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  • Writer's pictureJames Neal

2024 Iowa Girls Chess Championship

Competing with the 2024 Chess Girls

Iowa Girls along with James the House Player

I consider myself one of the biggest fans of Iowa chess. I cannot keep myself away from serious chess events even if they happen to be lopsided and weak with respect to my own ability. The intensity and emotional toll going into these events is what makes the competition so engaging. This weekend all the young and aspiring Iowa chess playing girls come to participate in what could only be described as an intense battle for second place... Irene Fei (1846) is the top-rated girl in this event, and she secures that position with a staggering 500+ rating edge. The winner of this tournament will secure Iowa’s representation in the 2024 National Girls tournament of Champions in Norfolk Virginia. Irene’s closest competitor is Arina with a rating of 1328. For those who are unaware of the gravity of 518-point rating edge, it means that Irene has a roughly 95.17% chance of beating Arina in a head-to-head game. I do not think it would help any of the girls if I mentioned this statistic to them so… I will keep that information to myself.


The local favorite is currently Prisha (509), unless Ava or Amy show up. The event is expected to last the entirety of the day so I can only hope her brother shows up… Yeah, Iowa City needs to step its game up, but I see that as partially my fault because I am an elite motivator and chess organizer that has been away from the area for about 2 years… Our chances of taking the championship, this year, should be negligible unless Irene gets sick which I hope doesn’t happen because whomever we send to replace her would not make the Iowa look that competitive… (Yeah, that’s cold…)


The Top boards of the Senior and Girls section

The other tournament, running alongside the Iowa Girl’s Championship, was the Iowa Senior Championship. The winner of the Senior section is also given the right to represent Iowa in the national event. There were fewer seniors, but the section was competitive: Valeriy Kosokin (2212), Jasmin Zulik (1930), George Eichorn along with 4 others. There is no point in not playing spoiler… Kosokin will not represent Iowa this year.

 

Since there were 7 participants in this event, my dream of pretending I was competing in one of the championships, as a house player, had come to pass. I spent some time trying to coach up our local champion, Prisha, on how to properly manage Irene’s London. After a very brief explanation of a strategy I thought to be simple and effective, Prisha was given the white pieces…


My first round was against an 8-year-old named Dasha. The game was the shortest of my games but I have a feeling she was probably the most advanced. You’re probably wondering, how can you make such a bold statement from such limited data? Well, she developed her pieces with purpose. When she brought her bishop to c4, that let me know she could coordinate her pieces towards a goal. She is still at the point where she pays little attention to motives of her opponent but that is a work in progress…

8-year-old putting NM James under some pressure

Next round, I was set to play white against Prisha. Irene (1846) won and was now set to play the second highest rated player Arina (1328). I beat Prisha in 15 moves along with enduring the frustration of knowing advice I gave her was lost. However, I do not think she thought anything would improve her chances against me. She was the oldest of the girls I faced but her inferiority complex made this a no-contest. The real battle was taking place on the first board! Arina recently moved to Iowa and was displaying some high-level positional understanding. For much of the game, it appeared as though she was playing Irene at least at an equal level. Unfortunately, here time management was a big issue and resulted in her losing a pawn and the game in the endgame. I will be looking forward to observing more of her games in the future.

The Intense Battle between #1 and #2

Last round I played a game against the youngest girl Naomi. She was 5, I think, and showed basic development abilities but that was about it (Mate in 15). Jasmin won the Senior Championship, and I am certain Irene won her final game. I suppose the most difficult decision Irene has coming up is whether she wants to be the Rockefeller or the Girls representative…

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