Chess whiz offers the right
moves to get you in the game
Long before Maurice Ashley attained the illustrious rank of International Grandmaster of Chess in 1999 from the World Chess Federation (FIDE), he was impassioned about attracting young minds to one of the world’s most popular games of strategy. “I want people to think of chess the way they think about tennis and golf,” offers Ashley, “with big tournaments and big prizes, so those who want to pursue chess as a career can do so without worrying about making a living.”
Ashley’s organization, Generation Chess, nurtures the skills of specially talented kids, and hosted the HB Global Chess Challenge at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minnesota which offered the largest cash prize ever for an Open chess tournament. After years of deferring his dream, Ashley, a Jamaican national based in Queens, New York, siphoned inspiration from Tiger Woods‘ historic impact on the game of golf, and renewed his devotion to the sport of chess. As a Grandmaster, Ashley is in an elite league shared by roughly 800 other players in the world. He made history again in January 2003 as the first African American to qualify for the U.S. Chess Championship since the tournament’s inception in 1861.
Chess is a descendant of the Indian board game Chaturanga, which was altered as it migrated across Western Europe near the 10th century. The game as we know it today was born near 1475. The “complexity and never-ending freshness” of chess keeps Ashley, 38, amped as he commentates on tournaments for ESPN and grooms future Grandmasters through his work in schools. There are over 500 million amateur and pro chess players worldwide, the popularity of this sport is rivaled only by soccer, and you can get in the game at any age.
“The best way to get started is to crack open a book,” advises Ashley. His reading recommendations include Logical Chess: Move by Move by Irving Chernev (B.T. Batsford; $21.95), Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess by Bobby Fischer (Bantam; $7.19), and My System by Aron Nimzowitsch (Hays Publishing; $14.87). “It [helps] to have a practice partner you can play against frequently,” adds Ashley, who authored Chess for Success. Traditional chess clubs are a dying species being replaced by online chess playing websites like Internet Chess Club. Once you’ve been reading and practicing six months, you should venture into the tournament scene where player registration ranges from U$15 – U$280. Visit the U.S. Chess Federation’s website for tournament listings.
To achieve growth in the game, players must perfect a skills set comprised of “patience, determination, and the willingness to treat failure and loss as motivation to learn,” guides Ashley. The benefits for avid players are as rewarding as the cash prize incentives. “Studies show that [chess] helps kids read better and boosts their self-esteem,” adds Ashley. “Chess helps you become a better problem solver, improves concentration and critical thinking skills, and sharpens your mental focus.”
© SEAN DRAKES
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