Brooklyn chess star battles the pressure of expectations
Rochelle Ballantyne of East Flatbush was revealed as a prodigy when the documentary ‘Brooklyn Castle’ chronicled the powerhouse chess program at Williamsburg’s I.S. 318. The phenom has been chasing her potential ever since.
By Doyle Murphy / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Monday, January 6, 2014, 7:21 PM
Some days, Brooklyn’s chess queen can’t help feeling like a pawn.
Rochelle Ballantyne, a former child prodigy who was featured prominently in a chess documentary as a 13-year-old, is trying to hold onto her love for the game after years of grinding through high-stakes tournaments under the pressure of soaring expectations.
“It’s made chess become — instead of the game I love — it’s become like a job,” said the 18-year-old phenom, a college freshman who returned to East Flatbush last week from the United Arab Emirates after an unsatisfying finish at a world youth championship tournament.
Ballantyne’s followers assumed she would swiftly reach her goal of becoming the first African-American female chess master.
It has proved to be an elusive goal.
The distinction is based on a rating system that swings up and down based on a complicated formula that accounts for total victories as well as the strength of a player’s opponents.
Ballantyne’s U.S. Chess Federation rating is currently 2,062; she needs to reach 2,200 to become a master.
Now attending Stanford University on a full academic scholarship, Ballantyne is still chasing master status as the pressure — which is mostly self-imposed — grows.
Her lackluster performance in last month’s World Youth Chess Championship didn’t help.
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