A new tradition at SPFGI

It was my dream to revolutionize chess for young people, especially girls. I strongly believe that chess can and will help kids of all ages, in many different aspects. Naturally, some will want to take chess seriously, maybe to become grandmasters. But for most, chess will be a fun game which can teach them many valuable life lessons.

15 years ago, I fought very hard to create a brand new all-girls event, the first ever in the United States. I faced many objections and challenges to this idea. Eventually, the USCF gave in and approved the SPF Girl’s Invitational in 2002-2003. The 1st ever all-girls event took place in 2004. Many young ladies who took part in the early SPFGI went on to college, have families, and wonderful careers. Many became doctors, lawyers, mathematicians, engineers, bankers, entrepreneurs, etc. Some are starting to teach their own kids chess.

Because of the SPFGI, today there are countless all-girls tournaments and girl’s chess initiative across the country. Not only more girls participate in chess, the level went up dramatically! SPFGI remains the richest all-girls event in the world, with over $207,500 in scholarships and cash prizes. In addition, ALL qualifiers and official state/national representatives receive free housing and meals. We expect over 70 players from all over the US and 13 countries in North, Central and South America this year. The tournament budget is about $250,000.

We are starting a new tradition at SPFGI!

Beginning this year, we are inviting some alums of this event back to talk to the current group of participants, about how chess played a major role in their lives. Here are the four alums this year:

Alexandra Wiener

Alex is an analyst at Goldman Sachs in the Investment Banking Division, where she is part the Financial and Strategic Investors Group. Alex graduated with a BA in Business, Entrepreneurship and Organizations (BEO) from Brown University in 2016.

At Brown, she was the Chief Recruitment Officer and an Executive Board Member for Kappa Alpha Theta, traveled frequently to play for the Brown Women’s Club Soccer team, and served as the President of Brown’s Chess Team.

Selected Chess Highlights:

– Peak: Expert Titled player (USCF: 2021) and U.S. Women’s ranking: 40 (Oct-2013)
– U.S. Junior Girls U21 Closed Championships: Qualified as one of ten nationally (Jul-2014)
– U.S. Girls Junior Open Champion (18 years & under – Jun-2012)
– USCF Scholar Chess Player Award/Scholarship (Apr-2012)
Seven time Connecticut State Female Scholastic Champion
Five time CT representative to Susan Polgar National All-Girls Invitational
Alexandra Botez
Alexandra Botez started playing chess when she was six years old. She became the US Girls National Champion at 15 and is a three-time member of the Canadian Women’s Olympiad Team.
Alexandra recently graduated with a B.A. in International Relations from Stanford University. As an undergrad, Alexandra founded a startup and raised a little under $1M in venture capital funding.
She is now working on her company full time but continues to engage with the chess community over social media and in-person lessons
Rebecca Lelko
Two time Ohio representative to SPF Girls’ Invitational and former member of SPICE while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Texas Tech University.
After graduating with a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania, joined trading firm Radix Trading in summer 2016 as a quantitative researcher.
Emily Tallo
Emily Tallo grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana and graduated from Canterbury High School in 2013. She then attended Indiana University Bloomington as a Herbert Presidential Scholar, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor of Science in International Studies concentrating in diplomacy, security, and governance.
She also completed certificates in Global French and Applied Research and Inquiry and spent considerable time abroad during her undergraduate career, including a five-month study abroad experience in Aix-en-Provence, France and a two-month internship in New Delhi, India. Emily now works on international education programs at Indiana University’s Office of International Development and is seeking a career in international relations in Washington D.C.
Emily Tallo is a Candidate Master who has competed in many national and international chess tournaments, including the 2011 World Youth Chess Championships in Brazil. Though Emily stopped competing while pursuing her undergraduate degree, she instructs chess students of all ages and strengths and still loves to attack with the Smith Morra Gambit. She owes her success in chess to her former coach Jim Dean.
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