Iowa City West High School freshman starts chess club for young girls

Organized and led by Iowa City West High School freshman Anjali Lodh, The Chess Butterflies is a club that teaches elementary-aged girls how to play chess.

Larry Phan

A chessboard is presented on Wednesday, March 9, 2022.

Anjali Lodh started playing chess at age five. Sitting with her father while waiting for her brother to be done with the Iowa City Public Library Chess Club, Lodh’s father would teach her how to play.

Over the years of playing, Lodh noticed a glaring problem in the representation of competitive chess. Whether in clubs, training, camps or competitions, Lodh said he saw far more men than women involved in the sport.

Nine years after her first chess matches with her father, Lodh started The Chess Butterflies in 2019, a chess club exclusively for elementary-aged girls who want to learn how to play. The club has just resumed after a brief hiatus during the pandemic and meets every Sunday at the Coralville Public Library.

Lodh said the disparity between men and women in chess can make women feel unwelcome.

“It’s really important because girls give up because they don’t have anyone to play with,” Lodh said. “It’s just not very encouraging to deal with rude remarks and sexism in chess.”

Lodh said that while a single group like the Chess Butterflies cannot solve the whole problem of the gender gap in chess, she hopes the group forms a community of players who can support each other. .

“There are many factors that contribute to [the gender gap in chess]so we decided that if we could raise the next generation of chess kids, they could carry on with each other,” Lodh said.

Lodh leads the group entirely by herself. She noted that teaching girls to play chess is very different from playing chess, but learning to do both has been rewarding.

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“They always ask questions and it’s really overwhelming at times trying to deal with all the little kids, but it’s really, really rewarding to watch them play chess and have fun with each other,” he said. she declared.

Lodh said his experiences learning chess weren’t always positive. When she joined a chess club in primary school, she attended long lectures and “buzzing” lessons that she said were not intended for young people.

The Chess Butterflies focuses on improving chess education. With lessons tailored specifically for kids, Lodh hopes to keep players engaged and interested in learning.

“I know I was like those kids, so I try to keep it as fun and engaging as possible and take breaks or snacks so they don’t get overwhelmed or exhausted,” she said. .

While chess butterflies are organized and performed by Lodh, his family helps him. Her dad, Romy Lodh, helps set up and clean the boards and gear, and coaches some of the kids one-on-one.

“My favorite part of the club is seeing Anjali doing a great job imparting chess knowledge through a mix of chess lessons and fun activities,” Romy wrote in an email to The Iowan Daily. “A lot of kids tell their parents that chess butterflies are their favorite activity of the week.”

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