James Black makes Master!

James Black Jr.

At the recently-ended 2011 World Open in Philadelphia, James Black, Jr. had calculated that he had barely eclipsed the 2200 barrier, but the calculations from the USCF online rating application were perhaps inaccurate. However, there is no doubt now since Black broken one of the highest barriers in chess.

Call me “Master Black”

By earning ten points last night at the Marshall Chess Club he joins a handful of players who reach Master level. More notably, he joins two of his friends Justus Williams and Josh Colas as 12-year old African-American Masters. This is historic in a number of ways, but it accents the progress being made in making chess accessible to communities where athletic sports hold most of the influence. New York has another “Big Three” besides the famous trio playing for the New York Knicks!

As one of the most animated scholastic players, Black has deservedly grabbed the media headlines. He continues to pile up accolades such as the recent “triple crown” at the North American Youth Championships where he racked up three more titles. Last month, he was the subject of a video interview about his chess accomplishments. We gave a short interview with The Chess Drum and mentioned that he would like to improve his FIDE rating to 2300, earn his FM title and also vie for IM/GM norms.

More to Come

Not to be outdone, young James also stated that he’d like to take a shot at Ray Robson’s record of youngest U.S. Grandmaster. These are high aims, but certainly he is in the right city and has a supportive cast which includes his proud father, James Black, Sr., a host of other friends and Coaches Elizabeth Vicary and GM Alexander Stripunsky will also support his next mission.

World Open interview with James Black , Jr.
(The Chess Drum)

NM Justus Williams, Nigel Bryant, Josh Colas, Jehron Bryant, James Black, Jr. Photo by Derrick Bryant.

James Black, Jr. (right) with his friends NM Justus Williams, Nigel Bryant, NM Josh Colas, Jehron Bryant. All are part of a new wave of long-awaited chess success in the Black community. Photo by Derrick Bryant.


  1. Congratulations James. I knew you would do it soon enough. I’ve seen you grow in the chess community, and I’m sure that there are more titles for you to grab. Keep reaching, I promise I will be there soon. Congrats again James,

  2. Congratulations James, I am so proud of you. I am not shocked that you have accomplished this magnificent feat. Your devotion and determination has ensured you success and I know if you keep this persistence there will be more titles for you to reach. The sky is the limit James and all you must do is reach. Do not be surprised to see me there soon, and good luck on your future endeavors.

    Your Friend, -Nigel

  3. Congratulations James! Wishing you continued success in your endeavors. The Howard University Chess Team sends its congratulations as well.

  4. Congratulations James! I know you’ve been working hard for this title and I am really happy to see that your hard work has paid off. Welcome to the Master’s club!

  5. Hey James, you’ve made it! I am very glad that you have officially joined us. Now, let’s focus on the next step. Congatulations!


  6. First, and most important, congratulations to James Black.

    Second, re: the USCF online ratings calculator…it should be noted that those calculations aren’t guaranteed, primarily because the wallchart ratings (which I’m guessing were used for the estimates that Black had after the Wold Open) might not be accurate. The wallchart ratings were from the July 2011 rating list, but there may well have been other events that affected his opponents’ ratings but were not reflected in the July supplement. And, of course, the USCF would use the most current rating it has in its database when the event is submitted.

    There may also have been a re-rate (which happens once a week, I believe, to ensure that events are rated in chronological order of their ending dates) that might have affected his calculations. It wouldn’t take much variance to throw off an estimated rating change from a nine-round event.

    I’ve tried to discourage CCA from putting up estimated rating gain/loss on its standings sheets for precisely that reason; players tend to assume it’s exactly what their new ratings will be, and TDs spend a lot of time explaining that it ain’t ‘zactly so.

    Third, an idea for Dr. Shabazz. Between Kassa Korley, Justus Williams, Josh Colas and James Black, that is four young African American NMs right there. Throw in, say, Jimmy Canty, and that’s five. There are a number of young African-American experts out there (just off the top of my head, the Bryant twins, along with Adonis Turner of Pennsylvania, would fit that bill).

    What is the chance of getting them together with some combination of, say, Emory Tate, Stephen Muhammad, Oladapo Adu, or maybe even Maurice Ashley, and having an IM-norm event for these kids? The angle might be irresistible for possible sponsors.

    1. Well… that tournament is good in theory, but I’m not sure it is feasible for norm purposes. The problem will most certainly be the FIDE ratings of the players. All the players you mentioned have ratings below 2400 except Ashley (2465). That would make an IM norm very difficult to obtain. Each player would have to at least be around 2250 including the juniors.

      A few of the players you mention are not active including Ashley and Muhammad I doubt if they would play without being in shape. In addition, there a problem getting the help to organize it. It is very difficult to get people to be enthusiastic about helping when there is work to be done. I live in Florida so it would be hard for me to organize if it is up north. I’ve tried before. That means someone else would have to spearhead the initiative.

  7. Congratulations Master James ! I am truly happy for you and your Dad. I also enjoyed watching your documentary video .

  8. Congratulations James! Thanks for showing other youths that hard work and being humble; are great qualities to have! Hope to see you in New York soon!

  9. James,
    SO extremely proud of you as you already know. Glad to see all your hard work is paying off…

  10. Congrads to you on your Master Status. You make so many people proud of you. Keep Rising To The Top.

  11. Chess-in-the-Schools is so proud of James. He has been in our program since the third grade and has been a role model for our even younger students for the last couple of years. I believe he can accomplish any goal he sets for himself. He goes to the board with no fear and is always well prepared. Way to go James!

  12. All the best to you young James. Continue to use stamina and endurance and of course help from those who love you. You can reach the highest of heights and I know that you will.

    Fulton Park!

  13. Congratulations to each and everyone one of you. Recently I have been priveleged to play the Bryant twins and James Black jnr at the Fulton Park in Brooklyn. As well, Jehron Bryant recently won the King of the Parky chess tournament recently held by Sean Miller recently in Bryant Park NY , in which I participated and was duly humbled by the performances of the many youth rising up in our midst.

    This is an especilly good thing that is happening, and it makes many of us very proud be be associated with you in any way.

    It is my hope that you each continue the very good work that you have started. We hope that you use chess as your vehicle to avoid the many problems youth in our community experience. We hope that by your performances and accomplishments, that other youths would be encouraged to join our noble game. We hope that each one of you is truly aspiring to becoming a grand-master, that you too might benefit from any chess scholarships that may be available.

    Congratulations also to your parents, gaurdians and your schools for allowing you the opportunity, the support, the encouragement and the motivation to play chess, to be exposed to the chess world, and to get as far as you have gotten.

    Congratulations once again to you future GMs. Continue the focus! Continue the good work! Continue to make us all very proud! Best wishes for your future!

    Kindest Regards,
    Fulton Park, Wendy’s, Mount Olympus

  14. Congrats!
    Bobby Fischer was rated a not-so-earth-shattering 1726 USCF at age 13 years 2 months. I’m looking for lightning to strike twice and we’ve got some storms a-brewin’! Enter hurricane James! 🙂

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