ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - They call Diamond Shakoor a prodigy, a champion, a genius. The 12-year-old is one of the best chess players in the country and she's right here in St. Louis.
At close to 250 tournaments played, Shakoor is a seven-time national champion. At age eight, she was the youngest African American female to go undefeated in a Chess National competition.
"I love to play chess, it's like life basically," she said. "It's like a battle. Half of it is natural talent, but I'm starting to study now."
No African American female in competitive chess has ever broken a rating of 2,200. A "Chess Master" typically holds a rating of 2,500. Shakoor is hovering around 1,300.
Again, she's 12 years old.
"I love watching her play, it's like artwork," said Diamond's Father Abdul Shakoor. "When she's focused, it's incredibly tough to beat her."
Brooklyn native Abdul has two masters degrees and teaches courses on Chess. He has been Diamond's soul teacher since she was about 7 years old. Despite all that, Abdul admits Diamond is at the point where she can consistently beat him.
"I've had full custody of Diamond for 12 years," Shakoor said.
Abdul was in law school when he got a call from Diamond's mother in Flint, Michigan, surprising him with the news that he had a daughter. The young father eventually won custody and started teaching her the game. The pair moved from Columbus, Ohio here to St. Louis in search of better competition.
"It's been a struggle," He said. "But she keeps me grounded and gives me purpose."
Diamond is hosting her first annual Chess Festival on May 4th in Centerville, Illinois.
The next goal for Abdul is the All Girls Chess National tournament in Chicago. They're asking for help from the public to raise money for sponsorship, hotel and travel. They need to raise about $500.
Anyone interested can donate to the Diamond Shakoor Chess Fund at 2000 Madison Street Suite B222, St. Louis, MO. Or call (614) 800-0117.
"Chess means everything to me," said Diamond. "It's changed my whole life for the positive."