Twenty years. Yes… 20 years for a website. It seems unreal that so many years have passed. It seems unlikely (in these times) that a chess website can last this long. However, many years ago I rationalized this project by thinking, “If The Chess Drum did not exist, it would need to be created.” Is this true? Most definitely.
Coming up as a scholastic player in Chicago, I was bitten by the chess bug and benefited from an active club at my public high school that boasted over 100 members. After losing my first game to a Scholar’s Mate a year earlier, I was determined to improve and chess soon supplanted baseball as the activity where I invested the bulk of my leisure time. Unbeknownst to me, it would become an activity that would lead to a higher cause.
In interviews and articles, I have explained how a simple question spurred the idea of what would become “The Chess Drum.” It would take nearly 15 years to fully realize the vision, but it was something that would soon become a rallying point for an overlooked segment.
The original site was about 12 pages, five of which covered a diversity of players such as Odion Aikhoje (Nigeria), Warren Elliott (Jamaica), Amon Simutowe (Zambia), Maurice Ashley (USA) and Shearwood McClelland (USA). Aikhoje’s 1998 gold medal was honored, Elliott had won his first of seven national championships, and Ashley had hosted the Harlem Chess Festival. Simutowe won a silver medal at the 2000 Olympiad. McClelland had beaten Chinese star Bu Xianghzhi. The first “Historic Moments” piece profiled a classic matchup between Charles Lawton and Morris Giles along with an intriguing photo from 1989 U.S. Open. It was a thrilling beginning!
The idea of The Chess Drum happened over a period of 15 years while I was still living in Chicago. By now everyone may know I was motivated by a question… “Where are the Black IMs and GMs?” With the question searing in my mind, I embarked on a journey that would result in me hitting the “ENTER” button on February 12th, 2001 to make the site live.
There was inspiration drawn from many different persons, but it had occurred to me my degrees in Computer Science, Marketing and International Affairs prepared me for this task. The hours have been long and sometimes, I wondered why I should continue, but each time someone sends an e-mail or places a phone call, and it reinforces why this project is so important to the chess community.
It has been a pleasure to watch The Chess Drum grow into a reservoir that shows the universality of chess and its inclusivity. I have been able to compile wonderful memories in the past 20 years which I will share throughout February. Thanks for helping me keep the beat!
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. The cake is long gone, but the memory is still sweet!