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Carissa Yip, 11, is Youngest Female Chess Master in U.S. History

Can she reach grandmaster status, shatter gender barriers a la Judit Polgár?

Jonathan Zalman
May 13, 2015
(Epoch Times)
(Epoch Times)

In the fall of 2014, Carissa Yip, then 10 years old, defeated 58-year-old grandmaster Alexander Ivanov at the New England Open.

“Anything is possible if you try hard enough,” she told Chess Life after the match. Indeed it is.

Yip’s win first win over a grandmaster placed her at the top of incredible chess company. Irina Krush, the top-rated active female chess player in the U.S., who became a master at the age of 12, recorded her first victory over a grandmaster (GM) at the age of 13. Judit Polgar, perhaps the best female chess player in history, beat her first GM at the age of 11. And Polgar, who recently retired, would go on to break Bobby Fischer’s record for the youngest GM in history, a mark that has since been usurped most notably by Hou Yifan, the reigning female World Chess Champion.

But Yip didn’t stop there.

In February, Yip, a native of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, officially became a chess master, breaking a mark set in May 2014 by Californian Annie Wang, by four months. Yip is now the youngest female in U.S. history to earn the rank of master.

Here’s The Boston Globe on Yip, which includes video:

“It’s a challenging game and I like that about it,” she says. “I prefer to play with someone who’s actually good … and I also like the pretty pieces.”

When Carissa knows she’s winning, her eyes narrow and a look of glee floods her face. A sideways grin forms. Her opponents don’t always see it coming, but that face symbolizes the end is near. Her focus is always two, four, six, 10 moves ahead of her opponent.

Carissa, who attends Doherty Middle School in Andover, has interests other than chess. She counts eating sushi, reading, and playing with “Big Pea,” her grandmother’s cat in China, among the things she likes to do.

And always there is chess. She has competed everywhere from Slovenia to the United Arab Emirates. Like the legendary chess prodigy Bobby Fischer, Carissa learned to play at age 6. She’d wanted to join the chess club in kindergarten, but she didn’t know how to play. Her father, Percy Yip, an IT architect, began with the basics in first grade.

She progressed quickly. After claiming the title of chess expert, she needed just 609 days to reach master status last month, according to the Massachusetts Chess Association.

Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.