Rachel Gologorsky has traveled the world, taking on opponents in a mental war.
In battle, she excels with a quick wit and confidence to help shape a game not many dare try.
Rachel, 16, recently was awarded the title of Chess Master during the 2014 North American Youth Chess Championship in New York City.
The title does not intimidate Rachel. In fact, she has come up with a way to maintain her composure during the international contests or when facing much older opponents: She calls on her 10 years of karate training.
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“I try not to think about the results and just do my best,” she said, using a strategy that has worked well for her since age 9.
Rachel has represented the United States in her last five tournaments, improving her ranking with each win. She has been ranked number one in Florida and the United States for the past three years, and holds the number 15 spot in the world.
Not only does winning competitions bring the trophies to Rachel, but it also improves her international chess ranking, which in turn improves her titles. This year alone, the 90-year-old international French organization, Fédération internationale des échecs (FIDE) or World Chess Federation moved her from a Women’s Candidate Master to a FIDE Woman Master.
This has placed her on the path to becoming a Grandmaster; the highest chess ranking in the world.
With these accomplishments under her belt, Rachel still remains a humble teen, describing her success as a “classification of achievement.”
“Chess has taught Rachel to be persistent and patient,” said mom and manager Angela Gologorsky.
Friendships have emerged from her training, which is not uncommon since she has been in chess clubs since elementary school.
“It was one of the first times when I felt connected to the chess community,” she said.
She blossomed under the tutelage of four-time United States Chess Champion Alexander Shabalov, an accomplished Grandmaster.
“I have coached Rachel for two years,” said Shabalov, who lives in Miami Beach and Pittsburgh. “My main goal when taking her on as a student was to teach her how to work on her own.”
In the beginning, Rachel asked general questions.
“Now, her inquiries have become precise,” Shabalov said.
Although she gets out with friends in her Miami Beach neighborhood and has other hobbies, she devotes much of her time to chess. That world has become a part of her family because she competes with the same handful of girls.
“You see a lot of the same faces in competition; we just rotate wins,” she says. Though the players are extremely competitive, there is also a camaraderie among them “because we are all doing something we love.”
Some players have gotten upset playing Rachel, because chess is traditionally a “male-dominated sport,” said her father, Daniel Gologorsky.
Rachel, who has been homeschooled for most of her education, is an accomplished scholar. She loves math and reading and indulges in historical novels. She also is taking courses this summer at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
“I read Jane Austen and like to watch mysteries a lot,” she said. “And I love mathematics because it is the underpinning of all of the sciences and is important in chess as well.”
She wants to be a computer scientist or follow in the footsteps of her parents and older brothers and become a doctor.
When she’s not doing chess, she tutors kids in math, karate and, of course, chess.
Trophies are not the only thing Rachel takes away from the game of chess.
“It taught me to plan and weigh all the consequences, and also to lose with dignity and win with grace,” she says.