The Chess Drum turns 14!

The Chess Drum,

Dear friends and supporters,

At the FIDE Congress at 2014 Chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway. The scarf was presented to me by Ethiopian delegate, Ghidey Debessu. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

On February 12, 2015, The Chess Drum turns fourteen years old! It is amazing when reflecting how many stories have graced the site over the years. Some of these stories have been forgotten, but some have inspired and remain as part of a collection of stories that make chess exciting, enriching and exhilarating.

This past year was a productive one for The Chess Drum with a career-high 240 stories posted which includes onsite coverage of major events such as the World Open, U.S. Open, Olympiad, Sinquefield Cup and the historic Millionaire Open. There was also daily coverage of major events like the World Championship, U.S. Championship and reports on tournaments in small towns like Tallahassee, Florida. 🙂 There were also the obituaries, human interest stories and exclusive interviews which can only be found here.

Certainly, it is not always an easy task to cover an event, but what makes it worth the time and effort is the amazing personality that chess has. Most of what drives The Chess Drum is the idea that chess is a lot more interesting when its colorful personality is shown by presenting an equally colorful and diverse picture of its community. If find that chess can be even more vibrant in places without a long tradition. Typically many sites will all cover the same stories and that does not make for full expression of our noble sport.

I have traveled to a number of countries and have visited chess communities in many of these places. I have also had a chance to cover five Chess Olympiad tournaments. This event is perhaps the clearest example that chess has a special quality. In my opinion, it should not be marginalized by being included in the Olympics. Imagine being in a building where 3,000 people from 175 nations are playing chess… many of whom have nothing else in common. These events showcase the best of what chess is and it is a joy to be a part of this celebration.

Always good to cover historic tournaments. The Millionaire Chess Open was such an event! The Chess Drum ran no less than 30 articles about the event. Above I’m standing with staunch supporters Adia Onyango, Ashik Uzzaman and Jones Murphy, Jr. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Where does The Chess Drum go from here? Given the slow migration from websites and blogs to social networking and mobile devices, there will also be more emphasis on these platforms. The market for chess has become so fragmented and many have migrated to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as a way of disseminating chess news. However, websites are still the “bread-and-butter” of the Internet and will continue to be important reservoirs of information.

The Chess Drum cannot be all things for all people, but I am looking for new ideas. In coming years, there will be some interesting literary book projects that will come out of tens of thousands of pages here. Nevertheless, The Chess Drum will continue its niche for covering players of the African Diaspora while focusing on general chess news and international tournament coverage.

The “eternal” birthday cake presented to me in 2003 by Kay Umeakunne. This was the nicest gift I had ever received in appreciation for The Chess Drum! It was delicious! :-D

The “eternal” birthday cake presented to me in 2003 by Kay Umeakunne. This was the nicest gift I had ever received in appreciation for The Chess Drum! It was delicious! 😀

Again… thanks to those of you who have supported the site over the years. I still meet people who tell me they have been following the site for many years. Yet there are many who have only recently learned of the site. As the creator of The Chess Drum concept, I encourage you to comment on the blog posts and establishing a connection through Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for your support and…

…keep the beat going!


Dr. Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum


  1. Here are ten eleven facts about The Chess Drum that you may not know:

    • The idea of The Chess Drum was spawned because a player asked me questions about the Black chess community that I could not answer. There had always been a lack of information on players of African descent.

    • The Chess Drum was originally designed to be an international magazine focusing on chess in the Black community. A marketing plan was written for the idea during a marketing class in graduate school.

    • The name “The Chess Drum” comes from the idea that the drum is a major vehicle of communication in African societies. The double entendre “Keep the Beat Going” refers to the drum beat, but also “beat” referring to the journalistic term.

    • The site went live February 12th, 2001 at 12 midnight from Tallahassee, Florida, USA.

    • The first website banner had a djembe drum. It only lasted a couple of months before the current banner was conceived. The shadow in the banner above is that of GM Maurice Ashley. Journalist Brian Killigrew took the photo as part of a feature in the May 1999 Chess Life after Ashley got his 3rd GM norm.

    • The site now has over 30,000 pages of content including about 2,800 news stories spanning the globe. It also includes audio interviews, essays, photo galleries and a blog.

    • The “Wall of Fame” page is 20 feet high and was a project completed after working on it 50 consecutive hours.

    • The Indians’ humble attitudes make them regular interview subjects. I have interviewed Grandmasters GM Pentala Harikrisha, GM Krishan Sasikiran, GM Sandipan Chanda, GM Parimarjan Negi, GM Magesh Panchanathan, GM Abhijeet Gupta, GM Baskiran Adhiban and famous chess journalist Vijay Kumar.

    • The audio interviews coverage a wide range of personalities including world-class players such as Hikaru Nakamura (three times) and Levon Aronian (twice).

    • Their have been three video site tours… 2008, 2009 and 2010.

    • The Chess Drum has always had just one “employee”. 🙂

  2. Daaim,

    I remember shortly before I encountered this site, I saw a Youtube comment on a Maurice Ashley video that stated: “Wow…the first Black chess player!”
    Of course I knew that was an utterly preposterous comment. But I also knew that it wasn’t far from representing public consciousness on the subject. And at that point, my only knowledge of the Fischer boom reaching the African-American community was my knowledge of the guys that hustle in the parks in New York.

    But then I came to realize the galactic proportions of the public’s perception error when I happened upon this site. The first thing I saw was the millennium old painting you posted of black-skinned Moors playing chess. As a student of African history, it didn’t surprise me. But to juxtapose that with the perception of the general public!!

    Since then I’ve told many people about the service you are providing here. I can’t thank you enough.

    1. Thanks for your support!

      My next article for Black History Month will hopefully shed some light. The biggest surge of masters in the Black community here came as a result of the Fischer Boom. Many of the master emerged in the late 70s to late 80s.

      Many people do not know that we play, but perhaps some of that is because I have not been in the media telling the story directly to the non-chess public.

  3. Happy Birthday ChessDrum! Thanks for documenting and stimulating the national social consciousness of our chess community.

  4. It is great to see the Chess Drum celebrate yet another significant milestone. Continue to keep up the excellent work. We owe to you a tremendous debt of gratitude. Members of the Jamaican Chess fraternity are confident that you will raise your already lofty standards and conquer new horizons. To greater accomplishments!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button