Brooklyn all-girls chess team raising money to go to National Championship

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT, Brooklyn — An all-girls chess team is looking to raise money to head to a national tournament in Chicago next month.

Ten girls between the ages of 7 and 10 form the Queens of Chess in Kings County club. They meet every other Wednesday evening and tonight they invited PIX11 along.

“I love how you get to play with other people, meet new people, experience travel and have fun,” 9-year-old Farrah Mussasaid.

Farrah and her Aunt, Kim Kirkley, started the club.

They were on vacation and there was a chess board where they were staying. Farrah kept winning when playing against her aunt and other adults. Kirkley saw something special in Farrah, that her love for the game should be nurtured. Farrah was the only girl in her after-school chess program, so the club was formed and girls signed up.

The name and inspiration for Queens of Chess in Kings County come from the 2016 Disney movie Queen of Katwe. Based on a real life story - it’s about a young Ugandan girl who’s life is forever changed when she’s introduced to the game of chess.

“I saw how chess transformed this young Ugandan girl’s life, I said we need one in Brooklyn here so I put out a Facebook post,” Kirkley said.

A year and a half later, they’re heading to a national championship in Chicago next month. The girls’ proud coach, Stephanie Ballom, has formed a special bond with them. Ballom herself is a champion player.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t have this opportunity to play with all my girlfriends, I was usually the only girl in the chess club,” Ballom said. “I’m just so happy to share that experience.”

Chess is a battle of wits and will, a true game of strategy that tests your mental agility. But for these budding Bobby Fischers, chess is so much more than just a game, it’s a discipline for life.

“I like the strategies, like how you have to do check and checkmate and the threats,” 9-year-old Annabelle Prastowo said.

“I like how it provides me with a challenge,” Eva Deguara-Pagansaid.

The national tournament is April 20-22. The girls are still fundraising and every donation counts. If you would like to donate here’s a link to their page.