Rochelle Ballantyne plays chess the same way she walks through the streets of New York, determined to reach her goal without letting any obstacles slow her down.
The 17 year old from Brooklyn is just a few wins away from becoming the first female African-American to attain the ranking of chess master.
[:47] “I’ve never been the first anything so having that title next to my name is going to… it’s going to feel amazing.”
She crushes her opponents in a sport dominated by men.
Ballantyne grew up in a single parent home in the working class neighborhood of East Flatbush. She first learned to play chess from her grandmother, who didn’t want that background to limit or prevent her from reaching her fullest potential. Ballantyne did not disappoint.
[2:47] “When I push myself, then nothing can stop me.”
When it came time for middle school she wound up at I.S. 318, an inner-city public school that is home to the best chess team in the entire United States. Assistant Principal John Galvin oversees the chess program.
[4:53] “Rochelle was one of our best players that we’ve ever had in our school. She won several individual national championships.”
Her time at the middle school is featured in Brooklyn Castle, a documentary about the chess team released earlier this week.
It’s made her a rising star in the world of chess.