Q: What motivated you to start playing chess?
A: My grandmother taught me to play when I was in the third grade. I was really active as a child, and she wanted to find a way to keep me relaxed and get my brain going.
Q: When did you begin to take chess seriously?
A: The first time that I won a national tournament when I was in the fifth grade. I won fourth place at the Girls National Championship and that's when I thought, I could really be good at this.
Q: What's driving you to become the first African-American female master in the history of chess?
A: My grandmother. When I first started playing, she introduced to me the idea of being the first African-American female chess master. I didn't think about it much because for me it seemed like an impossible feat, and I didn't think it could happen. I wasn't as focused and dedicated as I am now. I didn't think I was a good chess player—people told me I was, but it wasn't my mentality at that moment. But then after she died, that really affected me, because she was the one person that always had confidence in me. She never pushed me, and she always respected me for who I was. I have to reach that goal for her.
Q: How does playing chess impact your academic life?
A: Chess makes me think. It helps me in school, and it can really help in the college applications. It motivates me and makes me push myself harder.
See the interview in 2012. Rochelle is attending Stanford right now.