Black excellence

Meet Rochelle Ballantyne who is on course to become the first female African American chess master

CHECKMATE: Rochelle Ballantyne

CHECKMATE: Rochelle Ballantyne

MEET ROCHELLE Ballantyne, who is poised on the edge of becoming the world’s first African-American female chess master.

Rochelle, who is best known for appearing in the 2012 documentary Brooklyn Castle, has a USCF rating of 2,062, which puts her in the 99th percentile of American junior players. She needs to reach 2,200 to become a master.

She is currently the only African-American female in the United States who is closest to achieving the chess title of “Master.”

During her freshman year (9th grade) at Brooklyn Tech, she won the 2012 All-Girls National Chess Championships.

Rochelle, now 21, began playing at age 8, and soon emerged as a star.

By the time “Brooklyn Castle” filmmakers started following the powerhouse chess program at her school, Williamsburg’s I.S. 318, Rochelle, then 13, was the program’s best player.

She later received a full scholarship to Stanford University, which she is currently attending.

“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.”

She says her grandmother is the driving force behind her wanting to make history as the first African American chess master.

“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.”


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