Young Titans in Blitz Battle!

New York is in the midst of a youth movement in chess. Robert Hess and Alexander Lenderman are the most recent teen stars to join Grandmaster ranks, but there are a couple of others who have those aspirations.

Justus Williams and Josh Colas are two of the hottest stars in scholastic chess today. Both are 11-years old and are blazing a path to the National Master title. Both were recently named to the 2010 All-American team and have ambitions to earn the coveted Grandmaster title.


Both Justus and Josh, at 11 years old, are outstanding scholastic players and both would like to become Grandmasters. The two scholastic All-Americans will square off in a seven-game blitz match in New York City.

Justus has scored recent successes and now has a rating of 2130. Josh has also improved rapidly and is now at 2080. Both players are the sons of proud parents and have sacrificed to support their chess endeavors. They have done a wonderful job! Josh attends Highland Middle School in White Plains, NY. Justus attends Eugenio Maria De Hostos – I.S. 318 in Brooklyn, NY.

With all the excitement about these two young stars, organizer Shaala Hill has put together a “Young Lions” blitz battle featuring the two prodigies for Saturday, October 24th, 2009 at 3:00pm. The event will be held at Starbucks Coffee Shop at 13-25 Astor Place in New York City. Justus and Josh have played each other only once and the game ended in a draw. These two will be battling for years to come!

This seven-game match will headline the “Men Who Would Be Kings” legends match featuring “Po” and “Ralphie”, two blitz sharks. Po recently beat Sammy in a 21-game match and has accepted the challenge from Rafael “Ralphie” Calderon and will also square off at Starbucks. According to Hill, the Young Lions will at least 30 minutes before the legends, so that they can get prime attention.

There will be modest prizes including trophies donated by Chess in the Schools’ Shaun Smith. Hill invites all to come out and enjoy the battle!


  1. Congrats to these two. I look forward to hearing about them in the future. In general, I’m happy that these two are getting some attention and publicity. When we have scholastic players playing at this level, it’s important that we give them the support and the attention they deserve.

    It seems that these two have great parents and a supportive network and it is very nice to see. Know that you have an entire community watching and supporting you young brothers!

    (As an aside, lets be careful to make sure we foster a supportive partnership and sense of community between these two instead of a rivalry that could be unintentionally instigated by our own interest … as someone who works with scholastic players – Potential friendships are sometimes ruined from comparisons and pitting some young talent against each other in exhibition matches. Rivalries typically are not “friendly” in the scholastic world! lol But I have heard very good things about the organizer Shaala Hill so my best wishes for the event).

  2. Political Pete,

    I hope not… I was the one who suggested they play a match. I’m glad Shaala is up that way to do the organizing. Otherwise, it would have been limited to the online servers. Josh participated in one with a Trinidadian scholastic player. I believe the competition will push both of them to be the best.

  3. Political Pete made a good point!! After reading his short, but powerful reminder, I asked my son, Josh, how he would feel if Justus wins the match? Here’s what he said. “I don’t think I will lose Dad, but if I do I’ll just go back and work harder.” Having spoken with Justus’s mom on many occasion, I believe if Justus was asked the same question, he too would answer along the same line, except, and understandably, he would say that he would win. I think it’s the task of the parents to use opportunities as such, to teach their kids humility, grace and fortitude after the completion of the match, winner or loser. That’s what was past on to me and I have past it on to my kids. It is my hope that this match will inspire other talents to wake-up and work harder so we can show that we can compete intellectually as well.

  4. I would be disappointed if they became hostile with each other, but I’m not sure 11-year olds will be that concerned. It may be the adults we have to remind. I thought both will benefit from this exposure and competition and I hope it will be a good experience.

  5. Daaim,

    Absolutely, the concern should be focused on the parents. We, as parents, must not let our emotion dictate our reaction. The kids will pick up on the body language and react accordingly. Our reaction can cause them to react arrogantly or feel insufficient. That would be sad, because the purpose of this meeting of minds is to foster hard work and improvement. At the end of the, I am pretty sure that the feedback you will get from the match will be POSITIVE.

  6. I have spoken to Justus and throughout this experience he has not once made any statements regarding the “winner”. In fact he has been predicting that he may lose the match and Josh will win. He really respects Joshua as a chess player because he has seen the respectable people Josh has beaten well before reaching expert level. Justus has been very humble and is viewing Saturday as being a time where he and Josh will simply play chess and have fun. These two boys are far from the usual….they have never been cocky, arrogant after winning tournaments. Since winning tournaments has happened so frequently for both boys, i doubt the results of Saturday will change them…. Justus and the family are immensely excited about Saturday and can’t wait.

  7. Congrats to the Young Giants to Be,

    Pete makes a valid point here…my experience with scholastics teaches that peer pressure on children to perform at “game time” can be incredible….any sport.

    I have been a private shoulder to cry on for many a child who didn’t fare as well as they hoped in front of their friends and family…it has led me to prep my Teams to be gracious in defeat…at least publicly.

    I greatly admire the spirit of these kids and their parents…well done!

  8. Hi Everyone!
    It’s Shaala.

    “Yes,” I have been reading your comments and giving them serious consideration. Just as it occurred to Political Pete and CJ Jones to mention “rivalry,” I am sure it may have occurred to others who have not written comments.

    So, lets talk about it.

    I believe that a “rivalry,” in a negative connotation of the word… an ugly competition….one without honorable players…..and one without which the players have any respect for each other as human beings or respect for the other’s strength(s) or talent(s).

    Honestly and without hesitation, I will acknowledge that “winning” feels great. Anyone will tell you that. Whenever I won anything, I felt that it was “the truth.” Shaala is a star and the results couldn’t go any other way.

    “Losing,” on the other hand, is inevitable…..especially when there can only be one winner…..and, “no,” it does not feel good………but only for a short while.

    As a small child, when I lost, for the first time, it felt like a tragedy and I imagined that the entire world knew that I was not successful. I was ashamed and I couldn’t figure out how another child could have beaten me, given my excellent genetics.

    I worshiped my parents and thought, without any details of/from their lives, that they were geniuses, superior, famous and infallible. I was their daughter……..if they were so great, then I was great…………how could I lose with this DNA?

    With this first loss, my parents finally shared with me that they, too, were HUMAN and did not always win…..they had experienced defeat, on many occasions; however, they had not shared this with me. They thought that they were encouraging me to achieve and be great….and even greater than they were……when only discussing their winning moments.

    Over time, just knowing that they had experienced defeat and had survived, made me a better competitor, primarily, because they assured me that no outcome was permanent. My opponent may have beaten me today, but I could beat him tomorrow…..and vice versa.

    Honor….in winning or losing………is the thing that allows one to acknowledge that the winner (whoever he/she may be) has triumphed, on a particular day or on a particular occasion. That person deserves to be congratulated. Honor him/her for his/her success.

    Honor….will allow one to see that he or she (the one who lost)…. was/is a worthy opponent of such a great and gracious winner.

    Honor……in defeat….will allow one to assess one’s performance……and incorporate the information into a future “winning strategy.”

    People who have honor…….know that there are many outstanding competitors, in any given arena. If there were only one individual…….who could ever be labeled a winner…….in any endeavor/sport……..for a lifetime……then why would anyone attempt to do anything…… pursue any interest, hobby or sport……by study, training or practice. There would be no need and the world would be a very boring place. Wouldn’t it?

    All excellent achievements (let’s say being good at sports, is one type, for example) are the direct result of “study” and “practice.”

    All superior achievements (of the same or of chess) are a combination of these, plus an innate ability to master that craft with ease or comfort, often at a faster rate than others…….and being able to parlay that adeptness into a more exalted demonstration of that sport……so that a performance by such a person is spoken of as a “gift” or that athlete is said to be “in the zone”………………..or that chess player is said to be a “prodigy.”

    We compete, because we know that every man and every woman have been given a “portion,” a talent, a gift, a strength, a marvelous ability. We compete, because we know that there is the possibility of being a part of an awesome match-up or pairing………..with such an individual…..a fierce competitor….who will bring out of us something we did not know we possessed.

    With losing…..a very real option……one we fear……we enter the ring anyway……..on any given day……with any of these talented people……..because we feel confident……. that we, too, are well-prepared and unstoppable gladiators.

    If we only thought we would win at everything and are always the greater one…….the invincible opponent…..and losing was not a possibility……then we wouldn’t ever challenge anyone……there would be no need for games of any sort.

    So parents, you are instrumental in creating emotional stability and confidence in your children, especially when they are competing……….helping to build honor and fostering insight into their strengths and weaknesses……….in a world where the media would like to create tension (rivalries of the negative kind) between those who pursue the same craft or between those who have the moxy to believe that they are good at what they do. I’ve seen them do it (overtly and covertly) with basketball stars, rappers, and R&B singers.

    Please let your children know that you are also HUMAN and that in everyday activities you win, garner success, accomplish, lose, make mistakes, miscalculate,etc………….and that you still love yourself………..and won’t ever give up on making things better…….through it all……you endure…….and that….above all….you love them and are proud of them, whether they are winning or losing.

    I applaud the parents of Joshua and Justus….and all such parents…………teachers………chess coaches and tournament directors….who support their children/students……and help to buffer the sting to their tender feelings….when they are not successful………as they build character….mature……and become young adults.

    I am a firm believer in….. this…….my paraphrased, abridged version…….of the Apocryphal statement below.

    “So is a general… is his men.”

    Actual Statement:
    “As the judge of the people is himself, so are his officers; and what manner of man the ruler of the city is, such are all they that dwell therein.” Sirach Ecclesiasticus 10:2.

    I am at the helm, the general if you will, of this match and any other that I host and I would love to have the spirit of my peace….in competition……become a part of the participants’ approach to competition as well. So…..”rivalry,” in its positive connotation….across the chess board or in sports……….is acceptable…… it pushes competitors to be the best (I agree with Daaim)……..then we shake hands….when the game is over…..say “good game!”……and are or could become friends.


  9. These kids are both tough and probably was like I was as a boy… not afraid to get scarred up, fearless and very resilient. You lose a game, you have another day. That’s the way boys are. I think adults are a bit more sensitive and they may be worried about the result.

    This event will probably create an unbreakable bond between these two boys… and the families. I hope it’s a close match.

  10. Looks good, have fun today!!! Well written Shaala , seems you know more about chess than i do, and im suppose to be some kinda master at it! hehe. Peace.

  11. the score for the j vs. j was 3/9
    the Po vs ralphie……i’m not sure but it was a lost by a landslide!!!

  12. Dual Blitz Match Results

    Joshua Colas 9
    Justus Williams 3
    Draws 0

    Rafael “Ralphie” Calderon 10
    Po 3
    Draws 2

    All for participating and assisting me in creating great video for my project
    The parents for granting me precious moments with your sons and yourselves
    The referee for the Young Lions – Christian Estevez
    The referee for the Men Who Would be Kings – Farai Mandizha
    Eric Arock and Eric Shachter for film work extraordinaire and film equipment
    Brad “The Bradinator” Ivey for finding them both.

    Starbucks Coffee Shop, Astor Place, NYC
    Daaim Shabazz- financial, gifts and an awesome media forum
    Chess in the Schools-3 beautiful tropies
    Shaun Smith- orchestrated donations, assisted in location searches
    Joe Connor-advertising assistance in the Harlem area
    All who attended, even though it was raining
    Starbucks patrons-riveted to the matches, proving my point that Blitz Chess is exciting

    Shaala L. James (AKA Shaala L. Hill)

  13. I would also like to thank Russ at ChessNYC for his support, by advertising the match, at the eleventh hour.

    To Lionel Davis:
    Thank you for the compliment.
    You know….and I know….that I don’t know more about chess than you do…..Mr. Black moves first! lol

  14. I’d like to also give thanks to all those who support this event. It’s important to have these events to build excitement. It’s wonderful that we have two fine young players in the community.

    While Josh won the match, we must understand the importance of succeeding in slower time controls as well. Both will need to become more stable now that they are solidly at Expert level. This is where points are hard to get. Ray Robson recommends playing up a level, but perhaps that will take time.

    One the most important ways to improve in chess is to have a training partner and someone to analyze with. These two will be helping each other a lot in the future!

  15. I would like to thank Shaala so mucb for her interest in having Justus participate in the match and for trying effortlessly and relentlessly to finalize the event. Your time and dedication is greatly appreciated and exceptional. It was an exciting and unforgettable day. To Daaim and Chessdrum – thanks for your gifts to justus, it was a very nice and unexpected surprise for him. He’s very grateful. Justus and i left the match feeling, aside from a little disappointed about the number of losses, fortunate to have gained a support network provided by Chessdrum. A special thanks to Christian Estevez for your assistance, Justus said your presence was helpful. A bigger thanks goes out to all that attended and provided encouraging words of inspiration and friendliest during the event. We hope there will be more to come soon.

    Latisha Williams

  16. I would like to thank the Chessdrum for coming up with the idea of this match and Ms. Shaala Hill for her time and effort. Here’s how it unfolded. First of all, Justus is a fierce competitor! At the beginning , I was a bit nervous and I lost the first two rounds, but it allowed me to study his style. After the third round, I felt relaxed and was able to play good chess until the match was over. Justus took the loss graciously and that was the most important thing to me. I am willing and looking forward to giving him a rematch in the future. I want to also thank Christian Estevez and all the people who came out to spport us.

  17. Shaala you are quite welcome! and by the respones here you have done a great job! Perhaps a match can be arranged between two of our young females as well ! You know compliments are nice but i am also willing to put up $10 towards such a match and challenge any chess player to equal this amount towards theses young ladies future chess tournaments. {if we get 1000 donations that a $10,000 match) I believe President Obama used a similiar approach to reach the White House ,so perhaps it may be useful here, maybe we dont need samford scholarships after all, just leave an address here and i will send it to you, of course you should be compensated for your time and efforts as well. Mrs. Williams congratulations on being blessed with a talented son,however, having been down the path that Justus and Josh is currently on i would like to offer an alternative idea concerning winning and losing in chess, now im just theorizing but lets say i have entered a discussion with Rev. Jackson who clearly have a greater understanding of the good book than i , After hours of this disscussion i come away with greater knowledge of the good book as well as the limits of my previous beliefs, did i really lose? Of course not ! You dont see Kasparov arguing with me do you? just joking {Shaala -Right Eye- Wink Wink!!!} hehehe . PEACE.

  18. Congrats to both of you and the organizers and supporters. To the parents, please keep the Drum informed of Josh’s and Justus’s future events!

  19. Thank you all for your kind words. They inspire me.

    Lionel Davis:
    I love the idea and will be sending an address soon. I would also like to talk to Daaim regarding this…

    At present, I have no sponsors, thus no budget. After the weather changed, the park was no longer a venue option. I have been asking for location donations (free space) and have been largely unsuccessful. Space rental is costly.

    There are other cost considerations that factor into hosting a chess event, i. e. a budget for prizes(larger ones are required for Masters and Grandmasters), videographers(documenting the events is key; for I am creating a portfolio), tables and chairs (in some cases), advertising (some locations want professional advertising), etc.

    Please be assured that I will be a great steward of your contributions.

    Political Pete:
    Thank you. I am glad that you are pleased.


  20. Hey Everyone!
    FIRST of all I would like to thank everyone who showed up to the chess dual blitz match on Saturday.

    As for the details of the match between Po and I needless to say it was sort of one sided; kind of like a massacre.
    The Old Guard vs The New Guard.
    Experience vs Youth.

    I would like to conclude by giving a special thanks and hug to Shaala, the queen of all queens for making everything possible.

  21. Political Pete,
    Josh said to tell you thank you! As always, I will continue to keep the Drum updated on major events or developments. Josh’s next major tournament will be Nov 20-22 in Illinois. He will be playing along with Isaiah Gadson in the K-9 Section in the National Youth Action.


  22. WONDERFUL, i am always excited by young guns who come out play and make a name for themselves in the chess world shame that the national media does not look upon this as a way to encourage more young brothers and sisters. too have them see there are ways to overcome not just gang violence but, adversity as well, as many of our streets have. CONGRATS TO THE YOUNG GUNS AND YES THE OLD GUNS AS WELL AND A DOUBLE CONGRATS TO THE FINE PARENTS OF THESE YOUNG MEN you have done a great job all who support them congratulations

  23. Congratulations Shaala!
    Having attended both events I know how much energy and planning were involved in making them happen. Your vision and determination were inspirational and you provided an outstanding example of one way chess can be promoted, not only in the African-American community, but, everywhere. By shining a light on two future stars while showcasing a match between a talented young man on the rise versus an established legend, you gave a tantalizing glimpse of the future and, at the same time , payed much deserved respect to the past. I strongly encourage the entire Chess Drum community to support you in all future endeavors.

  24. Daaim,

    Josh Colas played fantastic chess this weekend in The National Youth Action, in Oakbrook, IL. He took clear first in the K-12 Blitz (9/10). He also tied for first in the (k-9) section. He got a chance to meet Isaah Gadson and his parents, cool people. Josh is looking forward to doing great things down in Dallas in two weeks.

    PS. We haven’t had the chance to pick up your Gift (pen) yet, but Josh wanted to thank you for it.

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