15-Year-Old Jessica Hyatt, With 1,950 Rating, Awarded $40,000 College Scholarship

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A chess champion from Brooklyn who’s only 15 years old has been awarded a $40,000 college scholarship.

Jessica Hyatt is one of the top 10 Black female chess players in the country.

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“I play whenever I get the chance, like in my free time, like during my classes, like sometimes during classes,” Jessica said.

She plays five to seven hours a day and, at just 15, is hoping to become the first African-American female chess master.

Here’s how it works — you need to achieve a rating of 2,200 to become a chess master. Jessica is at 1,950.

CBS2’s Cindy Hsu spoke to her coaches, who are both National Masters, the highest level in the U.S.

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Jessica Hyatt (right), a 15-year-old from Brooklyn, is one of the top 10 Black female chess players in the country. She’s hoping to become the first African-American female chess master. (Photo provided)

Tyrell Harriott started coaching Jessica five years ago.

“I learned the game when I was 15, so for Jessica to be at 1,950, that’s a huge edge,” he said.

She’s a sophomore at Success Academy, which has an incredible chess program.

David Mbonu, also a National Master, remembers the first time he met Jessica, who’s normally very quiet.

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“The first thing she did right around when class was over is she walked up to me and she was like, ‘Can I play you?’ and I remember, I was like, ‘oh,'” he said.

He says she’s very close to making history.

“There has never been a female Black player to break the master ranking and that’s what Jessica is going for,” Mbonu said.

Jessica’s chess trophies (Credit: CBS2)

Jessica won the Daniel Feinberg Success in Chess Award, which comes with a $40,000 college scholarship.

Because of the pandemic, she now has to play online but is determined as ever, and her mom, Loy Allen, is hoping other young children, especially children of color, will be inspired by her daughter’s story.

“If your kid’s passionate enough about it, have them go for it because the sky’s the limit, right?” Allen said.

And Jessica is going for it.

Along with becoming a chess master, Jessica would like to attend MIT and plans on teaching chess to children in her community.


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