Ballantyne seeks ’13 WYCC bid in UAE

Rochelle Ballantyne

Rochelle Ballantyne has grown up before our eyes in the past six years. From her legend at IS-318 (featured in movie, “Brooklyn Castle“) to winning scholarships at different schools and ultimately enrolling at Stanford University, Rochelle has used chess as a platform to academic excellence. Typically, college students have little time to dedicate to chess. Marquee programs such as Webster University, University of Texas-Dallas, University of Maryland-Baltimore County have set the standard for the chess-playing student-athlete. However, other schools still boast strong players who also have chess aspirations.

Rochelle’s rigorous curriculum will give her little time in her freshman year at Stanford, but she is attempting to round out her youth career with another attempt at the World Youth Chess Championships to be help in the United Arab Emirates. The event will take place in December and she is attempting to raise US$5,000.00 to attend.

Message from Rochelle Ballantyne

Hello, my name is Rochelle Ballantyne and I want to be the first female African-American chess master.

Eleven years ago, I was like any other third grader, really active, really loud and really annoying, to my grandmother at least. Eleven years ago my grandmother found a way to keep me calm and to get my mind going: she taught me chess. To this day, I still can’t believe how far I’ve come. But my story is only just beginning.

Being one of the very few girls in the field of chess I’ve always wanted to stand out. I can’t think of a better way to do just that than being able to represent the United States at the World Youth Tournament this year in the United Arab Emirates. Coming from a low-income family, I’ve never let that stop me from achieving my goals. I’m a 3-time Girls’ National Champion; last year I placed nineteenth in the nation (girls and boys) at the K-12 Nationals Tournament; I’ve been featured in Brooklyn Castle and because of all my chess achievements, it’s also allowed me to thrive academically enabling me to receive a full scholarship to Stanford University.

But now I need your help. As an 18 year old, this is the last year I’ll be able to represent my country in this prestigious tournament, so I’m asking, please help me get there. Please include #Rochelle in your #give tweet to @Brooklyn_Castle!
Thank you!!!

Yours Truly,
Rochelle Ballantyne

To help Rochelle today click here!!

Subjects of “Brooklyn Castle”
(front) Patrick Johnston, Alexis Parades, Justus Williams
(back) Pobo Efekoro, Rochelle Ballantyne



    Hoping that the Chess Drum can support this young lady on her efforts to raise funds for her trip to United Arab Emirates to become a chess master. If anyone has a contact number for either 50 Cents or Will Smith, please pass this on as they both play chess. Also I would appreciate it if the Drum has the names of Black celebrities that play chess as we use any that we find as motivators for our students.

    The Drum is a great site and we use it in our chess class.

    Warren Woodberry
    Director Kids, Cartoons and Chess
    Jones Elementary School Toledo, Ohio

    1. Bill Cosby, Will Smith and Lennox Lewis names always come up. It’s logical to pick all the rich entertainers who play chess and I’m sure this avenue is being explored. Smith and Lennox have given to such causes before and wealthy chess players are always mentioned.

      1. The rest of us have to do our part. If chess was more noticed and appreciated by the rest of us, I’m certain celebs would be even more generous.

  2. Pingback: Daily Chess News Links October 2, 2013 |
  3. If I had it like that, I’d pay everything for this intelligent young lady to play in her last World Youth Championship. I know her and watch her play up close and I always felt that she has what it takes to make headlines…but, like my son, she needs to slow down.

    1. Guy,

      Unlike all the other young players, I’ve never met her and have had no contact with her. I believe the idea of becoming the first African-American female National Master is a noble goal, but it is so much harder when you put the added pressure on yourself. I told Amon Simutowe the same thing when he was trying to get rating points to reach 2500. I told him to play without thinking of that specific goal.

      Darrian Robinson is also capable of reaching this goal. Of course, we know that Sabrina Chevannes of England has already reached 2200+ USCF. Sabrina was shocked to find out that she was the first Black woman to reach 2200. Even to hear that Maurice Ashley is still the only African-American GM (since 1999) is an indictment on how little progress we have made in the community. The “Young Lions” have a good chance.

      1. I wonder if this is Kenny Solomon’s problem. He only needed 39 points to become a GM, but instead he’s gone backwards almost 100 points.

        1. It’s possible. He may be so focused on his rating and that is usually not a good approach. Simutowe was also going up and down. I told Simutowe to play as if he is still trying to earn GM norms. He earned a couple more and got his 2500 rating. I believe Kenny should also play as if he is trying to get his last norm. If you play for ELO, it generally is a slightly different mindset. You may accept a draw to gain a few ELO, but for a norm you have to stay on course and maybe refuse a draw offer.

  4. If the ” Young Lions” had stayed as one, they would have had a better chance of becoming GMs. Unfortunately, the unity that once existed between them have dissolved. Division and self-interest has been and continues to be the wall that keeps us from making headway. The few who are in position to help them are too busy trying to make a living and you really can’t blame them. In my opinion, maybe one of them might make it and I would not consider that as growth. It’s possible that Rochelle could become master, but with her starting college at Stanford, I don’t see it happening anytime soon. Without unity there cannot be much progress in the real sense of the word.

    1. So the Young Lions have parted ways? I know at a recent tournament Josh and Justus could’ve agreed on a draw and it might’ve helped them end up in joint first place. Instead, Justus knocked Josh out of the running. You guys said you were going to talk to them about it. That’s the kind of team play that I seem to notice with the Egyptian players in seemingly every African Championship (helping each other out with draws).

      1. I doubt if they have parted ways as friends or allies. Generally it has to do with the relationship of the parents. When you’re teen boys you take things in stride a bit. Parents are generally more protective and sometimes it makes collaborations difficult. I’m not saying that anyone here is at fault, but that scholastic chess is (and other junior sports are) rife with these issues.

  5. Hello guy, I kind of disagree with you. ” It’s possible that Rochelle could become master, but with her starting college at Stanford, I don’t see it happening anytime soon. it is very possible that college will enhance her maturity and critical thinking skill. The question is will she pursue chess as a college stress outlet or a co-career goal.

  6. Maturity and critical thinking is one thing, but whether she will have the time or tournament opportunities out in California is another issue.

    It is possible, but it’s much tougher when you’re in school because there are so many factors. She’s probably still adjusting to being so far away from home and to the rigors of college-level academics. Stanford is a very competitive school and at a certain point, chess becomes a luxury. There is a chess club there, so it may keep her active.

  7. She is in a great area for chess opporunities. If she is interested in chess development she has the NorCal House of Chess nearby and the Mechanics Institute right up the road in San Francisco. One comment from another college player was that studying is easier because you don’t have as much time so you make better use through prioritization of improvement areas, retention and application for rapid improvement. They also mention that college helped since compared to college study chess was either easy, fun or less stressful.

  8. Cleveland, only time will tell. Let’s hope that you are right. I recognize that even at the High School level, it is much more harder to find time to play in classical tournaments. My son is playing in the Spice Cup which starts tomorrow and not only was he required to get school permission, but he’s also expected to make up all the work. I would assume that at the University level, it is much harder to find time to play serious chess.

  9. A time ago, I was one of those students. I was about 2050-2100 level during undergrad, but chess took a relative backseat. While I played in the Pan-Am Intercollegiate in my freshman year, ran the university chess club, played in local Chicago tournaments and maintained an Expert rating, I no longer had the time to spend 4-8 hours playing and studying as I did in my high school years. Not to mention majoring in computer science and becoming involved in various social/civic activities.

    You’re right in that you are more efficient in how you allocate time and students learn the concept of utility maximization very quickly. Many know exactly how much time they need to study to get at least a “B” in a particular course. The key question is how much of that time can be allotted to chess to achieve her desired result. If she finds she needs to spend two hours a day on chess to reach Master, but only has an hour to spare, it’s a tough proposition. Darrian Robinson is also facing this issue. Let us hope that they can find the right combination.

  10. Just like in chess, by getting into Stanford, Rochelle has a “won game”. But also just like in chess, she still needs to win it! Hopefully she will make her top 3 priorities 1. Academics, 2. Academics 3. Life at Stanford. Becoming a chess master should not be a concern at all for the next 4 years. Get the undergrad degree, get into graduate school, and then take a year off between undergrad & grad school, to pursue that coveted 2200 rating, if it is still important to her.

  11. RJT,

    I would agree with those priorities; however, “Life at Stanford” could include selected social activities which may include chess. She has to be a total person and not just a propeller-head. I tell my students that it’s important to be well-rounded and to do things that will set you apart from the others.

    Rochelle has excelled at chess… she has a name… she has a movie… forever. Few people at Stanford have that on their resumes. Everyone at Stanford is smart, but will set her apart? She can do other things like joining student organizations, learning a foreign language and study abroad to bolster her social capital and professional development. Of course all this takes time away from serious chess.

    The point is, the National Master goal is not going anywhere. I think she specifies by being “first African-American female master” which appears to give it a sense of urgency… as if she’s racing. As mentioned Darrian Robinson (at University of Chicago) could also achieve this, but she doesn’t announce it. It keeps the pressure off of her. I was once told by someone, ‘say as little about what you intend to do until it’s done’.

  12. I agree with RJT. And the wise saying noted by Daaim, ‘ say as little about what you intend to do until it’s done’ is really a useful advice.

  13. Nikhail,

    Let me explain what I meant by the unity that once existed between the boys have basically evaporated. We don’t see them playing in the same tournament like we use to see in the past. Nevertheless, the friendship between them has not changed a bit. Now that they are in High School, their priorities have shifted quite a bit. A draw or loss between them means nothing to them. If anything, this is where the parent’s role should come in – Daaim’s point! Just last week, Josh played in the strong Spice Cup tournament where he was the only young black player in the strong crowd. Not that he it bothers him, he’s use to it, but I am sure he would have felt more energized if his friends were there to blend with. At the H.S. level, it is really tough to play in tournaments where the kids have to be away from school more than three days. It would have been much easier, if like the other top juniors, they were home schooled. Nonetheless, Josh is still very committed to his chess goals. Hopefully, the other two are still pursuing the same.

    1. thanks for expounding. And home schooling would be advantageous. That’s another disadvantage that these kids have that I didn’t consider.

  14. YIKES!

    She was paired with an 1184 player in round 1 of a New Years tourney. The opponent gained 51 points just by losing to Rochelle!
    I didn’t now that’s the way the formulas work!?! Luckily, Rochelle faced 3 National Masters after that. She got a win, a draw and a loss. Round 1 would’ve tanked her performance rating if it weren’t for that.

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