Black History Month 2022-Day 11: Historic Games!

Back in 2003, I wrote an article titled, “Ten of the Best Games Played by Black Masters.” Included in that list were games such as Tate-Ashley, Tate-Yudasin and Giles-Browne, to name a few. While Paige-Formanek is shown again for prosperity, there have been some worthy additions. Following are five historic games that may have flown under the radar… except the fourth one!

Wilbert Paige-IM Formanek, 1993 World Open (Philadelphia), 1-0

National Master Wilbert Paige
NM Wilbert Paige (1959-1994)
Photo by Jerry Bibuld

This game was featured in the 2003 list of games and is still a classic for its instructive content. In 2001, he was honored with a memorial tournament in Harlem, New York. The mild-mannered player from North Philadelphia had an alter-ego in chess taking on terrifying nicknames to reflect his style of play.

I met Paige on a singular encounter at the 1990 World Open when me, Maurice Ashley and Jerry Bibuld rode from New York to spend the day at the tournament. I spent the summer doing an internship at Time-Warner’s Sports Illustrated in New York at the time.

Bibuld introduced me to Paige and I proceeded to show him my marketing plan for a Black chess network. He listened with great interest and gave an approving nod. Eleven years later, this plan would later become The Chess Drum. On the eve of the 21st anniversary of the website, we honor this Philadelphia legend. Paige played this game just a year before his death.

GM Alexander Stripunsky-NM Shearwood McClelland, 1997 New Jersey Open, 0-1

Dr. Shearwood McClelland III
Photo by OHSU

Dr. Shearwood “Woody” McClelland III had an outstanding scholastic chess career and was one of the trailblazers in the African-American community. A three-time national high school champion and 1997 U.S. Junior Open champion, he graduated from Harvard College in 2000 and earned his medical degree from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2004.

Earning his National Master title at 15 years, 10 months, he had only trailed Howard Daniels (15 years, 4 months) and KK Karanja (15 years, 7 months) in terms of the age record for youngest African-American master. That record has been broken several times since and is currently held by Brewington Hardaway who became a master at age 10. It is clear that chess gave Woody a platform for excellence as it has so many others.

The son of Drs. Shearwood J. McClelland and Yvonne S. Thornton, he had excellent examples to follow and now has a storied career of his own as a prolific researcher in radiation and oncology. He has placed a specific emphasis on addressing disparities that affect minority communities in terms of combating cancer and researching viable treatments.

Woody beat Bu Xiangzhi on the black side of a King’s Indian at the 1998 New York Open. However, that was not the game that turned heads. His win over strong Grandmaster Alexander Stripunsky showed a mixture of positional understanding and attention to detail in tactical situations. He gives the commentary.

FM William Morrison-GM Irina Krush, 2016 World Open (Philadelphia), 1-0

William “The Exterminator” Morrison
Photo by Jerry Bibuld

FM William Morrison is a veteran player who has seen his share of success. An HBCU graduate of Morgan State University, he also attended the University of Maryland-Baltimore on the highly-fancied collegiate teams, winning four championships in the 90s. His reputation precedes him in the Black community as a member of the famous “Black Bear School of Chess” along with Maurice Ashley, Ronald Simpson, Jerald Times and Stephen Colding.

Despite having reached a peak of 2535 USCF, Morrison has not had many opportunities to earn norms and has had near misses including a 1/2-point short at the Wilbert Paige Memorial. At the 2016 Chicago Open, he played 7-time champion Irina Krush and was highly-motivated. What follows is an inspired win. The comments are from Morrison.

The game came to an abrupt ending after 29.Nf5! exf5.
The Exterminator was pleasantly surprised!
Photos by Daaim Shabazz

GM Alexander Moiseenko-IM Kassa Korley, 2019 Xtracon Chess Open (Helsingør, Denmark), 0-1

IM Kassa Korley at 2019 Copenhagen Festival, Helsingør, Denmark
IM Kassa Korley in Copenhagen
Photo by

International Master Kassa Korley has been active in trying to secure his 3rd GM norm along with the requisite 2500 Elo rating. Born in New York, but currently representing his grandparents’ country of Denmark, he played one of the most beautiful games of 2019 with a sparkling win over strong Ukrainian Grandmaster Alexander Moiseenko.

“I will never play a more beautiful game.”

~Kassa Korley

The game was played at the Xtracon Chess Open (Helsingør, Denmark) in round four (July 22nd, 2019). His opponent was GM Alexander Moiseenko of the Ukraine who was once ranked 22nd in the world with a peak rating of 2726. Today, Korley is doing a lot of streaming on his Twitch channel and regularly competes at the Charlotte Chess Center in search of norm opportunities. Here is the game on the way to his second Grandmaster norm.

GM Awonder Liang-FM Justus Williams, 2021 Chicago Open, 0-1

FM Justus Williams
Photo by CCSCSL

Justus earned his 3rd IM norm back in 2017 at the St. Louis Invitational and needed the rating requirement by FIDE, the world’s official body. He played in the 2021 Chicago Open and toppled rising star GM Awonder Liang.

After his 6/9 score, he pocketed 38 rating Elo points. He then scored 4/5 at the 2021 Atlantic Open gaining another 19 rating points. The final push came at the 2021 Illinois State Open where he placed ahead of three GM with a 7/7 score. This performance pushed him over the 2400-mark and his International Master title was conferred in 2021.

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