My name is Devanshi Kothari and I am a junior at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, IL. I started playing chess when I was in 2nd grade and began to participate in competitive tournaments soon after. My home school in Peoria did not have a chess program, so I traveled to another school to participate in their after-school chess club and for practice played with Seniors through the Hult Chess Center. At both the places, I was always the only girl chess player. Initially, it did not bother me as it seemed to be a lot of fun to beat the boys and win against men even older than my dad.
However, as I began to grow older the gender disparities in chess began to become more and more distinct to me. Even when we traveled around the state for tournaments, the number of female chess players were always minimal compared to the male players. Chess took up majority of my time outside of school. However, without any girls to enjoy this time with, it felt like isolation. As a young teenager, I had begun to grow tired of being the only girl in the chess room. My interest began to shift to other activities that had more female participation. In spite, of my love for the game and promising potential, beginning of middle school marked the end of my chess journey.
Looking back, I realize that it should not have gone this way. Statistics indicate that my story is not unique. There is only one female chess player for every thirteen male players in the US. Looking at scholastic chess participation, the gender gap keeps widening with growing age and grade levels. In spite of high performances and the clear correlation of chess with success at school, girls drop out of chess because of the stereotyping attitudes and lack of companionship in this sport. The Chess Queens is an attempt to rewrite this story by providing teen girls and young women a safe and socially welcoming platform where they would be motivated to learn and continue with chess while enjoying comraderies and cultivating connections.