Ashley's Caribbean Chess Tour: US Virgin Islands

by ChessBase
1/18/2012 – As previously reported the special chess promotional tour of Maurice Ashley took him to Martinique, Guadeloupe and Jamaica. Today the world's first African-American grandmaster tells us about his adventures in St Croix, where a 13-year-old talent, who had recently finished the Central American Games with a perfect 7-0, had him fighting for survival in a blindfold exhibition. Report and podcast.

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Before we come to Maurice Ashley's report here a very nice little piece we found:

You can listen to this interview by clicking on the image above. The replay page will open in a new tab, and you can return to our report with the podcast running in the background. The original article is on 90.9wbur Here & Now.

Caribbean Chess Tour: St Croix, US Virgin Islands

By GM Maurice Ashley

One very pleasant stop on my Caribbean Chess Tour was the lovely island of St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. I flew in on a tiny nine-seater, where a full plane meant that one of the passengers had to sit next to the pilot! In addition, our flying minivan had to maneuver its way through a fabulous storm; the thick grey clouds and intermittent flashes of lightning is a sight I will not soon forget.

After being picked up at the airport by the jovial Treasurer of the Federation, Anthony Mongiello, I was taken my room at the Palms at Pelican Cove, a jewel of a hotel nestled right up against the Caribbean sea. The view from my hotel room was breathtaking; it made me wonder why I continue to suffer those brutal winters in New York!

The next morning I had breakfast with longtime Federation president, Margaret Murphy. It was immediately clear that this was a woman of action, and her many chess titles would seem to barely do her justice (FIDE executive board member, FIDE Instructor, FIDE Arbiter, FIDE Ethics Committee Member). How she manages to keep her day job as a school teacher is beyond me!

Margaret quickly expressed what seems to be a common refrain of the other islands I visited: chess is not nearly as popular as other activities, and therefore the local government does not pay it too much attention nor gives it any real support. Folks like Margaret while away without any recognition for their efforts; it’s a wonder they continue to perform the service to chess that they do (Margaret has been president since 1995). This was one of the major reasons for doing this tour, to see if my presence might be able to make some small difference in getting attention for chess and its adherents in these too often overlooked locales. Seeing the small number of media and political contacts who had shown up to chess events so far, I was becoming less certain if my expectations for a short visit were simply too high.

Margaret Murphy watching a simul exhibition I gave for kids

After breakfast, Margaret and I headed to a nearby shopping mall where a stage and chairs had been set up in a covered outdoor space for my presentation. Approximately 120 children from various school chess programs around the country had been invited, and my arrival seemed to be met with a lot of enthusiasm. The rainstorm from the night before was still in the area; every few minutes of my talk would be met by a sudden torrential downpour that would whip sideways and spray the children sitting on the outskirts. Still, the students braved the conditions and paid rapt attention to my speech throughout. If there is one place I am in my element it’s in front of a group of young people talking about chess. It helped that I had my app being projected onto a screen behind me. As is my wont, I purposely embarrassed a few of the kids by pulling them to the stage to solve some of the puzzles. One seventh grader got the thrill of his life after he solved a puzzle that had stumped three twelfth graders. He actually threw up his hands as though he had scored a touchdown!

A blindfold exhibition that encountered unexpected resistance from a great talent...

... Hazel Acosta, 13, who won her section in the Central American Games 7-0

Afterwards, I decided to treat the audience to a blindfold exhibition. Little did I know how strong my opponent would be. Women’s Candidate Master Hazel Acosta, all of thirteen years old, just happened to be a gold medalist in her age group after going a perfect 7-0 at the recently concluded Central American Games, held in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I relaxed after winning a pawn off her in the opening, only to blunder a piece being greedy a few moves later. Lucky for me the game was G/10, so I was able to press her on the clock and cause her to run out of time in a winning position. Needless to say, this girl is going places!

Later that evening, I was the special guest at a Meet and Greet held back at the Palms. Twenty or so chess supporters (unfortunately no politicians or potential sponsors) came out to hear me speak about my life and to pepper me with questions. The delicious food and drinks flowed freely, and all in attendance had a great time.

At the end, we were treated to a special night in the restaurant. The Moko Jumbies, dancing masked stilt walkers meant to ward off evil spirits and bad tidings, were out in force kept everyone entertained with their skillful and precarious-looking balancing acts.

Young chess enthusiasts with ChessBase training DVDs I took as motivational gifts

Afterwards, Margaret and I spent some time discussing the possibilities to truly promote chess in places such as these. As difficult a task as it is, I have no doubt that there is great potential for spreading the word to kids all over the island. I’m already looking forward to going back to this piece of paradise to help the good folks there like Margaret promote chess to the mass of children who could benefit from our royal game.

Recent DVD by Maurice Ashley

Many times, when a top player blunders, it is routinely described by the esoteric term “chess blindness“. In this series What Grandmasters Don‘t See, chess trainer and worldclass commentator Maurice Ashley strips away the myth and for the first time explains why the root of these mistakes is more often based in the psychology of human learning.

In this DVD, the third volume of the three part series, Ashley completes his idea of Protected Squares from Volume 1, showing that squares seemingly guarded by pieces are often the breeding ground of amazing tactical oversights. He also blends the themes from all three volumes to give a thorough picture of the key ways that the viewer can exploit the typical mistakes by players of all levels. In the first half of the DVD, Ashley uses brilliant games and positions to explain each lesson in his dynamic commentary style. The second half of the DVD is filled with examples to test the viewer, with a series of exercises of increasing difficulty. The material is drawn both from classic and from recent games. Video running time: 3 hours 45 min.

Sample video

Some previous ChessBase articles on Maurice Ashley

Ashley in Jamaica – Caribbean Chess Tour of a GM
28.12.2011 – GM Maurice Ashley, who in 1999 became the first African-American grandmaster of chess, was born in Jamaica, where he spent the first twelve years of his life. Returning to his first home – and meeting an uncle for the first time – was the hightlight of a Caribbean tour, and involved promoting the "Magnificent Chess Foundation". Even the new Prime Minister Andrew Holness supports it.
Ashley in Guadeloupe – Caribbean Chess Tour of a GM
28.11.2011 – GM Maurice Ashley, who in 1999 was the first African-American to attain the coveted title of International grandmaster of chess, has become an ambassador of the game. On his Caribbean Chess Tour, after visiting Martinique, he went on the incredible tropical island of Guadeloupe – and found a similar amount of enthusiasm for the game there. Here is his pictorial report on the trip.
Ashley in Martinique – GM bearing gifts
23.11.2011 – In 1999 Maurice Ashley was the first African-American to attain the coveted title of International Grandmaster of Chess, and he has become an ambassador of the game, especially in the Caribbean area. Recently he embarked on a Caribbean Chess Tour, where his first stop was Martinique. He motivated local school children with simultaneous games and gifts from the ChessBase shop.
Maurice Ashley: What Grandmasters Don't See
21.10.2011 – "Maurice Ashley scores again as favorite teacher with this DVD," writes Steven Dowd. "Ashley teaches with a entertainingly fast pace, is quick to crack a good joke, and simply relates well to the audience. If there really were a ChessBase University, Ashley would be a candidate for teacher of the year, and would be my hands-down choice to win." Review in Chess Cafe.
Maurice Ashley rounds up Bilbao today!
08.10.2011 – This afternoon from New York, at 4 PM EST and 10 PM Paris, the dynamic and popular commentator GM Maurice Ashley will be the guest host of the Bilbao round up show on Playchess, where he will not only summarize the action of the day, but he will also take questions from the spectators. This show is free for Premium subscribers so consider upgrading if you haven't already. Don't miss it!
Belize: painted faces and chess on stilts
30.06.2011 – The Central American nation, south of Mexico, has a population of just 333,000. But in this country, with its spectacular abundance of terrestrial and marine species, chess has become a national passtime. Last May the best players from each district throughout Belize met for what they call a "Chess Olympiad". A special guest at the event, GM Maurice Ashley, sent us this beautiful pictorial report.
Final round in Monaco starts at 12:30 p.m.
24.03.2011 – We don't want you to miss a minute of it: so for your information on the final day of the 20th Amber Blindfold and Rapid tournament play begins two hours earlier than usual – at 12:30 p.m. CET instead of 14:30. While you are waiting, or in the pauses between the games, you might want to watch commentary by GMs Maurice Ashley and Daniel King in previous rounds. All on Playchess.
Ashley: 'Chess is intellectual karate!'
16.11.2010 – 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.
Ashley’s Secret: Aikido Chess!
20.10.2010 – American GM Maurice Ashley is one of the games premier commentators. He has authored books, traveled the world promoting the virtues of chess and has recently released a DVD in partnership with ChessBase. It offers a new and general strategy: look for what your opponents last move did that actually hurt his position. Review by Michael Jeffreys.
Maurice Ashley: The Secret to Chess
08.10.2010 – Since going into a self-imposed hiatus from tournament chess, GM Maurice Ashley has not rested on his laurels as arguably one of the game's premier commentators. He has authored a couple of books, traveled the world promoting the virtues of chess and has recently released another DVD in partnership with ChessBase. Review in Chess Drum.
Magnus pounds The World in RAW Chess Challenge
12.09.2010 – It was the chess spectacle of the year. Tens of thousands of spectators joined three strong grandmasters to play the world's highest ranked player Magnus Carlsen. The event took place in a penthouse overlooking New York City, with GMs Maurice Ashley and Garry Kasparov commenting, and Hollywood actress Liv Tyler dropping in. We bring you pictures and the annotated game.
Maurice Ashley: The Secret to Chess
02.09.2010 – This is one you really do not want to miss. Star international trainer and commentator Maurice Ashley reveals a secret he discovered on his way to becoming a chess grandmaster. It is a simple idea that anyone can understand – something that you can use immediately to improve your game. Maurice's entertaining style and great clarity make this a first class DVD. Here's a sample lesson.
Ashley on CNN: 'I just knew I would be a great chess player'
10.07.2008 – Maurice Ashley is the first black chess grandmaster in history. He is also one of the games finest ambassadors, an ardent spokesman and advocate of the intellectual and character building effects in young people for over 15 years. In a short CNN report, part of the series on "Black in America", he speaks about the driving forces in his life and his career. We bring you Maurice unsquished.
Maurice Ashley on Hip Hop, GZA and Will Smith
08.07.2006 – He is the first black grandmaster in history, and also an extraordinary chess teacher, an organiser and a friend of the stars. In this indepth interview by Adisa Banjoko, the "Bishop of Hip Hop", Maurice Ashley tells about his life, his likes and his encounters with GZA and Will Smith. Fascinating stuff.


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