“Judit Polgar” in Blankenberge

The annual Belgian Youth Chess Championship took place at the Floreal Hotel in Blankenberge from April 10 to 16, 2022.

For a whole week, 346 children competed for the title of champion of Belgium in their respective age category.

For the side events of the tournament, the organizers had invited the real ‘Beth Harmon’, Judit Polgar, the strongest female chess player ever.

Since the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit, a layman will not associate chess only with men like Fischer, Kasparov and Carlsen.

Women can also stand their ground too. What the layman is less aware of is that “Beth Harmon” already had a predecessor in the real world of chess: Judit Polgar.

The Hungarian became the youngest grandmaster ever at the age of 15 and always played at the top of the world, with an 8th place in the world ranking as her highest ranking.

Since she quit competitive chess in 2014, the champion has been committed to promoting women’s chess and school chess. She firmly believes that more girls would make it to the top if they were challenged more and did not limit their goals themselves to the desire to become “the best girl”.

She mainly denounces the difference in expectations that society places in boys and girls and she illustrated this by citing an example from education.

Doesn’t a teacher tend to ask the more difficult questions to boys and reserve the easier ones for the girls and the weaker students? All well intentioned of course so as not to damage the self-confidence of the girls, but shouldn’t we give the stronger girls more challenges?

Since the World Chess Federation has chosen “Women and Chess” as its theme this year, this was an excellent opportunity for the organizers to invite Judit Polgar to the Belgian Youth Championship. For Polgar’s master class on Friday 15/04, the allowed number of 60 chess players was immediately reached and the simultaneous game held later. In the end, half of the girls competed against the Hungarian champion.

Twenty-six girls lost, but 15-year-old Diana Musabayeva who plays in East Flanders at LSV-Chesspirant chess club, was able to hold the champion to a draw. Quite simply, a splendid performance!

With one female participant out of six in the youth championship, the girls do not seem to have found their way to the chessboard yet, but this is already a big improvement over the field of participants thirty years ago, when only a handful of girls were counted in the championship.

In some series this is still the case, such as in the U20, where only Daria Vanduyfhuys from Ghent registered. Due to her invitation to the first “She Plays To Win”-tournament, organized by IM Lorin D’Costa, she could only play from the fourth round, but that did not stop her from reaching a sixth place, with 5 points from 6 games. The boys who finished ahead of her, have all played three games more …

Yet in that category there was no measure of Sterre Dauw. He won all his games and may compete in August for the Belgian title in the adults series.

Yet this tournament teaches us that girls in chess should increase. If the number of participants respected the proportions in our society, you would probably not distinguish between boys and girls in the world of chess.

All results can be found on the site of the organizer: www.bycco.be

Text by Philippe Vukojevic youth director of Belgian Chess Federation.