Agata Bykovtzev is representing Goleta in the U.S. Junior Chess Championship this month and is heading to MIT in the fall. (Contributed photo)

Women’s international master chess player Agata Bykovtzev will be representing Goleta in the U.S. Junior Championship this summer before heading to MIT in the fall, at the age of 17. 

It is her third time at the competition, which is hosted in St. Louis this year from Saturday through July 17. The junior players are all under the age of 21. 

Bykovtzev started playing chess when she was 8 years old and now has her eyes on the prize: a purse of $10,300 and an automatic invite to the 2018 U.S. Chess Women’s Championship. 

“My brother, he started off playing when I did and I’ve always been kind of competitive so I kind of started off wanting to beat him,” she said. “And from there I kind of just got into it. I won my first tournament and then I started practicing more.” 

Highlights of her chess career include playing in the U.S. Woman’s Chess Championship, winning bronze at the World Youth in Greece, winning gold at the North American Junior in Canada, and winning gold at the PanAmerican Championships in Mexico.

“In most of these big tournaments there’s a lot of pressure involved like whenever I’m competing at the World Championship or American Championship,” Bykovtzev said. “You kind of have to put that aside and just try to focus on playing the game. Right now this tournament coming up, I’ve already gotten into college and all of that so chess is kind of on the back burner at this point. 

“I love playing the game but definitely there’s not as much pressure involved this year for me as there has been in previous years just because I’ve already kind of won the tournaments that I wanted to win by the time I finished high school. I’m kind of playing more for fun.” 

At the age of 16, she earned associate’s degrees in mathematics, physics and chemistry at Santa Barbara City College

She has been awarded one of the nation’s most prestigious college scholarships from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and will be attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall.

Bykovtzev went to Dos Pueblos High School for a year, and then attended SBCC for the next three years, while she balanced a full school schedule and chess practice.

She said she would practice about three hour almost every day throughout the school year and five or six hours a day during the summer. 

At MIT, she will be studying chemical engineering and chemistry, possibly with a double major or as a major and a minor, she said. 

To watch Bykovtzev compete, head to the U.S. Chess Champs website, which will live stream each round of the 2017 U.S. Junior Championship and U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.

The nine-round, round-robin tournaments will start Saturday with opening rounds starting at 1 p.m. 

Noozhawk intern Julia Lee can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.