Williams takes on U.S. Masters

Justus Williams recently scored a respectable 5.5/9 at the U.S. Masters. As the only scholastic player and of African descent, he was certainly getting some attention. He had a performance rating of 2184 and defeated a couple of Masters. His mother gave The Chess Drum the following message:

He got off with a rough start losing rds 1 and 2. After calling me and begging me to allow him to re-enter, he went on to have a pretty good result. At one point he was tied for first place and at the end of the tournament he finished with 4th place and the u2300 prize which was fantastic considering the strength of the opponents.

This is one of Justus’ strongest performances to date. The Scholastic All-American will compete in the World Youth Championships later in the year.



  1. Just in…Justus Williams is the 2010 National Elementary Champion! He finished 1st on tiebreaks in a four-way tie for 1st with 6/7. James Black (reigning National 6th grade champion who also won the National Elementary Blitz title) finished 7th on tiebreaks with 5.5/7; Josh Colas (reigning National Youth Action co-champion) finished 16th on tiebreaks (5/7).

    Williams becomes the 12th African-American to win a national championship, and the first to win the National Elementary Championship since K.K. Karanja went 7-0 in 1985.


  2. James Black, Jr. actually won the national K6 championship (open & blitz) late last year and in this tournament won the K6 national blitz championship.

    Justus is definitely a rising star and will make National Master before the year is out.

  3. Daaim,

    The title James Black won was the national 6th grade championship (6th graders only), not the national elementary championship (which is K-6). There is a difference between the two titles, FYI 🙂 (although James won the blitz in both tournaments).

    I’m glad that the new “big three” (Josh Colas, Justus Williams, James Black) now have won one national title each…looking forward to their continued progress!

  4. I know, Daaim…I’m well aware of the records for national championships by African-Americans (both including and not including blitz titles)…I’ve held them both for quite a while ;). Looking forward to seeing my records fall in the near future…I’m proud of the big three and hope to continue watching their progress.

  5. Blitz titles also count. It’s very important to note these. They certainly are not as prestigious, but it is an important matter of record and they are recorded in the U.S. national chess archives forever.

    Woody… we really don’t have an accurate account of scholastic “records.” We’re pretty close, but unless we’ve gone to the scholastic tournaments every year and made note of which winners are of African descent (you can’t tell by looking at the names), then these “records” are unofficial. I’m not even sure how many national titles Howard Daniels won as a scholastic player. I have been trying to track him down for years.

    One National Master called me complaining about your quiz claiming the most national titles. He said I should have done fact-checking, but again, how do you fact-check African-American “records”? What year do you start? Some of them we know for a certainty, others we merely accept. Scholastic records are the most difficult to verify. Anyway, I told him you were referring to national individual titles and not coaching titles. He totally misread your question.

    Anyway, let’s just be happy with the success of these players. I’m sure they are just happy to be successful.

  6. Hello Daaim. I’ve been tracking these records down for nearly three decades, so I’m pretty familiar with them. Anyone who is concerned with the accuracy of my data can be assured that it was compiled with the same attention to detail and precision that I apply in the operating room (you know, my day job :)).

    Winning a national title is a special (and rare) feat, which is why it is not difficult to compile lists of winners — particularly in the 70s and 80s when there were only the National Elementary, Junior High, High School, US Junior Open and US Junior Closed scholastic titles. And no, Howard Daniels never won a national title.

    I am very happy with the new generation of players — I only hope that they are demonstrating the same aptitude in the classroom as they are on the chessboard — chess is a phenomenal training ground for even bigger challenges in life. I hope that someday I won’t be the only African-American with national chess championships and an Ivy League education.

  7. Woody,

    Here is a question… how do you track these records? We accept certain records (until we find otherwise), but unless you actually ATTEND all of these scholastic tournaments each year and then distinguish the players of African descent, you cannot operate with a high confidence level. There is no way to “track” that kind of record with secondary data.

    The one record that we can verify (without fail) is the age record for National Master. We know the first African-American Master, the 2nd and 3rd and we know there have never been any African-American female Masters. There have been at least four Experts.

    I’ll keep trying to track Daniels down. I heard he works in banking. He did win four national TEAM titles… that is significant. If he made Master at 15 years 4 months, he had to have put together some good individual performances somewhere.

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