First black chess grandmaster visits, inspires SCS students - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

First black chess grandmaster visits, inspires SCS students

(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Maurice Ashley (Source: WMC Action News 5) Maurice Ashley (Source: WMC Action News 5)
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -

When it comes to the game of chess, Maurice Ashley is known as one of the world's best. Tuesday, he visited Shelby County Schools to teach a master class.

Students at Douglas Optional School said it was more than encouraging to have Ashley teach them a thing or two about the game of life.

"You only have one king for sure, and once you lose the king, it's over," Douglas chess team member Jalen Dodge said. "So try to make the best moves."

One wrong decision and it could be your last.

It is a reality many children face daily when confronted with the temptations of the streets of Memphis.

It is also a familiar reality for Ashley, who grew up a poor Jamaican immigrant in Brooklyn, New York, surrounded by gangs and drugs.

"To be able to come out of that experience and share that with students who may be in similar circumstance is quite an honor for me," Ashley said. "It's a blessing, and I feel it's a requirement to give back."

In 1999, Ashley became the world's first black chess grandmaster. He now uses chess to champion young people to avoid becoming a pawn.

"I think it's important, being African American, to be able to inspire others to know that they can blaze this trail and others," he said.

Douglass Optional K-8 and High School both have an award-winning chess program.

"You have to start extremely basic and once they get past the boring part then they can get to the exciting part of competing with one another," Douglas chess teacher Kuwane Turner.

Students apply chess strategies inside and outside the classroom, giving them an advantage over any opposition.

They earn trophies and scholarships while learning to think critically.

"It helps other people want to be in chess," chess team member Mya Davis said.

Ashley is an author and motivational speaker. During his stop at Douglas, he challenged 25 children to a simultaneous game of chess in front of a school-wide assembly.

Students said his visit helped motivate them to make their next move their best move.

"It means a lot knowing we didn't have to go to him," Dodge said. "He came to us, which is a big thing." 

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