Maurice Ashley, the first African-American International Chess Grandmaster
By Ryan Traynor, Editor-in-Chief
Interview brought to you by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis and the World Chess Hall of Fame.
Maurice Ashley made history as the first African-American International Grandmaster in 1999. He has been leading a revival of chess in America and uses chess as an educational tool to tell kids his own remarkable story. This past April 13th, Maurice Ashley was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame.
Through chess, Maurice Ashley has not only made history as the first African-American International Grandmaster in 1999, but has translated his talents to others as a three-time national championship coach, two-time author, ESPN commentator, iPhone app designer, puzzle inventor and motivational speaker. His book “Chess for Success” (Broadway Books, 2005) relays the many benefits of chess and his app “Learn Chess! With Maurice Ashley” has been sold in over 30 countries. He has also received numerous community service awards for his work. Ashley now works as a Research Affiliate at MIT’s Media Lab to bring the benefits of chess and other classic games to a wider educational audience through the innovative use of technology. He is also working in partnership with the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis and Ascension, Your Move Chess to expand the program and eventually to bring after school chess programs nationwide.
(Amazing Kids!) AK: How does it feel to be inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame?
(Maurice Ashley) MA: It’s absolutely incredible. When growing up in Brooklyn, NY playing chess with my friends in the parks in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and going around trying to find players that were amazing, difficult, and exciting to play against, I never would have dreamt that one day I’d be inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame. It sounds surreal. It sounds storybook.
AK: Why is chess becoming so popular and where do you think it’ll go from here?
MA: Chess has become so popular because it seems as though educators, teachers and administrators have finally gotten the memo – that chess is great for kids. Chess helps kids think better: think more critically, solve problems effectively, and concentrate and focus. So it is spreading like wildfire right now and it is only going to continue to grow with efforts of organizations all around the country. Here in St. Louis, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis is doing all it can to spread the message of chess all around the city and the country.
AK: For kid interested in getting involved in chess, what are some online resources to use?
MA: A great site to go to is U.S. Chess Champs. It has resources showing information about the best chess players in the country, free videos of chess champions and how to learn chess, grand masters lecturing on the benefits of the game, and where to play online as well. That is one of the great things about playing chess in the internet age – you can get a game any time.
AK: Where should kids go to learn more about how to get schools and neighborhoods involved in chess and how the competitions work?
MA: To find out more about what you can do to get better at chess and to learn how to build chess in your school and your neighborhood, it is great to go to www.uschesschamps.com. All the information that you need to develop a chess program is there.
We are so grateful to Maurice Ashley for sharing his thoughts with our readers at Amazing Kids! Magazine. I’m sure everyone is ready to learn more about chess and developing a chess program at their school.