Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Education: B.A./B.A. (double major) Stanford University (2017)
Peak Chess Rating: 2127 (USCF) 1957 (FIDE)
Chess Accolades: Polgar All-Girls under-14, Polgar All-Girls under-16, All-Girls under-18 title, World Youth Championship – Caldas Novas, Brazil (2011), United Arab Emirates (2013)
Activities: subject in movie, “Brooklyn Castle,” Starfish Scholar, Questbridge Scholar, Black Student Union (Stanford)
Current Profession: Litigation Paralegal, Carr Maloney PC (Washington, DC)
Last tournament: 2019-01-28 DMV LEAGUE S3R4 MAKEUP (VA)
The road to Stanford University would not be easy for Rochelle Ballantyne. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York as the oldest of four children of a single mother from Trinidad & Tobago. Then chess entered her life.
Eleven years ago (in 2002), 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.
Rochelle won a $68,000 scholarship to attend University of Texas-Dallas and had to weigh her options. UTD was known for its chess culture and one of her goals was to become the first African-American female National Master. This is even stated in the movie, “Brooklyn Castle,” in a scene with Latisha Ballard, the mother of teammate Justus Williams.
Classic photo of Rochelle Ballantyne
Photo by Anthony Causi
Tragically, her grandmother passed away and it took a lot of determination for Rochelle to get over the loss. In her interviews, she reflects a lot on her grandmother and also her mother as her support system. While at Stanford, she became deeply immersed in social activism.
In a Chess Life interview last year with Melinda Matthews, she made the following revelations about the chess environment:
I think one of the most frustrating (frustrating might be the wrong word) things I realized as an African-American female chess player was the feeling that I didn’t belong. I was always the odd person out. Always asked whether or not I was lost. Chess is supposed to be a battle of intellect and my intellect always seemed to be diminished or erased because I am black and because I am a woman. Luckily, when I started playing chess I was too young to really process race and gender as a construct. I knew I was different but I didn’t care because I wanted to win. And that drive continues to carry me.
Rochelle graduated from Stanford University in 2017 and trekked back to the east coast with two degrees in hand. Having already done a stint with Kobre & Kim as a Litigation Assistant, she is now a paralegal in the Washington, DC area. The town has an abundance of lawyers, but hopefully she can find a niche in the legal field and still have time to seek her coveted goal of becoming a National Master. This is a very important goal, and very much within her realm.
Additional links on Rochelle Ballantyne