Budd Mishkin, journalist for the Spectrum News - NY1, produced an excellent video profile of Maurice Ashley
Who is this man, outsmarting the chess hustler in Washington Square Park?
He's Maurice Ashley. Chess superstar. Grandmaster. An entrepreneur who has organized the first million-dollar chess tournament. The first African-American inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame. Motivational speaker. Teacher. A pied piper who has charted a unique course to chess stardom.
"Chess is a hustle!" he says. "I'm either organizing a million-dollar tournament, or I'm in Africa meeting with folks there trying to bring chess to an impoverished place in the world. or I’m at a tournament with the best players on the planet doing commentary, or I’m here in Brooklyn in a classroom teaching chess."
Ashley learned the game growing up in Brooklyn. That's where you'll find him most days, introducing chess at the Wynn PAL site in Bedford-Stuyvesant and teaching chess at Automotive High School in Greenpoint.
"The main reason why I teach chess is to teach kids how to think more effectively," he says. "And there are so many life lessons that you take from the game. There are consequences to every single thing that you do."
In 1999, Ashley became the first African-American to become an international chess grandmaster, an accomplishment not lost on young chess lovers, especially in New York.
There is a sense of excitement around Ashley, like at the recent Maurice Ashley Chess Challenge in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. His story resonates with his students.
"Chess is a game. It has this magic that makes it easy to teach," he says. "And people tell me, well, what are your major obstacles? There are none. I just put down the chess board and talk to the kids about having a good time, and the kids just eat it up."
Maurice Ashley is all about giving back to his students, sharing his passion
I first met Maurice Ashley in 1994 while he was doing television commentary for a tournament at the Javits Center.
"When I do commentary, I don't even know what I’m saying," he says.
"People have to tell me that I make a certain sound. Apparently I say "boom" all the time. I'm in the middle of a match and, 'Boom, this guy is going to die.'"
He channels the chess environments of his youth.
"I grew up playing chess in the parks in Brooklyn. There was trash talking all the time," Ashley says.
"So I knew what it was like for chess to be dynamic, for it to not be quiet, for there to be a whole lot of aggression and braggadocio and fun. So once I got to doing commentary, I just took it over to the same thing."
Maurice Ashley plays NYC trash talker - The Tim Ferriss Experiment. This video has garnered well over 2 million views so far