GM Maurice Ashley on the Tim Ferriss Show

by Arne Kaehler
7/30/2020 – For a number of years now, bestselling author Tim Ferriss has hosted a very successful podcast. Chess is a reccurring theme, and people like “Wunderkind” Josh Waitzkin and Adam Robinson (a very close friend of Bobby Fischer’s) have been guests on the show. It is no secret that Tim and Maurice have been friends for a very long time. The podcast episode doesn’t disappoint at all, and we can learn a lot about top commentator and grandmaster Maurice Ashley.

Mating Patterns Mating Patterns

On this DVD, Grandmaster and worldrenowned commentator Maurice Ashley reviews some of the most interesting patterns with examples meant to educate and entertain.


Tim Ferriss and his podcast

Tim Ferriss, a very successful entrepreneur, is the bestselling author of the famous self-development book "The 4-Hour Workweek". After making fortunate investments in start-up businesses and writing more books, he began to slow down and starting taking more care of his own health.

The author decided to start a podcast on his own terms, interviewing friends and interesting people he had met in the past. The podcast quickly became one of the most heard US podcasts ever. The likes of Paulo Coelho, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Seth Godin, Hugh Jackman, Sam Harris and Jamie Foxx gave interviews with delight.

I highly recommend his podcast, which I’ve been following since the very first episode (which is pretty bad, but funny). I’ve added some chess-based episodes in the links section below — they are worth listening to, trust my word!

Maurice Ashley

Josh Waitzkin brought Tim Ferriss and Maurice Ashley together and their friendship remains strong. This YouTube clip shows both players in New York, with Ashley competing against a chess ‘hustler’. (Article on ChessBase, including the game).

Minute 2:20 is hilarious! (Tim Ferriss in the background)

It took a while until the grandmaster finally joined the “Tim Ferriss Show”, but here it is:

GM Maurice Ashley on the Magic of Chess, the Art of Trash-Talking, Must-Read Biographies, and More

Show notes (from the website)

  • The Maurice Ashley origin story. [06:59]
  • Competition runs strong in the Ashley family. [09:55]
  • Why did Maurice’s family make the move to the US from Jamaica? Why did it involve a separation from their mother for 10 years, and what was it like to finally be reunited? [12:02]
  • What neighborhood in the US became home, and how did chess enter the picture for young Maurice? [15:29]
  • How a library book and a worthy opponent changed the way Maurice thought about chess. [18:17]
  • What was the Black Bear School? [19:58]
  • Blitz chess vs. classical chess. [23:25]
  • The Maurice Ashley guide to trash-talking. [25:46]
  • As the youngest member of the Black Bear School, what did Maurice see as the biggest setback keeping his older peers from truly excelling, and how did he evolve after “graduating” from their ranks? [30:18]
  • How did the atmosphere of a venerable chess club compare to what Maurice had, up to that point, been used to? [32:53]
  • Frustrated along the way on his quest to become a Grandmaster, what did Maurice learn from Tiger Woods that kept him in the game? [33:45]
  • At this time, how did Maurice’s frustration and depression around getting stuck in a rut transmute into the inspiration he needed to emerge from that rut? [36:04]
  • How does someone become a Master, Grandmaster, or any title in between? [39:29]
  • After teaching, commentating, and writing, how did Maurice get back into training shape to pursue his Grandmaster goal — and what technological advantage did he have in 1997 that he didn’t have in his Black Bear School days? [42:30]
  • How does Maurice suggest building mental and physical stamina for high-level chess (and why might you be hard-pressed to find a top-level player who could be considered overweight)? [47:00]
  • How does Maurice tie the disciplines of aikido and chess together? [50:38]
  • How did the experience of finally achieving the coveted Grandmaster title hit Maurice? What was the view like from the top of that mountain, and where could he possibly go after that? [53:31]
  • How does Maurice get kids hooked on chess, what does he get out of teaching, and what have been his most memorable teams? [57:02]
  • Why has chess remained popular for 1,500 years –and even seems to be increasing in popularity in the age of COVID-19? [58:31]
  • What would Maurice suggest to a relative chess beginner who doesn’t necessarily aspire to be a Grandmaster, but just wants to become competent at the game? [1:01:37]
  • Using puzzles to expand your repertoire and confidence. [1:03:38]
  • Recommended reading (for chess and general inspiration). [1:05:49]
  • How Maurice is processing the social unrest of 2020. [1:13:29]
  • How would Maurice hope to offset the tyranny of the majority in a way that makes America more just and equitable for all Americans — not just most Americans? [1:19:29]
  • As someone who’s spent time as an educator, where does Maurice feel our current educational models are most woefully lacking? [1:24:40]
  • How nonprofits DonorsChoose and QuestBridge are trying to help provide resources to teachers and students in underserved communities — now even more in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. [1:29:49]
  • Maurice expands on books he was kind enough to mention in Tribe of Mentors as having an impact on him. [1:33:02]
  • On being flexible, embracing uncertainty, and living out of a suitcase (though the timing might not be ideal). [1:39:50]
  • Maurice has never been afraid to say “I don’t know.” So where does salsa dancing, telenovelas, and Pluto fit into all of this? [1:42:09]
  • Parting thoughts and talking trash. [1:49:18]


Mating Patterns

On this DVD, Grandmaster and worldrenowned commentator Maurice Ashley reviews some of the most interesting patterns with examples meant to educate and entertain.


Arne Kaehler, a creative mind who is passionate about board games in general, was born in Hamburg and learned to play chess at a young age. By teaching chess to youth teams and creating chess-related videos on YouTube, Arne was able to expand this passion and has even created an online course for anyone who wants to learn how to play chess. Arne writes for the English and German news sites, but focuses mainly on content for the ChessBase media channels.


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