With the exception of the U.S. Women’s Championship and kids’ classes on Sundays, sightings of lady chess players are few and far between around the Club. So any time an unknown woman walks through the front door of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center, there is much hope among the staff. Hope that she possesses a genuine interest in chess. Hope that she will become a member and boost our gender minority. Hope that she’s not just asking for directions around the Central West End.
Because of this everlasting hope, the Chess Club staff and members alike have been extraordinarily pumped lately to see young Thalia Cervantes with increasing frequency, consistently schooling a bunch of chess dudes with skills that transcend both genders.
Thalia is an 11-year-old who currently holds an impressive USCF rating of 1961, less than 50 rating points away from becoming an Expert. Born and raised in Cuba, she began playing when she was only 6 years old, her first school teacher introducing her to chess simply by teaching the fundamentals of the game. Thalia began studying in the Latin American Chess Institute (ISLA) under the guidance of Cuban Grandmaster Walter Arencibia who, within the last couple of years, has helped her take the game to a more serious level through active competition -- and with success. Thalia placed first in both the U12 section of a Central American Competition (Costa Rica) as well as the Marcel Sisniega International Tournament. She took second at the Pan-American Schools Chess Championship (San Salvador) in the U13 section.
Last summer, Thalia’s mother, Tamara, moved the family to the U.S. -- and strategically to St. Louis -- to get her daughters closer to more chess opportunity. Her impact on the scene has been immediate: Thalia took first in the DKC Summer Scholastic Tournament (Texas) and placed seventh in the prestigious Susan Polgar Foundation Girls Invitational here in Webster Groves, MO in July. She has become an able participant in many of the Chess Club events and participates with Webster University’s SPICE Team, and despite living in different countries, she still keeps in touch with GM Arencibia as a key advisor to her game.
When asked to pick her favorite chess player of all time, an adorably sincere smile spreads across Thalia’s face before she replies, without a shadow of hesitance, “Fischer.” The girl favors tactics more than any other aspect of chess, not surprisingly making her favorite piece the knight, and she aspires to one day earn the title of Grandmaster. And at the green age of 11, and already on the cusp of becoming a Women’s Candidate Master, Ms. Cervantes is definitely headed in the right direction.