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Meet Alisa Melekhina

This article originally appeared in the annual College of Arts and Sciences Ask Magazine. Photo by Caroline Kaye

Alisa Melekhina, BA Philosophy, '11

Most first graders are only just beginning to master the skills of reading, writing and arithmetic — but not Alisa Melekhina. By the age of 7, Melekhina had not only competed in the World Open for chess — a game that requires astute calculation and strategy well beyond the years of most first graders — she had also authored an English translation of a popular Russian fairytale (at the age of 6!). As if that’s not impressive enough, the now 24-year-old attorney went on to receive a full ride to Drexel and graduate in just two years. The astounding timeline of this accomplished alumna is enough to make even the most industrious of us feel like an underachiever.

June 26, 1991 – Born in Crimea, Ukraine; immigrates to Brooklyn with her parents


5 Moves to Philadelphia; father teaches her to play chess

6 Authors “The Frog Princess,” an English translation of a popular Russian fairytale

7 Competes in her first chess tournament, the World Open

9 Competes in the World Youth Chess Championship for the first time

10 Wins gold medal at the Pan-American Youth Chess Championship in the Girls Under-10 category, earns title of Women’s FIDE Master

15 Places fourth in World Youth Chess Championship in the Girls Under-16 category

16 Achieves chess title of National Master and competes in her first U.S. Women’s Chess Championship

17 Wins full tuition scholarship to Drexel University for Delaware Valley Science Fair project comparing various measures of intelligence

18 Enrolls in Drexel’s Philosophy program
Wins individual gold medal in Women’s World Team Chess Championship
Places third and is youngest competitor in U.S. Women’s Chess Championship

19 Co-authors “Copyright Issues in Chess Co-authors “Copyright Issues in Chess Games” with Drexel Professor Neal Orkin in the Journal of Intellectual Property Law and Practice, published by Oxford University Press
Graduates summa cum laude from Drexel

20 Begins at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, the youngest in her class
Finishes top 10 in the World University Championships and in the World Junior Chess Championship in the Under-20 category
Works as a judicial intern at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C.

22 Works in the anti-piracy group of the legal department at FOX Entertainment

23 Founds, an online platform for student summer sublets and internships, with a fellow female chess player
Graduates with a JD from Penn Law and a Certificate in Business Economics and Public Policy from the Wharton School of Business
Passes the New York State bar examination
Joins Debevoise & Plimpton LLP in New York City, practicing in intellectual property disputes, white-collar investigations, and commercial litigation
Appears on the April 2015 cover of Chess Life magazine for article on balancing law and chess careers
Competes in her seventh U.S. Women’s Chess Championship and represents the U.S. again in the Women’s World Team Championship

24 Finishes as the top female in the Millionaire Chess Open held in Las Vegas