Brooklyn gave hip hop some of the greatest Grandmasters of the Microphone: Biggie, Kane, Jay-Z, Mos Def, GZA and Others. New York’s most infamous borough now brings you the 1st Black Grandmaster of Chess. His name? Maurice Ashley.  Born in St. Andrew’s Parish in Jamaica, he was just 12 yrs old when he moved to Park Slope Brooklyn. He interest in the game began when he played a friend and got destroyed. From there Ashley checked out a book from the library on the subject and studied intensely until he learned the moves. After which he challenged his friend to a rematch. Again, he was beaten. Turns out his friend had read that book and all the others on the subject in the library.

Not one to be dismayed, Ashley immersed himself in the tactic and the strategy of the game. Everyday for hours on end, he and his friend waged nothing short of epic chess wars until young Maurice saw the momentum changing. He also saw his skills exceeding past all of his wildest expectations. After becoming a master among his peers, he ventured into the cold cruel world of New York Chess in the parks.  Cypher after cypher, rivalry after rivalry, he fought them all until he emerged victorious.

But the block was not enough for young Maurice. Like Julius Ceasar, he wanted to conquer all beyond the rubicon. The chessboard was no longer just an external apparatus with plastic pieces. It was now his very essence. The game was no longer on him. It was now in him. He now saw the world as his competition. And thus he began a heroic journey on the road to becoming a Grandmaster. His first brush with destiny occurred in 1992 when he shared the United States Chess title with  Maxim Dlurgy. For the next 7 years he went from opponent to opponent; winning, losing, drawing, but always coming back to fight the another day.

He slugged his way through the mire of obstacles until March 14, 1999 when he beat Adrian Negulescu to obtain the title of Grandmaster.  6 months later he founded the Harlem Chess Center where he taught kids in the hood strategies of life over a chessboard. He also taught them chess…lol.  He guided the Raging Rooks of Harlem and the Dark Knights of Harlem to national chess titles. He is the most sought after chess coach in Hip Hop. He has taught everyone from the GZA to Will Smith. His accomplishments were so numerous that he was profiled on CNN’s Black In America. In the Fall of 2012, Ashley was appointed Director’s Fellow at the MIT Media Lab at Harvard University.

Never content with mediocrity in the game, Grandmaster Ashley organized the highest stakes chess tournament in history: The Millionaire Chess Open. The tournament took place on October 9-13 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the aftermath of the riots in Ferguson, the Grandmaster showed his opening game when he partnered with the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis and Ascension to create a program for kids in the Ferguson community. The program supports after school chess in the Florissant-Ferguson School District.  His goal? To expand the program on a national level.

In 2016, he obtained chess immortality when he was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame. Grandmaster Ashley rose from the streets of Park Slope to become a global strategist in Chess as well as life. He teaches these strategies in his classes to young disadvantaged kids in the Black Community. He uses chess to teach kids about such themes as delaying instant gratification in favor of long term planning and success. He’s not a simple would be street philosopher embracing the sport for the purpose of flaunting his intelligence. His accomplishments and objectives prove him to be one of the greatest minds in the history of the culture. He is a gift not only to black people. He is a gift to the world.

Tony Maceo is a Senior Blogger at the For more articles, catch me at power and strategy. Like, share and join the mailing list on the site for new articles and podcasts. Subscribe to the You Tube Channel @ power and strategy or like our facebook page. Also check out our chess supplies for sale on the site. All supplies are drop-shipped and included shipping and handling. Till Next time, i’ll holla!

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