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Nadya Ortiz Grew Up Playing the Boys' Game of Chess

Nadya Ortiz

Nadya Ortiz grew up in Ibague, Tomlina in the South American country of Colombia where few young girls play chess.

Nadya's father, Jorge Ortiz, taught her how to play at the age of 6. "I really wanted to learn," Nadya said. "He wanted me to do many things, and told me if I decided to continue with chess, that was OK."

Nadya did many of the activities young girls do, like gymnastics and basketball.

"I started playing more regularly when I was 9," Nadya said. "I was playing most against the boys because very few girls played. I preferred playing against the adults."

Nadya Ortiz File
Rating: 2291
Hometown: Ibague, Tomlima, Colombia
Major: Computer Science
Class: Sophomore
By the time she was 14, she was the youngest member of the Chilean Olympic Chess Team and won a national tournament. At the age of 16 in 2003, she went to Barbados and won the Under-20 Central American championship at the same time she finished high school.

She started studying electronic engineering at the University of Ibague in Colombia and finished one year there, "but I really wanted to study chess."

In South America, chess is a major activity. "My family could not support me in tournaments, and I was always looking for sponsors. It was very hard in the beginning."

She learned English in 2007 and learned about university chess programs in the United States.

At UTB/TSC, she is on track to receive her bachelor's degree in 2011, and wants to find an institution with a Master of Artificial Intelligence degree.

"I want to combine chess with computer programs related to chess," Ortiz said. "But I know my degree will be important because that will help me no matter if I'm working or playing chess."

Chess players are misunderstood by many people, Nadya realizes.

"Chess is an addiction, and a lot of people don't know much about it," she said. "It's its own world. A professional chess player needs to study as much as someone trying to become a doctor."

To keep her mind focused, she also takes part in recreational activities like tennis.

"Physical exercise is important. You are playing sometimes 7-8 hours a day. Your mind is going to get tired in 1-2 hours. If you have a healthy body, you will have healthy ideas and play better."