American Chess Day: 3 Black Chess Players You Should Know
The saying goes, “they are playing checkers, while I am playing chess.” Chess is a term used to describe a master's level of playing games and intellect. Yes, chess is a complicated game between two people. It takes intense focus, skill and patience. Although the game of chess is not as mainstream as other games, the chess community is alive and well. The elusive society doesn’t seem in reach of the Black community, but make no mistake, we are in this space, and dominate while doing so. Here are three Black men chess players that you should know.
Maurice Ashley is a Jamaican-American chess grandmaster, author, and commentator. In 1999 he earned the grandmaster title, making him the first black person to attain the title of grandmaster. Ashley is well known as a commentator for high-profile chess events. He also spent many years teaching chess.
Frank Street Jr.
Frank Street Jr. won the U.S. Amateur Championship in 1965. In the 1960s, Street, National Masters Walter Harris and Ken Clayton, set the stage for the harnessing of Black talent in the Washington DC area. Street became a master in 1965. He initially received recognition by winning the U.S. Amateur Championship in 1965, and for many years thereafter, held the highest rating among Black players. He also won the club championship at the premier chess club, the Washington Chess Divan, by defeating Clayton. Street was preceded only by Harris as the first African American to earn the National Master title.
Justus Williams was one of the top-ranked youth chess players in the world. According to the U.S. Chess Federation, Justus, who was 12 at the time, became the youngest African-American National Master ever. He led his Bronx middle school team to the national championship. To top it all off, Justus recently traveled to the World Youth Chess Championship in Slovenia, where he competed for the title of the world’s best chess player under 14.
Learn more about the history of Black Men who dominated the chess world, here.