James Black on the march!

James Black Jr.

James Black has been the subject of many articles, but his rapid progress is taken on new heights. Black has now vaulted over 2300 in the USCF rating list and recently showed off his famed blitz prowess in beating both IM Greg Shahade and GM Grigory Kaidanov in blitz battles.

After Justus Williams demolished the field at the U.S. Chess School with 13.5/14, both he and Black (second with 10/14) got a chance to mix it up with these veteran masters and the teachers at the camp.

Williams was unable to continue his blazing form against Kaidanov, but his friend and fellow 13-year Master Black would beat both Shahade and Kaidanov in an impressive display. The action was caught by Elizabeth Vicary who coaches both players at I.S. 318. What is certain about Black is that his work ethic is paying off. Check this out!

IM Greg Shahade vs. NM James Black

NM James Black vs. GM Gregory Kaidanov


  1. Way to go Justus! 13.5/14 You gotta be kidding.

    Way to go James carving up some fire breathing dragons!

    I could feel the pain of IM Shahade and GM Kaidanov when James reached his seemingly inevitable absolute seventh in each game Ha Ha!

  2. By the way, is James the youngest African-American to be rated 2300+ in a tournament?

    …keeping an eye on the youngsters

    Justus Williams current 2255 w/ recent tourney peak of 2291. James Black current 2275 w/ recent tourney peak of 2314.
    Josh Colas current 2198 w/ recent tourney peak of 2259.
    Jehron Bryant current 2219 w/ recent tourney peak of 2225
    Nigel Bryant current 2099 w/ recent tourney peak of 2123
    Darrian Robinson current 2054 w/ recent tourney peak of 2073

    And 2 more of interest…
    Kassa Korley current 2377 w/ recent tourney peak of 2383
    Farai Mandizha current 2498 w/ recent tourney peak of 2499 Ha Ha starving for a point!

    1. Sounds right, but not sure about holding on to the more minute records such as “first Black player to reach 2250 or 2300 at age 13.” It’s probably best to just keep the major ones such as “first Black female to make Master.” There are so many ways to claim records. I’ve heard all types of them. It’s hard to verify many of these records because we really don’t know for sure. We can make a good conjecture that what you are saying is right given the facts we know.

      Thanks for the data!

  3. It appears Mr. Black has not crossed the 2300 barrier, just as Mr. Colas did not break the youngest master mark set by Justus Williams, both “records” falling victim to World Youth rerates. I also see that Jehron Bryant’s Master title was achieved in a questionable arranged match with someone reportedly always eager to sell such a service, rather than in a real tournament, clearly an error in judgement on the part of his handlers (parents) who perhaps were impatient for him to achieve a title that would soon have been his via legitimate chess play. (Witness Mr. Black’s rise to National Master; unlike others dropping out of tournaments early to preserve rating points, Mr. Black played every game in pursuit of chess knowledge and the greater rewards that would eventually be his.) Perhaps the adults should behave like adults and stop this focus on achievement of rating milestones. Similarly, I find differentiation of records on race to be a little distasteful and a disservice to all involved. I applaud the talents of all these children and think it’s time for the adults to back off. I am reminded of the wise words of Lionel Davis in last year’s debate on the youngest African-American Master: “If you study the history of chess often times you will find persons of African descent following the dubious ideas of others and subsequently this leads to bad judgement in various areas of the game , this creates stagnation in terms developing the intellect for generations to come. We may be passionate about our “own” perspective ,yet, we must remember our youth is here listening and learning, today gentlemen we should feel ashamed , perhaps tommorrow we rise anew. Peace.” (https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2010/12/17/joshua-colas-young-chess-master)

    1. Thanks for posting.

      While I cannot take time to address every single, I will say that I do not know of a case where any of the three Masters dropped out of tournaments to preserve rating points. In addition, no one ever said James Black broke a “record”.

      In referring to those young players having made Master at age 12 (i.e., Justus Williams, Josh Colas, James Black, Jr.), I do know that many tournaments were played mid-week on school nights and some consideration was given to getting them home at a reasonable hour. You will have to ask further details from the parents. Joshua Colas’ title was certified by the USCF in December of 2010 and that is all that I will say about that. To demean any of the accomplishments of these boys is downright shameful. Let it be.

      Differentiation of records are distasteful only to those who have no use for them. That is your prerogative to not agree with them. That does not mean they have no value. I would agree that there are bigger feats to accomplish, but these serve as a source of pride in the community. We had a rare occurrence when these three young boys were vying for their National Master’s title around the same time. That has never happened before and it was one of great excitement.

      The youngest Black master title was only supplementary and it was something that got overexposed. Yes… the parents may have contributed to the overexposure and I discussed this with them. This record had been kept and there were never any celebrations or media coverage (other than the mention of Howard Daniels and after him, Kassa Korley on The Chess Drum). It was similar to a record you keep in the community or neighborhood. Nobody outside the Black community really cared about it, or even knew about it. Not sure why they care about it now.

      I am also not clear of what you mean by following records of others. I understand Lionel Davis‘ point about chess theory, but that doesn’t apply here. On one hand you find records of race distasteful. On the other, you imply that these records are based on other races. They are not. These are records that are authentically for the purposes of documentation of Black players… not compared to any other group. They are not unlike other records collected on every single demographic imaginable.

      Given that you find records bases on race to be distasteful, I would imagine you feel that a site dedicated to the accomplishments of players of African descent has no inherent value because “race doesn’t matter” in chess (of course). However, there is a value in showing that chess is a universal game and thus, shows it widespread appeal of all ethnicities and classes. This is positive. There is no other way we would know.

      As a youth, I had no knowledge that such a Black history in chess existed and it became a vision of mine to research and document the history. Nine thousand pages later, there is a treasure trove of ADDITIONAL chess information for the world to see. It makes a big difference in one’s outlook and perspective. There are so many wonderful stories that are missed because we only see ten countries and the top twenty players covered on websites. Chess is much greater than that.

    2. I had a discussion with two people on the US Chess forums about this same subject, back when Chess Life Online ran a story about James Black making 2200 (which, at the time, turned out to be incorrect).

      What opinions like Mr. Kinkaid’s miss is that this is a completely positive story, especially when taken as part of the recent wave of African-American junior talent that is emerging. Trying to understand why anyone would find the chronicling of these young pioneers’ exploits “distasteful” or otherwise offensive is an exercise in illogic that I am not willing to entertain.

      The world we live in, Mr. Kinkaid, is not color-blind. Believe me, I’m reminded of it every time I pay my auto insurance. Whenever a Korley, Williams, Black, Colas, Bryant or Robinson reaches a new level of achievement, it’s going to be celebrated here – as it should be. Of course, what I really want is to see chess achievement by African-American juniors become so commonplace that commenting on their performance will be seen as unnecessary. Until then, these players deserve all the praise they get.

      It is always hard to be first – and even harder (as Walter Harris noted) to not have contemporaries to help you. The fact that this group can work together, travel together and feed off one another is wonderful to see. Here’s hoping they continue to lift each other up.

  4. Daaim, Thanks for a well spoken point of view. I believe there is no moral crime in the admiration of accomplishments of individuals who look like yourself, your children’s or your immediate relatives. People general celebrate because they hope the role model accomplishments will serve to inspire and motivate others. While answers are being sought to motivate both urban and rural AA youth for greater academic achievement, I see chess programs offering a simple tool. I guess those who complain of a site like the Chess Drum or the celebration of young AA masters have no vested or personal interest in motivating anyone.

  5. Daaim, I think you articulate for a lot of us. Clearly, this gentleman felt he had to express his opinion on this subject and having done so, I’d hope that he feels a lot better. Now, “ can we all get along? ” The boys have recently teamed up and are working together. If they’ve moved on then some of us need to do the same. Perhaps, in the future, unproductive opinions should be ignored.

    1. I could have ignored his comment, but I wanted to deal with this line of thought and thoroughly address it for the world to see. These types of comments can’t be kept in the dark. He’s not part of the Black community and there are few like him who do not see these instances as an ADDITION to chess as opposed to SUBTRACTION. What gave his identity away was,

      “Similarly, I find differentiation of records on race to be a little distasteful and a disservice to all involved.”

      How are accomplishments highlighted (in the media) a disservice? Disservice to whom? Does anyone else cover the activities of Black players? Rarely. Many come here because there is a fresh perspective and news you can’t get everywhere. Other sites primarily cover Europe (and European players) and are defacto Eurocentric, yet no criticism is given. However, we don’t need any approval for what we do. There are plenty of sites for whatever aspect of chess you fancy.

  6. I agree with you 100%! Things certainly have gotten a lot better for most of us, but we must continue to do for self until all of us can say the playing ground is equal.

  7. Of course both Justus Williams (2316) and James Black, Jr. (2305) had strong performances in the Liberty Bell. Josh played at 50% but had five draws (with some strong players). He usually doesn’t draw this many games, but it appears he is trying to find his style. That is a good sign. The “Young Lions” are on point!

  8. It looks like Josh is creeping up on his comrades. His March published rating is 2273 USCF. He’s been in 8 events since Liberty Bell including one on Valentines day where he climbed to 2291 after his results. Justus has played in 1 event since Liberty Bell, and James has played in 3. Their March published ratings are 2314 and 2317 respectively.

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