N.Y. Teen Wins $40,000 Chess Scholarship

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Jessica Hyatt recently won a $40,000 college scholarship as reward for her achievement as one of the top 10 Black female chess players in the country. (Screengrab CBS News New York)

By AFRO Staff

A 15-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y., is well on her way to becoming the first Black female chess master in the United States.

Only a sophomore at Success Academy — a school known for its excellent chess program — Jessica Hyatt recently won a $40,000 college scholarship as reward for her achievement as one of the top 10 Black female chess players in the country.

She told a New York CBS affiliate that such excellence requires hard work and dedication—as much as seven hours of play a day.

“I play whenever I get the chance, like in my free time, like during my classes, like sometimes during classes,” Jessica said.

The high-schooler’s coaches, Tyrell Harriott and David Mbonu, who are both National Masters, the highest level in the U.S., said their mentee is doing exceptionally well for her age. Jessica ranks at 1,950—only 250 away from the ranking required to become a chess master.

“I learned the game when I was 15, so for Jessica to be at 1,950, that’s a huge edge,” said Harriot.

Should she achieve the rank, Jessica will become the first African-American female chess master.

“There has never been a female Black player to break the master ranking and that’s what Jessica is going for,” said Mbonu.

In addition to her personal chess dreams, Jessica hopes to attend college at MIT and teach chess to other young people.