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Cece Syarif promotes the game’s facets as MCCL Girls Chess Coordinator

MADISON – Cece Syarif believes learning to play chess involves more than just a game – it’s also about learning life for children. Syarif is serving as Girls Chess Coordinator for Madison City Chess League or MCCL.

“I want the love for chess to continue for a long time in this area. I’ve seen children in chess grow up together, have common interests, become good friends and become more confident,” Syarif said.

Her best experience was watching several fifth-graders huddled and encouraging each other during the National Chess Tournament at Opryland Hotel in Nashville. “That was a very heartwarming moments for all parents who were there. I’d love to see more of those moments,” Syarif said.

As Girls Chess Coordinator, Syarif will introduce chess to as many girls as possible. “Once girls learn chess and start to have fun, they truly begin to excel at the game. Chess brings out the strengths in different personalities. For a shy girl, chess can be a channel to open up and make friends. For an extrovert, chess can teach them to be calm, patient and take time to assess the situation,” she said.

“Chess is teaching children to plan your move, evaluate your risk and seize opportunities. We want to promote growth mindsets in girls,” Syarif said. “With hard work (founded on practice), they can achieve anything.”

As a child, Syarif played chess recreationally but never competed or learned strategy. Her nieces, Constance and Caroline Wang, introduced her and her children to competitive chess at Rainbow Elementary School.

“My son was the first kindergartner to join the Beginner Chess Club at Rainbow. Years later, his sister joined Beginner Chess Club in pre-kindergarten at Rainbow,” Syarif said. “I realized that children – boys and girls — as young as four years old can understand and play chess well.”

“Practice makes perfect” is Syarif’s philosophy. Children should have a balance of strict rules, low pressure to win and the chance to have fun. Without rules, chaos will quickly occur.

“Our MCCL children played against best players with much higher ratings in a national chess tournament. We don’t expect them to win but to give their best and don’t give up,” Syarif said. “There’s so much to learn from losing to better players. It’s crucial that kids have fun while participating in chess; otherwise, they won’t stick to it in the long term.”

Syarif received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She works as a Program Manager for RUAG Space. Her hometown is Jakarta, Indonesia.

She and husband David are parents of Noah and Annabelle Hsu, who attend Rainbow and play chess competitively.

Sharing a funny scenario from college, Cece worked part time at Shogun and was required to wear a kimono as a server. “The kimono is not very comfortable,” she said.

“I am a foodie,” she said about special interests. “I love trying different and ‘special’ fruit. I love Durian!”

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