Local chess prodigy goes for women's championship

Alisa Melekhina, 20, will compete in the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship. BOB REYNOLDS
Alisa Melekhina, 20, will compete in the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship. BOB REYNOLDS
Posted: April 18, 2012

ALISA MELEKHINA didn’t write her first children’s book until she was 6, took two full years to graduate Drexel University, and only now, at age 20, is at Penn Law.

What a slacker!

The Rhawnhurst-raised Melekhina is off to St. Louis on May 8 to compete in the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship. Melekhina, who has also been studying ballet since she was 6, says her father, Aleksandr, who taught her chess but soon after stopped playing against her because she kept beating him.

The Ukraine-born Melekhina came with her family to the U.S. when she was 2 months old. They lived in Brooklyn until she was 5 and then moved to the Northeast.

When she was 6 she wrote a children’s book based on a Russian fairy tale “The Frog Princess.”

“I enjoy being the underdog and being underestimated,” says Melekhina, when we asked if her gender or youth led to any misconceptions from male chess players.

Melekhina, who majored in philosophy at Drexel, credits chess and philosophy with preparing her for law school through the “analytical way of thinking.”

She admits to having an “existential crisis” last year, when she began wondering what she was getting out of chess, but now has a renewed enjoyment of the hobby.

She took college courses while attending Northeast High and maxed out on credits at Drexel because she was eager to get to law school.

Melekhina says she is interested in working in media, government or privacy law.

‘Hills’ star fashions Ardmore

Whitney Port, the MTV “The Hills” cast mate-turned- fashion designer, will attend a launch party for her new “WE by Whitney Eve” fashion line from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Apricot Lane Boutique in Suburban Square in Ardmore. The line is exclusive to Apricot Lane, which has 30 locations nationwide.

Port will take pictures with fans and mingle with those who show up to browse her new collection.

Top cop speaks

William Bratton, the former New York and Los Angeles police commissioner who is being discussed to head up London’s Scotland Yard, will be guest speaker at the Citizens Crime Commission’s Law Enforcement Appreciation Luncheon May 17 at the Bellevue.

Tickets are $150 and available by calling Rich Zappile at 267-246-5500 or emailing RZapp33@aol.com or by calling the commission at 215-546-6532.

Zappile is a former deputy mayor of Philadelphia, a retired deputy police commissioner and a former chief of the Philadelphia Housing Authority police department.

Local teen sings for Oz

Voorhees teen Rocco Fiorentino, a blind jazz pianist and singer, will perform Wednesday night at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria at Dr. Mehmet Oz’s gala to benefit his nonprofit HealthCorps.

The event will honor “ABC News” anchor Diane Sawyer and actor Matthew Modine for their humanitarian efforts.

HealthCorps board member Alex Markowits had Fiorentino, 15, perform at his luxury assisted-living facility Spring Hills Cherry Hill and recommended to Dr. Oz, whose show airs here at 11 a.m. weekdays on Fox 29, that he book the talented teen for the gala. n

Read Dan’s latest at PhillyGossip.com, email DGross@phillynews.com, call 215-854-5963 or follow him on Twitter @PhillyGossip. For recent columns: philly.com/dangross.

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