Meet America’s top-ranked female chess player: A teenager
Percy Yip thought that chess was just for boys – until he saw how well his daughter played. His subsequent push to shift perceptions of the game is emblematic of changes the sport is undergoing, as women rise in the ranks.
By Noah Robertson
Just days before her 11th birthday, Carissa Yip became the youngest female chess player to defeat a grandmaster. Pushing her opponent, Alexander Ivanov, to the back of the board, Carissa pounced on a crucial knight and pinned his queen. A few moves later and the match was over.
“I was feeling really proud of myself for that,” says Carissa, who turns 16 on Sept. 10. “Because when I was younger, I was like, ‘Dang, grandmasters are so good,’ and then I beat one.”
Carissa learned the game from her father, Percy, at the age of 6. She’s now one rank away from grandmaster; last year, she won the girls’ division in the United States Junior Championships. According to the International Chess Federation, she is ranked first among women players in America. Her success – so great and so quick – is remarkable.
But decades ago, it would have been almost unthinkable – not because Carissa is just a high school junior, but because she is a girl. Until recently there were so few female chess players in tournaments that many questioned whether women could ever be as good as men.
“Why couldn’t a girl be just as good in chess as a boy?” says Susan Polgár, a former top-tier player and women’s chess pioneer. “While it sounds obvious perhaps to most people today, it certainly was not then.”
Twenty years ago, fewer than 1% of U.S. Chess Federation players were women, according to Ms. Polgár. Now that number is almost 14%.
...In a 1989 interview, chess legend Garry Kasparov commented that there were two kinds of chess: “real chess and women’s chess.”
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