Carissa Yip was around six when she first started playing chess. Although her interest had started earlier it was at around this time that she was able to convince her parents to help her learn how to play.
Her first opponent was her dad, who learned to play so he could teach his daughter. After that, Yip said, she made her dad play her every day.
“I lost every time,” she said.
At the time Yip said she was a “sore loser” and asked her mom, to ask her dad, to throw a match. But Yip’s father refused and the losses continued.
About six months after learning to play the board game, Yip won her first game.
Another few months later, Yip said her father started to tire of the matches.
Yip recalled her father saying something like, “I don’t want to play, I will take you to a tournament.”
So Yip and her father went to a local chess club.
“I was playing at my very first tournament and I played pretty well I guess,” said Yip, noting that she played well enough the tournament director told her dad that she should play in the upcoming state championship for kids under eight.
Yip took second place in the championship.
“Seven-year-old me was very pleased with that,” Yip said. “It was the first time I got a trophy. As a kid I really liked shiny things.”
After that first tournament Yip continued to shine, becoming the youngest-ever female to reach expert at age nine and youngest-ever female to become a National Master at 11. She also broke the record for youngest-ever female to beat a Grandmaster. She beat Grandmaster Alexander Ivanov in the New England Open when she was only 10 years.
Now 18, Yip, an Andover resident and Phillips Academy alum, will be competing as one of 10 participants in the United Sates Junior Championship. She enters as the tournament wild card.
The tournament will take place at the Saint Louis Chess Club, located in St. Louis. It will last from July 6 through July 16. The event is invitation only and will see participants competing for $20,000 and $6,000 in scholarship awards, said a spokesperson for the Chess Club.
The tournament will be another of many for Yip, but she said all the tournaments manage to be different from one other.
“My opponents are different every time, the games are different every time. I as a person am different every time,” Yip said.
In this tournament, Yip will be the only female, which she said adds a “bit of pressure.”
Yip said her favorite part about chess is its “creative” or even “artistic” side. Yip said this part is often understated because most people think of chess as a very scientific or mechanical game. Yip said an example of this creative side was evident when humans played computers in chess. While Yip said the best computer can beat the best human chess player, there are still situations where a human will be able to find a better move than a computer.
“It speaks a lot to the creativity within chess,” she said. “You can play it however you want, carry out whatever thing you have in your head, whatever design you want. But there is still a structure to it.”