CENTRAL WEST END – On Thursday evenings at the St. Louis Chess Club on Maryland Avenue, women of all levels of expertise can attend Ladies’ Knight to enhance their chess skills.
The all-female classes, which feature beginner, intermediate and advanced sections, meet in the Kingside Diner, 4651 Maryland, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. each week, with wine and cheese available for attendees.
Anna Sharevich, a highly skilled chess player, taught the advanced group of Ladies Knight Class for the past two years. She said the women-oriented classes were fairly popular.
“We really try to cover any level of the ladies who comes into the class,” she told The SouthSider.
Ladies’ Knight is an important class to Sharevich, she said, because it helps welcome women into the sport in a supportive environment.
“Once the female class started, we have something that, every Thursday, we can just go, hang out, learn some chess,” she said. “We can stay after the class and play some chess. It’s been a cool thing.”
It’s different for the men, who already appear to view chess as a welcoming sport for them.
“There’s an abundance of men who come to the class,” Sharevich explained. “They follow the games. They play the games there. It’s their hobby.”
With an all-female class, women are invited to take ownership of the game in much the same way.
This is particularly helpful because, even in 2019, chess is still heavily male-dominated. As of 2015, only 2 percent of all chess grandmasters – the highest title a chess player can receive – were women. At the same time, only two women ranked among the top one hundred chess players in the world.
It’s up for debate as to why there continues to be such a disparity in this non-physical sport, and chess players and spectators alike debate the issue. But Sharevich, who began playing chess at age 5 and grew up in a family of chess players, said that, regardless of why, at a young age boys and girls tend to express equal interest in chess.
“The amount of boys who continue to play since they were little is bigger than the girls. When they all start, when they’re all little, it’s about the same,” she said. When asked why she thought this discrepancy occurred, Sharevich wasn’t sure, though she speculated that the competitive nature of chess kept boys more engaged.
Sharevich also said that women often got interested in chess once their children did. A class such as Ladies Knight, she said, allows women who might not have had the opportunity to explore chess at a young age to learn the game and connect with their children over the sport.
The Ladies’ Knight classes at the St. Louis Chess Club are a laid-back scene. Wine and cheese is laid out for all attendees as they break into groups based on level of expertise. Sharevich, who works a day job in finance and mostly sees chess as a hobby, has taken a step down from teaching the advanced Ladies’ Knight class, transferring that honor to Thalia Cervantes.
On Thursday nights, Cervantes sets up boards for the members of the advanced class, leading them through challenging moves and guiding them as they puzzle themselves out of complex scenarios. They’re a small but mighty group, always welcoming to new members and eager to share their love of chess, here in the chess capital of the United States.
Ladies’ Knight meets every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. For more information, check out https://saintlouischessclub.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=3345.