Meet NM Barry Davis

Born in Buffalo, New York, U.S. Chess Master Barry Davis had honed his skills in the chess Mecca for decades and is part of a cadre of Black players who trail-blazed the chess circuit in the 70s. Having just celebrated his 53rd birthday, Davis remembers what it was like in the heyday of the “Fischer Boom” and played in his first tournament in 1970.

National Master Barry Davis

He got his first taste of success in the Western High School Chess Championship beating out 115 other players with a 6-0 blitz. In subsequent years, he would earn the U.S. ranking of Expert (1974) and National Master (1976) and won the Mississippi State Championship (1977). Davis joined the Air Force and participated in the Armed Forces Championship in 1977 and was able to win the tournament once before discharging in 1981. One Air Force colleague would become the focus of an interesting story:

While stationed at Andrews Air Force Base Washington DC, I met a young man at the Your Move Chess Club in downtown DC. I believe Vincent Moore was the manager at the time. This youngster was amazed at how well I played chess and he asked me what I attributed my success to. My response was I have been blessed, but if you are looking for something to take with you, here is my “12 Question Checklist”… this is how I play chess! The young man’s name was Emory Tate and you know the rest of the story!!!

Of course Emory Tate would become the material of legends and would help spawn a boom of the “Black Chess Master” in the 1980s. The type of example that players like Davis provided was crucial in a tim when not many players of African descent were playing chess. Apart from Walter Harris, Frank Street, Kenneth Clayton, Leroy (Jackson) Muhammad and Charles Covington, there were few Masters to look to as role models. Of course the Fischer euphoria was still raging in the mid-70s and the men mentioned above paved the way for many of the Black players on the east coast.

Many times there are those in chess who do are not always known as the strongest players, but who have the greatest impact. Davis counts meeting two-time Buffalo City Champion Johnny Swanson as a defining moment. Swanson was the second Black player to win the Buffalo City Championship, doing so twice in 1960s!

Davis held a position of prestige winning the Buffalo City title three times and 2nd in a NY State Championship. He has played some of the legendary figures in chess including Dr. Kenneth Rogoff, the distinguished economist at Harvard University and IM William Lombardy. He also had memorable game with the IM Maurice Ashley, a game that he Ashley “executed beautifully.” Despite these tough losses, he was able to record a win over Canadian GM Peter Biyiasis and had many other exciting encounters.

Davis has worked with many local players helping to spawn a cadre of strong players.

I have been blessed to work with some of the following students/colleagues include: Ahmoad Ware, James Ware, Vance Williams (2009 Buffalo Champion), James Lampkin, Joseph Lentini, Douglas W. Dubose, Lionel Davis, Bem Tyhemiba (born Timothy Daniels), Negash Bezaleel (born Damon Baldwin), Scott Reister and James Davis.

Davis is passing on the tradition and currently works with youngsters Sam Santora and Bob Simpson. He hopes to pass on his knowledge to help a new generation of chess players rise to higher heights. Stay tuned!

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.

17 Comments

  1. Barry, what’s up. We played together on the Air Force Team (don’t ask me what year, its been too long). Are you still active playing chess? Good to hear from on the drum.

  2. Glenn, it has been a long time but I do remember the “energy” you had!! I push the pieces around from time to time, but put more time into instruction. Please, continue doing what we do…

  3. Greeting chessdrummers!
    I have had the honor of knowing Barry Davis since 1972 we went to high school together.

    At the time we met I had only been playing chess a year and thought I was the best in the school until I met Barry.
    He took me under his wing as a friend and shared information with me and gave me some spankings in numerous slow games and blitz. He always had a smile and a positive attitude and he helped bring me out of an introverted shell.
    Playing and sharing ideas with Barry, Bem Tyehimba, David Mc Duffie and Vince Woodard along with Jeffrey Grant and the patriarch of Buffalo chess William Zachary helped me become and expert in three years after joining the U.S.C.F.
    Barry was a dominant force in Buffalo chess during the mid-seventies and early eighties and once you had his scalp you were ready!
    I thank God for bringing the fine gentleman and strong player into my life, Barry we appreciate you.

  4. “The Barry” welcome to the chessdrum, good to see you and thanks for being one of my instructors in the traditional form of chess! and for pounding the idea that Fischer was better than Karpov and Kasparov, you know growing up in the 80’s i didnt know any thing about Bobby except for stories at the local clubs. Its good you put the history here for all to see so when Ivanchuck and the boys get cracked {Uncle Dougie} they will know why! . Of course to you Bem Doug David Vince thanks for leading the way and creating an Afrocentric Chess Study we call Ultramodern BLESS.

  5. Barry,
    You are a true pioneer. I am happy to follow inyour footsteps. I love you Barry.

  6. “Quan” good to hear from you man , ive been thinking about you man wondering how you doing and when you coming back HOME! We have come a long way from Delavan-Cambridge at Huff’s huh? Amazing! Sophie into chess too,big time! We coming outta alleys, underneath cars, out the hood, errwhere! Yo man get their eurocentric book on Pawn Structure Chess and you wont find our Afrocentric idea e6,f5,g5, g4 in there at all ! Their “elite” guys are tryin to learn it now tryin to stay ahead of us this is why we cant put too much out too fast!{Theives in the Temple},they want us to be afraid to play chess with the BLACK PIECES! hehe, yeah im the same dude ,you know we dont care nothin bout dem and their ratings hehe! Who Ja Bless.

  7. To all my fellow Buffalonian Chess buddies. Its was Barry Davis where I got my first REAL chess Lessons and I did appreciated his knowledge. I gained my enthusiasm for this game I love because of him and Masters like Bem Tyeimba, Lionel Davis and of course my neighbor at the time Doug Dubose. I still enjoy playing here in Dallas, TX and hopefully I’ll be back to at least play one more tournment against you guys. Congrat to Barry for the recognition and to Buffalo for our Great afrocentric team we have.

  8. Whazzzup Hard Nard!! Dallas eh we took yalls receiver T.O. “get cha popcorn ready”! haha , weak line on offense and defense ,straight everwhere else though! Its cool they got some info on “The Barry”. Hey yall Bernard introduced the Buffalo chess players to the ICC and that was supercool!! Yo Hard while they was watching theses other Black Genisuses like Maurice, Emory and Norman Pete Rogers [yo Pete u didnt know i knew that did you? hehe,yo man its a lot of things i dont know, chess and basketball aint one of them ,we wont tell the European Assizes they will start talking about games and tournaments they won! hehe.] we snuck in through the backdoor! hehe its an old black folks idea!!! Good to see ya back Hard -Im mean you bringing Chess Sexy Back! you know im silly. hahaha PEACE.

  9. Well I have known Barry longer than anyone. I am his cousin. No, I don’t play chess, but I honor him anyway. Keep up the good work my cousin. Namaste!!!

  10. Hello Mr. Davis trying to get a hold of you as usual. Hope your doing well hello doug lionel butch vance damon james and others may the good Lord Bless you all.

  11. Whazzzup Gary! We here in da B-lo doin what we do, Chess of course! Good to hear from you again ,wasnt sure if you were still into chess! Happy Obama day to you! Oh, Fischer told the world how to beat him ya know! He said, he walked around with Spassky’s book and studied all his games, so all that need be done is the same thing to him ,one would surmise! Wu Tang where Gordon Liu , I know yall hiding him somewhere, where yall at!! I hear yall spittin errwhere , chanting up geniuses like MJ. hehe. Peace.

  12. Hi, Barry,

    What’s your advice for a former Buffalo fish like me? I took plenty of beatings from you and Doug, a few from Jeff Grant, probably others I do my best not to remember. (Being also 53, I find my memory starting to fail.)

    But I may have some spare time for chess soon, and I’m thinking of getting a computer which I can keep in my pocket and wire up to my ear during tournaments, uh, no, just kidding about that. I’d use it to study. I’d supplement with study of games only from Europe, er, no, from anywhere–I’m not Eurocentric, although I win much more with the White pieces than I do with Black; remember, I’m just a fish, weaker than when we last played. Got any recommendations?

    Hope all is well there–sounds like a thriving chess community….

  13. Great hearing from you Marty… glad to hear the “chess bug” is still around! They traditional advice has not changed, first allot yourself some time to play some slow games with a fair time control G45 or longer is better! Then make it your business to keep an accurate score sheet to review the games later. I am not clear how much time you have for this chess project but one thing for sure “you must enjoy the journey”! Because of the good study habits you already have, reviewing your game with someone with more experience would only strengthen your powers of recognition! email me blackknight2278@gmail.com!

  14. Mr. Hughes great hearing form you and I hope you still have an opportunity to “push the chess pieces” around! This chessdrum site is a marvelous tool to keep you inform with up to date chess information as it happens! I know… who would think a dinosaurl
    like me would get the hang of this new technology. I guess you can teach an old dog some new tricks! Please email blackknight2278@gmail.com!

  15. Barry,

    I do not know if you will remember me, but I met you in Kadena, Japan. We were both assiged their in the military. You gave me chess lessons and I gave you pool lessons. You was a much better instructor than I was. I would love to hear from you. I am living in Vietnam right now.

  16. Hey Barry! I’m sure you remember me. You taught me some years back for quite awhile. You were my chess coach and role model as a youngster. Thanks to you I went on to later win the Canadian nationals for my age group two years in a row back in 1999 and 2000 among other similar Canadian youth tournaments. I’m truly grateful for the chess skills you have passed on to me. It’d be cool to keep in contact: lentini_4@hotmail.com. I hope you are doing well and all the other chess players I have met in Buffalo!

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