well you understand and agree with their play. And of course, there’s always hearsay!

And above all else: it’s important to have personalities that click well and a healthy student-coach dynamic!

Married to the Game

Right now I’m sitting in the lobby of my resort in the Dominican Republic for my first ever real “spring break” trip – honestly, we didn’t do much of the supposed spring break things (drinking, partying, etc.). Instead, we’ve been having a blast riding ATV’s, jumping from the top of waterfalls, and whitewater rafting. The last couple days leading up to this Thursday, I had been trying hard to figure out something to post. Which, let’s be honest, with all the adventures I’ve been going on is not easy.

And then it hit me. No matter what I’m doing in my life, no matter what college I decided to attend a year ago, no matter what profession I go into… Chess was something that would always be a part of me. Whatever country I find myself in, it would be something for me to bond with others and a way to communicate past the barrier created by language.

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Just as the hustlers in Washington Square park help bring people together, chess plays a universal role in bringing different cultures together

For the last ten years, it has been one of the core defining characteristics of who I am. And that wasn’t about to change just because I started going to college or working.

All the tears, the fights, the late nights, the fast food that I’ve suffered/enjoyed will always be a part of who I am, be a part of how I face the day. While there are plenty of people that like to tell me that chess is simply “just a game” – no. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a choice. For those of us who have devoted so much of our time to it, it is much, much more than just a game.

Our ability to play and understand and love chess is something that’s like riding a bike – it will never go away. It will, truly, be there. Forever & always.


Back to the Basics

The most recent tournament I attended was the Liberty Bell Open in Philadelphia this past January. Let’s just say it wasn’t the most successful of tournaments  – now I will admit that compared to my performance at Millionaire’s Open last October, it was honestly a huge improvement. Sure, my results were far from beautiful – just 3/7. But after all these years of tournaments, I’ve come to appreciate my game quality a lot more than my game results.

In the third round of Liberty Bell, I was paired with black against GM Alexander Shabalov. Not only was I black against someone over 400 points higher than me, a GM, but he was also my coach for a time in high school before I realized how bad I was at time management and dropped private lessons to focus on school. I walked into the game with the mindset that I was going to be slaughtered within ten moves and get an early and good nights sleep.=

Right as the game was about to start, I thought to myself “Ok, you’re going to lose. Accept that. Now just play a good game of chess.” Usually, I hate cliche little sayings like that where we’re giving ourselves pep talks (and honestly if someone else had said something like that to me, I probably would have completely dismissed them), but recently with the overwhelming constant movement of college, I’ve realized how important it is to just take a breath and to start over from the beginning. To stop worrying about the result, and to just worry about whether or not each of our moves are preventing the threats that we can see, if each of our moves have a purpose.


Sometimes we get so caught up in the results of what we’re doing, we forget that without the basics, without the little tactics that we developed into our intuition, we would be absolutely nowhere in the game of chess.

So just as Isaac emphasize when he first started Chess^Summit, I implore all of you – stop looking at your rating, at your opponents ratings. And just play a good game of chess. It is only then that we can beat the inner us that fights our intuition and logical thinking and blinds us with thoughts of vengeance for a previous loss or paranoia from other games.