When you ask someone about his or her hobbies or extracurricular activities, you usually expect to hear soccer or photography. What does not immediately come to mind is chess. However, that is exactly the case for recent Drexel graduate Alisa Melekhina who competed in the 2012 U.S. Women's Chess Championship this past May.
Alisa began her journey at Drexel in the fall of 2009 as a philosophy major. Typically, Drexel students graduate in four or five years, but Alisa graduated in just two years.
"I had a lot of credits transferred from high school and I took several classes," Alisa said. "I overloaded on the amount of credits I needed. I needed 182 to graduate."
The philosophy program was relatively new during Alisa's time at Drexel, and she was one of Drexel's first philosophy majors.
While at Drexel, Alisa said she was a member of the chess club and the philosophy club. She also took dance classes. According to Alisa, she has been doing ballet since she was six years old, in addition to trying ballroom and modern dance.
Alisa knew she had a knack for chess since she was 5 ½ years old, and competed in her first tournament at age seven. She has competed in approximately 200 chess competitions ever since, taking her to 15 different states and countries.
"My father used to play back in dental school in Ukraine, and decided to pass the game on to me," she said. "A few years later when I was seven, a patient of his notified us of a big tournament being held in Philadelphia and I've been competing ever since."
The 2012 U.S. Women's Chess Championship was Alisa's 5th time competing in this particular competition. The championship took place May 8 to 20 in Saint Louis, Missouri at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, and featured 10 players.
"The field for the US Women's Championship is determined by taking the top 10 ranking female players in the country as of January. Rankings are calculated based on the tournaments a player participates in throughout the year," Alisa explained.
The playing format was Round Robin. According to uschesschamps.com, this format entails "40 moves in 90 minutes followed by the rest of the game in 30 minutes with 30 seconds added per move from move one."
"It is much more intense than any other chess competition," said Alisa. "Because of prizes there's a lot more on the line."