"You train your mind and you can do it at 80 or 90 ... or you can do it at 3 or 4 ... I learned to play chess at 4 and a half," Foisor said.
Foisor's parents taught her the game growing up in Romania, thinking it would be a good way to bond and travel together to tournaments across the world.
"My first tournament was in France and I played against adults," she said. "I was like 5 and a half. I remember I got a trophy at the end."
"I learned to just enjoy the game and not to look at who is in front of me," she said.
Foisor has been competing in the U.S. women's championship since 2009, with her family watching from home in Romania.
"She would stay really late in the night or early mornings there to just look at the games and try to be with her mind with me," she said about her mother.
Just two and a half months before the 2017 tournament, Foisor lost her mother suddenly to cancer.
"It was something unpredictable," she said. "We didn't know about it. We just found out and a month later, less than that, she was gone."
That same year Foisor went on to become the U.S. women's chess champion.
City of @DurhamNC recognizes 2017 US Women’s Chess Champion, WGM @Foisor_Sabina for her achievements in #chess and contributions to her adopted hometown. @USChess @USChessWomen pic.twitter.com/1Yz9WQEIGO— Carol Meyer (@carolbmeyer) January 8, 2019
"I knew that she was with me somehow. I felt her presence," Foisor said. "She would be very happy. She would be super happy."
Her fiancé, a chess grandmaster said it was an unforgettable moment.
"We are hugging after she won, and she is crying in my arms," said Elshan Moradiabadi. "I have many wins myself, but this is the best moment in my life as a chess player."
Foisor is preparing for the 2019 U.S. championship, but she also has a bigger goal in mind: to keep more women involved in competitive chess.
"I think women are powerful," she said. "Girls are powerful, and they shouldn't let anyone tell them that they are not. I think it's important to find ways to support them."
What a day! I am honored and humbled - January 7th, 2019 was proclaimed Sabina Francesca Foișor Day in Durham! I am thankful to all of those who helped make this possible! Never cease fighting for your dreams and NEVER, EVER give up! #Chess #Motivation #myday #Thankful pic.twitter.com/0RUCapf4Iz— Sabina Foisor (@Foisor_Sabina) January 8, 2019
Jan. 7 was proclaimed Sabina Foisor day in Durham. She hopes on the day next year to host a chess tournament for girls.