Sunday, March 20, 2011

A New Award for Promising Female Chess Players in Canada

I don't often visit what's going on in the chess world of our great neighbor to the north, but invariably I find something interesting there when I to take the time to vist.  It was through visiting ChessTalk, a popular chess bulletin board in Canada, that Goddesschess first found out about the City of Montreal Chess Championships - and decided to offer a modest amount of money for separate prizes for the chess femmes playing in that event.  That was in 2009.  The rest, as the saying goes, is herstory :)

On this cold and rainy morning (my rain gutters are clogged with branches and twigs from my mini-forest in the backyard and are currently overflowing with the downpour - my own view of Niagra Falls outside my patio door.  Ahh, yes, spring in Wisconsin...) I checked in at ChessTalk and came across some very interesting news:

On March 17th (St. Paddy's Day and an excuse for all Wisconsinites but especially Milwaukeeans, who do love their beer and booze, to party hearty) it was reported by Hazel Smith that an anonymous donor has undertaken a five-year commitment to fund a $100 a year "Youth Girls Award" for a promising female junior chessplayer.  The first player selected for the Youth Girls Award is Nicole Birarov (currently 68th rated female player in Canada with an ELO of 1050). I want to make special note that as a result of winning this award, Nicole will also receive free entry to the Ontario Girls' Chess Championship, if she enters to play. 

Congratulations to Ms. Birarov! 

Every dollar received to assist with training and expenses, every entry fee that does not have to be paid, is a boon to chessplayers (female and male) in a sport/art/craft where money is always short and recognition is scant unless you're in the ranks of the elite 20 or so players in the world (and even many of them struggle to make a decent living).   

After Hazel Smith made the announcement, some interesting discussion ensued - you can check it out if you're interested.  Overall response has been positive. 

For myself, I think it's a great idea. Nope, it's not Goddesschess who is the anonymous donor - we've got our hands full funding our commitments here in the states and in Canada to give support to female chessplayers - and in most cases we want it known that we're out there funding prizes and other initiatives for chess femmes!  Yes, it's true, we're just a bunch of hopeless egomaniacs!

So, to whoever the Anonymous was who decided to fund the "Youth Girls Award" - kudos to you.  Until there is parity in the world of chess between male and female players, both in terms of numbers and relative performance, well, our audience knows how Goddesschess feels - chess femmes need what help we can give to achieve those goals!

About Hazel Smith (if you read the message board entries you will see that she is the person who first posted the news of the "Youth Girls Award" at ChessTalk on March 17) - I was not familiar with her but she posted a link to her blog so I checked it out. (You can check out a small number of Hazel Smith's chess games at
Hazel Smith earned a WFM title and my Goddess, she looks very young!   I checked at the FIDE website and learned that Ms. Smith was born in 1991 (so she's 19 or 20 years old) and has a current FIDE rating of 2037.  Ms. Smith has not played any FIDE rated games since January 2009 - has she given up active play?  Ms. Smith does not presently appear on the top Canadian female players, which I belive is restricted to "active" players.

Ms. Smith is administrator of the Elaine Howie Fund for Chess Juniors, which she established privately in honor of her aunt, Elaine Howie.  It is a new endeavor that I believe was established in late 2010.  From what I've read, I understand the Elaine Howie Fund will make annual monetary grants to promising junior chess players in Canada, not gender specific.  The separately funded "Youth Girls Award" is being administered under the auspices of the Elaine Howie Fund for Chess Juniors, but is limited to female chess players. 

I'm so happy to see these exciting private chess initiatives in Canada.  It's very inspiring!

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