Thalía Cervantes, the 14-year-old who learned how to play chess on the streets of Havana and is now one of the top young female players in the United States, has reached a new level of success.
She recently was honored with the title of “master” by the World Chess Federation, also known by its French acronym FIDE, and made it to fourth place in the U.S. Girls Junior Championship, which ended Monday in St. Louis, Missouri.
The teenager competed in a total of nine rounds. She won three, lost two and tied four, earning a total score of 5.0 and a rating of 2,183.
Thalía, who has been living in the United States for three years, was up against some stiff competition, including: 12-year-old Carissa Yip of Andover, Massachusetts, who at age 9 became the youngest U.S. girl to reach the title of Expert, and at 11, became the youngest female to achieve the title of National Master; 12-year-old Annie Wang of La Cañada, California, who in 2014 held the youngest female chess master record, and 13-year-old Ashritha Eswaran, of San Jose, California, who is considered the sixteenth best female chess player of any age in the United States.
In the U.S. Girls Junior Championship, the top 10 chess players under the age of 21 participated by invitation. The overall winner of the tournament was 13-year-old Akshita Gorti from Chantilly, Virginia.
For her fourth place, Thalía won a $ 1,000 prize.
The Cuban American grew up in Havana and got interested in chess after taking a class at age 7. She arrived in the United States in 2014 after crossing the border from Mexico, where she traveled to participate in the Panamerican Youth Chess tournament. She lives in St. Louis with her parents, an older sister and grandmother.
“Since her move to Saint Louis three years ago, it’s been a pleasure to see Thalia continue to grow as an incredible chess talent and young person,” said Tony Rich, executive director of the Chess Club & Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. “To watch her compete against some of the nation’s best young chess players during the 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship and have a strong performance was a proud moment for all of us.”
“I grew up playing chess on the streets of Havana with older men, smokers,” Thalía said with a laugh during a recent telephone interview. “They were always bragging and saying, ‘No girl can beat me.’”
Seems like she proved them wrong.
Follow Johanna A. Álvarez on Twitter: @Jalvarez8.