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Rising Through The Ranks: Queens 12-Year-Old Has Eyes On One Day Being Chess Grandmaster

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Here's a story about a rising chess star in Queens.

She's only 12 years old, but is already excelling at the game.

And as CBS2's Kiran Dhillon reported, the youngster says her love for the game has helped her through the coronavirus pandemic.

"It helps me think better. It helps me focus on things better," Jessica P. said.

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There are many things Queens student Jessica loves about chess. Primarily, it's how the game forces her to think strategically.

"You have to think like three moves ahead. You have to memorize like a bunch of different openings and variations. They can help you in real life, you know, help you in school, help you with doing basic things," Jessica said.


The seventh grader, who moved to the U.S. a few years ago from Guyana, adopted her father's love for the sport. She has been playing competitively for two years now and says chess has helped her through these COVID-19 times.

"Teachers assign a lot of assignments and it's kind of stressful, but, you know, chess gives me something to like depend on. After a long day, I know that when I'm done, like school and everything, I can just go, you know, play a chess game, relax and enjoy it," Jessica said.

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And while the pandemic has forced many students to shift their game online, Jessica hasn't let that slow her down. She has competed in several virtual tournaments, including taking first place in one on Thursday.

"Jessica, actually, has a higher ranking than most adults do in the chess world," said Rachael Gazdick, CEO of New York Edge.

New York Edge runs the afterschool programming at Jessica's school and many others across the city. Gazdick said going virtual has had its challenges, but also some positives.

"The kids now get to play with each other weekly, as opposed to maybe doing it like having a tournament once a month," Gazdick said. "Connectivity is brought to us as being able to bring more kids together, across all five boroughs to compete from their homes."


Jessica said loves that she been able to play more often.

For anyone who hasn't played chess, she has this message.

"It's really fun. You should try it. It can actually improve your intelligence, your academics," Jessica said.

The young girl's goal is to one day become a grandmaster -- the highest title one can achieve in chess.

And from the looks of it, she's well on her way.

CBS2's Kiran Dhillon contributed to this report

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