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International chess champ coming to Cleveland

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Maurice Ashley is passionate about chess. On Saturday, October 26 at Cleveland State University, Ashley will be in the midst of a sea of chessboards at the Cleveland Scholastic Chess Open, sponsored by the Delta Alpha Lambda chapter of Alpha Phil Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Registration is open to students in grades K-12. Click here for more details.

Ashley was named International Chess Grandmaster in 1999. He was the first and is still the only African American to hold that rank. On Friday evening--a day before the Cleveland Open at CSU--Ashley will play 25 players at a one time, called simultaneous exhibition at the metro campus of Cuyahoga Community College. The cost to play is $25. Spectators are welcome.

I talked with Ashley about his love for the game and how his journey began. Ashley told me his older brother showed him how to play the game, but it wasn’t until high school that he REALLY got serious about chess.

“I would play with a friend and he crushed me,” Ashley stressed. Determined to squash that, Ashley went to the library and checked out a book and began studying chess. And as the saying goes, the rest is history.

Currently, he teaches chess at Automotive High School in Brooklyn, NY. Ashley says of this opportunity, “Teaching high school is the best job I’ve ever had. The students realize this game has far reaching benefits.” Benefits like critical thinking and making good decisions.

Ashley elaborates:

“If you sit at a chessboard, you have to decide on every move, your reason behind that move and potential consequences behind that move. It’s rare in life that you’re challenged to make critical decisions. Chess prepares you regularly for those decisions and you have to live with your decisions--how to become a great decision maker under pressure. It teaches you that you are NOT as important as other people. If you miss a winning move for yourself, the game continues. You might get another chance. If you miss your opponent’s move in the game, you’re done. The game is over. Lights out. You have to constantly think of the other person. You have to get inside the mind of the other person; otherwise you can’t play the game. Today, we’re so into ourselves. This [chess] is something that benefits you in life, the business world, personal relations, all of your interactions. Yeah, your stuff is important, but it’s so much more important to think about what that other person is thinking."

To parents, his advice is simple. “You want your kids to be make good decisions; to stop and think before they move? Then you want them to learn chess.”

Having grown up in Brooklyn, Ashley knows chess was a positive outlet for him. He could have easily succumbed to the streets. “Chess kept me inside,” Ashley said.

Chess has opened many doors for Ashley. He’s the world’s premier and live chess commentator for ESPN. He’s a two-time author, a motivational speaker, and iPhone app designer. His app, Learn Chess! with Maurice Ashley, has been sold in more than 30 countries.

While he’s proud of all his accomplishments, Ashley told me he's looking forward to doing more. He’s working on a new app., new books, as well as a program to bring chess to churches.

He applauds the Delta Alpha Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity for sponsoring the event at Cleveland State University. Some of the prizes include: iPads, Kindles, scholarships, internships and jobs.

Alpha member and event organizer Tony Dunlap says the goal is to expose as many African American children and children in general to the game of chess. He adds parents need to know there are more ways than just sports for their children to get money for college. Chess is one of those ways.

“When I heard about what the chapter was doing, it was a no-brainer for me. Their main mission is to serve kids and that’s what I’m about,” Ashley said. “Chess is ageless. It has no limitations. It’s not like a sport. It brings families together. To see someone doing it with this kind of passion, he’s [Tony Dunlap] to be applauded.”

This is the second year the Delta Alpha Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha has sponsored the Cleveland Scholastic Open. Ashley looks forward to the event and meeting chess participants.

“The fraternity has a great mission. Their heart is in the right place. There’s magic in helping young people and they’re doing it through the magic of chess.”

For tournament information, call 440.339.6340 or to register, click here.

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