Brooklyn Chess Star Rochelle Ballantyne

Rochelle Ballantyne Stanford RISes

Rochelle Ballantyne’s Stanford RISes ( photo

As part of our continuing “This Girl Is On Fire” campaign, we conducted an interview with Stanford student and chess star Rochelle Ballantyne.

Rochelle Brooklyn Castle

We first learned about Rochelle, who grew up in East Flatbush, when she was featured in Brooklyn Castle a documentary that chronicled the powerhouse chess program at Williamsburg’s I.S. 318. She in now all grown-up, attending Stanford University on a full scholarship.

In 2008, Garry Kasparov played a 20-board chess simulation against some of the top young players in the New York Metro area. According to a Chessbase article:

Garry Kasparov and Rochelle Ballantyne

Former chess world champion Garry Kasparov and 13-year old Rochelle Ballantyne

Kasparov didn’t hesitate when asked afterwards which game had been the toughest. Rochelle Ballantyne had maintained the balance with solid play until finally being blitzed off the board when there were only three opponents remaining.

As a freshman at Brooklyn Technical High School, Rochelle won the All-Girls National Championships and was awarded a full scholarship to the University of Texas at Dallas.

Inspired by Harvard’s “I, Too, Am Harvard,” project, Rochelle along with EKela Autry started “Stanford RISes: Conversations on Race, Inequality, Sexuality and Gender.”

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Hazel Scott “What America Means To Me”

Hazel Scott and Family

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.; Adam Clayton Powell III; and Hazel Scott

Hazel Scott was a musical genius who began studying at The Juilliard School at the age of eight. In 1945, the year she married Harlem congressman Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., she was earning $75,000 a year which would be worth over $980,000 in 2014. She was the first African-American woman to host a network television show. In 1951, over Philadelphia station WFIL, Hazel Scott gave a short speech entitled “What American Means To Me.” Here are some excerpts:

I’m an American by choice.

Jim Crow doesn’t belong anywhere in this country of ours.

American is as big and as strong as its weakest point.

We cannot advocate for people in other lands, what we don’t have here.

American is great because we are allowed to speak our minds and to say exactly what we think.

Bigots don’t belong in this country. It’s too great for them.

I have a son… I want him to grow up someday to find that this country of ours which has improved so much in the last hundred years will be improving all the more all the time. Someday I hope that he will see, even if I don’t live to see it, all racial prejudices eliminated.

I love America… I would live nowhere else.

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Interview with Chess Champion Natalia Pogonina

Natalia Pogonina

Natalia Pogonina:

As part of our continuing “This Girl Is On Fire” campaign, we conducted an interview with chess champion Natalia Pogonina after winning the Chess Olympiad.

Update (April 7, 2015): Natalia Pogonina lost to Mariya Muzychuk in the Women’s World Chess Championships in Sochi. Muzychuk will have to defend her title against the ex-World Champion, Hou Yifan of China, in October of 2015. The competition pitted 64 players from 28 countries against each other between March 16 – April 6.

Women's World Chess Championships

In the final match of the Women’s World Chess Championships, 22-year-old Mariya Muzychuk from Ukraine defeated 30-year-old Natalia Pogonina from Russia

Natalia Andreevna Pogonina (Russian: Наталья Андреевна Погонина)  is a chess Woman Grandmaster from Russia  and one of the best female chess players in the world. Since 2004 she has been a member of Team Russia and is the reigning Olympic Women’s Chess Champion.

Woman Grandmaster (WGM), three-times European champion (U16, twice U18), bronze prize winner at the World Championship (U18). Ranked as 3rd most successful female chess player in the world in 2009 by the Association of Chess Professionals. In 2011 Natalia became the only chess player in the world to simultaneously win the Eurocup and European Team Chess Championship and in 2013 – the only person to hold the individual and team Russian Champion titles. She was runner-up at Women’s World Team Chess Championship-2011 and earned the bronze medal in 2013.

How did you enjoy the Chess Olympiad and why didn’t you play every round?

Hi! I have enjoyed Tromso a lot, from the friendly people to beautiful sceneries and the chess fever which is now taking place in Norway. Observing chess being broadcast on national TV every day for hours, plenty of chess merchandize in the shops and chess boards being offered at any bar was definitely pleasant for me. However, the organization of the Chess Olympiad itself left a lot to be desired. I don’t want to go into details, but it is enough to point out that two chess players/participants died during the Olympiad’2014. This is very sad.

I guess you were referring to a particular day when I didn’t play, right? It’s up to the captains to decide which line-up to choose for a particular match. This time I participated in 7 out of 11 rounds, although I would have certainly liked to play more and was always eager to compete.

Obviously, it was amazing to win the Chess Olympiad for the third time in a row. We have a fantastic team, and I am happy that we managed to perform so well.

Natalia in Tromso

At the Chess Olympiad in Tromso. Norway has become a chess country thanks to World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen’s achievements.

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Interview with Amy Lee of Millionaire Chess

Amy Lee, Partner at Millionaire Chess

Amy Lee, Partner at Millionaire Chess

As part of our “This Girl Is On Fire” campaign, we conducted an email interview with Amy Lee, one of the people behind Millionaire Chess.  Amy Lee exemplifies the expression “go big or go home.” A self-made millionaire, Amy has spent her career devouring anything that captivates her attention. She built one of the first dollar store franchise chains in Vancouver, BC, and found success in high-end real estate development, banking, and restaurant management, all before deciding to retire at the age of 38.

Amy is Chinese, born in Vietnam, raised in Canada and has been there since she was 8 years old. Her family escaped the devastating situation in Vietnam in 1976. By the time they arrived in Canada, her parents had nothing left but the 4 gold necklaces they saved up for as wedding gifts for their children.  Amy’s family literally started life anew in Canada beginning in 1979.

Passionate about tackling new challenges, she instantly saw an opportunity in the Millionaire Chess Open and decided to “unretire” to take it on as her first project after travelling the world with her son for two years. Through her longtime friend Maurice Ashley, Amy saw the potential to bring chess into the mainstream eye, raising the game to a completely new level.

1. What is Millionaire Chess all about? 
The Millionaire Chess Open is the highest stakes event in Open chess tournament history. Millionaire Chess is the company that Maurice Ashley and I stand behind with our hearts and all our passion. It’s the branding of what we stand for. Rewarding Brilliance. We started MC with a view to the future. We were never going to be a one trick pony. Of course we’ve created a business, but the essence of what we stand behind is that we want to bring the prestigious game of chess into a new light, a modern light. One that catapults the game to a global stage and changes its face completely. 

2. How did you get involved with Millionaire chess?

Maurice and I have been friends since 2009. During one of our many talks, I was inspired by his vision for the game. As an entrepreneur, I saw an incredible opportunity to create a legacy from this idea and who better to do that than Maurice? He is really the perfect GM and chess professional to spearhead this kind of monumental change in the oldest game in history.
3. Please tell us about your vision for Millionaire Chess
Millionaire Chess wants to bring the game into the mainstream. Chess is already becoming more and more prevalent in pop culture. It’s time to move this impression of this game into a new light. One that we hope can add some excitement. When you think that more people play chess than all sports combined it’s hard not to see the opportunity to do new and exciting things with chess. It’s a serious game based on all skill and no luck.
Millionaire Chess comes from a deep rooted passion to shift the direction of this game. We never set out to make everyone who plays chess happy. We never wanted to rock the boat. We just want to see competitive chess elevated to a higher level and to bring more of a spotlight onto one of the greatest game in the world.  Though we might be breaking tradition, we’ll still keep the game’s wow factor and broad-based appeal. Hopefully, we’ll successfully add to that as well.

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Neighborhoods with Thriving Independent Businesses

According to a report by American Express OPEN:

Neighborhoods with thriving independent businesses saw home values outperform citywide markets by 50 percent over the last 14 years.

Based on the Independent We Stand Home Value Calculator:

In the New York Metro area, the average home value would have increased 176% or $291,672 to $457,672 from 1997 to 2011 if it was located near a successful independent business district.

And according to a national study by sociologists at LSU and Baylor University:

Counties and parishes with a greater concentration of small, locally-owned businesses have healthier populations — with lower rates of mortality, obesity and diabetes — than do those that rely on large companies with “absentee” owners.

So if you live in a neighborhood with thriving independent businesses, chances are your home is worth more and you are healthier than if you lived in neighborhood without thriving independent businesses.

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