Player Spotlight: Adia Onyango
In this week's blog post, we will be highlighting a certain chess player who has been playing well at the Marshall lately: Adia Onyango.
Recently, she played in the Mikhail Layevskiy Memorial Blitz Tournament, earning over 70 blitz rating points. She also won the U2000 class prize at the G/45 on January 28th and played in the club's very first Marshall Premier tournament in the U2000 section this weekend. Among her achievements are that in December 2012, she was in the top 100 women in the United States (now top 150) and in July 2016, she became the 5th African American woman in history to reach the level of National Expert. This is impressive because she only began competing in tournaments as an adult.
Adia attributes her recent tournament success to being rested and eating properly before her games. Like any chess teacher, it is often difficult for her to focus on her own chess because she is focused on educating the next generation of chess player. However, she uses her love for the social aspects of chess to improve her own development, such as starting an all women's online study group for women/girls over 1800. Together, they support each other, review games, and read chess books. Besides that, she tries to stay active in tournament play, does tactics, and exercises daily.
She is a chess teacher/coach, plays in the Commercial Chess League of New York on an all female team, and is an administrator of two popular Facebook groups called Chess Connections
and Women and Girls Do Play Chess
. She is frequently known as #chesstraveler and loves the social aspect of chess. I got the opportunity to ask Ms. Onyango several questions to get to know her better. She is clearly a chess player that anyone would want to know and learn from!What's something you find special at the Marshall and why do you like playing there?
The Marshall Chess Club has been in existence for over 100 years and many of the great chess legends of the past and present have pushed pieces there. I love the historic pictures on the wall that each tell their own story. Even the absence of pictures tell a story. The very first time I set foot in the Marshall, I was blown away by the weight of the history on its walls and I continue to enjoy some of the great stories of the past when I talk with long time members like Ginny Hoffman, who has shared many stories about women in chess, Asa Hoffman, who was friends with Bobby Fischer, IM Jay Bonin, who has probably played the most games at the Marshall, the departed GM Lombardy, and many more.Greatest chess achievement of 2017? 2018? In your life?
I do not think my greatest chess achievement has happened yet. A chess achievement from 2017 that makes me smile is the fact that I played chess in 7 countries (Bermuda, China, Thailand, Ireland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark) and competed in tournaments and even won prizes in 3 of those countries, Ireland, Sweden and Norway.
Another achievement that I'm proud of is not my own but that of my students. After launching a schoolwide chess program in Long Island at a school where none of the kids played I was proud have the kids competing in tournaments and winning medals and trophies within a year, in addition to having one of my 7 year old students make the top 100 girls under 7 in the US list.
2018 has just started but I was happy to start the year off with a few wins, coming in first in the Boston Congress and taking first place in the Marshall U2000.Who are your chess heroes? Which players are your role models?
Hands down my chess heros are Judith Polgar and Susan Polgar. The have broken down so many barriers for women in chess and continue to do work to advance women in chess.
In regards to role models, I was an adult when I entered the competitive chess arena and most of my role models are not chess players. My role models start with my parents and my grandparents. I was blessed to be surrounded with the best role models one could look for.Tell us about your hashtag, #chesstraveler. Where have you traveled to? What was your favorite place to travel to?
Chess and travel are two things that I am passionate about and I feel blessed to be able to do both. After taking care of my mom with ALS and eventually losing her in 2012 I challenged myself to stop putting off my interest in seeing the world. My mom's battle reminded me that we are not promised tomorrow and even if we are here tomorrow we don't know what condition we will be in. At that time I challenged myself to visit 10 countries over the next 10 years. What better way to see it but through the historical perspective of a chess player? To date I have visited about 27 countries.
I have enjoyed something special about each travel experience. However, the three trips that rank on the top from a chess perspective would have to be Cuba, Romania, and Kenya (my homeland). I am thankful to be embraced by the chess community wherever I travel.
In Cuba I visited Capablanca's grave, played at the Capablanca Chess Club, played in the streets and parks, gave out complimentary chess lessons to some beginners, and sponsored and ran a free blitz tournament with cash prizes on my last night. I was even able to meet and play with a some Cuba's International Masters and National Masters. Cuba, as a country, really embraces chess. This was absolutely beautiful to me.
Romania was another country where everyone played chess. I traveled to Romania to compete in the 2013 World Amateur Tournament, representing the US. This was my first experience competing abroad and I was 1 of 4 Americans competing. Not only did I finish on top (2nd highest scoring American and 4th woman), but I came back to the US after having taken a bye and took 2nd place in the Marshall U2000!
In Kenya, I was able to compete in the 2013 Nairobi Club Championship. I placed in the top 7 and was also won a prize for being the highest scoring women in the event.