SA Sixth Grader Nura Baalla Wins National Chess Championship

SA Hudson Yards

Success Academy (SA) sixth-grader Nura Baalla, who lives on the Cobble Hill/Boerum Hill border last weekend became the national champion at the 15th Annual All-Girls Chess Championships in Chicago, in the Under 12 division.

Chess champion Nura Baalla. Contributed photo.

Nura, who is half Puerto Rican and half Moroccan, might never have played competitive chess if her SA coach hadn’t encouraged to join a team in third grade.

Her mother, Ketty Baalla, says it wouldn’t have occurred to her to expose Nura to the game. Nura is now in her fourth year of training in the Success Academy program, which has a record of developing top players from groups that tend to be underrepresented in chess, including girls, Hispanics, and African-Americans.

“This is a dream come true for Nura,” said Ketty Baalla. “She has discovered her passion, thanks to Success Academy.”

About 9,000 SA students receive chess instruction starting in kindergarten. In third grade, select scholars join clubs that participate in 100 internal and external tournaments each year. In middle school, chess club members train for about six hours a week.

In addition to Baalla’s win, the charter school network took home six trophies: 1st place team for Under 18, 2nd place team for Under 16, 2nd (tie break for 1st), 4th, and 6th place teams for Under 12, and 3rd place team (tie break for 2nd) for Under 10. Twenty-one scholars from seven Success Academy schools travelled to Chicago to compete in the event.

SA Bed Stuy 1 Middle School placed 2nd in the U16 division. Contributed photo.

“We are thrilled to see our female players triumph on the national stage,” said SA CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz. “We work hard to close the gender gap in chess. All Success Academy scholars take chess in grades K-2, and girls often become some of our strongest players.”

Although Baala lives in Brooklyn, she attends Manhattan’s Success Academy Hudson Yards.

A SA spokesperson said this stems from the Department of Education’s (DOE) failure to provide public school space for SA Cobble Hill students for the past two years. This forces many families to take seats that were far from their homes, said the spokesperson.

Founded in 2006, Success Academy Charter Schools are free public K-12 schools open to all children in the state through a random lottery. With 46 schools across Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, Success Academy enrolls 15,500 students, primarily low-income children of color in disadvantaged neighborhood.

The charter network is one of the best academically in the state, often outperforming affluent suburban school districts in annual math and English testing.

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