Top of their game: Grandmasters help girls earn Chess merit badge

Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club

All of the pieces lined up perfectly last week as a group of Scouts in St. Louis became some of the first girls in the country to earn the Chess merit badge.

At the workshop, held Feb. 3, a group of 12 girls earned this popular merit badge with the help of some of the world’s best chess players.

As luck would have it, some grandmasters were in town to compete in a major international chess tournament for women.

The St. Louis Chess Club has hosted workshops for the Chess merit badge since the badge’s debut in 2011. Over the course of a day, instructors teach Scouts about chess history, etiquette, tactics, openings, endgames and tournament play.

But this workshop was special, because this workshop was the first one designed just for Scouts BSA girls.

Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club

A great move

The workshop’s timing was ideal. The club is in the middle of an inaugural international chess tournament where some of the top female players from around the world battle for board supremacy.

The 10 women in the 2019 Cairns Cup come from Russia, Germany, France, India, Kazakhstan, the United States and the country of Georgia.

Dr. Jeanne Cairns Sinquefield, a longtime supporter of music, arts and chess, says the Scouts BSA workshop was a crowning achievement for everyone involved.

“We can take pride in saying the first girls ever to earn the Chess merit badge came from Missouri,” she says. “A big thank you goes to the St. Louis Chess Club for putting on this event.”

Chess has always been one of the most popular non-Eagle-required merit badges.

In 2018, 28,260 boys earned the merit badge — a 5 percent increase over 2017. That puts Chess in the top 10 elective merit badges of 2018.

With girls now a part of Scouts BSA, coupled with the support of renowned groups like the St. Louis Chess Club, the badge’s popularity is sure to keep climbing.

Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club
About Bryan Wendell 2819 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is senior editor of Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.