Aiken-area chess players defy gender stereotypes
Local woman, girls learn from mentors
By James Folker
Friday, Feb. 12, 2016
About 20 years before Tori Whatley found an old chess set in a closet and asked her father what it was, Susan Polgar became the first woman ever to qualify for the World Chess Championship.
In 1986, it was a men’s event, and she wasn’t allowed to play.
That would change eventually, largely because of the undeniable talent of female players such as Polgar, who became the first woman to earn the title of grandmaster in 1991.
Polgar, who won her first tournament at age 4 in Hungary and become a four-time women’s world champion, learned from her father, Laszlo. He taught her two sisters, too, and all were prodigies.
Tori learned the game the same way, from her father, who seized the opportunity in the found chess set and made it a mainstay of their relationship.
“I hadn’t played in years, but I started teaching her,” David Whatley said.
He did a good job.
Tori, who started playing in third grade, was the top female scholastic chess player in South Carolina by the time she was a sixth-grader. That accomplishment came with an invitation to play in the Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls, representing her state.
She went back again and again. By the time she was a senior at Strom Thurmond High School, Polgar invited her to attend Webster University in St. Louis on a chess scholarship and as a member of the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence.
Now, as a college sophomore, she plays on the top Division I chess team in the nation, with teammates from around the world, many of whom won national championships in their native countries.
But ask Tori, and she’ll tell you her playing takes a back seat to something else.
“I’m about an average player, but I’m really good at teaching others,” she said.
Full article here.