Ashley: 'Chess is intellectual karate!'

11/16/2010 – Maurice Ashley is a US grandmaster, commentator and teacher, one of the best in the world. He is also the author of one of our most popular Fritz Trainers ("Aikido chess"). In a remarkable 24-minute "Big Think" interview – of the very highest technical quality, we may add – Maurice gives us insights into his career and his chess thinking. Very revealing, very entertaining – must watch.

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These Big Think interviews are very unusual and formally interesting. The subject is in front of a white background and filmed in high quality – try maximising the screen for the full effect. The questions are not spoken but appear as text on the screen between the segments. That means you only ever hear the voice of the person being interviewed, making it a very nice personal experience. Click on the image above to proceed to the interviews.

You can start any of the five parts of this interview – with a total length of almost 24 minutes – and listen to it at your leasure. Maurice speaks an English that is very clear accessible to people all over the world, and he is highly entertaining. Here's a sample (don't miss the final segment):

Question: What drew you to the game?

Maurice Ashley: I love to win. I’m very competitive in most games, but I think also the beauty of the game. There was something about it, the pieces, the shapes, something about them coordinating together and trying to get the other guy. I think most people are fascinated by chess for that reason. It’s just these mystical shapes. It’s almost like Harry Potteresque, like wizard’s chess in a way. The pieces come alive and you’re the sorcerer. You’re the magician and you get to do what you want with them and hopefully you don’t screw it up.

Question: You come from a competitive family?

Maurice Ashley: Oh yeah, I have some pretty hardcore brothers and sisters. My brother, oldest brother Devon, he is a kickboxing champion. He has been three time world champion in his weight class and my sister Alicia, she is a three time world champion boxer as well, so we stay away from our own sports when we get together. We play like cards and dominoes, traditional Jamaican games. I’m from Jamaica originally, things that are not our specialty, but even when we play those games we’re super competitive. It’s like it’s trash talking and trying to win and that is like family time in the Ashley household.

Question: But you found a way to channel your aggression into chess?

Maurice Ashley: Yeah, I don’t like getting hit for one, although you know I did take Aikido for many years, but Aikido is a different kind of martial art, maybe even a more cerebral art because it’s all about redirecting the energies of your opponent instead of trying to bash your opponent’s head in effectively, so it’s a much more loving art, so I guess I tend that way normally anyway.

Question: What does it take to play top-level chess?

Maurice Ashley: I think that chess grandmasters come in all shapes and sizes, stripes, different personalities. You have your types that are hyper aggressive killers, I mean gangsters really, guy who just don’t care. They want to rip your heart out, cook it, and eat it later. You know you have those types in the chess world where they just go straight for the throat and that is their natural personality and you have other types that are more like boa constrictors, the quiet types. They got you. You’re going to die. It’s okay, relax. This won’t be… It will be slow and maybe it will be painful, but you know it’s over, so just enjoy the death. So you don’t see the same types in the chess world, but I think that competitiveness is one quality though, definitely people who want to win, people who are about victory and if you’re not truly determined, if you’re not the kind of person who sees a goal and goes right after it and will work any amount of time, any amount of hours just to make sure that happens you can’t be a chess grandmaster. I think that is first, determination and competitiveness.


Maurice Ashley: The Secret to Chess

How Grandmasters Find Amazing Moves

Most chess fans believe that knowledge of the opening, middlegame and endgame is what separates grandmasters from everyone else. While all of these are important, the truth is much more profound: top players all have a deep insight into how to think about chess in ways that most players have never heard of

On this Fritz-Trainer DVD, Maurice Ashley reveals a simple idea that will forever change the way that you see chess. He shares the secret he discovered on his path to the grandmaster title, a secret that every player must understand in order to reach the highest level. Introducing a new term, “Drawback Chess“, he shows that chess is often not about looking for a winning move, but more about searching to find the flaws hidden deep inside your opponent‘s moves. With instructive examples and engaging practice positions, all explained with a clarity that anyone can understand, Maurice opens the door to a grandmaster‘s thinking process that will put you on the path to real chess improvement. Video running time: four hours.

One of the first lessons by Maurice. You can see it in better resolution here.

Maurice Ashley is an International Grandmaster, well known for his dynamic brand of chess commentary and effective coaching style. He was a commentator for the Anand-Kasparov World Championship match as well as all of Kasparov‘s epic computer matches. Next Friday (September 10th) he will be the commentator in the G-Star RAW World Chess Challenge in which Magnus Carlsen will take on the whole world in a one-day match.

You can order Maurice Ashley's "The Secret to Chess" in the ChessBase shop.


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