Forest Hills’ young chess champ

By Eric Jankiewicz

Forest Hills chess champion Amelie Phung came home with a gold medal after a series of matches in Mexico against some of the toughest players in North America. And she isn’t even 8 years old yet.

“She is in heaven right now,” her father, Tam Phung, said. “To gain this title made her feel really good.”

Amelie took the Gold Medal for the US Chess team at the North America Youth Festival held in Toluca, Mexico. She competed in the under-8 girls bracket and went undefeated. While Amelie may be a long way from getting the Grand Master title given to the best international players, she earned the Women’s Candidate Master, which is given to international chess champions who pass the 2,000 rating, a measurement of a chess player’s ability. To become a candidate for Grand Master status, a player has to at least have a 2,600 rating.

Amelie and her father spent the weekend in Toluca for the match.

“It’s a sense of pride to win the Gold Medal and to get that title,” Tam said, noting that the win boosted Amelie’s confidence and set her up for the World Championship in Greece. “It’s a stepping stone towards getting the World Championship.”

Earlier this year, she won a tournament in California, where she first qualified for the international championships.

Amelie is coached by a Grand Master, Irina Krush. Krush is known for her instructional videos, “Krushing Attacks,” and teaches the game to Amelie at the Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan. The Forest Hills chess champion goes to school on the Upper East Side at TAG Young Scholars . .

At the chess tournament in Mexico, 357 kids battled it out on the game board. The tournament is held annually and it is the championships for the region. Stakes at the game can be high because if players perform poorly they won’t be able to move on to the championships in Greece.

“But for now she gets a break from chess as the golf season begins,” Tam said. “She’s really talented at that, too, and has a real love for it.”

Reach reporter Eric Jankiewicz by e-mail at ejankiewicz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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