Girls develop their chess-playing at Susan Polgar Invitational

Posted: July 29, 2011 – 11:39pm | Updated: July 30, 2011 – 12:13am


Slouched far into her chair, nametag fumbling in her hands, Aksitini Ramalingam seemed more interested in her lanyard than her father’s explanation of her love of chess.

“The girls started playing chess in January,” Eswaran Ramalingam said. “We have a private coach and are trying to help them with lots of focus.”

Ramalingam spoke in reference to his two daughters, Aksitini, 10, and Ashrita, 5. Both were competitors in this week’s Texas Tech Susan Polgar Invitational- an educational and competitive chess tournament.

Ashrita sat in her mother’s lap, shy and whispering to her parent, as her father continued to speak.

“We are very thankful to Susan and what she’s doing for girls’ chess,” he said. “She takes players’ game to the next level and we love to come every year.”

Originally from India, now residents of San Jose, Calif., Ramalingam explained his daughters’ chess levels in terms of points, Aksitini, coming off a 1300-point gain, putting her at the fourth level and 1572 points overall.

The soon-to-be sixth-grader spoke softly.

“I like playing chess.”

She quickly looked to her father. He smiled at his daughter, eyes gleaming.

Eight years since its conception, the chess invitational began this year with three days of chess class where more than 50 girls from across the nation and around the world learned chess strategies under direction of Grandmaster Polgar herself.

Polgar, with assistance from Paul Truong, coaches the Texas Tech Knight Raiders, 2011 President’s Cup national champions. According to Tech’s biography page on Polgar, she was the number one ranked chess player in the world.

“People don’t realize how lucky they are to have access to Susan in Lubbock,” Jill of Shreveport, La., said. “She is changing these girls’ and our lives.”

Wyzywany, a mother of four, said the family of six drove nine hours to have their two eldest daughters, Amelia and Annastasia, compete in the chess invitational.

Her husband Ken Wyzywany said his 12-and 13-year-old daughters respectively are the ones encouraging their family to pursue chess.

“They are the ones dragging us to the lessons,” the U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel said. “Commuting gets expensive and we can’t have ready access to Susan from Louisiana. Too bad there’s not an air force base here in town.”

Five-year-old Elle and her 10-year-old brother are the two younger siblings to Amelia and Annastasia. All are homeschooled, practicing musical instruments, learning another language and familiar with the game of chess.

Each yes and no question was followed with a confident, “yes, ma’am,” or, “no ma’am,” regardless of who asked.

“I prayed to God about what to put my children in,” Jill said. “When he told me it was chess, I told him he would have to make it happen to be so. A few days later a friend whose son played gave us a chess set, an instructional book and the offer of her son’s help.”

The two girls sat with their eyes forward as their mother shared their particular rankings.

“Anna has been the highest rated female in the state for two years,” Jill said with her unwavering smile, eyes wide. “She’s also the Louisiana state champion and she’s rated second highest overall.”

Amelia said she had won two of her three games during Thursday’s second round of play.

Later during Wednesday’s matches, Annastasia said she defeated Philadelphia player Vanita Young, featured Tuesday in The Avalanche-Journal. She, like Annastasia, said she won two of her three games Thursday.

A few corrections to Tuesday’s article: Vanita has never been involved with the foster care system, she lives with both grandparents and her chess invitational chaperone, Melanie Brennan, wears glasses – not Vanita.

After Thursday’s rounds, known shoe enthusiast, Polgar, treated Vanita to three pairs of shoes at DSW. Vanita made her selection carefully before deciding on two pairs of sandals and a pair of Nike running shoes.

“I have about 60 pairs of shoes,” Polgar said trying on a black suede, spiked heal shoe. “I just really like them.”

Paul Truong said Polgar’s generosity extends beyond Vanita’s evening in the shoe warehouse. He said the chess grandmaster also presented Dyhemia Young, featured in also Tuesday’s article.

“Susan got her a laptop because she wants her to continue her education,” Truong said. “If we can impact one girl, it’s worth it. We’ve definitely impacted more than one.”

Polgar also founded the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence, an organization dedicated to academic excellence through chess with a focus in young women.

Jill Wyzywany and her daughter Annastasia were also present at Thursday evening’s break from chess.

Wyzywany was moved to tears as the group wrapped up their purchases.

“I am just blown away by Susan’s generosity,” Wyzywany said explaining to her daughter why she was crying. “She has done so much for these girls.”

Friday’s closing ceremonies of the chess tournament followed a pizza party paid in part for by friends and family of the players’ generosity, Peggy Flores said.

Flores, the unit coordinator for the event, handled media contacts and players’ day-to-days during the weeklong training and playing tournament.

“We are so grateful for everyone’s support,” Flores said. “We cannot thank everyone enough.”

Polgar stood before the crowd of about 75 people Friday afternoon for the closing ceremony and gave a few remarks before presenting the tournament’s awards.

“This is about a lot more than just a few chess games,” Polgar said, her Hungarian accent masked behind a smile. “This plays into society and as you all have seen chess can be a life changing experience.”

Awards commenced with words from Lubbock Mayor Tom Martin and Tech’s vice president of Institutional Diversity Juan Munoz, Ph.D.

The two gave their congratulations and an invitation to the University for Future Educational Endeavors.

Besides receiving pairs of shoes, Vanita’s Cinderella story continued as Polgar began the award ceremony. Vanita received a $1,000 scholarship and finished 12th overall with four wins and two loses according to the results posted on Polgar’s blog,

Dyhemia Young, a California team living in a group home in San Francisco at the invitational courtesy of Jada Pinkett-Smith, also received a $1,000 scholarship. She was emotional upon returning to her seat.

Both girls said they have plans to attend college in the future. Dyhemia said she was interested in pursuing sports at Howard or Georgia Tech among other historically African-American universities. Vanita said she was interested in attending Tech.

The overall winner of the tournament with a perfect 6-0 record for games played was Apurva Virkud of Michigan.

Polgar spoke directly to Virkud before presenting the silver handled tournament cup to be adorned with her name on an engraved black and gold plaque.

“I remember you 500, 600 points ago,” Polgar said. “I remember you 5-to-6 inches ago. You have made tremendous progress.”

Virkud was also presented with an Acer Netbook and congratulations from her opponents.

Truong spoke before the crowd Friday reminding those in attendance of Polgar’s struggle to overcome gender adversity. The four-time winner of the Women’s World Championship and five-time Olympic Gold medalist Polgar was the first woman to break the gender barrier in the game of chess.

“No woman ever played at this level before Susan. She was denied a chance to compete in the world championship cycle because she is a woman,” Truong said. “This wasn’t 100 years ago either.”

He paused as his emotions choked his throat and tears swelled in his eyes.

“I just wanted to remind you you’re making a difference by playing this game,” he said. “Remember that you are special and share your experience with us here with the world.”

The crowd clapped as the last of the awards was presented including a congenial award to Maraani Kamphorst of Brazil. Kamphorst said she was at the invitational by special invitation from Polgar and finished her games played with a perfect 4-0.

“Everything beautiful has to come to an end. Be proud of your success,” Polgar said. “Until next year.”

Source: Avalanche Journal

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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