Top-rated chess player still in high school
By Rebecca Rutledge For The Oklahoman
Published: November 3, 2016 12:00 AM CDT
Updated: November 3, 2016 12:36 PM CDT

MOORE — What do you picture when you hear the phrase “chess champion?” If the phrase conjures up an image of a distinguished-looking fellow with glasses and a tweed coat, think again. One of Oklahoma’s top-rated chess players is still in high school.

And she’s not a fellow.

Veronika Zilajeva, of Moore, has attained a chess tournament rating above 2000, placing her in the top 5 percent of active players nationwide and earning her an Expert designation from the U.S. Chess Federation.

The Westmoore High School junior was inducted into the Oklahoma Scholastic Chess Hall of Fame at a recent tournament in Midwest City.

Ziljeva has represented Oklahoma two years in a row at the National Girls’ and Susan Polgar Foundation Girls’ invitational tournaments. She won or tied for first in all but one, in which she finished second by a half point.

Her tournament successes aren’t limited to all-girls’ and youth events. The top-rated female player in Oklahoma, Zilajeva routinely competes in the elite divisions at open tournaments where most of her opponents are adults, and almost all of them are men. She took first place in one such event this summer. And at the Oklahoma Open State Championship in June, she won her match against a two-time Oklahoma state champion.

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