Dateline: April 9

16-year-old chess player Chao Xin Cheng is one of few girls representing Australia on the international stage in Chess tournaments.

Chess is one of the world’s fastest growing competitions and Australian kids are making big moves.

Tonight on SBS, Dateline follows a child prodigy to the Netherlands for the world’s biggest junior chess tournament.

In August 2023, more than 100 women chess players signed a statement on behalf of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) against sexism and sexual abuse in chess.

In Australia, chess is especially popular among children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who see it as a way to connect socially. More than half of the country’s 12 chess grandmasters have migrant backgrounds. One of them, Zong-Yuan Zhao, who now coaches Australia’s junior team, says girls still face barriers to entering the professional scene.

Chao Xin Cheng, 16, was one of only three girls on Australia’s two national teams at the FIDE World Youth Under 16 Olympiad, a prestigious international junior chess tournament held in the Netherlands last year.

While the tournament mandated there was at least one girl on each team, the majority of girls at the tournament were often relegated to the boards reserved for lower-ranked players.

“Girls tend to be lower rated than boys because a lot of boys like to play chess,” says Chao Xin.

“I guess it kind of makes girls feel like [that] boys are better or they feel out of place,” she told SBS Dateline.

“When you get older, a lot of girls will stop playing chess because the number of girls that play chess is decreasing and then that’s why the boys are better.”

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