Chess has been said to have many qualities. Often misunderstood as a game only for the high-browed intelligentsia, it has many redeeming qualities that attract adherents of all demographics. Chess has been the subject of many studies and is often called a sport, game, and even a science. It is undeniable that chess players derive benefit from playing the royal game and there are many examples confirming what the studies have already found.
Sometimes we look back in time and wonder how certain players of note are doing both in chess and in life. We may peruse the rating chart to see whether they have been active. When The Chess Drum was launched in 2001, one of the objectives was to highlight young Black players worldwide. This is to provide exposure, build confidence and index their accomplishments in the digital world for documentation. Many have used these online stories with great effect, but in ways unrelated to chess.
The paucity of Black players in top-level chess has been a question raised for decades. Frankly, chess requires a significant amount time and financial resources. The average Black family has neither generational wealth accumulated nor significant amounts of disposable income to dedicate to an activity (especially after college) that will not lead to income generation. Thus, there is a huge ‘opportunity cost’ in spending the time and resources in chess unless there is a residual benefit. If it is not feasible to spend inordinate amounts of time studying and playing chess, are there other routes for talented players?
What is common in the current generation of players is that chess is being used as a stepping stone for success in other areas. Chess still has a tremendous amount of “cachet” and draws attention on college and job applications. It also sharpens the mind to handle the rigors of academic and professional subjects. This seems to be the way many young stars are approaching chess. Attrition is still very, very high, but when we check on former scholastic stars, many are thriving and engaged in successful careers. At some point, a talented young player has to make a tough decision and decide what role chess will play in their lives.
Below are a few players who received some notoriety on The Chess Drum and links to a profile describing what they are doing now. Enjoy!