Hong Kong Chelmsford MA
CHELMSFORD — By the time she was 7, she could beat her father at chess. She later taught herself how to play blindfolded, plotting often complicated moves in her head. Now, at 9, Carissa Yip has her sights set on becoming the youngest female master of the game.
The US Chess Federation, which has nearly 51, 000 players, recently gave the Chelmsford girl a skill rating above 2, 000, making her the youngest female player to achieve expert level since the federation began keeping records more than two decades ago.
It also puts her nearer to the 2, 200 rating that would earn her a coveted master title.
Soon to be a fifth-grader at McCarthy Middle School, Carissa is modest about her accomplishments. “It’s not really a big deal, ” she said. “Unlike being a master, becoming expert really doesn’t mean much.”
Carissa’s father, Percy, started teaching her in the first grade and said she began trouncing him within a year of learning the game. At first, he brushed aside suggestions from chess players and other parents that she was gifted. But that changed when she started winning competitions, he said.
“I started to accept that she was very talented, ” Yip, a software architect, said from Hong Kong, where he, Carissa, and her mother were visiting relatives.
The young star began playing competitively at the MetroWest Chess Club, Boylston Chess Club in Somerville, and later Wachusett Chess Club, where she is currently the top-ranked player. Earlier this year, she won the state championship for the under-11 group. In December, she heads to the United Arab Emirates to compete in the World Youth Chess Championships.
Longtime masters say Carissa is a formidable opponent.
“Carissa is very talented and has a fierce will to win, ” said Larry Christiansen, of Cambridge, a chess grandmaster who has been teaching her. “But she also has an outgoing personality that really makes her a crowd favorite.”
Christiansen said he began playing chess at about the same age as Carissa, and said her ranking — in the top 7 percent of all players in the federation and the top 2 percent of female players – far exceeds where he was at the age of 12. While she hasn’t beaten him yet, he said the young player keeps him on his toes.
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