Carissa Yip: Youngest Female Chess Master in the United States

Earning the title of the youngest female chess master in the United States, 11-year-old Carissa Yip ’21, two years ago, sat across from 26-year-old chess master Chris Williams at the Boylston Chess Foundation in Cambridge, Mass., and checkmated his king. As a chess master, Yip is one of the top 99 percentile of chess players in the world.

“I was pretty excited [to become a chess master]… and after beating [Williams], I also got a ton of money, so then I was really excited about going to the bookstore and getting books and stuff. I didn’t really think much about the record because I already assumed that I’d break it since I had a lot of time and I was only 20 points away,” said Yip.

Chess players accumulate points by defeating opponents who have higher “ratings” than themselves. If they lose to people with lower ratings than themselves, then they lose rating points. In order to become a chess master, a player must have 2200 points.

Yip has currently accumulated 2322 points, according to the World Chess Federation. In comparison, the top rated U.S. player as of September 2017, Fabian Carauna, has a rating of 2868 points. Yip is ranked 10th in the country for women according to the United States Chess Federation.

“[At a chess tournament] there’s like rows and rows of chess boards, there are a lot of people playing chess and everyone [is] super quiet. There’s no electronics or anything… Everyone’s just super quiet, it’s sort of creepy the first time you walk into a chess tournament like that,” said Yip.

Since coming to Andover, Yip competes at smaller tournaments every weekend. She plans to join the chess club and one of her main goals would be to break the record to be the youngest female international master, the next step after a chess master, as a 14-year-old.

“After [chess master], there’s an international master level, and then there’s grandmaster level. There are these things called Norms. You have to play in a certain tournament against people who aren’t [from] the U.S.… they all have to be international masters already. When [your performance rating crosses] 2400 then you get a Norm. You need three of those. I came pretty close to getting a few, but I haven’t got one yet,” said Yip.

Yip learned how to play chess when she was in kindergarten. Eager to join the chess club at her school, her father taught her how to play so that she could join the club. Every night, Yip would play with her father until she started winning against him six months later. She now trains under Denys Shmelov and Skypes with her other coach, Andriy Vovk, who is from Ukraine. Yip also used chess books and computer programs to improve.

“[I like chess] pretty much just [because of ] the fact that I’m good at it… It’s pretty interesting at first, and it sort of drew me in. I became good at it and then I was like, ‘I’ll just stick with this for now then,’ ” said Yip.

“I was pretty much playing for fun for a while then and then somehow I qualified to go to this world youth competition which is basically the top juniors around the world in each section, and was chosen to represent America. And then I thought, ‘whoa I’m actually pretty good,’ ” continued Yip.

Since starting chess seven years ago, Yip has attended numerous national and international tournaments in countries including Greece, the United Arab Emirates, and Slovenia.

Yip is also a contributor to the online website Chess Kids, a platform for kids to play and learn new tactics for chess.