K. K. Karanja

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Kangugi "K. K." Karanja (born November 23, 1973) is a chess player regarded as the first African-American chess prodigy. He became a US Chess Federation Candidate Master at the age of 10, the youngest African-American to do so.[1]

Kangugi wa Karanja
Full name Kangugi wa Karanja
Country United States / Kenya
Born November 23, 1973
New York, USA
Title USCF National Master


Championships and Awards[edit]

In 1985 at the age of 11, he won the National Elementary Chess Championship with a perfect 7-0 score (seven wins and no losses), becoming the first African-American to win a national scholastic title and the second African-American to win a national chess championship (Frank Street, Jr. was the first, winning the 1965 US Amateur Championship).[2][citation needed]

In 1985, Karanja also received the Laura Aspis Prize, granted annually to the top USCF-rated player under the age of 13.[3] Karanja qualified as the United States representative for the 1986 World Under-14 Chess Championship in San Juan, Puerto Rico.[4]

In 1987, Karanja was selected to the inaugural All-America Chess Team, which recognizes the top 0.1-0.2 percent of chess players age 18 years and younger.[5] He was the first African-American to make the team, with only four having qualified since: Shearwood McClelland III in 1995, Justus Williams and Josh Colas in 2010, and James Black, Jr. in 2011.[6][7] Karanja also qualified for the 1987 U.S. Cadet Championship where only the top eight players under age 16 are invited to compete.[8]

Other events and achievements[edit]

In 1988, Karanja was selected to participate in a simultaneous exhibition held by Grandmaster and World Champion Garry Kasparov in New York, during Kasparov's first visit to America.[9] Of the 59 players to compete against Kasparov, only Karanja and fellow prodigy Josh Waitzkin held Kasparov to draws (the other 57 players lost).[10][11]

In 1989, at the age of 15 years and 7 months, Karanja became a chess master, becoming the second youngest African-American at the time to achieve that feat behind Howard Daniels (15 years, 4 months).[1] He subsequently attended Carleton College.[8]

A sample of Karanja's ability is evidenced in the following game from the 1987 United States Cadet Chess Championship.[12]


Karanja retired from tournament play in 1990 with a rating of 2193. Karanja has written one book on chess and while living in Kenya was active in promoting chess.[1]


External links[edit]