Sixteen-year-old Maggie Feng learned how to play chess when she was 8.

Sixteen-year-old Maggie Feng learned how to play chess when she was 8.

Since then, she's gone on to win trophies that crowd a corner of her family's living room.

This spring, Feng won the U.S. Chess federation K-9 Championship in Indiana, the first girl to do so.

Now, the Jerome High School sophomore is waiting to see if she'll qualify for the U.S. Women's Closed Championships.

She can do so either by ranking within the top eight female chess players across the country, or by getting a "wild card" invitation.

According to the World Chess Federation website, Feng is the third highest active chess player in the females younger than 16 category nationwide.

Feng said she enjoys chess because it's an interesting game with "lots of possibilities."

She was first drawn to the game when attending two chess camps in a row as a child.

Feng began working with a coach at that camp, but improved so quickly she moved on to new coaches, said her father, Lei Feng.

Now she has local coaches and coaches in other countries.

Feng qualified for several years as the official U.S. representative in her age bracket for world competitions, and was able to travel extensively, Lei Feng said. She's traveled to tournaments throughout the U.S. and to locations in Europe and South America.

Those trips gave her opportunities to learn about different cultures, he said.

Feng said his daughter loves practicing chess on the board or computer and studying books about the game.

She also has a very good memory and can remember games from start to finish, even after the games are finished.

"Chess, I think, is about pattern recognition, and a good memory could help a lot," he said.

Feng said she practices more during weekends, because of weekly schoolwork. She said playing games helps her identify her strengths and weaknesses.

For her part, she said she's good at making calculations while playing, but needs to work on time management and her end-game play.

Jerome Principal Dustin Miller said he has known Feng since she was in sixth grade.

Miller was principal at Willard Grizzell Middle School, where Feng attended.

He described Feng as a "wonderful student," well-liked by her peers with a humble attitude.

"For the talent that she clearly has on the world scene, you wouldn't know it," Miller said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah