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Wellesley College chess champ returns home a victor

Posted by Evan Allen  October 1, 2012 09:35 AM

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Wellesley College junior Anya Corke remembers studying to play chess in smoky clubs in St. Petersburg, Russia at just ten years old, fast evening tournaments with men much older than she was. She fell in love with the game there, and with Russia, according to a Wellesley College release.

She was a natural. She has held the title of Women’s Grandmaster since she was 14, according to the release.

Corke has just returned from this year’s World Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, where she represented England. It was her fourth Olympiad, according to the release.

“Playing in the Olympiad is always a wonderful experience,” she said in the release. “Thousands of players take part, including many friends and acquaintances, and most of the world’s best chess players; I still can’t help feeling star-struck when I’m in the same room as so many of my childhood heroes.”

England finished 17th in a field of 150. Team tournaments, said Corke in the release, are more pressure than individual tournaments, because her teammates’ scores are riding on her performance. She played cautiously, she said, avoiding risks.

Corke has won four Hong Kong championships, three British junior titles, and an Asian girls’ championship, according to the release.

She started playing at 9 years old.

“I was fascinated by the aesthetic beauty of chess, and its equality and objectivity also appealed to me: irrespective of age or sex, players compete on an absolutely level playing field,” she said in the release.

She’s eagerly awaiting the arrival of a chess set at Wellesley, where she’s involved in the Russian Club and Russian Corridor. After she graduates, she wants to get her PhD in Russian literature and become a professor.

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com

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