Rochelle Ballantyne poised to become first Black woman chess master

by Mike Creef, Staff Writer
Rochelle Ballantyne poised to become first Black woman chess master
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New York University law student Rochelle Ballantyne is on her way to becoming the first Black woman American chess master.

Ballantyne, 26, says she has been trying to earn the title of chess master for the past 10 years.

“I’ve been trying to get it for the past 10 years,” said Ballantyne.

“First and foremost, it’s for my grandma,” Ballantyne told Reuters, whose late grandmother taught her the game when she was eight years old to calm “a really rowdy kid.”

“Secondly, there’s so many more black girls, little black girls playing chess now, and it’s so cool to inspire them.”

Back in 2012, Ballantyne was the lone female star of “Brooklyn Castle,” a documentary about a chess program at a low-income middle school in New York City.

200 Points Away From Chess Master

Ballantyne is less than 50 points away from being ranked as an expert, currently sitting at 1962 points. To get to chess master, she will need to acquire another 250 points at tournament play.

“So, at expert you’re at 2000 rating points and at master you’re at 2200. So I have to get the 200 points to get to master, essentially,” said Ballantyne.

St. Louis Chess Club executive director Tony Rich thinks it’s likely Ballantyne will reach the master level by summertime.

Ballantyne doesn’t feel any pressure being a trailblazer and usually the only Black woman in the room.

“I think it’s a product of the game. Chess isn’t very accessible for people who look like me and for people who come from the same background that I do.”

“It’s because I’m Black and it’s because I’m a girl that people think it’s so impressive and it’s not,” said Ballantyne. “I’m just a girl who loves this game and there are other people who are good at it too.”

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