Whatley Astonishes All At Final Championships
Posted March 27, 2014
COLUMBIA – As the defending female champion in your final state championships, you are certainly looking for a way to add a crowning achievement to your career. Something that would stand above past performances and meet your personal expectations and the expectations of your supporters. Such was the position of Tori Whatley, on Saturday, as she entered the playing hall at the 2014 South Carolina Scholastic Chess Championships. And did she ever deliver.
In her ninth and final Scholastic State Chess Championship tournament, Whatley caused quite a stir and displayed remarkable character, opting not to compete, but to work alongside her father, David, as a tournament director. In doing this, she created the opportunity for another girl to be named as the South Carolina Chess Association’s “official” representative to the Susan Polgar Girls’ Invitational tournament. “Since I’m eligible to return to the event on a special alumni invitation, I thought it would be great to share this wonderful experience with another girl, and give our state two seats at the competition. I didn’t want to have an effect on anyone’s chance” , she said.
David Grimaud, the South Carolina Chess Association president, called Tori to the podium during the opening remarks to point out this selfless act and touched on some of her career highlights to thunderous applause from the nearly 160 assembled players and their families.
Almost ten years ago, when the Edgefield county standout began playing, it was rare to see another girl at a S.C. chess event, so it would be easy to assume that many of her awards are because she is a girl, but bear in mind that since few girls were playing chess, there were literally no female awards to be presented. Of Tori’s forty-six trophies and medals, and eight state titles, only seven are female specific. She challenged what was, traditionally, a male sport in our state. Over time, her skill and notoriety increased, leading her to become somewhat of a role model for other girls who had not played in tournaments. This year there were twenty one girls at the championships.
In 2008, Tori Whatley became the first girl to ever represent South Carolina on the national stage, competing in the Susan Polgar Girls’ Invitational tournament. Over the next five years, she earned her way back to the event four more times. Tori, along with New Mexico’s, Rebecca Deland, hold the distinction of being the only two girls in the United States to have appeared at five Polgar Invitationals, a particularly daunting task, considering that each year over 3000 young ladies compete for one of the 52, highly coveted, state representative invitations (Texas and California get two), or handful of special invitations.
It is believed that Tori is the first female scholastic player in the 88 year history of the South Carolina Chess Association to surpass 100 over-the-board victories, an act recently witnessed in Charleston, by an event coordinator from North Carolina who was on hand that day to watch Tori play, and personally extend an invitation for her to compete at the Southern Girls Regional Chess Championships in Charlotte, which, is open to all female K-12 players that wish to participate.
Mr. Whatley was also honored Saturday for his efforts as the State Scholastic Coordinator in growing support for the royal game in South Carolina. “With the help of some amazing people, there has been a nearly 30% increase in participation in the last three years”, he stated, “More people are realizing the awesome benefits of this game”.
The father and daughter team have made an indelible mark on scholastic chess at the state level. Mr. Whatley intends to stay involved locally, while Tori has her sights on becoming a student at Webster University, and being a part of the nation’s number one ranked collegiate chess team, which is coached by four-time Women’s World Champion, Grandmaster Susan Polgar. “Susan is always telling us to be ambassadors for the game of chess. She is all about fair play, generosity, and respect”, said Tori, “I just want to do my part, and be a part of that”.
It will never be known if Whatley’s participation as a player Saturday would’ve had a negative impact on one of the other girl’s chances of following in her footsteps, but it gave the Edgefield County standout another “first” in her long list of accomplishments. She’s the first girl to gain a tournament director credit for her final state championships.
Ms. Polgar, I think you have something to work with here.