So a few months after you learned how to play, you participated in your first tournament? Tell us about it.
I participated in my first tournament here in Acuña, when I was 6-years old and obviously I came in last place. It was a non-rated tournament, but I also want people to know that I played in the open section with grown-ups. I did not play in the children’s section.
Why not in the children’s section?
Well, that was where my dad was playing and I wanted to play where he was playing so that is why I didn’t want to play in the children’s section.
Now, all sports in Mexico belong to the Mexican government. You
played within the Mexican government chess system. How is that different from American chess?
In Mexico, to play in a Pan American or World Youth Championship, you have to play a national elimination starting in your school, then the winners go to the city championship, then regional’s, then state, then pre-nationals and then nationals. Only the top two in the first four phases advance and then the top three go to nationals. From there, the top 5-in nationals represent Mexico in the Pan American. In the Pan American the best Mexican in each category go to the World Youth Championship.
How long does this elimination process last?
Six months at the most.
And, who pays for this?
The government of each phase, like in the city championship the city pays the expenses of its winners to go to the regional, and the regional pays for the winners to go to state and so forth.
You played as a Mexican?
The Mexican constitution states I am Mexican because I am the daughter of a Mexican citizen, although I am an American by birth. The national eliminations are done states competing against states, that is how each state gets its national funding. Like, if your state wins in the majority of 66 recognized sports in Mexico, the federal government gives them more money.
Did you ever represent Mexico in international tournaments?
No, only the United States.
So how far did you go in the Mexican Chess system?
Five state championships – undefeated. Three Pre-Nationals – undefeated. Two National Scholastics where I won three medals for my state, and in 2008, I came in 3rd place of the top 5-Mexican national team members that were going to represent Mexico in the Pan American Youth in Argentina, but I opted to represent the United States.
So you could have represented Mexico in international chess tournaments?
Yes, I could have.
Why did you not being that the Mexican government was paying all of your expenses?
The Mexican chess system is corrupt, although they pay for the expenses, there is a lot of politics and I thought I was too young to understand what that meant but there is a lot of favoritism. I live in the state of Coahuila, not known for chess. The system favors players from chess states like Yucatan, San Luis Potosi, and Jalisco. So in 2007, I officially decided to represent the U.S.A. in international events. One major reason that I did not want to play for the Mexican national team was rating.
What do you mean by rating?
It took back then almost six months to rate the tournament you competed in, now its every three months but the ratings aren’t right. When I was 7-years old, I was rated 1216. Every year since then I have played at least 25-rated games, only losing at the most 4-games a year. In four-years my rating has only gone up 170 points. Keep in mind how many tournaments in the Mexican chess system I have won going undefeated! Yet, I see players from chess states that have not won the amount of medals I have won, with 200 or 300 points higher in rating! In the U.S.A., I had to start from the bottom with my rating and in only eight rated tournaments I have played since I was 8-years old, my rating is 1474. In my last tournament in San Antonio, two weeks ago, I jumped 118 points in only seven games. So, by next summer, since I am moving back to the United States in January, just so I can play at the Dallas Chess Club, my rating should be close to 1800, at age 12, leaving me in the top five girls in the USCF.
Did the Mexican chess system retaliate against you for playing for the U.S.A. while living in Mexico and being of Mexican heritage?
Big time. I was not allowed this 2009 to play in the Mexican government chess system because I am officially an “American” because of my registration with FIDE.
How do you feel about that decision?
I am o.k. with it because I know when a door closes another one opens. Now, I know what path I am going to take internationally.
What achievements do you have in FIDE and in the USCF at your young age of 11?
I represented the U.S.A in the North American Youth Championship in 2007, my first ever international tournament; it was held in all places – Mexico. I was the official representative of the United States because no one bothered to sign-up with the USCF in my age group. Canada and Bermuda did not send anyone either in my category, so it was just me for the United States and about 20-Mexican chess players of who five had just represented Mexico in the Pan American Youth in Colombia. Those same five girls, I had faced in the Mexican National Scholastic Championship coming in 6th place that year.
How did they react when they saw you wearing the American uniform?
Everyone was quiet.
So what happened?
I won the Gold Medal for the United States totally undefeated. I also received from FIDE, my first international chess title as WOMAN CANDIDATE MASTER for having won a major continental tournament. I also received the right to represent the U.S.A. as North American Champion at the Pan American Youth in Argentina 2008.
How old were you?
And after the tournament you drove back to your home in Acuña, Mexico?
Were you scared they would be mad at you?
My father said there would be retaliation from the Mexican chess federation for our decision but that I had the right to represent the country I felt more comfortable with. The USCF treated us politely and respectfully during the entire process. The head of delegation, Mr. Russell Harwood was aware of what was going on with the Mexican Federation and he was very supportive of me. The Mexican Federation has never called us or even attempted to speak with us, on the contrary, it has always been obstacles after obstacles so that I would not play because I was U.S. born.
So its racism?
Its ignorance, I mean the Mexican Chess Federation guards its system so much against foreigners that it doesn’t do anything for its own Mexican players. Did you know that out of the four Grandmaster’s Mexico has, half declined to represent Mexico in the 2008 Olympiad in Germany? What does that tell you? They are fed-up with their own system. Only one Mexican grandmaster lives in Mexico, the rest are out of here.
How have people in Mexico taken all this?
The people support me because this is common in Mexico. Most high performance athletes in this country leave to play for other countries because of the corruption of the system, nothing new. They have always supported us because they see the corruption in the system but they won’t stand up for fear of retaliation. I don’t see what the problem is because Mexican players live in the U.S.A. and they play in all the scholastic championships and no one in America bothers them, at least I hope not.
Did you sign something to get your FIDE title?
Yes, after the tournament, they took me to a room and I signed a document stating that I was accepting the title of Woman Candidate Master. Later, I received an official document signed by FIDE awarding me the title with an official pin.
How many tournaments had you played in the U.S.A. prior to you winning the title?
Two or three tops.
So you were an unknown completely too American chess?
Completely, but when I began to play in my first tournaments in the U.S.A. and I began to go undefeated their as well, I began to face some obstacles as well because they said I was a Mexican and because I had a FIDE title, I should not be allowed to play in the children’s section. But I guess that’s for another topic.
Tomorrow we will post the rest of this interview.