Maggie Feng won a silver medal last month, but it wasn’t in swimming or gymnastics.
The incoming Grizzell Middle School sixth-grader won the medal in the 2012 Pan-American Youth Chess Championship in the girls under 12 division.
Feng, who is the top-rated girl younger than 13 in the U.S. in chess, represented her country at the contest in Lima, Peru. The international contest drew more than 600 competitors.
While at the nine-day competition, Feng played chess almost every day and posted five wins and four draws.
“It’s exciting,” she said of her silver-medal win.
Feng began playing chess four years ago when she found a chessboard at home.
“I found my brother’s little chess set and he taught me,” she said.
But Feng soon overtook her brother on the chessboard and began going to competitions.
“It’s fun to play and sometimes challenging,” Feng said, noting that she’s also made friends at competitions.
The chess contests have also taken her far.
“I’ve been all around the United States,” Feng said. “I’ve been to South America and Brazil.”
Last month’s Pan-American Youth Chess Championships wasn’t her first big event.
“Last year, she represented the U.S. in the chess championships in Brazil,” said Lei Feng, Maggie’s father. “This was her second time (there).”
Winning the silver medal qualified Feng for next year’s Pan-American Youth Chess Championships in Brazil, and won her free accommodations.
Last week, she headed to Vancouver to represent Ohio in a middle school chess championship. Feng also plans to go to Slovenia in November to represent the U.S. in the world championships.
“There are players from all over the world,” Lei Feng said. “That’s much tougher.”
Along with competitions, Feng stays busy practicing chess every day. She has a local coach and also takes lessons online from an international coach.
Her brother will no longer play against her, but Feng said she finds competitors online.
Chess isn’t Feng’s sole interest, though. The sixth-grader also enjoys tennis and is looking forward to studying math and art when she returns to Grizzell Middle School later this month.