Chess, to Jessica Hyatt’s mom, was a hobby but to the 15-year-old from Brooklyn, it was a passion, and now that passion is paying off. Hyatt was presented with the Daniel Feinberg Success in Chess Award in a virtual ceremony on October 13, an award that comes with a $40,000 in college scholarship.
The award recognizes chess players from Success Academy Charter Schools across Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens who have demonstrated significant progress in the game.
Hyatt attends the Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts in Manhattan and has been playing chess since she was four years old. The tenth-grader said she is elated to be given an award for doing something she cherishes. “I play in my free time,” she was quoted by BK Reader.
“When I wake up, during my breaks I play it, during my lunch I play it — maybe 6 to 7 hours per day I play.”
Chess is primarily dominated by white people and mostly white males, and at the moment, there are no African Americans in the top ten ranked female or male players in the United States. Hyatt is currently ranked in the top ten Black female chess players in the country but she is hoping to break the master ranking to become the first African American female chess master.
Her coaches, Tyrell Harriott and David Mbonu, both National Masters, say she is not far from achieving that feat. To become a chess master, Hyatt has to earn a ranking of at least 2,200. She’s already at 1,950, according to a CBS New York report.
“I learned the game when I was 15, so for Jessica to be at 1,950, that’s a huge edge,” said Harriott, who started coaching Hyatt five years ago.
Hyatt, growing up, had to travel outside Brownsville where she lives to meet chess clubs and find tournaments, her mom, Loy Walker said. Walker is proud of her daughter’s achievement and hopes she will become an inspiration to other young children, especially children of color.
Hyatt, apart from aiming to become a chess master, said she would like to attend MIT and teach chess to children in her community.
Hyatt is currently among other young Black chess champions like Cahree Myrick and Nigerian refugee Tanitoluwa “Tani” Adewumi who are making waves. It took a little over a year for eight-year-old Nigerian chess prodigy Adewumi to learn to play chess but he went ahead to deservedly become the New York State Primary Chess Champion (Top Players K – 3rd Grade) after debuting at the New York State chess championship in March 2019.