The Talking Drum
MSNBC Chat with Maurice Ashley

Following is a transcript from an online chat session with GM Maurice Ashley hosted by NBC Dateline in 1999. This transcript is quite inspirational and will answer most questions novices will have about chess and education, training tips for chess improvement, and commentary on the sport, in general. For purposes of readability, some of the statements have been edited and corrected for the typos common in online chats. At the time of this interview, Mr. Ashley was still an IM (a few months later he earned his last GM norm), a respected chess coach, and chess commentator. This chat was on the subject of getting children involved in chess, the "brain game." Chris of MSNBC served as moderator and fielded the questions.

Host Vickie-MSNBC says:
Hello, Mr. Ashley ... welcome!

GM Ashley says:
Hello, I'm ready to take your questions now.

mamster says:
Hey, are the rankings in chess like those in bridge? I remember hearing that the highest-ranking in bridge is a Life Master, which seems a little presumptuous.

GM Ashley says:
They're a bit different, Life Master is the highest in bridge and Grand Master is the highest in chess. In chess your rating can go up and down, while in bridge you continually accumulate points as you play.

sss says:
When is someone developed enough to play chess?

GM Ashley says:
Any 5 year old can start learning how to play and maybe even a little younger. But I think 5 is a reasonable age to learn because a 5 year old picks up quicker and it would take less time for a 5 year old than a 4 year old.

unknown says:
How does it feel to be the highest ranking African American? (Editor paraphrase)

GM Ashley says:
The title highest ranking African American is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it's insignificant because there are other players who are simply better than I am, so one might ask so what?

GM Ashley says:
But on the other hand, it's very important because I'm the first African American International Master and that is a source of pride that may inspire others to follow the lead.

FlabbyBaIdLoser says:
Question: Do you think there will ever be a professional chess league similar to the NBA, MLB, or NFL?

GM Ashley says:
There already is a professional chess circuit where the top players play. The difference, of course, is they don't have nearly as much exposure as the major sports in the US. But the top players do play for thousands of dollars.

marnster says:
Q: What are the benefits of getting your children involved in this "brain game"?

GM Ashley says:
There's so many that it's tough to put in a list. The obvious one helps concentration, problem solving skills, help them to focus better, teach them about setting goals, teach them that they're smart too, helps in self esteem. Many, many things. It's intellectual exercise . . . the same way the body develops through exercise, the mind can.

BOSTONairbear says:
Dear guest do you have a website?

Agni says:
Gotta go. Thanx Maurice for chatting and here's to your becoming #1 overall.

GM Ashley says:
I live on the Internet but I personally don't have a web site. I use the Internet for all sorts of things, chess is  a major one, there are so many sites. But I'm a sports addict so I have to get my stats off the net every few hours. (Editor's note: Maurice now has a couple of sites through which he can be contacted: and

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