Three years ago, Alena Kats became the youngest female master in the country at the age of 15. Currently she is the second-youngest female master and is No. 1 in the nation for women under the age of 21. Alena started playing chess at the age of 4 and credits her mother for helping develop her early interest in the game. She started playing tournament chess at the age of 9 and is currently being coached by her father, Mikhail Kats.
Although Alena said she's not exactly sure what field of study she'd like to pursue when she goes to college, she said she has already expressed interest in Stony Brook University, located in Stony Brook, NY.
"I'm going to take different classes and see what suits my interests best," she said.
When asked what advice Alena would give to other strong female players who are younger than her, she said she'd tell them to believe in themselves, because in chess, hard work and effort will always pay off in the end.
Alena received the one-and-only wildcard invitation to the 2012 U.S. Women's Championship.
"I felt very honored, surprised and excited as I received the invitation," she said. "It was something I didn't expect, yet always dreamt of."
She said that her ambition as a chess player is to continue learning more about the game, as there are plenty of undiscovered secrets, with a short-term goal of improving her rating "as much as I possibly can, which will require lots of studying."
Outside of chess, Alena said she enjoys going out with friends, working out, shopping, traveling and trying out new and exciting things.