It’s hard to believe that it has been 19 years for The Chess Drum (February 12th 2001), but it has been. The task has not been an easy one. In order to keep a website going it needs a lot of dedication and nurturing.
Despite these efforts, websites and blogs have diminished in their importance. These days chess players feel more engaged with video content, interactive gaming sites and prefer posting photos on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. In fact, I have seen activity decrease on many of the largest chess websites. A few mainstays have disappeared. That being said, this form of media still serves as a reservoir of organized information uniquely tailored to its audience.
I remember covering the Grand Opening of the World Chess Hall of Fame on a sunny afternoon (December 16th, 2001) in Miami, Florida. I had just completed the booklet on the Wilbert Paige Memorial and it was an exciting first year. Last May, I was honored to cover the Grand Chess Tour Rapid & Blitz event held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
While I had covered (live) six Olympiads, several U.S. Championships, several Grand Chess Tour events, this event was special given its location and historic nature. I still enjoy covering stories of tournaments (big and small) and of unique individuals. However, I am more selective about which stories to focus on for the website.
Philip Ameku (Ghana), Angela Ayiku (Ghana), Christiana Naa Merley Ashley (Ghana), Daaim Shabazz (USA) and Ogunsiku Babatunde (Nigeria) in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire for the Grand Chess Tour Rapid & Blitz. Photo by The Chess Drum
In coming days, I will feature a computer scientist Dr. Daniel Shawul Abdi of Ethiopia who has done pioneering work in Artificial Intelligence in games since 2002. He is currently working on a neural network chess engine and has been involved in some chess projects of well-known engines, including Alpha Zero. It is these types of individuals who would go unknown or underappreciated. To be able to demonstrate such contributions helps to show how chess enables our creative talents.
In addition, I enjoy featuring young talents and giving them a positive digital resume for their career development and for their confidence. I have seen so many young players grow into successful adults and it is encouraging to find the positive role that chess has played. Whether one becomes a Grandmaster or not, there is a tremendous benefit that can be garnered from chess activity.
I have been asked countless times how I’m able to keep this project going. The answer is simple… if The Chess Drum did not exist, it would need to be created! Chess in the African Diaspora still struggles for recognition. Fortunately, a couple of newer web projects (Kenya Chess Masala and Africa Chess Media) have helped to increase coverage. There are numerous Facebook chess pages, but they do not always allow for complete access to the content and the information is often poorly documented. However, these pages do provide a resource for The Chess Drum to get a scoop and chase down a story.
In the coming year, I plan to continue to cover tournaments, but it is unlikely that I will ever publish 200+ stories in a year (seven times)… 190+ stories (three times). I plan to focus more on literary work including an upcoming book about the “Drum Majors of Chess.” To note the universality of chess is showing how it has touched all corners of the earth and can be considered a common language. In the year 2021, we will celebrate 20 years and perhaps we will do something special.
Thanks for helping me keep the beat for 19 years!
Dr. Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum
The “eternal” birthday cake presented to me in 2003 by Kay Umeakunne. I always bring this cake out every birthday. It was delicious, but the memory was even sweeter! Thanks Kay! 😀