An Odle Middle School student was named the world chess champion in her age group earlier this month.
Naomi Bashkansky was named the 2016 World School Chess Championship in the Girls Under 13 category on Dec. 2. She bested contestants from Russia, Sri Lanka and Turkey, and was among more than 400 young chess players from 30 different countries who competed, according to the World Chess Federation.
Bashkansky began playing chess when she was 5 years old. But leading up to the championship, Bashkansky said her playing was at an all-time low. She was losing or drawing against people she knew she was a stronger competitor than — a trend that continued during the first three rounds of the tournament.
“By then, I had accepted that if I miraculously turn my playing around I could maybe get third, but first was impossible,” Bashkansky said.
Bashkansky gives part of the credit for her comeback to her coach, Grand Master Greg Serper. Serper pulled her together after those disappointing first rounds, she said. Despite the 11-hour time difference, the pair talked on Skype every day during the championship and analyzed the previous game and her upcoming competitor.
“I felt a bit happy [after my win], but mostly I felt satisfied. I knew that I was stronger than all of my opponents I had always been afraid that I would mess everything up,” she said.
As a winner, Bashkansky has been awarded the Woman FIDE Master title and will receive an all-expenses paid invitation to the 2017 World School Chess Championship in Romania. She was not exempt from the two weeks of school and important tests she had missed, however, so since her win, Bashkansky said she has jumped back into being a middle school student.