BELLEVUE, Wash. -- When Naomi Bashkansky is on the verge of striking, her opponent won’t see it coming.
“She’s a ‘Terminator’ – no emotions. She just kills people,” chess grandmaster and Bashkansky’s longtime coach Greg Serper said.
The 13-year-old Bellevue girl doesn’t disagree.
“I squeezed them,” Bashkansky said of her actions, which won her first place at the World School Chess Championship in Sochi, Russia in December. “Usually I try to get a strong position right after the opening, and I’m a pretty aggressive player so I usually just try to attack.”
At her home in Bellevue, however, Bashkansky is a typical teenager impressing her peers with her bevy of winnings: about 50 trophies, multiple medals and a pen from the President of Russia. Her parents immigrated from Russia to Israel, where Bashkansky was born, and then to the United States when she was 4-years-old.
“I showed it to my friends at school and everyone is obsessed with it. It’s my Putin pen,” Bashkansky said, laughing.
She’s inspiring younger girls too, according to Serper.
“I have many students and I tell them Naomi is doing this and that. And if you want to be like Naomi, you should do that,” Serper said, explaining many girls stop playing chess in 6th or 7th grade and the dropout rates impact competition. “The ratio is insane. Maybe 10 to 1: boys to girls.”
Bashkansky, however, doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the competition or the attention.
“I mean, it’s cool: I can say, Hey look I’m in the newspaper or on TV,” Bashkansky said. “But personally, I’d rather just play chess.”
Her next competition will be in the Seattle area January 6 to 8 with the Seattle Chess Club.