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MACA Chess Horizons Magazine Article
 Interview Percy Yip: Raising a Star
 Nathan Smolensky
  December 2015

Behind every scholastic superstar in the game of chess is an exceptional support system. For NM Carissa Yip, the youngest female master in USCF history, that system is father Percy Yip, a fixture at every event the young starlet attends, traveling with her around the world, including to Greece for this autumn’s World Youth Championship, where Carissa won Silver in the Girls’ U12. Recently, I sat down with Mr. Yip to discuss his role in the history-making, and his insights into world-class chess competition.  

Nathan Smolensky: Did you introduce Carissa to chess? Had she shown interest in similar games before?

Percy Yip: She wanted to play in the school chess club (no teaching there), and so asked me to teach her how to play. She was 6 1/2 at that time and I hadn't introduced any strategic games to her before. I thought she was too young to learn.

NS: At what point did you realize that highlevel competition could be a possibility? How did you react to it? How did Carissa?

PY: After the first tournament game in Metrowest chess club in November 2010, Steve Frymer told me that she was very good, and told me about Spiegel cup. She was excited to be able to qualify for the Spiegel cup by rating, but we had to rush to get 26 games to have an official USCF. After that, parents kept telling me that she was very talented, but I didn't pay much attention to it until Summer 2011 when I received a letter from the USCF that she was qualified to play in the world youth chess championship 2011 in Brazil. Once that happened, I started to contact a number of chess organizations to see what help we could get from them. Though the support they could provide was limited, the response was clearly there.

NS: How does her play, and the travel associated with, affect your (and Carissa’s) lifestyle?

PY: She skipped many sport activities that usually happened on Saturdays in order for her to play more. The travel means that she might miss some school, and we have to make up the missed work. In general, we found that we don't have enough time. I use all my vacations for her chess tournaments.

NS: In traveling to all these international events, what insights have you gained into world chess cultures?

PY: Players that are serious to chess and willing to put the hard work will excel. A lot of countries emphasize chess to the point that that they are willing to sacrifice other activities in order to have the time to study. If they win in one of the prestigious international events, they will be the heroes of the countries, and highly rewarded by the countries. However, in the USA, we don't care too much about chess, and we don't have national support from the government. To be successful in the top level, one needs talent, hard work, and resources (top coaching, opportunities to compete in highlevel tournaments, financial support to travel, etc.). Here, most public schools don't allow more than two weeks' absence. I know some kids dropped out of school, had to repeat the same grade next year, or became homeschooled if they really wanted to become serious about chess.

NS: Of all the milestones Carissa has reached, the wins and the records broken, what was your favorite?

PY: My favorite hasn't happened yet. But so far, I would say the youngest female master.