When it was announced that Africa would be one of the hosts to a leg of the Grand Chess Tour (GCT), there was a bit of a celebration throughout the continent’s chess community. Magnus Carlsen will visit Africa for the first time and compete May 6th-13th in the Rapid and Blitz event in Abijdan, Cote d’Ivoire. He shall be the first sitting World Champion to compete on the African continent.

Magnus Carlsen will compete in
GCT Rapid & Blitz in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
Photo by David Llada

Arkady Dvorkovich made a pledge to spread elite chess to other continents besides Europe. Speaking in Nairobi, Kenya during his campaign Dvorkovich stated,

“We need to change the geographical location when it comes to big tournaments, I will ensure that the game is staged not only in Russia and Europe but to other regions like Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Arab speaking countries to bring diversity.” (link)

This is something we have sought in The Chess Drum community for two decades and is the reason the site seeks more inclusion of the African Diaspora. Nevertheless, others have had similar ideas including former World Champion Garry Kasparov. It was actually Kasparov’s endorsement of Cote d’Ivoire combined with the passion of Dr. Essis Essoh that help to create this initiative. The country had hosted the CIV Rapid and Blitz, an event modeled after the Grand Chess Tour’s Rapid and Blitz event. It was a rousing success.

Players of CIV Invitational

Dr. Essoh Essis, President of the Ivorian Chess Federation will host one of the rapid and blitz events as part of the 2019 Grand Chess Tour. It will be the first elite event held in Africa since the 2004 FIDE Knockout in Tripoli, Libya. Egypt’s Bassem Amin (left) has earned a wildcard nomination to participate. Photo by Alina L’Ami.

There were questions swirling around in social media whether a sitting World Champion had actually played in Africa. There are no known records of Emanuel Lasker, Jose Capablanca, or Alexander Alekhine ever visiting Africa. Apparently, none of the Soviet champions (from Mikhail Botvinnik to Boris Spassky) had visited there for chess.

There have been a number of visits by Viswanathan Anand who visited South Africa, Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania. These were visits where he addressed the business and chess communities and conducted chess exhibitions. There was no chess competition or matches in which he participated. Anand has (by far) been the most conscientious sitting World Champion when it comes to promotion of chess in Africa. It has meant a lot to the continent.

Anand giving a simultaneous exhbition to school children.

Anand giving simultaneous exhibition to schoolchildren in Durban, South Africa.
Photo courtesy of Keith Rust

The President of Botswana Chess Federation Tshepo Sitale shakes hands with the champion.

Tshepo Sitale, then-President of the Botswana Chess Federation,
receives Viswanathan Anand. Photos by Booster Galesekegwe

Reception committee at Nairobi International Airport from left – WFM Sanjana Deshpande, Chess Kenya Chairman Benard Wanjala, GM Viswanathan Anand, Satish Deshpande, Sumit Deshpande & Sandhya Deshpande. Photo credit Allan Victor of Arongoey Photography. (Kenya Chess Masala)

Prior to Anand, Anatoly Karpov visited South Africa in 1993 as part of the International Solidarity Conference featuring 500 delegates. He conducted lectures and simultaneous exhibitions. This was during the time that the world crown was being disputed between FIDE and the PCA. Incidentally, Karpov was the guest of the African National Congress (ANC) and President Nelson Mandela!

Bobby Fischer played in Sousse, Tunisia in 1967 during his rise to the 1972 crown. Rustam Kasimdhzanov was not yet a sitting champion when he won the FIDE Knockout Tournament in Tripoli, Libya in 2004. At that time, FIDE was still divided and that tournament determined the FIDE World Champion.

It just so happens that one former World Champion has played in Africa, but it was not during his reign. Dr. Max Euwe, 5th World Champion (1935-1937), played in the Johannesburg Open in 1955. He returned in 1974 in the capacity of President of FIDE on a three-week fact-finding mission to evaluate allegations of racism within the chess community.

(Note: Months later, both South Africa and Rhodesia were expelled during the 21st Olympiad in Nice, France in 1974. See olimpbase reference.)

Keith Rust also weighs in…

I remember playing against Dr Max Euwe when I was still a schoolboy, in a simul held in Durban in 1974 (my game ended in a draw). In 1974 Dr Euwe was touring Southern Africa on a fact finding mission, when he was the president of FIDE. Dr Euwe also played at the Johannesburg international tournament in 1955 and gave numerous simuls throughout SA in 1955.

Dr. Max Euwe’s giving a simul on his trip to South Africa.
Photo courtesy of Keith Rust

Also according to Rust, Euwe played in 12 simuls with a score of +259=34-11. While that is an impressive score, it would be interesting to know who the winners were!

So Magnus Carlsen stands to be the first sitting World Champion to compete in Africa and perhaps set the stage for more professional activities on the continent. For decades, it had been thought that African players must travel overseas to play in Europe. Many have done so.

Players like Bassem Amin (GCT wildcard) and Ahmed Adly, both of Egypt, have represented the continent very well. Amin stands as the only African player to have reached 2700. He’s currently at 2706 on the live rating list. However, conventional wisdom would say that it may be more sustainable for FIDE to give African players more access to professional chess on the continent itself.

The Rapid and Blitz in Cote d’Ivoire has a chance to be a ground-breaking event and the world will be getting their first glimpse into African chess organization. While South Africa missed getting the Olympiad bid for 2018, there is hope for the future. Given the success of recent events, the Ivorian Chess Federation will spare no effort to ensure that this event will be the standard by which other GCT tournaments are measured.


About 14 years ago, a little girl in Katwe, Uganda followed her older brother who was increasingly occupied with an activity after school. After seeing him disappear inside of a building, she wandered inside and found the Sports Outreach Institute, a sports club where there was a chess club meeting being held. Little did she realize that this event would change her life for the better.

Phiona Mutesi at Northwest University. Photo by Eilís O’Neill for WBUR

Phiona Mutesi at Northwest University.
Photo by Eilís O’Neill for WBUR

Fast forward to 2019, Phiona Mutesi has since traveled the world sharing her story to thousands and serving as an inspiration that one can find a beacon of light in the darkest of circumstances. Now a student at Northwest University outside of Seattle, Washington, her journey has come with many challenges. In addition, she ponders about unfulfilled expectations in chess. However, her story should be an example to us all.

The Queen of Katwe

The Queen of Katwe

On that fortuitous day, 9-year old Phiona found a new outlet and charted a new path in life. As fortunate would have it, her new obsession with chess took her on her first flight to Sudan and won her first official tournament. Tim Crothers got wind of the story and flew to Uganda to investigate. After being moved by Phiona’s circumstances, he would later make the story into a book titled, “The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster.”

The book was released in 2012 and captured international acclaim despite the chess community being skittish. Chess purists seemed more interested in her FIDE rating than in the obstacles she overcame. Unfortunately, many chess players (especially from the west) cannot empathize with the type of abject poverty Phiona experienced and how difficult it was for her to survive in such conditions. On chess discussion groups, many boiled her story down to her rating, title and tournament activity. The moral of the story was completely missed or at least underappreciated.

The Queen of Katwe

Phiona embarked on a whirlwind tour of the U.S. In the same year, Walt Disney Pictures optioned the rights to make the book into a screen play. The film Queen of Katwe came out in 2016. The movie was directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Mississippi Masala, Salaam Bombay) with the lead role going to Lupita Nyong’o whose parents are Kenyan.

Nyong’o gained acclaim in 12 Years a Slave and would play Phiona’s mother, Harriett Mutesi. David Oyelowo (Selma, Red Tails, The Last King of Scotland) would play Robert Katende, Phiona’s coach. There was tremendous optimism as many interviews leading up to the movie’s release captured the details.

The movie did not gain traction in the media. It may have been due to the fact that the marketing crew handled this as someone would a story on Bobby Fischer. The idea of a chess champion is a common one, but by comparison, Phiona’s feats had been rather modest.

In addition, it was billed as a rags to riches story of a “chess champion” instead of a story about triumph over the most depressing conditions. Crothers may have even contributed to the narrative with his pronouncements about her becoming a “Grandmaster,” a very specific title in chess. There were many misleading characterizations about Phiona’s abilities.

Coming to America

With this new-found fame, Phiona grappled with her champion image portrayed in the movie. During an interview with WBUR (Boston), she reflects…

“My name, like, went so high, and my chess — it was still so low,” she says. “I wasn’t even the best chess champion, like, in Uganda. It was so hard.

I was working hard, but the more I worked hard, I couldn’t find my name. My name is there, but my chess is still here. I’m working so hard on it, and I felt like I was starting to forget about myself, my family.”

The movie fizzled. Nevertheless, Phiona was able to secure admission to Northwest University in the fall of 2017. While ecstatic about the new opportunity and perhaps releasing some of the pressures at home, there were challenges. Despite her fame, there were plenty of struggles including financial.

Arriving at Northwest, Phiona had not used a computer before. Completing a single assignment was a tremendous task. Today, Phiona is completing her second year at Northwest and has played for their Pan-Am Intercollegiate chess team. While chess has provided some relief from the rigors of study, it was socially challenging in the beginning.

Phiona Mutesi at Pan-Am Intercollegiate Tournament. Photo by Al Lawrence

Phiona Mutesi at 2017 Pan-Am Intercollegiate Tournament.
Photo by Al Lawrence

She also noticed how different things were in the U.S., a decidedly more individualistic society. At home in Uganda, there was more of a community feeling that everyone is accountable for each other. “I never appreciated it until I came here,” Phiona reflects during the aforementioned interview. Her scholarship covers tuition, but other living expenses are her responsibility. She has to fend for herself and has done motivational speeches to help cover costs of school. It leaves little time for chess. According to the WBUR interview, her zeal for chess may be subsiding.

“I don’t feel like I really have love for chess like the way I used to have,” she says. “Because, during that time, I felt like [chess was all] I had to use in my life. But, right now, I feel like there are a lot of stuff that I can do in my life. I feel like chess has opened the door for me.

“I’m so happy that I’ve made it this far.”

There are so many similar stories coming out of Africa. The latest is of a Nigerian boy Tanitoluwa Adewumi whose family migrated to New York in 2017 only to spend the next 18 months in a homeless shelter. Tani won an age-group championship while living in the shelter and the story went viral. The family has raised (at last count) $217,236 worldwide in one week!

While the conditions were totally different for Phiona, I’m sure she could give some sage advice to the Adewumi family. Chess is part of a journey, not the destination. Phiona’s life lessons will become much more impactful than any accomplishments should could ever gain in chess. We would hope that this example will lead more boys in girls out of the “poverty of thinking” whether it is in Katwe, or any desolate ghetto anywhere on the planet.

WBUR 90.9 (Boston) Interview with Eilís O’Neill

Jacob Wamala

Hometown: Milford, New Hampshire
Education: B.S. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2012), M.B.A University of California-Berkeley (2019)
Peak Chess Rating: 2097 (USCF) 2078 (FIDE)
Chess Accolades: 2-time Massachusetts H.S. State Champion
Activities: MIT varsity football, OmegaBrite Scholar, MIT Minority Business Association (co-founder), Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (Rho Nu Chapter)
Current Profession: Principal, OVO Fund (Palo Alto, CA), JW Chess Academy
Last tournament: 2006-08-29 MCC SUMMER VACATION SWISS (MA)

Jacob Wamala
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Jacob “Jake” Wamala, who just celebrated his 29th birthday, is the older brother of Jessica Wamala. Both were very close early on in life and shared passions of academics, athletics and chess. Both were able to gain success at the scholastic level and both won state championships. Entering competitive programs in undergrad, they had less time for chess, but the training they received helped them excel academically.

Jake gained an interest in MIT after hearing a classmate’s desire at attending the prestigious school. He had attended camps prior to his enrollment, but gained an interest in the impact of aging. Jake spent two years in the AgeLab, researchers study the impact of aging on the mind and body. He even conducted an experiment where he wore a special “Age Gain Now Empathy System” suit simulating age-related functionality issues.

“Good grades and achievements are nice and all,” he says, “but I’m probably most proud of the work I’ve done to help other people.” (link)

After receiving his B.S. Mechanical Engineering, he accepting a job at Morgan Stanley as an investment analyst, but is now working for a small venture capital fund near Silicon Valley. He started up the JW Chess Academy sharing his passion with local youth. He is currently enjoying life on the west coast.

Additional links on Jacob Wamala

Jacob Wamala representing his fraternity at MIT

Rochelle Ballantyne

Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Education: B.A./B.A. (double major) Stanford University (2017)
Peak Chess Rating: 2127 (USCF) 1957 (FIDE)
Chess Accolades: Polgar All-Girls under-14, Polgar All-Girls under-16, All-Girls under-18 title, World Youth Championship – Caldas Novas, Brazil (2011), United Arab Emirates (2013)
Activities: subject in movie, “Brooklyn Castle,” Starfish Scholar, Questbridge Scholar, Black Student Union (Stanford)
Current Profession: Litigation Paralegal, Carr Maloney PC (Washington, DC)
Last tournament: 2019-01-28 DMV LEAGUE S3R4 MAKEUP (VA)

The road to Stanford University would not be easy for Rochelle Ballantyne. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York as the oldest of four children of a single mother from Trinidad & Tobago. Then chess entered her life.

Eleven years ago (in 2002), I was like any other third grader, really active, really loud and really annoying, to my grandmother at least. Eleven years ago my grandmother found a way to keep me calm and to get my mind going: she taught me chess.

Rochelle won a $68,000 scholarship to attend University of Texas-Dallas and had to weigh her options. UTD was known for its chess culture and one of her goals was to become the first African-American female National Master. This is even stated in the movie, “Brooklyn Castle,” in a scene with Latisha Ballard, the mother of teammate Justus Williams.

Rochelle Ballantyne. Photo by Anthony Causi.

Classic photo of Rochelle Ballantyne
Photo by Anthony Causi

Tragically, her grandmother passed away and it took a lot of determination for Rochelle to get over the loss. In her interviews, she reflects a lot on her grandmother and also her mother as her support system. While at Stanford, she became deeply immersed in social activism.

In a Chess Life interview last year with Melinda Matthews, she made the following revelations about the chess environment:

I think one of the most frustrating (frustrating might be the wrong word) things I realized as an African-American female chess player was the feeling that I didn’t belong. I was always the odd person out. Always asked whether or not I was lost. Chess is supposed to be a battle of intellect and my intellect always seemed to be diminished or erased because I am black and because I am a woman. Luckily, when I started playing chess I was too young to really process race and gender as a construct. I knew I was different but I didn’t care because I wanted to win. And that drive continues to carry me.

Rochelle graduated from Stanford University in 2017 and trekked back to the east coast with two degrees in hand. Having already done a stint with Kobre & Kim as a Litigation Assistant, she is now a paralegal in the Washington, DC area. The town has an abundance of lawyers, but hopefully she can find a niche in the legal field and still have time to seek her coveted goal of becoming a National Master. This is a very important goal, and very much within her realm.

Additional links on Rochelle Ballantyne

Darrian Robinson

Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Education: B.A. University of Chicago (2016), London School of Economics (study abroad)
Peak Chess Rating: 2128 (USCF) 2035 (FIDE)
Chess Accolades: World Youth representation – Batumi, Georgia (2006), Antala, Turkey (2009); Pan-Am Games – Cuenca, Ecuador (2006), University of Chicago Chess Team Pan-Am Intercollegiate
Activities: White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs (summer 2013), Hillary Clinton for America (2015)
Current Profession: Analyst, Federation Reserve Bank of New York
Last tournament: 2016-08-14 CLEVELAND OPEN (OH)

Darrian Robinson at 2006 World Youth Championships in Batumi,Georgia.

Darrian was very cute and shy girl who peered at the chess board with intense focus. Very soft-spoken, she was able to assert herself and build her confidence at the famed IS-318, the school featured in the movie, “Brooklyn Castle.” While she was seen in the movie briefly, Darrian had already moved on to Packer Collegiate Institute. While considering universities, she stated that chess helped her to stand out.

I think being the highest-rated African-American female chess player in the U.S. has helped me stand out from the crowd. It’s something most people don’t have under their belts. It helped me get into college. I remember the person who read my application to the University of Chicago came up to me during the meet-and-greet for incoming first-year students, and he remembered me immediately and that I played chess competitively. (link)

Darrian Robinson
Photo by University of Chicago

Indeed. That article was one of many featured here on The Chess Drum and Darrian has always shown her appreciation for the exposure on The Chess Drum. She was also interviewed while at U. of Chicago where she weighed in on the Chicago vs. New York pizza debate!

During her chess development, her mother Cenceria Edwards was seen accompanying her to chess tournaments. As any chess parent would know, investing in a child’s activities doesn’t come cheap, but it is apparent that such time and effort are well worth it. It is amazing that Attorney Edwards kept her own goal of a judgeship in focus and now serves in New York City Civil Court. Darrian plans to attend graduate school, but has not decided on whether to attend law school or opt for the vaulted Ph.D. degree.

Additional links on Darrian Robinson

Kayin Barclay

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Education: B.A. Morehouse College (2012), M.B.A. Harvard University (2019)
Peak Chess Rating: 2215 (USCF) 2220 (FIDE)
Chess Accolades: National Master (2012), 2-time state champion (Whitney Young Magnet H.S.), beat GM Jaan Ehlvest
Activities: Phi Beta Kappa (honor society)
Current Profession: Investment Banker, full-time MBA student at Harvard University
Last tournament: 2011-04-06 JUSTIN OPEN (GA)

12-year old Kayin Barclay on “B” section’s top board at 2003 Chicago Open.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Kayin is a very unassuming young man. However, he had confidence that belied his humble demeanor. The first time I encountered him was at the 2003 Chicago Open when, as a 12-year old, he scored 6/7 in the “B” section. The early days saw coaching from legendary coach Tom Fineberg and session with local Expert Sam Ford.

Kayin Barclay
Photo Kayin Barclay (Facebook)

Kayin entered Whitney Young Magnet program as a 7th grader and led them to four state appearances. Prior to going off to Morehouse College, Kayin played in two Denker Tournament of High School Champions. He tied another year, but instead of playing the blitz tiebreak, he declined and allowed the other player to represent Illinois. Class personified.

Now married to the former Lauren Crim, Kayin worked on Wall Street at Barclays Bank as an investment banker for two years, then after a stint with RLF Equity he joined the Harvard Business School in Boston. Kayin told The Chess Drum that he will graduate from Harvard B-School in May 2019 and move to Dallas to work for a private equity firm called Insight Equity. He also gives some sage advice on how to approach chess.

“First of all, they must ask themselves if it is truly worth it. The time that I have invested in chess is probably equal to a college degree (in no way am I downplaying its worth). When I was intensively studying, I studied everyday about 5-6 hours. If you want to be a good player, you have to put in the time, learn how to study, and study the correct material. A coach is helpful but you have to go beyond what a coach does. Finally, I would say play as much as you can, there is no amount of studying that you can do that can help you react to that position that you have gotten in a random blitz game.”

Additional links on Kayin Barclay

Jessica Wamala

Hometown: Milford, New Hampshire
Education: B.A. Villanova University (2013), M.A. Villanova (2014), MPhil Middle Eastern Studies, University of Oxford (2016)
Peak Chess Rating: 1790 (USCF)
Chess Accolades: Massachusetts Junior High co-champ, U.S. Open “C” champion
Activities: Phi Beta Kappa (honor society), Rhodes Scholar, Villanova varsity women’s basketball, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (Upsilon Tau Chapter), Truman Scholar, Rangel Scholar, Gates Millennium Scholar
Current Profession: Head of Partner Operations & Integrations, Wave Mobile Remittance
Last tournament: 2006-09-04 66TH NEW ENGLAND OPEN (MA)

Jessica Wamala
Photo by Villanova University

Jessica Wamala graduated from Villanova University in May 2013 with majors in Political Science, Arab and Islamic studies, and Global Interdisciplinary Studies. A year later, she earned her M.A. in Political Science & Government and earned the coveted Rhodes Scholarship to study at University of Oxford. Jessica interned at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade and at the State Department office of Near Eastern Affairs. She also served in the Peace Corps in Taza Province, Morocco.

Jessica has an older brother Jacob who was also a chess standout. More on him later! Below she gives precious advice on how to navigate the collegiate experience and juggling activities.

“The one thing that you have to understand is that you’re going to have to make sacrifices. And I did make sacrifices. While I did go out, there were nights where my friends went out, but I had to study for a test and then the next day I had to be on the road for basketball; so [making] sacrifices and maintaining a priority, and then maintaining that every time you wake up. When you are practicing, you can’t do your homework. When you’re doing your homework, you can’t be having fun; and when you are having fun, you can’t be sleeping. You have to understand how to take care of your body, take care of your mind, take care of your health.” (link)

Additional links on Jessica Wamala

Dr. Shearwood McClelland III

Hometown: Teaneck, New Jersey
Education: B.A. Harvard College (2000), M.D. Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons (2004)
Peak Chess Rating: 2311 (USCF), 2210 (FIDE)
Chess Accolades: National Master (1994), All-American, 3-time National H.S. Champion, U.S. Junior Open Champion (1997), 2-time New Jersey State Champion, 12 state titles, beat GM Bu Xianghzi
Activities: National Scholar Chessplayer Award (USCF), National Institute of Health, Neurological Institute of New York (fellow), Cleveland Clinic Foundation Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland, OH (fellow), University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, MN (fellow), Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR (fellow)
Current Profession: Clinical Research Assistant (oncologist), Department of Radiation Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon (resume)
Last tournament: 2012-08-18 BCF Grand Prix 12 (MA)

Dr. Shearwood McClelland III
Photo by OHSU

Dr. Shearwood “Woody” McClelland III had an outstanding scholastic chess career and was one of the trailblazers in the African-American community winning multiple national and state championship. For a time, he had only trailed Howard Daniels and KK Karanja in terms of the age record for youngest African-American master. That record has been broken several times since, but it is clear that chess gave Woody a platform for excellence.

The son of Drs. Shearwood J. McClelland and Yvonne S. Thornton, he had excellent examples to follow and now has a storied career of his own as a prolific researcher in radiation and oncology. He has placed a specific emphasis on addressing disparities that affect minority communities in terms of combating cancer and researching viable treatments.

As far as chess is concerned, Woody last played tournament chess in 2012, but perhaps has little time these days. He has been party to over 130 research papers and is extremely active as a conference presenter and consultant. It goes without saying that chess has certainly yielded tremendous benefits to Dr. McClelland.

Profile: https://www.ohsu.edu/
Research Publications: https://www.researchgate.net/
Additional links on Dr. McClelland


Chess has been said to have many qualities. Often misunderstood as a game only for the high-browed intelligentsia, it has many redeeming qualities that attract adherents of all demographics. Chess has been the subject of many studies and is often called a sport, game, and even a science. It is undeniable that chess players derive benefit from playing the royal game and there are many examples confirming what the studies have already found.

Sometimes we look back in time and wonder how certain players of note are doing both in chess and in life. We may peruse the rating chart to see whether they have been active. When The Chess Drum was launched in 2001, one of the objectives was to highlight young Black players worldwide. This to provide exposure, build confidence and to index their accomplishments in the digital world for documentation. Many have used these online stories with great effect, but in ways unrelated to chess.

The paucity of Black players in top-level chess has been a question raised for decades. Frankly, chess requires significant amount time and financial resources. The average Black family has neither generational wealth accumulated nor significant amounts of disposable income to dedicate to an activity (especially after college) that will not lead to income generation. Thus, there is a huge ‘opportunity cost’ in spending the time and resources in chess unless there is a residual benefit. If it is not feasible to spend inordinate amounts of time studying and playing chess, are there other routes for talented players?

What is common in the current generation of players is that chess is being used as a stepping stone for success in other areas. Chess still has a tremendous amount of “cachet” and draws attention on college and job applications. It also sharpens the mind to handle the rigors of academic and professional subjects. This seems to be the way many young stars are approaching chess. Attrition is still very, very high, but when we check on former scholastic stars, many are thriving and engaged in successful careers. At some point, a talented young player has to make a tough decision and decide what role chess will play in their lives.

Below are a few players who received some notoriety on The Chess Drum and links to a profile describing what they are doing now. Enjoy!

Where are they now?

Dr. Shearwood McClelland III
Jessica Wamala
Kayin Barclay
Darrian Robinson
Rochelle Ballantyne
Jacob Wamala

More to come!


Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria

Tanitoluwa Adewumi
Photo by Nicholas Kristof

Nigeria has long been one of Africa’s most heralded chess countries with an ambitious goal of producing the next generation of chess masters. Having already produced a number of International Masters, the country has recently launched a fundraising campaign to produce the first Grandmaster in history. There is a wealth of talent in Africa’s most populous nation of 190 million.

While Nigeria remains a place of immense potential and intellectual capital, it is still striving to realize its true potential. For this reason, there is a very large Nigerian Diaspora seeking opportunities abroad. Many migrants have a variety of reasons, but all seem to be looking for better opportunities. The latest of these examples was presented in the New York Times, going viral.

Kayode Adewumi and wife Oluwayoyin left Nigeria to seek a better life for their two sons, Austin and Tanitoluwa. Unfortunately, they have been living in a homeless shelter since arriving in New York in 2017. This story may not have come to light if it were not for their youngest son, affectionately called “Tani.”

Tanitoluwa Adewumi

Tanitoluwa which means “who is like God,” has become somewhat an icon for his recent chess accomplishments. Since arriving in New York, he has worked assiduously on his chess game and recently won the New York Primary Championship with an undefeated score. He adds to his collection of trophies which give an interesting decor to a homeless shelter. A student at P.S. 116, Tani has received chess tutoring from local master Shawn Martinez.

“He is so driven. He does 10 times more chess puzzle than the average kid. He just wants to be better.”

~Shawn Martinez, Tani’s coach

Martinez, who earned his own 15-minutes of fame as part of the Edward Murrow High School powerhouse, beams about Tani. “I wanted to reach out about a student of mine who has risen the ranks in scholastic chess despite his everyday challenges.” Challenges… indeed. Living in a homeless shelter is certainly not ideal for an immigrant family, let alone for two growing boys. However, Tani and his family is receiving support from the local chess community.

Adia Onyango, a pillar of the chess community in New York, excitedly posted the following stats.

Tanitoluwa Adewumi has hit the chess scene and he is an undeniable talent. Are we looking at the making of a grandmaster? Within one year this 8 year old went from 105 to 1587! If he makes similar gains within the next year he can be an A-player or EXPERT by next year.

Tani broke 1000 within 5 months. This alone is not unheard of. However, within another 2 months he was over 1200 and another 4 he was over 1400! Now we are at a year from his first tournament and he is at 1587. In the last year he has played 47 tournaments and in all but 7 events his rating increased!

While it is much too early to discuss breaking any records for the Grandmaster title, Martinez told The Chess Drum, “I believe in him tremendously!!” In fact, the chess community and supporters have more than doubled tripled the $50,000 goal set up by Russell Makofsky, who oversees the P.S. 116 chess program.

While scholastic is seeing a boon in the U.S., there are many youngsters in a sea of talent. The youngest master in the U.S. is 9 years, two months, 17 days (Abhimanyu “Abhi” Mishra), and the youngest Grandmaster earned the title at 12 years and 7 months (Sergey Karjakin). The current youngest Grandmaster is also earned the title in his 12th year, so Tani will have to work hard to reach these milestones.

Tanitoluwa Adewumi playing brother with parents looking on.
Photo by Russell Makovsky (Facebook)

Tani states that he desires to be the youngest Grandmaster ever, but of course chess development doesn’t come without sacrifices and work ethic. Martinez noted in a New York Times interview, “He is so driven. He does 10 times more chess puzzle than the average kid. He just wants to be better.” There will be many challenges, but Tani has a lot of time. Perhaps he just needs the chance.


FM Joshua Colas
Photo by Webster University (Paul Truong)

Joshua Colas is making his rounds. The native New Yorker is studying in the “Show-Me State” of Missouri and is now going to take his talents to the “Sunshine State” of Florida for spring break. The Webster University collegiate is going to be participating in a weekend of events hosted by the National Scholastic Chess Foundation (NSCF) in Sunrise, Florida. Robert McClellan has collaborated with legendary coach Sunil Weeramantry to develop scholastic programs in Broward County. He describes the events…

Over a few months, Sunil and I met with various entities across the County trying to determine a different approach to community chess. We developed a series of full-day workshops which we call Demystifying Chess and presented the first one in October 2014 with a grant from the Sunrise Police Dept that was then matched by Broward Education Foundation. Both organizations have been our partners ever since and we have now had over 500 teachers, sheriffs deputies and other professionals who work with children complete at least one full-day training. A little over two years ago we began direct instruction in the community by forming The Sunrise Center for Excellence in Chess.

Josh, a former All-American and six-time national champion, earned his National Masters title before the age of 13 and is currently trying to complete the requirements for the International Master’s title. He has taken his talents to south Florida to interact with a variety of scholastic programs developed by the Sunrise Chess Center of Excellence (www.sunrisechesscenter.org).

On Thursday Josh will be having dinner and then playing chess with some of the children in a mentor program we developed. Then Friday he will visit with young people in a detention center where we offer chess every week. In the afternoon, he will speak at an assembly and then play chess at Bair Middle School in Sunrise. And then Saturday, he will join us for Open Play which we have every Saturday morning at the Sunrise Civic Center.

Josh playing with Quinton Tanksley.
Photo courtesy of NSCF.

Josh has many a number of appearances and as one going into his last year at Webster is a perfect role model for students, especially those who are struggling with self-esteem issues and mired in at-risk situations.

Robert McLellan
Director, Communications & Development
Tel. 818-469-2063 • robert@nscfchess.org

A new curriculum project from NSCF. Published by Mongoose Press
Great Moves: Learning Chess Through History
a blended learning book that teaches chess and social studies
Order now from NSCF


Tallahassee, Florida

Tallahassee is known as the “capital city” of Florida. Situation in the panhandle and near the Georgia border, it is home to two major universities (Florida A&M University, Florida State University), a community college (Tallahassee Community College) and the state capital.

With just a bit over 190,000 residents, it is a city sticking by many old traditions such as state fairs, flea markets and cooking stands by the road selling boiled peanuts and fresh honey. The city is growing slowly and while the population is a bit transient, much is being done to make Tallahassee a suitable place to settle and raise a family.

One of pastimes that has struggled to remain in the community’s eye is chess. Due to the transient nature of the population, chess tends to fluctuate in terms of the activity. The last open tournament was the 2014 Froemke Memorial, but Banghao Chen and his son Benjamin hosted the BBCC Chess Tournament at the Tallahassee School of Math & Science. Banghao told The Chess Drum that he wanted to bring chess back to the city. The tournament drew 30 players and was attended by Kevin Pryor, President of the Florida Chess Association.

Banghao Chen and son Benjamin Chen

On March 30th-31st, BBCC will host a spring tournament to set activity in motion. The tournament hopes to attract players from the five-year hibernation and lead to regular activity. The city has a number of players in the “Expert” range including Benjamin Chen. The Chess Drum will be on hand to provide coverage. Hopefully other local players will participate in the beginning of a new chapter for chess in the capital city.

1st Annual Capital City & Northwest Florida Open

Sections: Open, under-1800, under-1400 and under-800/unrated.

5 Round Swiss, G/90,d/5 affects Regular rating only. Round Times: Sat rounds: 10AM-2PM-6PM Sun rounds: 10AM-2PM.

Prizes: $350 $150 $75 $50

Entry Fee – (Open, U1800, and U1400) $55 BBCC and FOCC members if paid online, by phone, or in person by March 29th; $60 on-site. $10 more each for non-members (this means $65 non-members paid by March 29th, and $70 on-site). U800/Unr Section Entry Fee – $35 BBCC/FOCC members if paid online, by phone, or in person by March 29th, $40 on-site. $5 more each for non-members (this means $40 non-members paid by March 29th, and $45 on-site) by 3/29/2019, 9:30 pm USCF membership

Contact: chenichess@gmail.com
USCF TLA listing: http://www.uschess.org/
Registration: https://www.chessregister.com/events
On-site: 3/30/2019 by 9:30 am


Theophilus Thompson

This year Black History commemorations highlighted the events of the day including a rare photo of Theophilus Thompson, a chess icon known mostly for this book of chess problems, Chess Problems: Either Play or Mate. Until recently, the only photo known of Thompson is one as a teenager who had just published the aforementioned book. Thompson is considered a “Master Emeritus” of The Chess Drum community and made an indelible mark.

While public records showed that Thompson died in his 90s, he disappeared from the chess scene primarily because (according to his great-niece) he didn’t have worthy opponents to play in his area. It would have been interesting to see what would have become of his career had he pursued chess more seriously. Thompson left Frederick, Maryland and returned to Churchton where he lived, worked, died and is buried.

Mate in two
Chess Problem by Theophilus Thompson (1873), #10

This video covers a variety of topics including the rediscovery of Thompson, Oleiny Linares’ 3rd national crown in Cuba and a new version of Triple Exclam. The new paperback edition of Triple Exclam is now available in black and white for $20/copy. Maurice Ashley’s 20th anniversary of earning the GM title is mentioned and will precede the commemoration to take place later in the month. Also in this segment are a couple of puzzles to solve.




Contact: Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum
P.O. Box 7663
Tallahassee, FL 32314-7663 USA
(850) 296-9494

ISBN-10: 0998118095
ISBN-13: 978-0998118093
Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
Publisher: The Chess Drum, LLC
Paperback: $20.00 (black and white)


Anyone wanting to know the story of International Master Emory Tate will only have to scour the Internet for his games, but if you want a comprehensive story of the legendary master, you will have to get Triple Exclam!!! The Life and Games of Emory Tate, Chess Master.

The Book

Triple Exclam is a collectible that includes 282 pages in 12 chapters and seven appendices surveying the life of Emory Tate. It includes 35 of his games (all annotated) and vintage photos at various stages of his life. The book also includes chapter notes and is fully-indexed. If you are not a chess-player but enjoy biographies, you will appreciate his story.

The premium hardback color version was released in March 2017 and sold out by the fall season. A paperback color version was released in March 2018 and made available through House of Staunton, the book and equipment distributor for the U.S. Chess Federation. Now the book is available once again March 2019 in a black and white version. Admittedly, the book is of lesser print quality than the color versions and the $20.00 price point reflects this.

Order Details

The black and white paperback is now available via The Chess Drum (button below) and Amazon. The color paperback will be reprinted and available in March 2019 at The Chess Drum, Amazon and the House of Staunton (vendor for U.S. Chess).

Each option offers value as copies ordered from The Chess Drum have the option of being autographed. Amazon Prime customers can take advantage of their free shipping and House of Staunton offers discounts within their wide product catalog.

Triple Exclam can be purchased by following the Paypal button below. A Paypal account is not needed. There is an option to determine the number of copies needed. You will then fill out your mailing information and choose the postal method. For international customers, it is best to order through Amazon’s “print on demand” platform here.

Calm before the storm… Emory Tate at 2006 World Open.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

FM Emory Tate-Macon Shibut
(2004 Atlantic Open, Washington, DC, USA)
White to Move (after 25…Bg5-f6)

The Chess Drum, LLC is a publisher of chess news content and literature. The organization’s website has continued to demonstrate the universality of chess by covering a variety of topics through news stories, essays, interviews, and photos since 2001. Visit The Chess Drum at thechessdrum.net and follow the beat on Facebook and Twitter!


WIM Oleiny Linares Napoles
2019 Cuban Women’s Champion

Oleiny Linares (35) has appeared on these pages many times. She has been one of the top Cuban players on the women’s circuit and has competed since the age of 10. The Santiago de Cuba native has represented the island nation numerous times including three times as an Olympian. She won a silver medal at the 2008 Chess Olympiad with an undefeated 9/10.

Recently, Linares competed in the 2019 Cuban Women Chess Championships held in the eastern province of Holguin. She ended in joint 1st with Yenisbel Miranda on 8/11, but was declared the champion due to superior tiebreaks. Linares finished with five wins and six draws.

Yanela Forgas took 3rd with 7.5/11 and defending champion Lisandra Llaudy fell behind early and had to settle for 4th with 6.5/11. This would be the third national crown for Linares who last won three years ago. According to local sources, the humble mother of two gave a round of thanks to her supporters.

Estoy feliz, porque sobre todo fue un triunfo de muchos… de mis primeros entrenadores que volvieron a unirse para ayudarme, de los hermanos de mi iglesia, de mi esposo que me ha apoyado tanto y de mis niñas que se portan bien para que yo pueda estar aquí.

I’m happy, because above all, it was a triumph of many … of my first coaches who came back together to help me, of the brothers of my church, of my husband who has supported me so much and of my girls who behave well so that I can be here.

Final standings

1. Oleiny Linares (8 points)
2. Yerisbel Miranda (8)
3. Yaniela Forgas (7.5)
4. Lisandra Llaudy (6.5)
5. Yaniet Marrero (6.5)
6. Yoana Gonzalez (6.5)
7. Maritza Arribas (5.5)
8. Roxangel Obregon (5.5)
9. Leannet Bosch (4)
10. Vivian Ramon (3)
11. Karla Fernandez (3)
12. Leancy Fernandez (2.5)


IM Kassa Korley

International Master Kassa Korley has been on a path since earning his first GM norm last June. Korley’s quest for the 2500 FIDE Elo rating took a setback after a 5.5/9 finish at the Bay Area International. A month later, he landed in Lisbon for the 2018 Open Portugal tournament with renewed focus.

The field had 17 Grandmasters in a very diverse field of players. Eduardo Iturrizaga won clear 1st with 7.5/9. Alexander Motylev got joint 2nd along with seven other on 7/9. Korley turned in a solid result with joint 3rd on 6.5 points. He started off paired down the first three rounds damaging his chances to earn a second GM norm. He is currently looking to get invites to closed tournaments for norm opportunities.

IM Kassa Korley (2426-Denmark)
# Player USCF Nation
1 Alex-Sacha Ladistic 1934 France
2 Luis Sousa Reis 2146 Portugal
3 Aleksandrs Jazdanovs 2390 Latvia
4 GM Eric Hansen 2615 Canada
5 IM Sumiya Bilguun 2402 Mongolia
6 GM Nikita Petrov 2585 Russia
7 GM Vitaliy Bernadskiy 2570 Ukraine
8 FM Nicolo Napoli 2316 Italy
9 FM Jose Antonio Sande Edreira 2244 Spain
Score: 6.5-2.5 (Results)

World Chess

A very interesting report has been released by World Chess, the marketing arm of FIDE. If one can get past the board that is set up wrong (black square on right), there are some very serious admissions in the report. However, one may wonder why FIDE is revealing such a sordid picture for the world of professional chess?

Certainly, one can be skeptical of the statistics, but there is no question that chess is essentially a competitive activity where only the top 10 players can earn a comfortable living. Note the top-heavy list at the end of the article. If that is the case, then what does the future bode for aspiring players who want to vie for the world championship? Should they set a title/rating/age cutoff before deciding to focus on a career where they can make a living?

“Chess can take you far, just not in chess.”
~GM Maurice Ashley

History is replete with examples of players who opted to leave professional chess after earning the Grandmaster title. In the U.S., Kenneth Rogoff, Michael Wilder, Patrick Wolff were a few promising players who opted to leave chess for successful careers in the private sector. Rogoff is a top economist and policy consultant while both Wilder and Wolff have been successful in law and finance, respectively.

Dylan Loeb McClain of the New York Times penned an interesting article, “Former Champions Find Success Beyond Chess” interviewing Wilder, Wolff and Alabama’s Stuart Rachels, once a teen phenom. These players were set to succeed other home-grown GMs such as Yasser Seirawan, Nick deFirmian, Larry Christiansen and John Fedorowicz.

Thirteen-year old Michael Wilder playing the Schleimann against Anatoly Lein in 1976 with Michael Rohde watching. Photo by Jack Manning (New York Times)

With Vladimir Kramnik recently retiring, it goes without saying that he has built a legacy in chess. This chess giant earned €56,330 ($US63,484.70) last year… absolutely shocking for a player of his stature. Anish Giri, who is now #4 player in the world cleared a modest €24,806 ($US27,954.63), not counting appearance fees, national stipends, sponsorships and other residual income from Internet tournaments.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen tipped the money scales at €745,211 ($US839,800.63) followed by Fabiano Caruana at €719,476 ($US810,799.09). Most of these earnings are from their world championship match where they earned €600,000 and €400,000 respectively. Some of the figures on the prize rankings are truly shocking for players who spend an inordinate amount of time honing their craft.

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen earned many times more than the €745,211 listed on the chart. Many of the top players have sponsorships and attract hefty appearance fees.

If we look in chess history there are a number of players who eschewed chess for careers in science, medicine, law, finance and academia. It is clear that chess provides the mental training to be successful in practically any field. Maurice Ashley said to me recently, “Chess can take you far, just not in chess.”

There is an understanding in the world of chess that there are many social benefits in playing, but perhaps the most tangible benefit that I’ve seen in my 18 years of covering chess is providing an avenue for youth to develop skills, gain confidence and to gain admission into their school of choice. In addition to getting exposure from winning trophies, chess is a trump card on college and job applications where it commands respect.

In fact, a recent article written by Mike Klein on chess.com cited research that showed chess providing tangible benefits in the lower grades when critical thinking skills are developing at a high rate. As far as embarking on a career in chess, it remains a choice with tremendous opportunity costs. After being inducted in the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in April 2016, Ashley gave a number of interviews. One was highlighted in Yahoo! Finance in which he stated,

“The reality for a person like me is if you never make it to the top 20 in the world, there are very limited ways to make money in chess,” he tells Yahoo Finance. “Teaching is the most consistent, because people want to get coached by a grandmaster. That’s nice money. Writing books, doing lectures, doing appearances. I do live commentary online for tournaments around the world. So a grandmaster has to cobble together all that stuff. Otherwise you’ll starve. You can’t make a living if you only play.”

Maurice Ashley at 2016 World Chess Championship. Photo by Maurice Ashley

After earning the GM title in 1999, Maurice Ashley was on the professional circuit for several years winning 2000 & 2001 Foxwoods Open. In his highest-earning year, he found that such a lifestyle would not be economically sustainable when accounting for many factors. He found other ways to earn a living in chess and now is a world-class commentator. Photo courtesy of Maurice Ashley.

There is this burning question about chess when talking about how to harness talent. How does one justify spending an inordinate amount of time studying chess when the financial payoff is so little? I personally have known a number of players who have invested decades in focusing on chess with little material sustenance. It’s a serious question for any young player to consider and perhaps looking up the term “opportunity cost” would help.

As we look at some of these figures we can only think about whether there is a future of the million-dollar tournaments that Ashley organized. There was a lot of debate during that period. The million-dollar model was not sustainable for a number of reasons, but the new FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich will have his work cut out so that many talented players will have a chance to earn a decent living if they choose to be a championship contender.

Top 20 Prize Winners

Link to full list: https://worldchess.com/news/898


Nigeria Nigeria Nigeria

Africa is a massive continent with approximately 1.2 billion inhabitants. It has an incredible amount of natural resource and breath-taking natural beauty. The 54 countries that represent the continent are diverse in their makeup and span a spectrum of many religions, cultures, languages and traditions.

One tradition that has remained stable is friendly competitions. The continent is home to numerous games such as senet, oware, mancala, kharabaga, draughts and chess. Africa has an interesting contrast with French-speaking Africa taking to draughts and English-speaking Africa taking more to chess. Francophone West Africa boasts some of the strongest draughts players in the world including Ivory Coast’s Joel Atse, Senegal’s N’Diaga Samb and world contender Jean-Marc Ndjofang of Cameroon. In fact, Senegal can boast of a World Champion in Baba Sy.

At this point, draughts players have been able to crack the upper-echelon of the sport having boasted players to break into the top ten. The question is why chess cannot see the same success from the same brilliant minds in West Africa? As far as chess, the balance of power still lies in the north with Egypt leading the way with dynamic duo Bassem Amin and Ahmed Adly.

IM Oladapo Adu (Nigeria)
Photo by Alina L’Ami

South of the Sahara, there is a rumbling of activity attempting unseat the players in the Valley of the Kings. Countries like Zambia, Botswana, South Africa produced tremendous talent, but in Nigeria there has been a pledge to produce the first Grandmaster with an initiative called, “The Go for a Nigerian Grandmaster.” It is an appeal of support to help in building a training ground for chess excellence.

Nigeria, with approximately 196 million people, has long has a tradition for producing talent and has in its ranks a cadre of International Master looking to make the next step. Ironically, IM Oladapo Adu incredulously stated in a recent Facebook comment that he is shocked that he is now the top-rated player after 20 years and that no one else is replacing the old guard. There are rising stars like FM Daniel Anwuli, but of course with 12-year old GMs sprouting, the cycle has accelerated. Thus this initiative is timely.

Nigeria wins Category E gold medal!!
Photos by Daaim Shabazz.

Link: https://www.facebook.com/Go-for-a-Nigerian-Chess-Grandmaster-initiative-538970613274468/


Hello everyone!

As we are well into another year, The Chess Drum has made 18 years!!! This year I will commemorate the anniversary with a video that will recount the evolution of The Chess Drum including its conception and eventual launch February 12th, 2001.

The Chess Drum, http://www.thechessdrum.net/

In the past, I have generally recapped the past year and reviewed some of the activities of the site. I must say that last year was bitter-sweet. However, we also featured a number of obituaries due to losses of chess personalities. However, The Chess Drum covered the Olympiad live and that is always a special event.

Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Kenya and Nigeria at 2018 Chess Olympiad!

Ian Wilkinson QC (Jamaica) & Dr. Daaim Shabazz (USA)
Photos by The Chess Drum

The one thing that has changed in the 18 years is the way information travels and is subsequently consumed. There is a great emphasis on digital platforms, social media and video viewing. I noticed these challenges roughly 15 years ago. Unfortunately, the chess information on social media platforms is often incomplete.

While the number of articles has stabilized on The Chess Drum (116 in 2018 from a high of 240 in 2014), there has been more emphasis on in-depth reporting. You may have noticed the length of such articles. Recently, I wrote on the trends in journalism discussing this issue.

Below is the video recounting the history of The Chess Drum. This is the first time I have explained the story although there is an essay I wrote as part of the welcoming of visitors to the site. So sit back and enjoy the story that unfolds.


Dr. Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum

This video is dedicated to the following who have passed away since last anniversary (February 12th)…

The Making of The Chess Drum

Video by Daaim Shabazz (The Chess Drum)


One of the fascinating features of chess besides its attractive entertainment value is the social fulfillment gained from its community of personalities. Chess players cover the gamut in terms of demographics despite being erroneously portrayed in the media as a monolith of bespectacled geniuses with high IQs. After 40 years of involvement with chess, many people have enriched my chess life. However, few of my early friendships in chess were as important as the one I shared with Marvin Dandridge.

Marvin has been a fixture in Chicago-area chess for the past four decades and is known as one of the most personable figures. A few minutes younger than his twin brother Martin Dandridge, both attended perennial powerhouse Chicago Vocational High School (CVS) where they excelled in sports.

Martin was a standout athlete, captaining the top-rated CVS football squad and winning city honors in wrestling. While Marvin was sectional champion in wrestling and also lettered in football, it would be chess where Marvin would make his legendary mark. CVS took the city title in 1975 and then placed 3rd in the state competition on the strength of Marvin’s 1st place performance on 2nd board and Gene Coleman’s 2nd place performance on 1st board.

Chicago Vocational H.S. Chess Club (1975)

Chicago Vocational High School (CVS) would won the City Championship in 1975. This photo was taken from the 1975 CVS yearbook. Sitting (L-R): Jerome Mitchell, Derrick Sudduth, Kevin Rouse. 2nd Row (L-R): Tom Fineberg, Rory Trotter, Mitchell Channell, Gene Coleman, Marvin Dandridge, Frederick Turner, Michael Chatman. 3rd Row (L-R): Earl Hall, Lester Bullard, Dewayne Moore, Rodney Johnson. Dandridge and Fineberg would become mainstays of the southside chess scene. Photo from CVS Technician yearbook (1975).

Having written thousands of pages of contemporary chess history at this point, I would be remiss if I didn’t honor those players who contributed significantly to my chess confidence. Incidentally, three were fellow CVS alumni… Roger Hickman, Marvin Johnson and of course, Marvin Dandridge. I have a biological big brother, but all three were my “big brothers” in chess. Hickman provided me with life skills perspective, Johnson mentored me during my scholastic rise at CVS and finally Dandridge who contributed to raising my skill level in chess.

Extending the CVS tradition, I am holding the plaque for the 1980 City Championship with CVS teammate Reginald Williams (5th board) on the right. CVS went on to place 9th in the Illinois H.S. state championship.

CVS and Tuley Park

Sitting on 27 acres and once housing an airplane hangar, the massive Chicago Vocational High School (CVS) had a thriving chess club under the direction of the indefatigable Thomas Fineberg, a math teacher of a rather corpulent stature. CVS, with its enrollment of 4,000+ students, was powerhouse in all athletics, but also a traditional chess powerhouse. After a few battles in the lunchroom and classrooms, I had joined the school club as a 15-year old sophomore on the urging of a classmate named Cornelius Plunkett.

The campus of Chicago Vocational High School

As a new member, you got the standard club rating of 700. Fineberg had devised an internal rating system to determine the board orders for the chess team. There were more than 100 players on the “CVS ladder rating list,” and after my first year in the club, I went from 700 to 1000. “Ten hundred” was the threshold to be a “strong” player. By my senior year, I ascended to board one and had a club ladder rating of 1500-1600.

My first chess interactions outside of CVS were at Tuley Park where meetings were Saturdays from noon-5pm. Every week CVS Coach Fineberg would religiously unload his sets and boards from the trunk of his Dodge and wait for the crowd. Tuley Park attracted players from the south side of Chicago including players from various area high schools.

My CVS club mate and sparring partner Jeffery Allen encouraged me to visit. He had been attending club meetings and his improvement was evidence of it. Jeffery had won top “C” prize at the 1979 U.S. Open and had beaten GM Arthur Bisguier in a simultaneous exhibition. He was very studious and stronger than me at that point.

Chicago’s Tuley Park Field House

The southside chess scene centered about Tuley Park on 91st and M.L. King in a rather attractive area of well-kept, middle-class homes. It housed a public library, hosted tennis tournaments, and baseball leagues, but became known as the watering hole for chess competition. J.A. Miller started the meetings at Tuley and Fineberg merged his “87th St. Chess Club” at the same location.

Meeting Marvin

I finally made my way to Tuley Park on a Saturday, walked in the buzzing room, and there was an immediate pulse of energy felt in the place. I saw players engaged in various skittles games, blitz battles and heard pieces clicking and the staccato of chess clocks being slapped. There were occasional taunts and lots of laughing. The place was electric.

I surveyed the room and saw this rather large guy take a pawn in his hand, slam it on the board and yell, “MATE!!!” I wondered to myself, “What kind of chess is this?” I was a relatively new player, and I had never seen bughouse before. It was not as big as it is today. I was impressed by this spectacle, but also his constant laughing, jokes and trash talk. It was infectious as he had the entire club buzzing. It was where I wanted to be. That brash player would be Marvin Dandridge.

“Don’t worry. Don’t be mad. You’re young. You’ll get better. You’ll get stronger and stronger… (pause for effect)… and I’ll STILL crack you off!”

~Marvin’s quip to rising talents

The next time I saw Marvin was when he visited CVS chess club and gave a simul. Fineberg told us of his top board from the City Championship team in 1975. We were in awe. Marvin was mowing everyone down. My game was the last one going, but we were unable to finish as Fineberg had put all the equipment away and prepared to leave. As I stood there pondering, Marvin dismissed the game as being lost. It indeed was, but it would be the first of many encounters with him.

My encounters with Marvin were vital because he set an early bar for me. I began the process of serious study… buying some basic books and getting Chess Life & Review out of the school library. I continued my improvement and was a regular at Tuley Park. Somewhere along the line, I must’ve impressed Marvin because I would find myself visiting his home on 77th and Marshfield to study openings, go over a tournament encounter or play training games. I was not at his level, but he motivated me to get serious about chess study. After my junior year, I studied 6-10 hours a day over the summer and rose several places to claim 1st board as a senior.


In those days, Marvin exhibited a larger-than-life personality with a biting sense of humor. He was an excellent impressionist covering cartoon characters, actors and singers (even Bootsy Collins!). During blitz battles, you had to have some fairly thick skin, or he would rankle you easily. His tactical eye was brutal, and when he hit you with a combination, he would let out one of his roars… “OH YEAHHHH!!!!” while twirling his arm around in victory. His signature line came from a barbecue sauce commercial whose main line was “Oh yeah!”

Marvin was relentless in his banter, and everyone in the club would be in stitches laughing. All you could do was get up after a loss and try to be a good sport. If you sat down to play him, you knew what you may a target of his humor. His physical humor was also hilarious. Make a poor move and Marvin would start sniffing the air implying that your move was smelly or stunk.

There were several occasions later on when Marvin’s antics got the best of his opponents. There is a famous encounter between Marvin and (now FM) Albert Chow, who at the time was one of the top young players in the state. Chow had been a regular at Jules Stein’s Chicago Chess Center (2666 N. Halsted) and after the tournament was over, he played some blitz in the small skittles room.

FM Albert Chow (right) playing FM Morris Giles in the 5th round
of the 1988 Prairie State Open.

After Chow trashed me a couple of games, Marvin sat to play him. The first couple of games Chow crushed him and was in a joking mood. Marvin had been a bit quiet, but then broke through winning a game… then another… and another! By this time Marvin was pumped up and turned up the volume of trash talking. They continued to trade barbs, but it took on a more personal tone… with suggestive references. Marvin won another game and bellowed “OH YEAHHH!!!” Usually very composed, Chow appeared unsettled.

In the next game, Marvin went a bit far when he put his hand on Chow’s leg with some off-color humor. Chow, who was already upset, swept the pieces off the board, and stormed out of the room. Marvin was still amidst laughter when an angered Chow came back into the room after a few minutes and shot another verbal missile at Marvin, even questioning his sexual orientation. Not to be outdone, Marvin delivers the final punch.

“Don’t worry. Don’t be mad. You’re young. You’ll get better. You’ll get stronger, and stronger… (pause for effect)… and I’ll STILL crack you off!

The room filled with raucous laughter. On another occasion, Marvin sprung that same joke on 1979 Illinois H.S. state champion Melvin Alsberry who laughed along. As time passed by, Chow would laugh at that day and told me, “I don’t know why I was so mad at Marvin Dandridge.”

Even if you were mad at Marvin, it usually didn’t last long. He once told me after a training session that I wasn’t challenging him. The words hit me hard. I was shaken, but determined to be better… and I was. Marvin had his own way of motivating you.

“Getting the Strauss”

After graduating from Eastern Illinois University, Marvin began to become more active in tournaments. I remember going down to the 1979 U.S. Open with him to watch the games and even work the demonstration boards. It was my first-time seeing professionals up close. Marvin also pointed out players to me such as Emory Tate and David Sprenkle (see the amazing Sprenkle-Dandridge).

In the Dandridge-Rizzitano, white seems to be in trouble due to the menacing bishops and the advanced pawns. Black’s threat of Ba3 and c1 (Q) seem hard to meet. Of course b2 appears devastating, but Marvin reels off a gem. Can you find the move?

In 1980, he was a graduate student at Chicago State University and played in the 1980 Pan-American Intercollegiate along with Raheem Muhammad Ali, Gene Scott and Angelo Armistead. At that tournament, Marvin (then rated 2040) played a classic encounter with FM James Rizzitano (2355) of Boston College. Rizzitano (now IM) was the 1979 National High School champion and one of America’s brightest young stars. This game was also featured in the Chess Life issue covering the Pan-Am tournament and put Marvin in the national spotlight! Understandably, the game attracted a huge crowd.

Marvin “got the strauss” as he would so often say after a victory. The next year, Marvin and I played as teammates for Chicago State University at the 1981 Pan-Am Intercollegiate (Statler Hotel in New York). He was finishing his Master’s in Psychology, and I was a freshman studying Computer Science. Also on the team was my other mentor and CVS alumni Roger Hickman, and my high school archrival Melvin Alsberry, a Carver High legend. It was my first flight. We had a blast, visited the now-defunct Manhattan Chess Club and had many fun memories.

1981 Pan-Am Intercollegiate in New York

Representing Chicago State University at the
1981 Pan-Am Intercollegiate in New York. I ended on 5½-2½.

Unfortunately, I misplaced my hotel key almost immediately after we checked in at the desk. Everyone was mad at me because they put us in a smaller room. Marvin didn’t perform well at the tournament losing to an 1800-rated player from the University of Chicago, Tom Kang. Meanwhile, Roger accepted draws against weaker players… sometimes making the offer. All of these memories resulted in an exchange of jokes we share even to this day. Roger quipped (about Marvin), “Our master didn’t show up.”

Marv’s Magic

During tournament play or when studying, Marvin appeared very focused and composed. I remember studying some very complicated opening systems with Marvin. I particularly remember analyzing the Sveshnikov where black plays …f5 and …d5. We also looked at the French Poisoned Pawn line where white plays Kd1. He also essayed the aggressive Dutch Defense. Fortunately, I was an 1.e4 player. Here is a battle with (now GM) Ben Finegold. Crazy!

Here’s another crazy Dutch Defense against the legendary Arthur Bisguier

I remember becoming disappointed when Marvin took up the positional Caro Kann and started playing the English starting with 1.Nf3. He had abandoned our “tactical” fraternity and joined Hickman for more positional chess. I remember trying to convince him to play 1.e4 again. Looking at the craziness of his games, you can understand why he needed a different direction. However he still knew how to uncork some tactical gems.

One of the things about Marvin is he was a great sport and I never saw him angry after a loss. I saw him lose a blitz session to Colombia’s (now GM) Alonso Zapata who was giving him 5:3 time odds. I couldn’t believe it. He told me with a chuckle, “No more 5:3 against IMs.” Marvin knew how to laugh at himself when on the brink of losing. He would shout out “OH NOOOO!” No… it wasn’t from Mr. Bill of the Saturday Night Live fame, but taken from the Calgonite commercial.

Unfortunately, Marvin was “Calgonited” in this game…

Becoming “Uncle Marv”

I left Chicago in 1989 and lost the contact with Marvin except for a happenstance encounter at one of the chess meetups or the Chicago Open. His activity had slowed a bit, but he was still involved in the chess community and had earned the affectionate name of “Uncle Marv.” After I launched The Chess Drum in 2001, I began to feature his games and penned a popular article titled, “Dandridge brings Chicago Fire” featuring the above win over Boris Kreiman.

Marvin Dandridge playing International Master Oladapo Adu blitz at 2004 Chicago Open.

A classic blitz battle with Nigeria’s Oladapo Adu at 2004 Chicago Open.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

During my trips back to Chicago, I’d try to catch up with old acquaintances. A few years back at a Chicago Open tournament, Marvin and I went out to grab a bite to eat, and it was great to catch up. We reminisced about the good times and how things had changed in chess. Many of the people we knew had moved in different directions in life. Some has passed away and others had health challenges. Nevertheless, it was good to spend that time.

At the 2016 Chicago Open, Marvin Dandridge shows his game (against Galina Novikova) to Remi Adekola and Roger Hickman with Brooklyn’s Steve Colding (left) looking on. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

It’s nice to remember the good times. Chess provided those moments of happiness that one can reflect on. I remember card parties at Marvin’s house, the pizza outings with Roger Hickman and the times when the three of us descended on Harper’s Square in Hyde Park or one of the chess clubs on the northside. Those were the good days.

In the diagrammed position, white has to find some incredible moves to win. Queen endings are challenging. Try if you dare!

Marvin had a peak rating 2350-2400 and earned the rank of Life Master. While he is no longer the blitz enthusiast that he once was, one of the things that I see in him is his joy in analyzing positions. This activity was something I spent hours doing with him. He enjoyed the challenge, the mental competition, and spotting tactical patterns. He also enjoyed solving problems. At one session, he presented this problem on the right. After we couldn’t solve it, he offered the solution, and we were amazed. Such influence was what I needed to improve.

As I pushed to improve, I urged Marvin to play more. To my chagrin, he told me that he was unable to spend entire weekends at tournaments. Perhaps there were other reasons, but as a licensed psychologist in a city like Chicago, his caseload must’ve been overwhelming.

2016 Emory Tate Memorial (Chicago, Illinois)

Dandridge is being interviewed at the 2016 Emory Tate Memorial during which he offered insight about a number of psychological issues pertaining to Black chess players. Very interesting!

2016 Emory Tate Memorial (Chicago, Illinois)

Dandridge has worked for decades as a licensed clinical professional counselor. At this point in the interview, he spoke about the case of Issac Braswell, who died tragically in 2012. Photos by Daaim Shabazz.

Good Mentorship + Good Plan = Success

Although “Uncle Marv” may quickly scoff at being called “legend,” such a label would be fitting in local chess circles and within the larger African Diaspora. If nothing else, he has helped to fuel my passion for chess and years later I’m traveling the world writing about hundreds of other trailblazing players of African descent.

In fact, Marvin has some very intriguing and amusing stories about Chicago-born IM Emory Tate and he had tremendous respect for FM Morris Giles. These three were the head of the small group of Black masters in the Chicago area during the 80s. All three have had their moments in the spotlight and they would (in fact) become a major impetus for me starting The Chess Drum.

One of the objectives of The Chess Drum is to provide inspiration in the lives of Black people in the worldwide community. If I have not expressed this enough, we cannot underestimate mentorship and role modeling as key inspirations. If we want to create institutions for chess excellence, we have to have this essential element. Grandmaster Maurice Ashley, whom I met at the 1989 U.S. Open, mentioned this key element in his success.

Marvin Dandridge and Daaim Shabazz at 1989 U.S. Open.

With Marvin at 1989 U.S. Open in Oakbrook, Illinois
prior to me moving to Atlanta, Georgia for graduate school.

Chess mentorship seems to be lacking, particularly in the Black community. Today, there is the idea that aspiring masters need “trainers,” but there is also a need for mentorship. A trainer can be a mentor, can be from a different community, but there are other social elements required. Unfortunately, young players in the Black community have little connection to their predecessors.

Mentorship could undoubtedly boost confidence, not only in chess, but with career and social development. Perhaps it’s not always the student who chooses the mentor. Sometimes the mentor who chooses the student. I have been a university professor for nearly 25 years. Finding an understudy with whom to share your wealth of knowledge (and to see them thrive) is a tremendous blessing. I was fortunate to have benefited from such mentorship and I am forever grateful. Thanks Marvin!


At the launching of the World Chess Hall of Fame in Miami in 2001, the inaugural year of The Chess Drum.

Chess journalists often take on the task of presenting the face of chess to the world and oftentimes, that effort is overlooked or taken for granted. In my almost 18 years of covering chess for The Chess Drum, I have met some of the hardest-working professionals in chess journalism. I have provided live coverage for six Olympiad tournaments, a World Championship, several top-level events and many open tournaments. I have interviewed dozens of Grandmasters, rising scholastic stars and rank amateur players. I have observed how vibrant and universal chess has become. There are stories waiting to be told.

Fortunately, social media has provided a platform and there is more accessibility of information from different countries. Thus, a more complete view of chess is presented. While social media has filled a void, it is necessary, but not sufficient media for chess coverage. Far too many simply post a few photos of an event without a proper context or leading story.

Interviewing Levon Aronian after the 2017 St. Louis Rapid & Blitz.
Photo by Peter Doggers.

Websites run by chess journalists still play a valuable role in news coverage and provide the type of insight that mass media often fails to deliver and a permanency that social media lacks. In addition, too many chess neophytes are assigned to cover major chess events and we are left to read the cringe-worthy puns and references. Even chess writers will fall prey to false narratives such as the issue of U.S. winning the gold medal by “importing” foreign talent.

Keeping the Drum Beat

In my sphere, I continue to primarily focus on players of African descent around the world and ensure they have the platform to show their contributions to chess and to provide them exposure. When I was a junior player, there was hardly any news about Black chess players. There were stories worthy of being told, but no one was telling them. This was one of the main motivations in the founding of The Chess Drum in 2001. Fast forward to the 2018 Olympiad, Black chess players have a tremendous presence which I have described in a photo essay, “African Diaspora makes impact at 2018 Olympiad

Chess journalists: Haydn Gill (Barbados), Daaim Shabazz (USA), Jacinta Odongo (Kenya), Ian Wilkinson (Jamaica)

If one takes a good look at the interviews and photos of the 2018 Olympiad, it is obvious that chess covers the entire spectrum of demographics. In the past, most of the coverage on major chess websites had been on the top 20 players and the top 10 federations. Even today most sites are covering professional chess with only an occasional article on a small federation. It is interesting that one of the biggest triumphs spotlighting the virtues of chess was the story of Phiona Mutesi and the “Queen of Katwe.”

The Queen of Katwe

This compelling story was not about chess more than it was a story about a girl’s daring triumph over abject poverty. She is now a student a Northwest University, not far from Seattle. Unfortunately, the story did not get the proper exposure due to a poor marketing strategy. Many thought the movie was about a chess prodigy and that is the way it was advertised. The chess community also did not help matters in criticizing what they saw was an over-hyped chess figure.

I would be the first to admit that the articles written to market the movie were a bit misleading, so the chess community became more fixated on her low rating than her fascinating story. I wrote about a dozen articles on the story and attempted to focus more on the social upliftment in her life. Many simply could not relate and decided to focus on her chess statistics. In my opinion, it was a missed opportunity to showcase the qualities of chess.

Phiona Mutesi of Uganda, the “Queen of Katwe”
at 2018 Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Journalist Collegiality

For all counts, chess journalism is a rather thankless vocation as many put in hours of overage to report current events. It is very challenging. Most of the “friendly” agreements between journalists are based on the principle of collegiality and common goals of promoting chess. We request permission to use content with the understanding of proper attributions and credit. There are also the press room tips or reminders about press conferences and other events.

Mike Klein of chess.com always provides me with briefs in tournaments we cover together. I greatly appreciate this. It is a rather friendly environment since all are attempting to put the best face forward for chess. I have learned quite a bit from observing journalists at work. In particular, I have watched the photographers such as Puficheck (met at 2004 Chess Olympiad), David Llada, Lennart Ootes and Alina L’Ami and look to pick up tips.

Journalists’ Row at inaugural Sinquefield Cup in 2013
Cathy Rogers, Daaim Shabazz, Mike Klein,
Janis Nisii, Sabrina Chevannes
Photo by Dan Lucas.

Chess.com with Mike Klein, Peter Doggers and Maria Emelianova
at 2018 Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Unfortunately, in the world of journalism, many take umbrage to use photos and content without attributing properly. Maybe we all have been guilty at one time or another and we simply make the correction. However, this has become a major issue for journalists.

What prevents someone from using photos and content without any tacit permission of the owner? Nothing. There are all types of workarounds. However, if such an organization of journalists was created, it would serve as a force to prevent these actions and also to provide arbitration if in fact, there is a breach.

I missed the 2016 Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, but knew of the difficulties journalists faced. My trip to Batumi for the 2018 Chess Olympiad reaffirmed that journalists needed stronger lobbying to ensure proper conditions, for sharing content and techniques, for showcasing our work and to frankly, be a watchdog group.

The Politicization of Chess Media

Unfortunately, chess journalism is often a casualty of political power plays executed to stifle honest reporting and critical analysis. The last ten years have been quite challenging given some of the contentious issues concerning FIDE. Journalists have a tough job in presenting all sides as objectively as possible and are often cast as catalysts for agitation. This has resulted in journalists having access restricted, being denied accreditation or even worse, being told they are not journalists. This resulted in a special FIDE Commission of Chess Journalists (CCJ) being formed for “approved” journalists.

Georgios Makropolous speaks on the creation of a commission for journalists and its goals. Advance to 22:55 into the clip. Video by North American Chess Association.

One of the tasks of the aforementioned CCJ is “to help protect chess journalists from plagiarism and copyright infringement etc.” as highlighted in the CCJ minutes in Tallinn, Estonia (2013). There are also principles of honoring intellectual property cited in CCJ minutes in Tromso, Norway (2014). What was interesting what that at the 2012 Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey, I had discovered an infraction whereby a fellow journalist’s content from olimpbase.org was blatantly copied and used for profit to market a book on Olympiad history. This action violated all types of “fair use” clauses.

The offense was so egregious that I contacted the olimpbase.org owner Wojciech Bartelski and asked him whether he had extended rights for someone to write that book. He confirmed that he had not. My reason for revealing this issue publicly was for other journalists to see the extent to which our intellectual property can be violated. In fact, when I reported on this act of plagiarism, I was the target of a complaint filed with the FIDE Ethics Commission. When an act of blatant plagiarism is revealed, how can the offender then accuse the person (shedding light on it) of an ethics violation? How ironic!

During the 2018 Olympiad, I chatted with Spanish journalist Leontxo Garcia and my friend Ian Wilkinson of Jamaica about the state of chess journalism and we all agreed that journalists are often forced to lobby for conditions each major event. This entails ensuring proper conditions (i.e., space and technical capability) for journalists to do their work, allowing some access to players, and also allowing reasonable freedom to photograph the event. Sometimes it’s not so easy.

Certainly, the situation varies from tournament to tournament and some organizations are more journalist-friendly than others. We can remember the 2016 World Championship in New York being fraught with access issues and journalists being seen queuing up outside the playing hall. It was the same for the 2018 Chess Olympiad and the 2018 World Championship in London as David Llada reported his frustrations on site. Coverage of chess events is too often an afterthought of organizers.

Journalists were initially restricted at the 2016 Chess Olympiad, but the issue was ultimately resolved. Photo by Mike Klein (chess.com).

This incident shows Maria Emelianova being harassed by the campaign of Georgios Makropoulos while recording a dispute between Iannis Makropoulos and Alexander Martynov over a legal issue. Video by Maria Emelianova (chess.com).

Moving Chess Forward

There is a lot of good content being produced in an increasingly decentralized media world. It is a wonder that we have to raise the question, “Are chess magazines still relevant?” Of course they are! Furthermore books are still a valuable force and websites serve as a bedrock of permanency. Social media platforms are not fully indexed via search engine and are inaccessible to many. However, there are many websites like The Week in Chess and ChessBase standing the test of time.

Of course chess.com and chess24 are giant content providers and sites like The Chess Drum, Africa Chess Media, Kenya Chess Masala serve a veritable niche for the African Diaspora. Finally, we can’t say enough about ChessBase India which has contributed mightily to the chess revolution in India and has given us an inside view of the talent being generated in the country of 1.3 billion.

With Amruta Mokal and Sagar Shah of ChessBase India
at 2018 Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Based on many of these developments and the election of the new FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, we hope to see better conditions for chess journalists. There is a need to cover events accurately and to fill the press room with competent chess journalists who ask knowledgeable questions. Where do non-chess journalists go to find answers if they are given the assignment to cover a chess tournament?

Ogunsiku Babatunde (Africa Chess Media)
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

The questions posed at the press conference during Anand-Carlsen championship match in Chennai were targets of criticism for being repetitive and uniformed. Questions at last year’s Candidate’s tournament also missed the mark at times. This created puzzling looks and allowed Alexander Grischuk to display his brand of sarcastic humor. In hindsight, the laughs and following Grischuk “thug life” memes may have been good for chess.

The true strength of chess journalism will come in a way that we can express our thoughts whether they are critical or favorable. If chess is to grow, chess journalists must have the leverage to perform this task. It is only in this vein that chess can get the accurate coverage it deserves and put an end to the frequent mischaracterizations that hinder its efforts at sponsorship.


As a student at the University of West Indies, FIDE Master Joshua Johnson understands the important of being focused on a task. The 19-year old is Olympiad team member for Trinidad and Tobago and recently scored victor in a local tournament in the island’s capital Port of Spain.

FM Joshua Johnson (Trinidad & Tobago)

FM Joshua Johnson (Trinidad & Tobago)

Newsday reported that the tournament began on December 29th at the Brian Lara Promenade, the venue named after the legendary cricket batsman drew 21 players and Johnson won 1st prize and $1,500 with an unbeaten score. Quinn Cabralis took home $1,000 and a trophy and FM Ryan Harper took 3rd with $500 and a trophy. The sponsors were KFC, Shoppes of Arima, Basic Transport, Payless Supermarket, Ministry of Community Development and Keith Hercules.

It was a good warm-up. I want to go away (abroad) some time this year, play some tournaments and raise my ratings.

~Joshua Johnson

Johnson, whose sister Gabriella Johnson is also a rising chess talent, is looking for opportunities abroad to express his talents. Chess is a family affair as his mother Sonja Johnson is the President of Trinidad and Tobago Chess Federation and on the FIDE Planning and Development Commission (PDC).

Tournament organizer Hayden Lee, President of Promenade Chess Club, wants to host more tournament and perhaps draw international attention and participation. It’s been several years since Trinidad & Tobago has attracted international acclaim.

Link: https://newsday.co.tt/2019/01/18/johnson-wins-promenade-chess-title/


On January 11, 2019, the city of Houston passed a proclamation for “Maurice Ashley Day” in recognition of this contributions to the general chess community. The Mayor of Houston Sylvester Turner received the U.S. Hall of Famer. Maurice Ashley told The Chess Drum that the Mayor Turner was on board with the U.S. Hall of Famer.

Out of the dozens of articles written at The Chess Drum chronicling the career of Ashley, he continues to receive recognition from various organizations for his trailblazing path in chess. While he has not been active as a professional player for 15 years, he remains as a principle figure in the game as a motivational speaker, chess promoter/organizer/ambassador and first-rate chess commentator. Congratulations!

Ashley being received by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey. Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia was also on hand for the festivities. Photos courtesy of Maurice Ashley.


The home of the “Big Three” car manufacturing plants, the city aptly named “The Motor City” is also home to one of the most famous music empires in the world in Motown Records. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the hallowed sports tradition… at all levels.

Detroiters are competitive bunch and like to tout their sports prowess and this is no less evident in the chess arena. Derek Wilder sent a report to The Chess Drum on Detroit’s Metro Scholastic Chess League which focused on the best and brightest talents the city has to offer.

2018-2019 Detroit Metro Scholastic Chess League
(Report by Derek Wilder)

The 2018-2019 Detroit Metro Scholastic Chess League has just came to a exciting, nail-biting finish. Champions were crowned in the High School, Middle and Elementary divisions. The High School division was won by U. of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy coached by Mrs. Chevelle Brown. In second place was Cass Tech followed by Renaissance H.S.

Battle in progress!

The elementary divisions was one of the toughest and closest competitions with Cornerstone Elementary winning the city championship under the helm of Coach Brown. Cornerstone ended with a perfect score of seven match points. There was a three way tie for second place with Bates Academy coming in second on tiebreaks followed by UPrep Elementary then Chrysler Elementary.

The Middle School divisions was won by UPrep Middle School with a perfect score. The team was lead by one of the most talented women Detroit has produced in Charisse Woods. The 13-year old aspiring master, recently represented the U.S. in the FIDE World Youth Championship in Greece.

Charisse Woods

While UPrep continued its legacy as a chess powerhouse in Detroit chess, second place in this division came down to tiebreaks with Bates Academy winning on tie breaks. Bates is coached by Timothy Speight and Mrs. Ursula Bryd. Munger Middle School claimed third place with superior tiebreaks over Washington Parks Academy (Rahsaun Maddox, coach) who settled for 4th place.

University of Detroit Jesuit, 1st High School

UPrep, 1st place (Middle School)

Bates Academy, 2nd place (Elementary) & 2nd place (Middle School)
Photos by Dee Wilder and Timothy Speight

UPrep, 3rd place (Elementary) with FM Josh Posthuma

Chrysler, 4th place (Elementary)

The Detroit metro scholastic chess league is the premier chess scholastic league in Michigan for inter school competition thru the years and have produced many Detroit chess stars far as James Canty, Joseph Gadson, Kameron Tolliver, Charisse Woods, Micale Garland, Brelen Wilkes, Bryan Wilson Jr. to name a few. The tournament was run by the lovely LaRhonda McCann (League Director) and Mr. Kevin Fite, founder of Detroit City Chess Club (DCCC).


Kolade Onabogun being interviewed by Tania Sachdev after round three.
Photo by John Saunders (Gibchess)

Die-hard chess players have an idea of the elite tournaments around the world, but there are few in which amateur players can brush shoulders with the elite brass. Besides the Olympiad, the Gibraltar Chess Open is one of the tournaments that has received plaudits from top players including Hikaru Nakamura who has won the tournament four times. Players from the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Middle East all trek to the European destination to partake in a special event.

The view of the strait separating Spain from Morocco has a historic importance. The iconic “Rock of Gibraltar” makes quite an impression for visitors and the Barbary macaques (monkeys) are a photo favorite. Also memorable are the interactions and one-in-a-lifetime chances to meet chess role models. Sometimes these players are able to become role models!

Nigeria’s Kolade Onabogun has been on the scene for many years, but his play has tapered off in recent years. Having reached these pages as early as 2002, he is living his dream at the 2019 Gibraltar Festival. In round three found himself on board 17 playing world-class Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. This occurred after the 40-year old Nigerian national defeated GMs Dragnev Valentin and Sipke Ernst to the surprise of everyone including himself. Here is his first win with notes generated by lichess.org.

According to Ajibade Olayemo of African Chess Media, Kolade earned the moniker “Hurricane” after he won the Nigerian Championship despite the five-year layoff. For an amateur player to win two consecutive games against a Grandmaster is rare indeed. Here is how Onubogun described his experience.

Video by Gibchess


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