Rochelle Ballantyne Conquering The World Of Chess

by Yesha Callahan

Rochelle Ballantyne, 17, of Brooklyn is taking the chess world by storm. She is on the verge of becoming the first African-American female chess master and her journey has been documented in the film, Brooklyn Castle. Brooklyn Castle tells the stories of five members of the chess team at I.S. 318 middle school in Brooklyn. The film follows the challenges these kids face in their personal lives as well as on the chessboard, and is as much about the sting of their losses as it is about the anticipation of their victories. Ironically, the biggest obstacle thrust upon them arises not from other competitors but from recessionary budget cuts to all the extracurricular activities at their school.

Ballantyne was recently profiled in Teen Vogue and talked about her rise in the chess world and her motivation. “My grandmother taught me to play when I was in the third grade. I was really active as a child, and she wanted to find a way to keep me relaxed and get my brain going,” Ballantyne told Teen Vogue. “When I first started playing, she introduced to me the idea of being the first African-American female chess master. I didn’t think about it much because for me it seemed like an impossible feat, and I didn’t think it could happen. I wasn’t as focused and dedicated as I am now. I didn’t think I was a good chess player—people told me I was, but it wasn’t my mentality at that moment. But then after she died, that really affected me, because she was the one person that always had confidence in me. She never pushed me, and she always respected me for who I was. I have to reach that goal for her.”

Ballantyne, currently a senior in high school, also spoke of the budget cuts happening at I.S. 318, which would eliminate the chess program. “Kids have achieved so much because of the chess program at I.S. 318, and now because of budget cuts, that program might not be there anymore, and that’s really horrible,” she said. “It’s so sad that you can take out money from schools because education is what allows you to succeed in life. My brother goes to I.S. 318 now, and the chess team might not be able to go to nationals. When people watch the movie, I want them to see how important the school is to all of us, and how it molded our lives. We have to pave the way so that other kids can achieve what we’ve achieved.” When asked about her educational goals, she has her mind-set on an Ivy League education. “ I really want to go to the University of Pennsylvania or Stanford. I applied through QuestBridge, which is a scholarship program that has a partnership with those schools.”

This November, Ballantyne, has her focus on the 2012 World Youth Chess Championships to be held in Maribor, Slovenia from November 7-19.

  • http://gravatar.com/justeeks justeeks

    That’s amazing! Positivity @ it’s finest.

  • Starla

    I’m rooting for her. What a fantastic story. Clutch, do keep up posted on the chess championships.

  • __A

    Great story. Maybe someone will help out the chess team.

  • MommieDearest

    Now this is a biopic that I will gladly support. *off to google to find out where it will be released*

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    Big ups to her I hope she wins.I always tried to learn how to play chess but generally suck at it…lol so YAY for her.

  • Echi

    Love it!

  • cabugs

    So proud of her! This is awesome. I really hope she is able to go to Stanford, and of course the World Youth Chess Championships!
    Like binks, chess is something I always wanted to get into, but was never too good at. I’m really happy for her :)

  • Wow

    So inspiring! Love the post :) God bless Rochelle on her journey and all of her fellow young chess players

  • http://twitter.com/Author_JGail J. Gail (@Author_JGail)

    You can do it Rochelle!

  • Pingback: Brooklyn teen Rochelle Ballantyne on path to become first black female chess master | theGrio

  • Erin

    2012′s “Akeelah and the Bee”

  • JNoire

    Thank you for letting us know about this! The trailer is incredibly moving. It is so good to see black kids focusing on such an intellectual activity and going places as a result. You can donate to IS 318 by going to the take action page and scrolling midway down.

  • JNoire

    WE can help them out by donating to the chess club at the school. Even if it is writing a $5 check to the school for the chess club. We can’t wait for others to help. We have to do it ourselves.

  • Keke

    I’ve always liked playing chess but was never quite good at it. So it’s great to see a young girl like her playing. Glad to see this!

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  • simplyme

    This story made my day/week. Rooting for her success.

  • http://gravatar.com/heavenleiblu heavenleiblu

    Go Rochelle!

  • http://gravatar.com/chanela17 chanela17

    what does i.s stand for?

  • Pingback: Brooklyn Teen On Way To Becoming First Black Female Chess Master

  • AmandaG

    You should be so proud of yourself! Congrats dear!

  • PP

    The use of African-American makes it unclear, but have there not been any black female chess masters anywhere else in the world, or is she just the first from America?

  • Gwen

    She will be the fFIRST Africa American Female Chess Master

  • Allison

    To answer your question above PP: She will be the first black female Chess Master… the lowest of the level though still amazingly prestigious. There have been very few Americans (of any heritage) awarded any of the female titles. Currently there is only ONE American female Grandmaster. THREE American female International Masters. So hopefully if Rochelle makes Chess Master she’ll move on to be a GM someday!

  • Pingback: Teen Seeks to be First African-American Female World Chess Champion | Chocolate News Treats

  • RenJennM

    This is awesome! Go girl!

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