RZA wins HHCF’s Kings Invitational!

RZA holds up the HHCF championship belt after sweeping the tournament 4-0. Hip-hop legend “Popmaster Fabel” presents the belt while Adisa Banjoko (co-founder of HHCF), IM Josh Waitzkin and Rakaa Iriescience applaud. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

The 1st Kings Invitational was a magnificent event. Adisa has come a long way in a short time and the Hip-Hop Chess Federation movement has great potential if it finds the right balance between the hip-hop world and the chess world.

It was great meeting RZA, GZA, Casual, TKASH and the other artists. Good brothers! They do not play tournament chess, but their passion is there. RZA’s backrank mate of Monk was classic! We all have felt the pain of victory being snatched from our grasp. The event was first rate and I’ll make pics available soon. I’ll have about 20 pictures in a slide show. The rest I may put within a gallery.

See Drum Brief on Hip-Hop tournament!


  1. Daaim – Nice coverage. Glad to see that you were able to be a part of the event. Do you think that the efforts of the HHCF will significantly impact the growth of organized chess playing by “post-scholastic” black chessplayers? Such growth would be a real breakthrough in the popularizing of the game.

  2. WOW! A beautiful event which reminds me of the initials stages or rap back in 1978, how we were able to move rap from the pure street level, to international success on par with the highest forms of music. Its apparent that theses brothers are doing the same thing with chess and expanding on the intellectual process by blending various forms or art as well! Im certain we as a unique part of the diaspora will be at the top or world chess soon!

  3. Edwin,

    There were no games recorded since they were 10-minute games. Adisa wanted to have people recording the scores but something happened and they were unable to accomplish this.

    I would say RZA is in the 1400-1500 range. A rating of 1500 is the median in the USCF with the top 3-4% being over 2000. He played some decent moves, but got into trouble in the last round against Monk when his king got stuck in the center and he lost a piece.


    This can be huge, but I’m not naive. If Adisa finds the right formula, this can spiral into the most revolutionary effort to attract new players to the chess world. Only the Fischer-Spassky has done that, but if the HHCF can cause a small blip in the getting people to play, it can give USCF membership a boost… nationwide. We know how huge hip-hop is and if hip-hop artists are promoting it to the youth, it can work. However, the media will probably make mistakes in analyzing what all this means. This is why I have been talking to Adisa so much about the strategy.


    The event was off the hook! I was glad to have been a part of it. The artists were cool and unpretentious. There wasn’t too much trash-talking… it was good-spirited. Even when Monk fell for the backrank mate (a rook up) to lose the championship, he took it well. The brothers well really cool. They are mega stars in their world, but have no illusions of greatness in chess. They want to learn.

  4. Lionel makes a good point. I remember a post-Katrina article about the chess scene in New Orleans. One brother interviewed was a professional musician. He liked chess, and said that he got the same artistic rush playing chess as he did playing jazz. He talked about structure and elements and improvisation, etc. I hadn’t ever thought about chess that way, but his explanation made so much sense. The HHCF seems to be doing the same thing … bringing their artistic perspective to the game, and creating an exciting new dimension.

  5. What an EVENT! even though earlier in the day I had MONK on the ropes ( it was at the 1st level bar, while my boy played the GZA) and let him get at me.. boys and girls practice YOUR ENDGAME!!!!!
    again the event was fresh (yeah, im old school). great networking, and hanging out with the WU!!!

    c y’all in FEB 2008


  6. Daaim,

    I am simply speechless! This event provided precisely the type of positive media exposure that our chess community desperately needs. Keep up the great work!


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