By Kyra Gillespie
Five teen girls have taken out the title as national chess champions this week.
Emerging victorious from the National Interschool Chess Championships, which were held on Monday 3 and Tuesday 4 December at Monash University, the Pakenham Secondary College students got the highest score in the ‘Girls Middle Year’ section.
Mary, Elina, Aleisha, Abby and Zoe versed players from 21 other schools – most of whom were male.
“We were one of the very few schools who had a girls team,” Pakenham Secondary College teacher and chess tutor Sergio De Lima said.
“There were only three or four other girls in the whole tournament, so they had to verse the boys.”
The girls had been brushing up on their skills most school lunchbreaks in the lead up to the prestigious competition.
“Nationals are the hardest tournament and you’re up against the most skilled players in Australia,” competitor Aleisha said.
“It’s really scary, but you learn from the older, more experienced players. If they out-think you and beat you it gives you the opportunity to go back and study their plan and use versions of their tricks.”
For 14-year-old Elina, playing chess at school is not always about the game.
“The chess club can be a bit of an outlet and safe haven; everyone feels supported here,” she said.
“It’s not just about the chess, but the friendships made along the way.”