#mychessqg Shayna Provine
Growing up shy, chess appealed to me because it was a game where I didn’t have to talk to anyone. At first, during tournaments, I would play my game and then immediately go stay with my family until the next round. Eventually though, I noticed other kids who would hang out together in between rounds, and I soon found myself also wanting chess friends. I realize now that what I wanted back then was a community to be a part of. I wanted to get out of the chess world valuable relationships and a deeper sense of belonging. I’m happy to say that I managed to build a community with other girls who play chess, so I just thought I’d talk a bit about the importance and impact that my friends have had on me.
At chess tournaments in Illinois, the fact that not many girls play meant I got to know the few girls who did pretty well and pretty quickly. During regular tournaments, it was nice to have someone to bond with over shared experiences, from finding mixed doubles partners to dealing with boys. During the Girls Invitational Qualifier, it was always a fun competition to play against my friends, and I appreciate that we all took the games seriously while also maintaining our friendships. And then there was the Susan Polgar Foundation Girls’ Invitational, an all-girls, week-long chess camp, where I made even more friends that I still keep in touch with.
In high school, I came to realize just how important this community was to me when I suddenly found myself as the only girl on my school’s chess team. I will admit that I struggled a bit freshman year, until I transferred to the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and met my roommate, who just so happened to be the other girl on the chess team. Just having that one point of support was enough to encourage the both of us to continue doing our best, and we managed to win the Illinois High School Association Team Chess State Championship two years in a row with three girls on the team. During the tournament itself, we even got to see our other friends playing for their respective high schools. The fact that we were all competitors never mattered to us and never stopped us from saying hi and wishing each other good luck.
Overall, I’m extremely grateful for all the friends I’ve made while playing chess. They helped me realize that there was more to chess than just winning and losing. There was also friendship, personal growth, and shared experiences that contributed to making me the chess player and person that I am today. Even though we may all go our separate ways outside of the chess world, it’s nice to know that we all still have that bond. For example, that roommate in high school is still one of my best friends to this day (hi Cassie). To this day, we’re all connected through Instagram, Facebook, etc., and seeing everyone from our little community absolutely thriving makes me happy to have been a part of it.