Louisville, Kentucky will host their 2nd Annual Kwanzaa Chess Bowl during the weeklong festival. Lailah Hampton-El, Executive Director of Liberated Minds Homeschool Academy, posted a flyer announcing the event on Friday, January 1st, 2021 (New Years Day). The event was also announced in an article on WLKY.com which announced other Kwanzaa activities.

2nd Kwanzaa Chess Bowl (Louisville, Kentucky)

Lailah Hampton at last year's event

Lailah Hampton-El at last year’s inaugural event

Lailah Hampton at 1st Kwanzaa Chess Bowl

Photos by Bud Dorsey

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga as an outgrowth of self-awareness during the revolutionary 1960s. It became an outward expression of reverence to seven principles consistent with ancient African civilizations.

The weeklong festival (December 26th – January 1st) and features historical reflections, honoring of ancestors, music/dance tributes, storytelling, wholesome food feasts, and most importantly, self-affirming activities for children of the African Diaspora. While the festival begins the day after Christmas, there is no relation to any particular religion.

Kwanzaa Kenora Kwanzaa Kenora Kwanzaa Kenora

Kwanzaa, Swahili for “first fruits,” was created to reinforce the “Nguzo Saba,” or the seven principles identified as central to African identity: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith).

Alexis Matthews, “‘Family, unity, culture’: Kwanzaa celebrations begin, Louisville traditions go virtual,” WLKY.com, 26 December 2020.

Dr. Lyndon Bouah with newly-released book, “Reflection on Chess in the Rainbow Nation.” Photo courtesy of Lyndon Bouah.

Dr. Lyndon Bouah is well-known in African chess circles, but specifically for being a longtime advocate for chess in South Africa. Dr. Bouah completed his doctorate at the University of the Western Cape in 2016 with the thesis titled, “An Analysis of the Implementation of the National Sport and Recreation Plan in the Western Cape.”

He serves as the Chief Director for Sport and Recreation in the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport in the Western Cape. Most recently, he published a new book titled, “Reflection on Chess in the Rainbow Nation,” an inside look at chess activities in South Africa. The book comes in a handsome hardback version and goes for R250 (US$17.15).

Dr. Bouah announced launched the book on FM Calvin Klaasen’s twitch channel and spent more than an hour recounting his experience and sharing his nuggets of wisdom with the live audience. These types of books are a treasure for the prosperity of growing chess communities and Dr. Bouah is planning on additional volumes.

For orders contact: dev@chesswesternprovince.co.za

Dr. Lyndon Bouah
Tel: 27 71 363 130
E-mail: Lyndon.bouah@gmail.com

Lyndon Bouah at 2004 Chess Olympia in Calvia, Spain

FIDE Delegates at 2004 Olympiad in Calvia, Spain: (L-R) Enoch Barumba (Uganda), Rugema Ngarambe (Rwanda), Lyndon Bouah (South Africa). Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

IM Watu Kobese

Photo by Yolande Du Preez

IM Watu Kobese has been the most recognizable chess player South Africa has ever produced. A veteran of 11 Olympiad tournaments and long-time the country’s top player, Kobese has focused on training the next generation of talent. Apart from his coaching, he is the author of a Xhosa-language chess book titled, “Masidlale Uthimba.” He recently got a business opportunity when Mazda approached him for an inspirational ad shoot.

Achievements that go beyond awards but include his translation of modern English chess into Xhosa for the sake of the youth. He doesn’t want language to be a barrier to the beauty of the game. Kobese’s complete passion and intricate knowledge of chess and its history struck a chord with us as it is this kind of dedication and obsession that you experience every time you get behind the wheel of a Mazda CX-3.

In the following commercial for Mazda, he tells his story beautifully. Take a look.

Video by Mazda Southern Africa

Colombian-Swedish Grandmaster Pontus Carlsson continues to fight the good fight as far as social issues are concerned. Bringing light to these issues years ago, he became front and center of a discussion about racism in Sweden. The Chess Drum ran an interview about his challenges four years ago.

In that segment, he discussed his problems in his adoptive country, including racial insults, illegal detainment, mistaken identity, and false accusations (i.e., stealing his own car). More recently, he was the target of fierce media attacks in Europe after his candid interview with Newsweek.

“If this is the worst of racism Pontus has experienced in thirty years of his chess career, then it is something for which the chess world should be praised and not disparaged.”

~Pavel Matocha on Pontus Carlsson being tossed bananas and enduring monkey chants at tournaments

GM Pontus Carlsson during round 9 at Corus

GM Pontus Carlsson
Photo by Fred Lucas

In 2020, the issue of race exploded onto the world scene with the death of George Floyd. This death continues centuries of injustice against Blacks, in general. Floyd, 46, was manhandled and ultimately murdered by the Minneapolis police while bystanders screamed for his life. After his death went viral, millions worldwide took to the streets, and popular hashtags memorialized Floyd’s death. Racism in America had hit the national stage once again.

While there had been countless high-profile U.S. cases of civilian deaths at the hands of police, there was something very different about seeing a Black man gradually choked to death in plain view. Officer Derek Chauvin exerted deadly force in a very casual pose while Floyd called out for his deceased mother. In his testimony to Congress, Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd referred to it as a “modern-day lynching in broad daylight.”

This hearkens back to a period where Blacks in America were targets of brutal lynchings (including burnings, beatings, castrations, and mutilations). These were not always on-site executions, but many times staged as public spectacles with refreshments, programs, and souvenirs. People gathered, enjoyed snacks, joked, and cheered amidst blood-curdling wails.

Afterward, spectators took ghoulish pictures with battered and charred corpses. Body parts were sold, and locks of the victim’s hair were sometimes included in framed pictures. Lynchings occurred nonstop for 100 years after slavery ended. (WARNING… graphic images!) The point is that the 2020 protests were not merely a rallying cry for the torture and death of George Floyd, but a culmination of cries against human injustice over centuries.

Chess & Racial Justice

The chess community weighed in as various organizations posted statements condemning racism. FIDE released a statement touting the chess community as an example of racial tolerance. Here is an excerpt from FIDE:

Chess players tend to travel a lot, and the more you travel, the more you are exposed to racism and xenophobia. Sadly, that has been the case for our colleague Pontus Carlsson and many others: we have heard their testimonies, and we would like to offer them our support. But most incidents occur outside the chess competitions: at chess tournaments, we are proud to say that the incidents are minimal, and we will stay alert to prevent this from happening. In fact, no one has filed a complaint about racial discrimination at any of our official events, at least since the current administration took office in 2018. The Chess Olympiad, where players of 180+ countries live together for two weeks, is a true celebration of the unity of humankind in all our diversity. (link)

The FIDE statement painted the chess world as a utopia where there are minimal reports of racism. Having attended several Olympiad tournaments, this author can attest to the beauty of these events. However, the statement was a gross oversimplification and warranted a response. Ironically, there are no specific references to racism in the FIDE Code of Ethics, but there is this statement:

It is impossible to define exactly and in all circumstances the standard of conduct expected from all parties involved in FIDE tournaments and events, or to list all sets which would amount to a breach of the Code of Ethics and lead to disciplinary sanctions. In most cases, common sense will tell the participants the standards of behavior that are required.

While common sense should prevail, there has been a tendency to downplay acts of racism because there is a desire to believe that these things no longer happen. The chess world is a microcosm of global society, and racism is more commonplace than we can imagine. The real question may be whether such incidents are taken seriously. Unfortunately, some have decided to trivialize the matter.

Black Pieces Matter!

Carlsson sent The Chess Drum a Czech article by Pavel Matocha, titled, “Black Pieces Matter.” To be sure, Matocha is a very influential voice in Czech society, and his words carry extra weight. However, his “yellow journalism” was on full display after the English translation revealed countless distortions and inaccuracies. The backlash from the chess community was fierce.

Click to read translation!

Matocha, now the Chairman of Czech TV, makes light of the “Black Lives Matter” slogan and stated sarcastically that because of this initiative, white’s first-move privilege must be revoked. During the protests, this topic went viral after the Australian Broadcasting Corporation posed the question about the racial symbolism of the white pieces having the first move in chess.

Again, the protests are not about one particular icon falling prey to a racist act, but the four centuries of slavery and oppression that most outside (and many within) the U.S. could only faintly imagine. The American media has done a masterful job convincing the world that disaffected Blacks are the main cause of the societal disorder and that no such support should be granted to their cause.

Pavel Matocha (left) with the Czech President Vaclav Klaus (right) and Grandmaster Vlastimil Hort (centre) during the match between Vladimir Kramnik and David Navara.

Pavel Matocha (left) with the Czech President Vaclav Klaus (right) and legendary Grandmaster Vlastimil Hort (center). Photo by Prague Chess Society

Racism (whether systemic or not) has many different layers, but they are all insidious at the core. There is a tendency to trivialize instances of racism as simply childish jokes or as isolated incidences. In 2020, the outcry for these abuses of human rights has cast the victims as “looters,” “anarchists,” “communists,” and other names to delegitimize the fight for justice.

If you have your knee on someone’s neck (literally and figuratively), could you then accuse the victim of being disorderly for fighting to get you off? Ironically Matocha reacts to the outcry by saying, “Unfortunately, logical reasoning on this subject has little chance of success in the face of this current epidemic of hysteria.” What is illogical is that people like Matocha have refused to acknowledge the epidemic of injustice.

Carlsson received a motivational e-mail from his club manager that referenced this title.

In his article Matocha, compared racism with instances of chess players being politically punished. This is very different from punishing someone based on their ethnicity (alone) since their appearance should not be grounds for punitive actions. In the article, Matocha wrote on three instances in a Newsweek article where Carlsson was interviewed. They included being tossed a banana and having to endure monkey chants at a tournament. Matocha passed them off as childish jokes, but if anyone has followed European football, these types of acts have taken on a severe consequence. The third was a reference by a Swedish club manager to Agatha Christie’s book, Ten Little Niggers which was later renamed.

He ends his article with racial innuendo, inaccurately stating the number of Black Grandmasters to imply that Blacks are not high achievers and would require lower standards to achieve. There is no other reason to include that statistic. It also echos the trope of many racist right-wing groups found on sites like Stormfront and Vanguard whose adherents have been visitors of The Chess Drum spewing their venom.

Speaking of which, Matocha contemplated chess matches between police and homeless people, skinheads versus anarchists, and opposition versus coalition in the Czech parliament. He seems to understand polar opposites but is absolutely clueless in the context of racial dynamics.

“It’s a great shame that Carlsen has departed from his principles. If a world champion has decided to voice an opinion on politics, it would have been far more topical to focus attention on problems that actually exist.”

~GM Genna Sosonko on Magnus Carlsen’s “Move for Equality” initiative

The Dutch Blunderbuss

Not to be outdone GM Gennadi “Genna” Sosonko weighed in on the debate and offered his own insight during the protests. Above he implies such an initiative advocating for racial justice is less important than other geopolitical issues. Unfortunately, it is this same dismissive attitude that prevails in many societies. In his article published at chess-news.ru on August 27th, the Russian-born, Dutch émigré states,

The South African master Watu Kobese, whom I have watched play at many Olympiads, spent three and a half years in Germany. He says he also encountered racism there. Kobese recalls the discussions he held on the subject with his teachers, which usually ended with the question: “If you dislike Europe so much, what are you still doing here?” I don’t know how you would interpret this advice; I don’t find it illogical either, but the South African chess player perceived it as racist.

GM Gennadi Sosonko in the 70s

This is a common diversion. When a Black person (in a minority situation) complains about injustice, the response is, “If you don’t like it here, go back to Africa.” Instead of correcting racist behavior, the suggestion that the victim should be the one to take some action is extremely thoughtless. Yet, Sosonko finds this a logical response to those speaking out against racism.

His essay touches on a variety of topics in a scattershot fashion as if aiming with an 18th-century blunderbuss. There are no defined reference points, so what results is a jumble of meandering thoughts hoping to strike a chord with the reader. In his missive, Sosonko discusses dozens of race-related topics in no logical flow (even including Michael Jackson’s plastic surgery). It appeared that the legendary GM had a lot on his mind. (original, translation)

While an outstanding chess player and icon, he fails miserably in adding to the discourse on racism. Now aged 77, he admits that his solution may be to keep a low profile, avoid trouble, and merely wait for racism to fix itself. Racism is not a laughable matter, especially when you are the victim. In the ruin of society, it is not only the actions of the bad people who commit horrible acts but the silence of the good people who sit back and allow it.

Black GMs & Racism

Interestingly, Sosonko tries to use GM Maurice Ashley to discredit Carlsson.

It is not by chance that the world’s first black grandmaster and the famous chess commentator Maurice Ashley refused to discuss the matter when asked for comment. Maurice knows better than anyone that the colour of his skin never caused him a problem when he played chess and, working as a commentator in this day and age, it has more likely been an advantage to him than a hindrance.

GMs Pontus Carlsson and Maurice Ashley
at 2016 Millionaire Chess Open (Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA)
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Firstly, Sosonko implies that ethnicity (not talent) may be a factor in Ashley’s rise as a commentator. Secondly, he states that Ashley’s refusal to weigh in on the topic implies that he has not had to experience racism in chess. If anyone knows Ashley’s story well enough, they will know the challenges he had to endure in becoming a Grandmaster. In fact, people still question whether Ashley got the title legitimately. Sosonko is again, off the mark. Finally, in the morass of his essay lies the issue of whether white moving first makes chess a racist game. The Chess Drum has posted two essays here twelve years apart with the verdict (2008, 2020).

Matocha’s final statement that FIDE will be forced to moderate requirements for Black players to earn the GM title is another racial trope often heard. There is always an utterance of the number of Black GMs out of the world’s total number as if it is an indication of lack of intellectual capacity. An article written here a decade ago, “The Challenges of Black Chess Masters,” attracted many white supremacists who felt obligated to express why Blacks were intellectually inferior and thus could not produce more Grandmasters.

Many of these comments are made without understanding the consequences of spending inordinate time to master a game that has little economic return. Unfortunately, people of African descent rest at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder (in many societies) and must assess how to use their time to generate income for basic sustenance. Playing chess professionally is a luxury few Blacks can afford unless sponsorship is secured. It becomes a weekend hobby not consistent with pursuing loftier goals.

In Chess… Black is Good!

The number of Black GMs seems to be an intriguing stat everyone is interested in. While the number is often misquoted, it is used to prove a dual point… that a Black man is capable or incapable of playing high-level chess! Pursuing the GM title requires an immense amount of time and resources. Spending the requisite hours on chess when so many other socioeconomic factors are pressing is not desirable for most in the African Diaspora.

Ashley, who retired from professional chess shortly after winning Foxwoods tournaments in consecutive years, decried the paltry prize funds and soon understood that he could not survive solely on tournament winnings. Ultimately, he cobbled together a Hall-of-Fame career and is one of the most recognizable chess personalities in the world today. Chess becomes more of a path for excellence, which is one of its redeeming qualities.

Carlsson giving a blindfold exhibition in Kenya. How many future GMs in this photo? That is to be determined, but we’ll settle for chess-playing lawyers, accountants, professors, or a Ministry of Sport! Photo by Terrian Chess Academy

Pontus Carlsson is also helping to develop the minds of future leaders through his work in Africa and also through his “Business Meets Chess.” This is why chess matters in Black lives. Black players have used chess as a springboard to enter competitive universities and enjoy successful careers in a variety of fields. Until there is more sponsorship in chess, Black chess players will continue to replace aspirations for chess Grandmasterdom to be professors, physicians, lawyers, engineers, or aspire to be a respectable citizen of a just society.

A wonderful development has resulted during the past few years and spearheaded by the Chicago Chess Blitzers (CCB). It started with traveling matches (Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, New York) and when the distance was an issue, online cage matches were arranged.

After the National Blitz League was launched in 2017 (Site, YouTube) parts of the world and thus, some foreign players became part of cage matches. IM Orlando Husbands (Barbados) and FM Kevin Cupid (Trinidad) joined the long list of competitors.

During the pandemic this year, chess players were looking for outlets to entertain themselves and widen their chess network. With the African Diaspora, boards were burning as 4-time Jamaican champion Damion Davy was hosting thrilling matches featuring Caribbean’s finest. The NBL was continuing to blaze the trails and finally, Nathan Kelly and Davy negotiated and agreed to organize a historic match.

There was a lot of trash-talking before the match with Jamaica’s color commentator Raggie Wynter making bold predictions of a decisive Caribbean victory. Of course, both sides had their partisan views, but what would result was a historic event with lasting bonds created.

In the final analysis, the Chicago team was simply better-suited for the match and players much more experienced. The Caribbean trotted out their young stars (Husbands, FM Joshua Christie and FM Shreyas Smith) and many former and present national champions. FM Ryan Harper is a 9-time national champion of Trinidad. FM Justin Blackman is the reigning Barbados blitz champion.

Chicago had no such pedigree as far as national champions or even an abundance of FIDE titles (Caribbean 14 – Chicago 4). “National Master” and “Senior Master” are the only awarded U.S. titles. “Candidate Master” in the USCF (2000-2199) is not the same as “Candidate Master” of FIDE (2200+ or awarding during an international event). Given the disparity of titles, would the Caribbean reign supreme? What resulted was a shock to some.

Chicago started quickly and with convincing wins by Sedrick Prude (14-1 over Davion Mars) and Stephen Jennings (12½-2½ over Alethia Edwards). Wynter quipped that these were the Caribbean junior players, and that the Caribbean would catch up when the “heavy hitters” were playing. As the Caribbean titled players kept losing, it was clear that the format was more conducive to the seasoned blitz players of Chicago. At one point, Chicago had doubled the score 130-65 and eventually coasted to a 166-104 win. Raggie Wynter had to bear the brunt of memes posted throughout the match, but displayed a great sense of humour throughout.

Nathan Kelly serving an “L” to Raggie Wynter.
These memes became one of the highlights of the match.

There were some crass comments made in social media about Caribbean players. In all fairness, players from the region play in an entirely different reality. The Caribbean lacks the environment to test themselves on top-flight competition locally. The emphasis continues to be on youth chess which is able to draw investors. Many of the players on the respective islands have played each other a hundred times and rely on regional youth tournaments, subzonals, and the biennial Olympiad as the way to measure themselves.

To date, there has traditionally been little access to Grandmasters in the English-speaking Caribbean. There is only a handful of International Masters (Barbados-4, Jamaica-2, Trinidad-2), and a lack of strong tournaments. Strong tournaments in Bermuda and Curacao have been discontinued. Of course, Cuba is the region’s powerhouse, but access to tournaments are difficult.

The subzonal tournaments are anticipated and titles earned for a single result (FM title for 50% and IM title for clear first). Thus, there needs to be more ways to attract competition to the region. Several Caribbean players have traveled to the U.S. to compete in the World Open, but consistent travel to the U.S. (and Europe) is cost-prohibitive. It is time for another visit to the Caribbean. One fun fact is FM Josh Colas (then aged 11) traveling to his first international tournament to Trinidad and Tobago where he scored a respectable result.

FM Joshua Johnson (Trinidad & Tobago)

FM Joshua Johnson (Trinidad & Tobago)

The Caribbean had bright spots with FM Joshua Johnson winning convincingly against NM Nikhil Kalghtgi and Davy winning against IM Angelo Young. Despite Young being favored due to his phenomenal blitz skills, it was apparent that he was not as used to online blitz as OTB blitz.

After failing to employ “premoves” and other blitz nuances he was down 4-0 to Davy. Young roared back and actually took the lead 7½-5½ when a controversy broke out in the 14th game of the match. As Davy and Young were frantically blitzing their last seconds, the game was K+Q vs. K+Q. Young let up believing it would be declared a draw while Davy kept checking repeatedly and won on time.

Young was upset at what he felt was a lack of sportsmanship, but Davy countered that time was an element of the game, especially having no increment. Others commented that it was a team match and Davy was obligated to continue playing. A draw for Chicago still could’ve clinched the match, but Young also lost the last game on time and refused to play the tiebreaker bullet series. Arbiters ruled that he would forfeit the tiebreaker and thus lost the match 7½-7½ (0-2). The finale was a highly-anticipated match with IM George Li upending IM Orlando Husbands 10-5.

This match was important for many reasons. First, there were new relationships created and many rivalries were established in good spirit. There was talk about taking the fight directly to the Caribbean once the pandemic has eased. Secondly, the chats during the matches were sizzling with comments by many legends including Jamaican champions IM Shane “The Magician” Matthews and FM Warren Elliott.

The commentary duties were shared by various personalities including Davy, Wynter, NBL co-founder Daniel Muhammad and Jimmy “Jedi” Canty. Technical Director of NBL Lou Green was also “in the building” during many of the matches. Thirdly, the match gave an opportunity for players to expand their competitive circle. After the matches, there were additional challenges made and Detroit and New York also wanted to get into the international action. Are African countries ready to throw their hats in the ring?

As the NBL gets ready for the 4th season, perhaps there will be some new players drafted. Stay tuned for another Chicago-Caribbean match!

2020 Chicago vs. Caribbean Match
November 22nd-December 9th, 2020
MATCH PAIRINGS (official titles noted)
1 IM George Li
IM Orlando Husbands
2 FM Jacob Furfine
FM Joshua Christie
3 FM Mario Ampie
FM Justin Blackman
4 NM Misha Vilenchuk
FM Ryan Harper
5 IM Angelo Young
7½-7½ (0-2)
FM Damion Davy
6 NM Max Zinski
FM Raheem Glaves
7 NM Nikhil Kalghatgi
FM Joshua Johnson
8 NM Daniel Muhammad
FM Shreyas Smith
9 NM Michael Auger
Adrian Winter
10 WCM Aria Hoesley
CM Kevin Merritt
11 NM Aakaaash Meduri
CM Akeem Brown
12 David Franklin
CM Nathan Hinds
13 JJ Lang
FM Anthony Drayton
14 Tim Donahue
WCM Raehanna Brown
15 Sedrick Prude
Davion Mars
16 Stephen Jennings
Alethia Edwards
17 Malik Brewley
Christopher Lyn
18 NM Akhil Kalghatgi
FM Malaku Lorne
Final Score: 166-104

Togo Togo Togo

Yakini Tchouka, 2020 Togo National Champion

Yakini Tchouka
2020 Togo National Champion
Photo by Togo Chess Federation

Kim Bhari of Kenya Chess Masala reported on the Togo National Championships held a couple of weeks ago in Lome, the country’s capital. Yakini Tchouka won the 22-player even with an undefeated 5.5/6. Bhari reported that the La Base 57 Hotel situated in the town of Assahoun which is about 60 km (37.2 miles) from the capital.

Enyonam Sewa Fumey and Togolese delegation at the General Assembly in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Several years ago, Togo was a fledgling chess community admitted to FIDE the previous year in Istanbul, Turkey. Since then many positive things have happened. Enyonam Sewa Fumey has lead the Togolese chess community as the President of the Togo Chess Federation and at the 2018 General Assembly was part of the winning ticket for Arkady Dvorkovich. He now serves as the General Secretary of FIDE.

Togo has been an active participant since joining FIDE in 2012 and hosted Kirsan Ilyumzhinov then-President. They have had championships since 2014 and have participated in the past four Olympiad (2012, 2014, 2016, 2018). They also hosted the African Junior Championship in 2017.

Congratulations to Yakini Tchouka!

Kenya Chess Masala: https://kenyachessmasala.com/2020/11/yakini-tchouka-togo-chess-champion.html

Togo Chess on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/chesstogo/
Contact the Chess Federation Togolaise, ftdetogo@yahoo.fr.

Back in 2003, The Chess Drum ran a story about Orrin Hudson’s BeSomeone, (then) a rather new organization touting life skills through a chess metaphor. Hudson was seen playing motivational speaker Les Brown and credited him with helping him to learn the craft of motivation. Seventeen years later, the two met again with Hudson being the subject of an interesting interview conducted by Brown. Hudson is still going strong and got a chance to reflect on the years gone by and those events to come.

Video by Les Brown

Be Someone, Inc.
Orrin Checkmate Hudson
Speaker, Master Strategist & Motivator
949 Stephenson Road
Stone Mountain, GA 30087

Telephone: 770-465-6445
E-mail: Orrin@besomeone.org
Website: www.besomeone.org

Raging Rooks of Harlem, NY

Charu Robinson
January 3, 1977 – October 13, 2020

In a year that has been a challenging one for many, the chess community lost yet another servant in chess in the passing of Charu Robinson on October 13th. He was 43. The cause was not immediately revealed but he was found in his apartment by a friend. The previous evening he had been exchanging banter with friends over the New York-Chicago grudge match.

GM Maurice Ashley, who was Charu’s coach, posted a moving message and a photo gallery on his Facebook page.

A native New Yorker, Charu developed a passion for chess early showing promise as a member of the “Raging Rooks,” a team taking 1st in the K-9 National Championships. He was proud to say that his team was joint first with the Philadelphia team that included IM Greg Shahade and Ben Johnson.

Raging Rooks of Harlem, NY

Maurice Ashley in the center demonstrating a game to his “Raging Rooks.”
Charu is standing to the left.

Charu was known as a passionate person who would be eager to initiate a debate on chess, sports, or any news of the day. I remember a debate he initiated with me on Facebook concerning a scholastic player who he felt was “overreported” because he got publicity for winning a lower section.

Yo outside the kid being a young brother, you really think its cool for kids to get mad props for winning low sections ?

Yes was my answer, but Charu was adamant. He felt that the article may have been rewarding mediocrity. I took a different angle. I explained that the published accomplishments are stepping stones and builds confidence as one improves. One of his points was well-taken. The article in question had several errors which made it appear that the young player had accomplished his success against stronger competition. This is a legitimate complaint.

In many instances, non-chess journalists use words like “whiz,” “expert,” and “master” as generic words. Apart from the worn-out chess puns, this is a common mistake in chess coverage. An article may label someone as a “national champion” when they’ve only score 1st place in a lower section. He agreed with me that this was a matter of journalistic integrity.

Nevertheless, Charu was in his element and wanted to see young players strive for more than mere class prizes. He wanted his students to get the benefits that he enjoyed as a scholastic player. Here he is featured in a segment on his coach Ashley (1:27-2:41).

I met Charu in 2001 at the Wilbert Paige Memorial in Harlem, New York. It was a historic tournament held featuring ten of the top Black players, at that time. Charu seemed to be enjoying the moment, but particularly his responsibility of entering the games in Fritz and helping Jerry Bibuld and Beejay Hicks with various aspects of the tournament.

Fritz 6 was at work too! Charu Robinson at the controls. Copyright ©, Daaim Shabazz.

Charu Robinson at the Wilbert Paige Memorial entering games.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

The Marshall Chess Club hosted a memorial tournament on October 24th and there is a memorial page with tributes from friends. Greg Kenner reflected on some sage advice:

The way to get better at blitz is by getting better at slow chess.

The intense study doesn’t improve your blitz much, because chess at its core is about deep thinking.

You don’t get to think deep playing blitz. It’s mostly reactionary. But your reactions are better if you are a seasoned strong slow player.


“Talent” was Charu’s oft-repeated catchphrase. He would interject it in a number of situations in complimentary fashion. While Charu was not very active in recent years, he played online and still manage to harness the talent of a number of students. He passed on the lessons given to him by Maurice Ashley. The greater chess community has spent the past couple of weeks honoring his memory with tributes and the aforementioned tournament. There was also a ZOOM tribute.

ZOOM Memorial Tribute
October 24, 2020

ZOOM Memorial

There was been a fundraiser set up for Charu by his sister Stacey Smith to help cover expenses. The family has set a $30,000 goal.


Jessica Hyatt is the latest of a string of Black girls to come out of the New York area and destined for chess success. Recently, she won a $40,000 scholarship, but it was not the usual full ride to chess powerhouses like Webster or UT-Dallas. It was the Daniel Feinberg Success in Chess Award that netted her the honor. Aspiring to attend MIT, Hyatt is coached by National Masters Tyrell Harriott and David Mbonu and aspires to attain the coveted title.

Jessica Hyatt (right) playing Rochelle Ballantyne.

Chess can be considered a gateway to success as many players have been able to parlay chess excellence into professional careers. It has been particularly helpful to the Black community as many scholastic stars have gone on to achieve tremendous success. Hyatt joins Medina Parilla, Rochelle Ballantyne, and Darrian Robinson as New York girls in the Black community who have tasted success, all eclipsing the 2000-rating barrier.

Jessica Hyatt (right) playing Rochelle Ballantyne.

The Success Academy Bed-Stuy Middle School team at the 2019 All-Girls Championship in Chicago. From left to right: Coach Tyrell Harriott, Tabia Davis, Jayleen Badillo, Geah Jean Baptiste, and Jessica Hyatt celebrate its win. Photo from Brooklyn Paper (brookynpaper.com)

For the unassuming 15-year old, MIT is in her sights and will have a lot of support from her mother, Loy Allen, her coaches, New York and of course, Adia Onyango, an expert-level player and community chess advocate. Given this support, Hyatt hopes to continue expressing her passion for chess and to live her dreams.

Angola Angola Angola

Pedro Adérito, an International Master from Angola, has passed away at 44. This had been announced through various platforms including WhatsApp African chess group. According to the Angola Press Agency, he had apparently been dealing with an illness and a member of Angola’s chess body had visited Adérito at his home in the afternoon before the tragic event occurred Monday evening, October 5th.

Adérito is the second Angolan to achieve the IM title after winning the 1993 African Junior Championship at 17 years old. He was one of a number of IMs that led Africa in terms of titled players. Angola boasting five IMs at the 1996 Chess Olympiad in Armenia.

Pedro receives his prize for winning the 1993 Africa Junior Chess Championship from the late Chairman of Kenya Chess Association Fred Sagwe while Vice-Chairman Francis Rodrigues looks on. The event was held at the YMCA in Nairobi, Kenya and ran from 11th to 26th December 1993. Photo credit Kim Bhari.

Aderito receives his prize after winning the 1993 Africa Junior Chess Championship. Chairman of Kenya Chess Association Fred Sagwe presents the honors while Vice-Chairman Francis Rodrigues looks on. The event was held at the YMCA in Nairobi, Kenya and ran from 11th to 26th December 1993. Photo credit Kim Bhari.

The Chess Drum posted an interview of Aderito (conducted 29 October 2002 through Catarino Domingos), which read:

Known for its large diamond mines and rich cultural traditions, Angola’s capital of Luanda is where young Pedro grew up. At age 15, a friend of his (now serving as a priest in Brazil) decided to teach him chess. Pedro was not immediately drawn to the game but was intrigued enough to take an interest. A couple of years later, he entered his first chess tournament. This science student from Puniv High School entered a regional qualifying tournament for the National Championship and took 3rd place was a 5-2 score! He was bested only by seasoned players Antonio Pedro and Eugénio Campos (now an IM). It was at this point that Pedro took a deeper interest in chess.

As is common in many African nations, chess materials are very hard to find, so Pedro most of his time working with friends… essentially learning by playing. While the friends of his youth still play, Pedro has broken from the pack and clearly established himself as one of the country’s top players. He has won countless tournaments in Angola and has also won the African Junior Championship in 1993 (held in Kenya) which was how he earned the IM title. IM Manuel Mateus had earned his IM title at the 1987 African Championships while IM Eugénio Campos succeeded him as Junior Champion in 1994. Pedro honed his skills in the Karpov Chess School and currently works with Abilio Ribero, a fellow member on the National Team.

In the Elista tournament, he won a bronze medal for his 7-2 performance on board #4 (Nigeria’s IM Odion Aikhoje had won a gold medal on board #2) and in the recently concluded Bled tournament, he scored a team-leading 8-3. Besides being a mainstay on Angolan Olympiad teams, he has played in other international tournaments including the prestigious Cappelle La Grande tournament in France and with cherished memories. He also played in Sweden where he toppled GM Lars Karlsson. Here a game from the 1996 Olympiad in Yerevan, Armenia.

Angola Men's Team, 2002 Olympiad (Bled, Slovenia)

2002 Angola Olympiad team: (in front, from left to right) Catarino Domingos (Bd. 1), Amorin Agnelio (Bd. 2), IM Armindo Sousa (Bd. 3) and IM Pedro Aderito (Bd. 4); (in the rear, from left to right) Ediberto Domingos (Bd. 5) and Abilio Ribeiro (Bd. 6), and Manuel Andrade (captain). Photo taken by Jerry Bibuld.

Meanwhile, Pedro Aderito of Angola was blitzing with a Latin American player. The three Angolans watching are Manuel Mateus (light shirt), Eugenio Campos (yellow shirt) and Catarino Domingos (blue jacket).

Aderito blitzing with a Latin American player after 2004 Calvia Olympiad had ended. The three Angolans watching are Manuel Mateus (light shirt), Eugenio Campos (yellow shirt) and Catarino Domingos (blue jacket). Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Angolans Pedro Aderito and Ediberto Domingos at 2011 African Individual Championships held in Maputo, Mozambique.

During his illustrious career, Aderiot won six national championships and represented Angola seven times for the Olympiad (1996, 1988, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008). His Olympiad record was +36 (wins) -22 (losses) =11 (draws) winning a bronze medal in 1998 (Elista) with 7/9.

The Chess Drum salutes International Master Pedro Adérito!

National Anthem

See Tribute by Dr. Lyndon Bouah:

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