Kassa Korley makes Master!

Last month Kassa Korley played in the St. John’s Masters tournament in New York. At the World Open he had mentioned a time when he was close to the title of National Master (2185) and then losing a boatload of points. He actually lost rating points in nine consecutive tournaments before making a turnaround and eclipsing the 2200 barrier at St. John’s.

In this tournament, he beat IM Jay Bonin, and held GMs Jaan Ehlvest and Michael Rohde to draws. His only loss was to GM Zviad Izoria of Georgia. This netted him 32 rating points and the National Master’s title. Photo from web.jrn.columbia.edu

Kassa was featured on The Chess Drum during the 2008 World Open as a 14-year old star from the Dalton School in New York. He had actually just turned 15, and shortly thereafter he broke the 25-year old record of becoming the youngest U.S. player of African ancestry to make National Master. Howard Daniels of the legendary Vaux made master at 15 years and 4 months and now Kassa has made it 15 years and 2 months.

Future Master: Kassa Korley as a baby with his parents.
Photo from web.jrn.columbia.edu

Kassa’s fascinating story is becoming increasingly known. He was born to a father from Denmark and a mother from New York. As a result, he has Danish citizenship and a triple heritage… U.S., Denmark (paternal grandmother) and Ghana (paternal grandfather). He has also excelled in basketball and has trained in one of David Beckham’s soccer camp.

Sometimes heralded as the “next Bobby Fischer,” the young star is looking to establish his own reputation and bluntly states in a interview, “Your game talks, not your mouth.” There was a video feature titled “Masters & Hustlers” in which Kassa is featured. The video was produced by Jennie Cohen and Radha Vij of Columbia University.

GM Maurice Ashley remembers Kassa as a standout student in the Harlem Chess Club and noticed his wealth of talent. Obviously the talent was harnessed at an early age. His father states,

Kassa was a multi talented child and have remained so into young adulthood (He is for instance shooting guard on his Jr. Varsity Basketball team – top scorer, and a great student) and have for that very same reason been supported in many interests by his entire family. We never believed that Kassa or his sister needed to be what we were rather that they would in time define themselves.

NM Jerald Times, who was a coach at the Harlem Chess Club, calls him a “prodigy.” However, Kassa stated that he would not just play chess. “Chess cannot be the only thing you do. You have to keep the balance.” Certainly young Kassa has a bright future and if you face him over the chessboard, do not let the baby-face, dread-locks and bright smile fool you… he is very dangerous.

“See Kassa Korley in ‘Masters & Hustlers’

Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz is the founder of The Chess Drum, while serving as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds a B.S. Computer Science from Chicago State University, an MBA in Marketing and a Ph.D. in International Affairs & Development, both from Clark Atlanta University. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

37 Comments

  1. Congrats young prince! Great job Kossa and impressive results. Continue to strive to create art over the board and bring spice to the game. The Chess Gym applauds you. Coach Rene’

  2. Hey Kassa. Congrats! I still have on VHS the spot of you with Maurice Ashley from 2001 on ESPN. From one pioneer to another, keep up the great work!

    Sincerely,

    Shearwood “Woody” McClelland III, M.D.
    Department of Neurosurgery, University of Minnesota
    Life Chess Master

  3. Hi Woody,

    I tried Googling that segment and YouTubing it without success. I remember announcing it on The Drum. That VHS will be worth something, but you’d better turn it into digital. 🙂

  4. You’re making history Kassa doing what you enjoy most…PLAYING CHESS…. Your hard work and determination has paid off!! Happy, happy times.

  5. Excellent job Kassa!

    I’ve played him him a number of times at the Marshall, and have yet to score a point.

    Dr McClelland! It seems like just a few years ago I knew you and your sister as a couple of young kids scaring the crap out of us adults. Please give your family my best.

  6. Hi Kassa,
    I am at your grandmother’s house. I want you to know how very proud I am of your outstanding achievement!!
    Always,
    Rose

  7. To my AMAZING son: Congratulations. Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot reach your goals. I always knew that you could do this and anything else you put your mind to. Hence your name “Kassa”

    NB: For the creators of this site and the”Masters and Hustlers” short which is quoted here: Neither Kassa’s mother or I have ever promulgated the idea that Kassa should play basketball rather than chess. Such remarks and quotes are incorrect and offensive and should not be quoted in this or any other forum. To the contrary, I actually photographed Kassa’s first publicity pics for Fader magazine partially at Maurice Ashley’s.
    Kassa was a multi talented child and have remained so into young adulthood (He is for instance shooting guard on his Jr. Varsity Basketball team – top scorer, and a great student) and have for that very same reason been supported in many interests by his entire family. We never believed that Kassa or his sister needed to be what we were rather that they would in time define themselves.
    A child prodigy unfortunately often suffers from detractors who secretly harbor dreams of living vicariously through them.
    It is which that in mind that Kassa’s achievements are all the more exciting and impressive as none of the promised coaching, other than that of his grandfather, has been forthcoming. It is the very nature of his own ambition, talent and discipline which has put him at the top.
    We are all very proud of him.

  8. Since posting this article, Kassa has risen quicky and is now at 2252. With this talent, he can at least be an International Master one day. It would be fitting that he made Grandmaster after having participated in Maurice Ashley’s program in Harlem. Saying that, he has primarily done this on his own without a trainer or coach, so there is a lot of potential here. I’d like to give special recognition to his parents Martei Korley and Kamala Red.

  9. Kassa Korley recently scored 4-5 at the New York International at the Marshall Chess Club. He beat IM Daniel Fernandez (2420) and FM Jake Kleiman (2383). He held IM Irina Krush (2474) and FM Elliott Liu (2405). Overall, he probably gained 20 ELO points.

  10. Tick-Tick- Tick- Boom!!! Yall too much ! haha Yall too much ! Yo Kassa i just found out a month ago what my son Shaka favorite song is when he came home and started singing SO Amazing its Amazing !! hehe! TRUEWORD. Just ask your dad! Well done Peace.

    1. I am so very proud of you my great nephew!!!! I am in awe of you every single day and I know that you will make such a great contribution to whatever you choose in your life!! I’m always here for you and hope to come visit in America as soon as I can!! Keep up the awesome work Kassa!!! Best wishes kisses from Aunt Penny!!!!

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