12-year-old New Zealand chess player takes on some of the best in the world

A 12-year-old Kiwi chess player has been labeled a player to watch by the chess world, after outstanding performances at the 2022 Chess Olympiad, the biggest chess championships in the world.

Cadence Yu, an 8th grade student at Auckland’s Diocesan Girls’ School, has only been playing chess for three years and is already ranked among the world’s top chess players.

Yu said she started playing chess while still living in China and started playing at a local club and taking chess lessons.

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However, she said she wasn’t “chess crazy” until she watched the Candidates Tournament, an international tournament played by one of her grandmasters.

“I don’t know how many times I watched this video, but it was a great game. That’s when I started to take a serious interest in chess and wanted to know more,” Yu said.

Cadence Yu may only be 12, but she already plays chess with some of the best in the world.

Alex Cairns / Stuff

Cadence Yu may only be 12, but she already plays chess with some of the best in the world.

A grandmaster is the highest honor you can receive in chess, which Yu says would be amazing to achieve.

“It would be really amazing to become a grandmaster, but more realistically, I would like to try to be a female grandmaster, because there are female counterparts in every title,” Yu explained.

Female players can also achieve the title of Grandmaster (male) if they are “good enough” – only 39 female players worldwide currently receive this honor.

Yu earned her first honor – Master Candidate – thanks to her incredible performance at the 2022 Olympiad, where she won four of the eight matches she played.

One of Yu's goals is to get more girls her age interested in chess.

One of Yu’s goals is to get more girls her age interested in chess.

Yu is the youngest member of the New Zealand women’s team, which finished 67th out of 162 nations, including the best players in the world.

The 12-year-old has been recognized for her achievements by being awarded an individual female mistress contestant title, but it won’t be officially awarded until her ranking reaches 1800.

Currently, Yu’s ranking is around 1500 – to put that into perspective, the world number one chess player is ranked 2864.

Cadence is in 8th grade at the Diocesan School for Girls, where she is an enthusiastic member of the school's chess club.

Alex Cairns / Stuff

Cadence is in 8th grade at the Diocesan School for Girls, where she is an enthusiastic member of the school’s chess club.

Although chess may be seen by some as a game of skill or math, Yu describes it as “creative”.

“I like how you have to be responsible for all of your pieces, and if you lose focus on one of your pieces, you’ll probably lose the progress you’ve made,” she said.

Although Yu is striving to improve her ranking, she said one of her main goals is to encourage more Kiwis to play chess.

“There aren’t many professional female chess players, so it would be nice if people around me also liked chess, because it’s a really amazing game,” she said.

“By training to become a stronger player myself, I hope to inspire more girls in New Zealand.”

The pre-teen's love of board sports blossomed after watching her 'idols' play in the Candidates Tournament.

Alex Cairns / Stuff

The pre-teen’s love of board sports blossomed after watching her ‘idols’ play in the Candidates Tournament.

With Yu’s incredible talent in mind, Things challenged the 8th grade student to a very competitive and serious game of chess.

The match consisted of three very fast games, one of which lasted only 17 seconds and another spanned a few minutes – Yu prevailed each time.

Yu said her longest matches sometimes reached up to five hours, of which she won many.

Despite games with Things being purely for fun, Yu’s commitment to every move was admirable and humbling to watch.

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