Sunday, November 13, 2011

Masters of the Game

Let this story roll around in your head a bit and wipe out any remaining traces of stereotypes and assumptions.

Fewer than 2 percent of the 47,000 members of the United States Chess Federation are masters — and just 13 of them are under the age of 14.

Among that select group of prodigies are three black players from the New York City area — Justus Williams, Joshua Colas and James Black Jr. — who each became masters before their 13th birthdays...

Although they are rivals, the boys are also friends and share a sense that they are role models.

“I think of Justus, me and Josh as pioneers for African-American kids who want to take up chess,” James said.


  1. I feel a little better now. Maybe 15 years ago, I thought I was "ready." I participated in my first chess tournament.

    Game 1: I lost a hard fought well-played game.

    Game 2: I won. My opponent foolishly tried to play the Sicilian Defense without a good understanding of it. It is a very technical opening and should not be played by people at my and his level in tournament play.

    Game 3: Against Joshua Frank, age 14, a cake walk.

    He was fairly new to chess. In between official games, by pure coincidence, I play several games with him. He was very experimental, and got himself into bad situations with his adventurousness.

    As we sat down, he explained that he was watching how I handle such situations and that I had a specific weakness for queen side attacks. I did not expect that.

    As soon as the game began, he opened with an unexpectedly aggressive queen side attack. I was not concerned.

    Soon he started putting question marks by my moves as he notated them.

    Not long after that, I laid my king on its side.

    Those kids are the ones you have to watch out for. It was a lesson in humility for sure.

    I just Googled that kid. He is now rated above 2000, an expert according the World Chess Federation Ratings, one step below a master.

  2. Fascinating John - thanks for the story.

    I love hearing about how curious his mind was - and open to learning. I'd guess that is an imperative for any kind of "master."