12 Hours a Day as a Maid, Then Victories in Chess

'Wall Street Journal' profiles Cibele Florencio of Brazil
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 26, 2022 4:25 PM CST
12 Hours a Day as a Maid, Then Victories in Chess
Cibele Florencio, in a screen shot from video.   (YouTube)

One of the rising young stars in chess has a story that sounds right out of Hollywood, or at least a series streaming on Netflix. The Wall Street Journal explores the ascent of Cibele Florencio, a single mom who works as a maid in a poor part of Brazil. Last year, at age 24, she managed to become vice champion of a national tournament despite working 12-hour days in her cleaning gig. If the story of an unlikely female upstart conquering the game sounds a bit like a real-life version of The Queen's Gambit on Netflix, know that Florencio has watched the series three times. But in a line that sums up the real-life tale, Samantha Pearson of the Journal writes that Florencio had to stop because she "can no longer afford the streaming fee."

"People look at me and wonder what the hell I’m doing there," Florencio says of tournament opponents. "But I use it to my advantage. They let their guard down." She grew up near Macaíba in the northeast, and as a girl, "she had such focus, a mathematical ability to calculate and visualize her opponent’s future moves," says a local chess master. She blew through the local competition and began playing others through an app on her phone. The story explains how her community banded together to raise money for her to travel to Poland to compete in her first international tournament. A local surgeon is now paying for a professional coach. "Don’t underestimate the pawn," says Florencio, using a chess analogy about her story. "You get it to the other side and it can become a queen." (Read the full story.)

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