Maurice Ashley 1st African-American Grand-Master Takes on 12 Members of BMCC Chess Club at Once

October 30, 2007

Maurice Asley

Maurice Ashley has been called the “Tiger Woods” of Chess. He made history when he became the first and only African-American to attain the coveted title of International Grand Master of Chess in 1999.

On Thursday, in celebration of CUNY Month, the Grand-Master will face BMCC’s Chess Club in an all-out simultaneous exhibition, which will take place near the Richard Harris Terrace in the Main Lobby at 199 Chambers Street. This event is part of the CUNY Month “Kickoff.” Deputy Borough President of Manhattan, Rose Pierre-Louis, will read a proclamation to begin the day’s events.

CUNY Month is the annual smorgasbord of educational, cultural, artistic and career oriented activities beginning on November 1st at CUNY colleges throughout New York.

Happenings to Celebrate CUNY Month

Other “happenings” in the Lobby will promote BMCC’s commitment to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines during CUNY Month. They are: The department of Science will build a model comet core that will be chemically and physically realistic; The Video-Arts Technology Program will hold an exhibit on student video and video graphics; The Multimedia Media Design Program will be displaying examples of digital graphics, website designs, and computer games; The Engineering Program will show off “Rosebud,” the BMCC engineering students’ human powered desalination machine that brought the team a championship; The Computer Information Systems Department will exhibit a kind of robot, called “autonomous agents” that will be programmed to find an exit out of a maze; and The department of Mathematics will show the scope of mathematics in modern society and recruit students to take Calculus; and BMCC’s Mathematics Team, which has competed and won several national competitions, will be asking you to “Solve a Math Problem and Win a Prize.”

Other exhibits will feature BMCC’s Health Information Technology Program (HIT), the C-STEP Program (Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program), which gives students the opportunity to research projects with faculty mentors, the Study Abroad Program, where students who qualify may receive a scholarship from the Student Government Association for summer study, BMCC’s Honor Society of Black Student Scholars, and a Student Services table, ready to respond to any question you have—whether about registration for Spring ’08 or what senior college is best for you, and even how to make the best career choice.

Interview with Maurice Ashley

In an interview with BMCC’s Office of Public Affairs, Ashley was asked about what he finds thrilling about a simultaneous exhibition. He said, “It’s amazing that coming up as a young player in Brooklyn and trying to find out any secrets about the game, that one day I would actually be doing something like playing multiple boards at the same time— it’s almost like a fantasy. It’s always fun to promote the game I love. I am so passionate about it and I take any opportunity that I get to showcase how fascinating the game is and how its top players are able to do some pretty interesting things.”

Ashley also said that he had been at BMCC during the 1990s when BMCC had championship chess teams that trounced the likes of Harvard and was commentator at rapid chess matches held at BMCC.

Asked how he prepare for a simultaneous exhibition, Ashley answered, tongue-in-cheek, that, “I get a good breakfast. You don’t know who is showing up. You just jump in the pool and swim with the sharks and hope that you are the biggest shark and they are scared of you and make some ridiculous blunder and make your life easy there is nothing to do to prepare for these things. I guess the best answer I can give is I have been preparing for this all my life so I walk in and do what I do.”

Ashley’s Career

Maurice Ashley makes appearances all over the country speaking to young people and adults about chess and its benefits. He graduated from City College as an English major and likes working with students and the CUNY community. He will be facing the BMCC Chess Club, which is a member of the Bankers’ Athletic League.

Born March 6, 1966 in St. Andrew, Jamaica, Maurice’s family moved to Brooklyn when he was 12 and he took up the game of chess after learning the moves from his brother.

Despite the fact that he couldn’t make his high school team at Brooklyn Tech, he began to play in local tournaments. Later he sharpened his game by playing a contingent of Black masters in the Black Bear Chess Club. Ashley’s progress was rapid as he earned the rank of National Master and later earned the rank of International Master in 1993.

After taking a break from his successful coaching career, he earned the title of Grand-Master at the Manhattan Invitation in March 1999 becoming the first U.S. player of African descent to earn the coveted title.

Ashley has been a constant subject in national and international media appearing on countless programs, and in addition, has achieved worldwide fame in the chess world by serving as commentator in the Kasparov-Short and Kasparov-Deep Blue matches. 

Ashley opened the Harlem Chess Center (September 1999) and attracted such celebrities to the center as former New York Knicks’ Larry Johnson, Kurt Thomas, Lavor Postell and Erick Strickland, as well as jazz great Wynton Marsalis and actor Will Smith.

In 2003, Ashley was named Grand-Master of the Year by the U.S. Chess Federation.

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