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High school in Winston-Salem starts all-girls chess group

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Atkins Academic & Technology High School has started an all-girls chess group.

“The older a girl gets, fewer and fewer girls play, and so by high school time, they’re just vastly outnumbered,” said chess coach Scott Plaster.

Plaster created the club in hopes it would help spark interest among female students.

“I set a new goal, not to have the best team in the state because we did that, but to have the biggest and best girls team in the state,” he said.

“I feel like the key point of the girl meetings is not to divide the chess team into male and female, it’s just to increase female involvement, make it less intimidating,” Lizzie Young said.

Although there is a club available specifically to female students, the ladies can also play with their male peers.

Cora McAnulty says she would play even if there weren’t a girls group available, but credits the team for giving her the push to join in the first place.

Plaster says the number of girls that go to tournaments has doubled.

Jaya Neevenkat has only been playing chess for three months, but says her skills have improved greatly.

“I really built my confidence to start playing people who are in [a] higher level than me, so that really helped,” she said.

“If we can build their confidence and self-esteem, then I think we’ve met our goal,” Plaster said.

Atkins’ won the K-12 U1600 North Carolina State Scholastic Chess Championship last year.