Being male and growing up aged 9 playing chess, I didn’t pay too much attention to girls in chess. After all, when you go to your first tournaments, it is the thrill and challenge to play our royal game that we are concerned with. You also start to make your chess friends, often randomly at these competitions. It might be that one of my first tournaments I played, the British Junior Chess Championships in Norwich in 1994, where I played 4 girls in 7 rounds (losing most of these games) that I subconsciously just assumed girls were commonplace in chess.
It was also at this tournament that my father pointed out a little girl who was holding 4 trophies she had won at the championships during the closing ceremony. She could barely hold them all at the same time. ‘Look’ he said to me, ‘they’ve come from India to play here, and she’s won all the titles she could have won’. Her name was Tania Sachdev. You will study her in this book.
My older sister Emma used to (does still?) take great delight in defeating me at golf, tennis and other games and sports. She even used to play chess, until she declared age 11 ‘that it could be your thing’. That was very generous of her. Certainly playing for her women’s football team, I saw stigma attached to this. Back in the 1990s football was seen as a ‘boys thing’ and these girls were trying to break this image. Why couldn’t they get involved too?
As I write in 2021 we can see huge changes have been made. Women’s football, amongst other sports, are very popular. In terms of chess, however, it is still unclear. This one has confused me as I have been a full time chess coach for around 15 years. Chess is not a physical game, and hence I refer you back to the quote at the top by Susan Polgar- why on earth should girls not be playing chess as much as boys? Whilst I do not intend to discuss that topic in length here, I believe that maybe something should be made known for these potential female chess enthusiasts; that there are role models for them to look up to, to be inspired by. It is for this reason I am writing this book. Find your role model. This book contains games from every single female World Champion, as well as young up and comers, top seasoned professionals, streamers, and even a section at Beth Harmon from the recent famed Queen’s Gambit hit show.
This book is not just for girls and women, however. Any chess player can learn from these games and discover female chess history, both from the famous players in the past right up to the present day. How have these games been selected?
It is at this point I can mention the real reason- my UK Girls chess project called ‘She Plays To Win’ (SPTW). This group has officially been going since April 11th 2020. I had the idea even a few years before, but I was not sure how it could be set up. The unfortunate events of worldwide lockdown provided the answer, as the switch to being online allowed me to offer zoom lessons for UK girls as well as weekly girls tournaments on the Lichess server. I do this for free and parents have never paid anything to get involved.
Each week I cover a top female player and we analyse the game. Over the past year I have built up a large collection of games and tactics, which I felt could be published. It is the most up to date collection about women’s chess covering a variety of ages and levels. After nearly two years, I have nearly 500 girls across the UK signed up, and a further 200 girls in our new beginners programme. I hope this is just the beginning. After all, on our official website www.sheplaystowin.co.uk the tagline reads ‘Every Girl in the UK should play and learn chess- the educational benefits are huge’. I can announce that I personally will not take a penny from this book, as 10% of the proceeds from sales will go directly to the She Plays To Win charity in order to further the SPTW UK girls chess projects. So not only can you benefit a lot from this book personally, your purchase will benefit UK girls chess immensely. I'd like to thank Herman Grooten for his excellent work on editing and helping me run with the project in the latter stages, as well as Lennart Ootes, John Upham, Jos Sutmuller and all those who contributed with the photos. Finally, I’d like to thank Daniel and Thinkers Publishing for helping to carry out this book.
I was told by a few other publishers that they would not collaborate because ‘no one is interested in girl’s chess’. I was therefore glad that Daniel immediately jumped at the opportunity to publish this book, and that he and his team were able to see the chance to further the huge potential there is for women’s chess, not just in the UK, but around the world.
IM Lorin D’Costa