Rochelle Ballantyne Poised to Become First Female African-American Chessmaster

From the NY Daily News:

Rochelle Ballantyne is getting ready to the chess world in check.

The 17 year-old Brooklyn high school senior and graduate of I.S. 318, a middle school famous for churning out chess champs, is working toward becoming the first African-American female chess master.

Ballantyne, who is the lone female star of the recent documentary Brooklyn Castle, which sheds light on the Williamsburg middle school’s chess program and its impact on its students.

Here’s the trailer for Brooklyn Castle.


  1. Whenever the “first of a demographic” is made news, it’s actually insulting the rest of that group. It’s like saying, “most black people are terrible at chess, but we found one that’s actually good at it! Golly, who knew?”

    Her race shouldn’t have anything to do with it. Being the first [insert race] shouldn’t be a big deal anymore. They should be lauding her for being a great chess player.

  2. That’s a ridiculous interpretation Mike K. They are lauding her for being a great chess player AND stretching traditional boundaries.

    “Her race shouldn’t have anything to do with it. ” Except that it has for the past several hundred years. When the metric is pushed back it should be a cause of celebration.

    1. When Tiger Woods rose to fame, it was a big deal because blacks have traditionally been kept out of golf and country clubs by non-ethical, if not illegal means. It was just very hard for a black man or woman to get his/her foot in the door. Since I don’t follow the sport of chess I honestly don’t know for a fact, but I always assumed that there wasn’t a similar paradigm here. Is chess another sport that been difficult for a minority to excel in this field, or has it just been a coincidentally “white man’s sport”?

  3. Mike K-
    I am not a black woman, so I can’t speak to that experience, but I always feel proud when someone is the first woman or girl to accomplish something. It means that we are making progress toward equality and that we have a new female role model that didn’t exist when I was a girl. It means more to us than it does to you.

    And when something is traditionally a white man’s sport, that alone is a barrier to anyone else succeeding in it, sadly.

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