Chess Legend Charles Lawton on NPR

Charles Lawton at 2009 U.S. Championship.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

National Master Charles Lawton was interviewed on NPR November 8th discussing the vibrant chess scene in St. Louis. Lawton, a St. Louis native, talked about his humble beginnings as a budding player. He also mentioned the facets of chess that make it so attractive to so many players around the world. However, chess did not always have the face of diversity and Lawton relayed a story that many Black chess players can tell.

Lawton had traveled to a tournament in Alabama as the third-ranked player and took his place at the board and made a move. The tournament director took his move back and told him to leave because these boards were reserved for the tournament. Taken aback, Lawton explained that his name was on the board and played his move once again. The tournament director took the move back called security. Tension filled the room as others looked on.

The security came and to the embarrassment of the director, Lawton had produced his identification proving that he was indeed the Master-level player. Apparently, the director could not have believe a Black person could be at such a level. The director apologized, but the rest of the audience gave a derisive applause.

There were many other questions and Lawton acquitted himself well. Although not as active as he once was, he showed that he was up-to-date with current events. Enjoy!

Audio Link & Text:


  1. Pingback: Daily Chess News Links November 12, 2013 |
  2. I knew Charles when we were both in the Navy and his barracks room was across from mine. He would take all comers at both chess and table tennis. I don’t remember him ever losing at chess even though would give his opponents a significant advantage with the clock. He rarely lost at table tennis even spotting points to most as well!

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