Kamsky, Ashley… 2016 Hall of Fame Inductees!

Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

The U.S. Chess Hall of Fame has announced the induction of two new members, GMs Gata Kamsky and Maurice Ashley. Both have been mainstays on the American chess scene in veritably different ways. Both come from immigrant families and both were raised with an idea that they were destined for success.

Gataulla Rustemovich Kamsky was born in Russia to a Tartar family led by the infamous father figure Rustam. His father developed his prodigy son like a prize fighter he never became and young Gata developed nerves of steel and the heart of a lion. His Sphinx-like posture at the board belies the energy he puts into his games. What is dangerous is that Gata can be stoic while strangling you… kind of a “Gustavo Fring of chess”.

Gata Kamsky
Photo by Anastasiya Karlovich.

Gata’s career touches so many eras including world championship contender early in his career and later in his career. Much more will be said about him at the induction, but the four-time U.S. champion has deservedly earned a place in the World Chess Hall of Fame alongside many of the game’s great legends. Gata played in the 2015 U.S. Championship and may have hinted at retirement, but he remains active and is certainly deserving of the honor. His presence in U.S. Chess has raised the standards immensely.

Maurice Ashley has put in work. Born in Jamaica in 1966, his story is well-known to chess players. However, success did not come easy for this self-described games man. Thinking he could conquer his neighborhood in all the games, he was bludgeoned in his first competitive chess game. He scrambled to the library to find a book of chess and from then on, it was true love. He joined the hardscrabble school of chess in the mean parks of New York joining the “Black Bear School of Chess” and becoming its marquee player.

Maurice Ashley in 2001 National  Open. Photo by Jerry Bibuld.
Maurice Ashley at the 2001 National Open in Las Vegas.
Photo by Jerry Bibuld.

2014 U.S. Chess Championship
GM Maurice Ashley is a commentator impresario.

Ashley has served in practically every capacity in chess. During his rise as a player in New York, he also coached Harlem’s Mott Hall Elementary to a national championship. He was responsible for helping to break the mold of what was deemed to be a “white sport” and began to break down the barriers in the game. Maurice earned his IM title in 1993 and GM title in 1999 providing inspiring for many in the worldwide African Diaspora. He added to his legend by authoring chess software, with “Maurice Ashley Teaches Chess“. In addition, Ashley has written “Chess for Success,” and the power “Pawn Mower” series.

However, where Ashley earned his impeccable reputation was as a world-class commentator covering events such as the Kasparov-Anand World Championship in 1995 and the Kasparov vs. Deep Blue “Man vs. Machine” match in 1996 and 1997. He has more recently covered major events such as the U.S. Championships, the Sinquefield Cups among others. Let’s not forget Ashley’s role as an organizer.

In 2005, he organized the HB Global Chess Challenge with (at the time) the largest prize fund of US$500,000. A decade later, he pioneered high stakes chess with his innovation “Millionaire Chess Open” with a prize fund of US$1,000,000. His stance to make chess exciting and TV-friendly has been his mantra for more than a decade. His contributions and ideas have been invaluable.

The induction ceremony is set for April 13th. More details are forthcoming!


  1. Congratulations to both men from the Jamaican chess fraternity. Special love is sent for our fellow Jamaican Maurice Ashley – a veritable inspiration!!!

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