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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Local student represents state in international chess competition

Tianhui Jie is unlike most 15-year-olds.

Before she finished eighth grade, the Buchholz High School sophomore, who goes by Cindy, scored a perfect five on the Advanced Placement Physics 1 exam, became a skilled pianist and competed in several chess tournaments across the country.

On Sept. 20, Jie represented Florida for the third time in the 2016 World Youth Chess Championship, a two-week tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia that showcases more than 400 players from 61 countries.

Jie, who returned to Gainesville on Friday, was the only Floridian woman to qualify for the U.S. team in the tournament.

“There’s this sense of pride — you’re really happy about what you’re doing and really proud of yourself that you’ve achieved so much,” she said.

Jie, the president of the Buchholz chess club, said although she did not win the competition, she made new friends and defeated a highly-ranked opponent.

Jie had to miss three weeks of classes to compete in the tournament, hosted by the World Chess Federation, said Will Frazer, the coach of the Buchholz math team, of which Jie is a member.

“Not many students could miss three weeks of school and get back into the groove,” Frazer said. “I think Cindy can.”

He said Jie’s hard work can serve as motivation for her peers.

“Her academics are as good as any student we have, and at the same time she’s devoting lots of hours to chess,” he said. “She’s an incredible person.”

Jackie Johnson, the spokeswoman for Alachua County Public Schools, said she was overjoyed Jie could represent the country at the tournament.

“We’re very proud of her achievements and very proud that she is representing Alachua County and the United States on the world stage,” she said.

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But for Jie, it’s not just about winning trophies or earning acclaim.

It’s about having fun introducing her favorite pastime to anyone who’s interested.

“I just want more people to try chess,” Jie said. “It’s super fun.”

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