Mounds View High School's student news site.

The Viewer

Mounds View High School's student news site.

The Viewer

Mounds View High School's student news site.

The Viewer

Mounds View High School's student news site.

The Viewer

Alice Lee, local chess prodigy

At just 14 years old, Alice Lee from the Mounds View area has become the world’s third youngest female International Master (IM) in chess.
St. Louis Chess Club
Lee at the 2022 US Women’s Chess Championship.

At just 14 years old, Alice Lee has been smashing through chess records, becoming the world’s third youngest female international master (IM) — the second-best ranking in the chess world, only behind the grandmaster (GM) title. Lee started right here in the Mounds View area, formerly attending Mounds View Public Schools, but recently switched to online school at Eden Prairie Public Schools to focus on chess. 

In first grade, Lee joined Turtle Lake Elementary’s chess club, which her brother had already attended in the mornings. “My parents just wanted me to go along with him so they could drop us off at the same time, and then I started playing chess. I wasn’t very good when I started, but I improved, and then I really started to enjoy the game,” she said. From there, Lee continued playing chess and, at seven years old, attended OleChess Camp at St. Olaf College. 

While attending OleChess Camp, Lee met her first coach, Grandmaster Dmitry Gurevich. “My first coach is the coach that influenced me the most because he’s the one that kind of motivated me. Especially from a very young age, having a really positive thinker and mentor is really important to keep motivated,” said Lee. 

Lee’s success in the chess world led her to become the world’s third youngest international master and achieve the woman grandmaster (WGM) title. This has granted her different opportunities, such as receiving the Samford Fellowship —  the richest and most prestigious chess scholarship — two years in a row. She also participates in tournaments worldwide, spending days or weeks away from home at a time. 

At the 2023 World Women’s Team Championship, Lee clinched an individual gold medal while Team USA placed fourth overall. (Vanessa Lee)

Tournaments are highly competitive, often with many international masters and grandmasters making appearances. As such, prize money is involved for the winners. “The prize money helps me pay for travel, coaching, and other chess-related expenses. I am also fortunate to receive the Samford Fellowship for chess two years in a row, which covers some of my chess expenses. After paying for taxes, I save some for future chess tournaments and for college,” said Lee.

Lee spends several hours a week preparing for tournaments. Studying chess for her may involve looking over openings or reviewing games broadcasted online. “I would say [the time I spend] depends on when it is because, for example, if I’ve been in a tournament, I can spend up to eight to 10 hours probably just on the chess games alone. And when I’m not in a tournament, which is most of the time, I usually do try to still spend a couple of hours on chess a day,” said Lee. 

As Lee learned chess, she received many helpful tips and advice from different coaches and teachers, but one piece of advice she got especially stuck with her. She recommends it to anyone interested in getting into chess. “I think it’s just to really enjoy the game like I’ve been told a lot,” Lee said. “I think a lot of people said that enjoying the game is really important because otherwise it’s easy to lose motivation and to be able to keep that level of motivation is important for improvement because if you don’t enjoy the game, then playing chess wouldn’t be any fun at all.”

Besides chess, Lee participated in math contests throughout middle school, where she enjoyed the community surrounding the competitions. However, Lee primarily focuses on chess in her day-to-day life.  Online school allows Lee to focus on chess, but she still wants to succeed academically. “Online is really great because I can take online classes while I’m at the tournament. And of course, there is some balance, because I want to do well on both,” she said. 

In many aspects, Lee’s life may seem different compared to other high schoolers, however, Lee says, “I feel like a normal teenager, much like anyone else who has an extra-curricular activity. I attend school online and it feels similar to in-person schools in many ways.”

I think somebody once said, chess is the greatest equalizer because you’re just able to play chess as the common language with somebody.

— Alice Lee

As Lee continues to improve in chess and play in various tournaments, she looks forward to what the future holds. “I’m excited to go to some tournaments and some training opportunities that I have, because, especially for chess tournaments, it’s really great because there’s so many different people of different ages, races, backgrounds, genders. So it’s just really great to see so many unique people and play against them,” she said. “I think somebody once said, chess is the greatest equalizer because you’re just able to play chess as the common language with somebody [who] would go to these fantastic tournaments and opportunities.” 

About the Contributor
Mara Peacock
Mara Peacock, Staff Reporter
Mara is a junior staff reporter, and this year is her first year on The Viewer. Awards: Best of SNO - Soundless storytelling: ASLHS to interpret spring musical Best of SNO - Sports betting: Teens hit the “slots” Best of SNO - The teacher shortage crisis
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