Written by Michael Alison Chandler
A good chess match can be hard to find for an international grandmaster, so Maurice Ashley has spent most of his career growing his own competition.
Since becoming the first African American to win the elite title in 1999 according to the U.S. Chess Federation, the Jamaican-born New Yorker has traveled the country to promote the game of kings as a game for children.
He came to Washington this week to square off against 30 young chess players simultaneously on 30 chessboards in an exhibition organized by the District-based U.S. Chess Center.
"It's great to see these kids who think they have a chance," he said before heading in to face anxious students in school uniforms lined up in front of checkered boards. More and more kids do, he said. "I don't give them any games, though. They have to beat me."
Thirty-seven percent of U.S Chess Federation members are younger than 13, reflecting the strong interest of the elementary school set.
"Like a lot of sports, it's a younger man's game," said Chuck Lovingood, who oversees national tournaments for the Tennessee-based federation. "You run a little faster when you are young and you probably calculate a little faster."
Children — unburdened by grown-up responsibilities — have an added advantage, he said: the ability to empty their minds and achieve "total concentration on the game."
Read the rest of this article at the Washington Post.