Currently ranked the number one female chess player under the age of 16 in the Americas, Carissa Yip ’21, a Women’s International Master in chess, placed eighth out of twelve players at the U.S. Women’s Championship in Saint Louis, Missouri on April 1.
The round-robin tournament, which lasted from March 18 to April 1, featured the top 12 strongest female chess players in the country, regardless of age.
Over the course of eleven rounds, participants competed for a total of 100,000 dollars in prize money and qualification into the Women’s World Championship cycle.
Yip placed 8th with four wins and a tie, earning her a prize of $4,000.
Yip said, “There were actually a lot [of kids] this year. There were seven teenagers, and I was the youngest one there. Usually at this tournament, U.S. Chess Championships, there are only three or four teenagers. But American chess is growing, so the youngsters are pretty good now.”
Ever since she learned how to play chess from her father at the age of six, Yip has been quickly advancing her talent. At age nine, she became the youngest ever to claim the title of Expert. A few days before her 11th birthday, when she beat Grandmaster Alexander Ivanov in the New England Open, she became the youngest female player to beat a Grandmaster. She is currently the fifth best female player under the age of 16 in the world, according to World Chess Federation.
“At my elementary school, when I was in first grade, there was a chess club there, so that’s where I first really got into it. I was pretty good, and I beat a lot of people, and I really liked winning, so I kept playing,” said Yip.
One round of chess can last hours long. Yip said, “It kind of depends on how fast you beat someone. So a really short chess game would be two hours. On average, they’re on average four to five hours, but they can go longer and past six hours.”
Just prior to the U.S. Championship, Yip joined four other women to represent Team USA at the FIDE World Team Championship. The championship is held once every two years, and this year, it took place from March 4 to March 14 in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Over the span of eleven days, ten teams of five competed in round-robin tournaments with matches played on four boards. In the Women’s Section, the American team placed seventh.
Like with any other activity, success can only be derived from hard work and practice, according to Yip. She uses a variety of methods to physically and mentally practice chess, as well as prepare for future competitions.
Yip said, “You can play online these days, so there’s that. And then you gain experience and obviously, it helps you become better. And there’s reading chess books, going over new openings, doing tactics, looking at positional puzzles.”
Through domestic and international competitions, Yip has had numerous opportunities to hone her skills.
“The chess world is pretty small, so a lot of big tournament organizers know my dad’s email so they send one along. The organizer invites the entire country to come, and within the U.S., there are representatives and they send out emails basically as official invitations,” said Yip.
Despite her many victories, however, Yip acknowledges the difficulty of balancing an Andover student’s workload with her chess ambitions.
“Before I came to [Andover, I used to practice] maybe two hours a day. Now [that] I’m here, I don’t practice at all. But maybe during school breaks I have time,” said Yip.