I'm 11 and the Youngest Chess Master in the 2021 U.S. Junior Championships'

My older brother went to the school chess club at school in Minnesota where we live, so when I started first grade at the age of 6 I also started going too. I was drawn into the game and after a few months I started getting rated.

But in the beginning I was one of the worst players at the school club. Over the next two years I probably played 200 games and lost many of them, but through that I got more experience and became pretty good.

I study many parts of chess; opening, tactics, strategies and also endgames and I tried to get better at them with practice. I enjoy positional play in the middle game, but if there are brilliant tactics I can use, I like playing them too. For example, when you are playing you can use tactics called "skewers," "pins" and "forks" and there are also different ways to checkmate, for example, the mate with Knight and Queen.

Every game is different and I think people might not realise that. There are so many different moves and beautiful combinations that can be played, so you have to be resourceful. That's why I like chess. After the first two years of playing, when I was 8, I became one of the youngest chess experts in the U.S. You have to reach a rating of 2000 to get that title, and I achieved that in September of 2018. I was one of the youngest girls to achieve that and I do not think any other girls have done so since then.

Since then, I have won two gold medals at the World Cadet Chess Championship, one in 2019 in the Girls U10 section and one in 2020 in the Girls U12 section. In March 2020, I achieved a chess rating of 2200 and became one of the youngest U.S. chess masters.

I was the youngest player, boy or girl, in the U.S. Junior Championship or the US Girls' Junior Championship in 2020, which was played online. And this year, I'm the youngest again to compete. It feels great to be playing older and experienced players and I hope I can be as good as some of them one day. It's the games that I lost to stronger players at last year's Championships that actually stood out to me, because I try to learn from them.

Alice Lee is a chess master
At 11 years old, Alice Lee is the youngest chess master, boy or girl, to compete in the 2021 U.S. Junior Championships. Vanessa Lee

For example, my game against international master Carissa Yip in 2020. She beat me technically in the end game when she went up a pawn and managed to convert it. Carissa has won the U.S. Junior Girls' Championships many times and she really inspires me.

She won't be playing this year, but I will be playing against nine very strong juniors from ages 14 to 20 and the higher seeds like Annie Wang, Martha Samadashvili, and Thalia Cervantes are also very inspiring to me. I am one of the lower seeds so the tournament will be tough and I'm nervous about playing all of them—I'm just hoping to achieve the best I can!

Recently I have been spending a bit more time playing chess because of tournament preparation, but I go to a regular middle school so usually I only have one hour to spend on chess during the school day. Outside of chess, I enjoy doing math and I do one mile of running a day—except for the days I can't do it!

Alice Lee is a chess master
Alice Lee is a chess master

Most of my friends don't actually play chess so I'm not exactly sure what they think of my success, but I think my parents are pretty impressed.

I host a show called "Alice's Pawn Palace" with FIDE master FunMasterMike on the ChessKid website. We started the show in the fall of 2020, a few months after I competed in the semi final of the ChessKid Youth Speed Chess Championship. We have had several episodes of the show since then and during each show we do fun stuff and chess activities, playing games against other children who challenge us. I like "hand and brain" where one person, such as FunMasterMike, says the name of the piece and I move the piece. We get several thousand people watching the shows live and many children have sent me friend requests on the site after these episodes. I hope that people have enjoyed the shows.

One day, I'd like to be a chess grandmaster, but if I can't achieve that then I will hopefully still be playing in competitions like the U.S. Junior Championships or even the U.S. Women's Championships. It feels great to be successful at a young age and I am honored by the chance to compete at the US Junior Chess Championships. Chess is a big part of my life, so I hope to have many great successes in the future.

Alice Lee is a chess master who lives in North Oaks, Minnesota with her family. The 2021 US Junior Chess Championships and 2021 US Girls' Junior Chess Championships will be held at the St Louis Chess Club July 12-16 2021.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Jenny Haward.