For Sophie Morris-Suzuki, John Jay High School senior, singer and nationally ranked chess master, life is all about practice, whether she is preparing for a vocal performance or a national chess tournament.
Born in Greenwich, Conn., Sophie spent her early years traveling the globe. Around the age of 3, Sophie and her family returned to the United States and took up residence in New York City, where she attended school. During her childhood, her interest in music started to take shape as she found that it was “a natural way to express” herself. It was this interest in music that led her to join her school’s choir. During her time singing with the choir, Sophie performed at the Lincoln Center twice. As she gained more experience performing, her musical interests that were once purely classical started to evolve to include more modern genres, including pop.
The summer before her junior year, Sophie and her family moved to the Katonah-Lewisboro School District and she enrolled at John Jay High School. With John Jay’s vibrant performing arts program, she immediately found ways to pursue her musical interests. Because of her love of singing, Sophie decided to join vocal jazz and chorale. In these two groups, she found not only a place to perform but also a chance to become part of the music community at John Jay. As a member of these groups, Sophie performs at all the school’s concerts and events.
During her time at John Jay, her musical talent has been recognized by John Jay teachers, such as Joanna Giordano, John Jay High School’s choral director.
“Sophie is an integral member of the John Jay Chorale,” Giordano said. “Not only does she display strong musicianship, but she is also dedicated, kind and helpful to her fellow ensemble members. Sophie’s hard work and dedication led to her being accepted to Area All-State earlier this year.”
When not singing, Sophie can be found dedicating herself to her other passion, chess. Several years ago, when attending middle school in New York City, she came across a teacher who was a known chess player who would often challenge his students. The teacher was a great chess player no one could beat. Sophie decided that she would one day be able to beat this teacher and started to learn all she could about the game.
After countless hours of study and practice, her hard work paid off, and she eventually beat the teacher. Thus, her chess career began. In seventh grade, Sophie started to enter tournaments playing against more and more challenging opponents. At her previous school, she was also a member of the chess team, traveling with the group to compete in various tournaments.
During her accomplished chess career, Sophie has represented the United States in competitions abroad, including the Youth World and the Youth North American championships. She has also been invited to play at the US Girls Junior Invitational, which is an elite field of the 10 best young women in the United States under the age of 21. Currently, Sophie is in the top 25 for all female players. She also holds the title of “National Master,” which ranks her in the top 1 percent of all players in the United States.
To prepare for these mentally grueling tournaments, Sophie has enlisted the services of a coach, Alex Ostrovskiy. He has coached Sophie for the past two years.
“Sophie is a perfectionist and strives to play deeply nuanced moves and ideas in her games,” Ostrovskiy said. “She is an extremely hard worker. She is driven and motivated to give her best every game and tournament.”
In her pursuit of chess perfection, Sophie works with Ostrovskiy regularly. They “review her games, prepare new strategies and ideas for future opponents, and analyze psychological approaches to the game.”
In addition to working with her coach, Sophie also plays chess online and even has apps on her phone. She admits that she has played many games into the late hours of the night. In addition to the hours Sophie spends practicing chess, Sophie also studies the history of the game and its top players. Sophie states she would love to meet Vassily Ivanchuk, a world-famous Ukrainian player who was awarded the title of Grandmaster by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) in 1988.
After graduation, Sophie plans to attend college for music. As she makes college plans, she is interested in attending a school with a competitive chess team, too. Beyond college, Sophie foresees a future in the performing arts and vocal performance and, of course, continuing to play chess.
Sophie is the daughter of Patrick Morris-Suzuki, a staff software engineer at Google.