Rochelle Ballantyne, a law student, is inspired by her grandmother and wants to be an example for her 10-year-old sister - as the first Black American woman chess master.
Ballantyne, 26, was the only female star in Brooklyn Castle, a 2012 documentary about a chess program at a low-income NYC middle school. She is currently pursuing the chess championship while working three jobs, studying law school at New York University, and interning for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
According to Tony Rich, executive director of the St. Louis Chess Club, players who achieve a score of 2200 are considered chess masters. Playing in tournaments earns you points.
Ballantyne's rating is now 1962, and a GoFundMe has been launched for her travel and tournament fees. Rich says her continuous success means she may earn her title in a little as four months.
Ballantyne would be the country's first Black female chess master, according to Daniel Lucas of the US Chess Federation.
Her late grandmother taught Ballantyne the game when she was eight years old to quiet "a really loud youngster," and she said it was "first and foremost for my grandma."
"Secondarily, there are so many more black girls, small black girls playing chess now, and it's so amazing to inspire them," she told Reuters.
“There is nothing she can't achieve if she works hard enough to do it," she remarked, referring to her 10-year-old sister.
Ballantyne said she routinely suffered racism and sexism in the chess community, such as being mistaken for "the help" or viewed peculiarly when entering a tournament chamber.
Additionally, she added, "I've been told to wear pants while I play because I might distract boys."
Ballantyne says people didn't realize how their words affected a little Black child. "Race is important. More people should be conscious of the consequences of racism in all aspects of life, not only chess.”
Maurice Ashley, the first Black grandmaster at age 55, said Ballantyne's achievement will open doors for the next generation.