USCF Home arrow Chess Life Online arrow 2014 arrow March arrow An Interview with the Ubiquitous Claudia Munoz
An Interview with the Ubiquitous Claudia Munoz Print E-mail
By Alan Rodenstein   
March 19, 2014
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As I started doing research on the internet about chess in contemporary America, I noticed one individual seemed to be everywhere.  The individual was active with her website, www.ClaudiaMunoz.com, as an ambassador on chesskid.com (chess.com website for kids), on Twitter and on Facebook as well.  Sixteen-year-old Claudia Munoz was involved in a wide range of internet activities and priorities including:

Chess for kids around the world;
Chess for girls and women around the world;
Helping kids and girls gain confidence and enjoyment through chess;
Bonding with people around the world through chess;
Having her followers hear about her travels to different tournaments and countries;
Raising important chess issues of the day with civil discourse;
Raising important current issues of the day with civil discourse.

Claudia’s website, Twitter account and Facebook page are bilingual so she corresponds with an even larger number of people.  For example, Claudia lists 4,951 Facebook friends as of March 10, 2014.  She was also using the Internet and social media as a detailed chess and travel log.  Claudia’s recent trip to the World Youth Championship in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates in January 2014, was extensively covered.

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Claudia’s story is important to me in looking at chess in contemporary America. Using the internet and social media for chess in such an aggressive and innovative manner was unique.   Claudia mentioned on Facebook that she was going to be playing in the Texas State Scholastic Championships in my home base of Houston the weekend of February 8-9.  Claudia lives in Wichita Falls, Texas near the Oklahoma border.  I suggested that we talk during a break in the tournament, and she agreed.

I had the opportunity to speak with Claudia and her mother during the Texas State Scholastics.  After the 1st round was over, I spoke with Claudia’s mother while Claudia was intensely analyzing her 1st round game with her opponent.  He was rated in the 1300’s. Claudia is a Women’s Candidate Master (WCM) rated in the mid 2000’s.  She gave her much lower rated opponent the utmost respect, analyzing with him like a peer, and not a much weaker player.

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Claudia then sat down to discuss her story.  She started by discussing the innate talent her father saw when Claudia was only six years old.  When she was given chess problems, Claudia would look at the chess board and then at the ceiling and at the walls.  Her father would say, “You need to look at the board!” Claudia said, “I was thinking.”  At that point her father, who is a chess coach, realized Claudia had some special talent for chess.

Playing first in tournaments in Mexico, Claudia came to the US when she was 8. Claudia got her WCM when she was only 9 by winning the North American Youth Championship.  She has preferred to play with adults and males in general, since that who Claudia thought she would primarily face during her chess career.  Claudia’s rating, after a couple of successful tournaments in Dallas, is now approximately 2090 USCF.

Claudia’s internet/social media “empire” started modestly when she was around 10 years old with a small internet blog.  The blog was in English and Spanish and as its popularity grew quickly, Claudia’s father decided to expand it to a website.  The website is also bilingual and has also been around for about 6 years, growing steadily in popularity.   The website has followers (primarily youth) from all over the world, who can be empowered through the website.  Claudia has found it highly gratifying to share knowledge in a manner that helps all of us.  Currently, the website focuses on players who win local tournaments around the world to acknowledge their accomplishments, so players feel they have achieved something.  Games and results from around the world are put on the website.

Claudia has also expanded to social media.  As has been mentioned, she has nearly 5,000 followers on Facebook.  On Twittter, Claudia has approximately 1700 followers.  Each social media outlet and the website are seen by Claudia as valuable tools for helping everyone grow in chess.  But that is not all Claudia does with respect to chess on the internet.  Chesskid.com has selected Claudia as a youth ambassador and she appears periodically to play chess with kids on the site.

Claudia has learned several things from her experience of several years on the internet:

Chess is not only on the board, but off the board;
Chess players have a voice if we use it; 
We can share knowledge through the internet to help all of us.

Being so busy, how does Claudia balance school, website, social media, studying chess and family?  All aspects of chess, family and her Christian faith are very important to Claudia so this balance is very important to her.

Claudia attends high school on line from 9-3, where she is a top achiever.  During breaks from school, Claudia will tend to social media and twitter.  When school ends from 3-4, she will concentrate on social media and the website.  Chess study will take precedent from 4-6 and family will be the priority from 6 and later.  Certainly a hectic schedule, but one that allows Claudia to manage all of her many priorities.

How should kids use the internet?  Claudia recommends that younger kids go on Chesskid.com. It is a good and safe website with puzzles, slow chess and fast (live) chess.  Older and stronger kids can go on either ICC or chess.com to stay active playing between tournaments.  All players should carry puzzle books around so when they have a couple of minutes, they can solve a few puzzles.
Other general recommendation that Claudia hopes to see:  is that more girls play chess, all players follow their dreams hard with respect to chess and enjoy playing the game.

Claudia is only 16, and a sophomore in High School, so what does her future hold?  

Academically, Claudia would like to go to an elite university such as MIT, and study Math and Computer Science.  As far as chess, Claudia would first want her rating to cross 2100, and then become a National Master.  Additionally, Claudia would like to improve her FIDE rating, and become a FIDE Master, eventually getting the Grandmaster title and maybe even World Champion.

At just 16 years old, Claudia has already shown a remarkable level of achievement, ability to multitask and determination along with an intensely positive attitude.  Her future can be expected to be very bright, event-filled and impressive.  Included below is a recent victory of Claudia over a strong Dallas Expert.

 

Check out Claudia's website , twitter and watch her US Chess Scoop video from last year's US Open in Madison.

Written by Alan Rodenstein – Alan, a 40 year tournament player, is currently researching a book on the state of chess in contemporary America.  Publication is expected in 2015.
Find his previous piece on Tim Brennan, "the amateur who wrote a best-seller."
 
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