Maurice Ashley

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For other people named Maurice Ashley, see Maurice Ashley (disambiguation).
Maurice Ashley
Maurice Ashley.jpg
Full name Maurice Ashley
Country United States
Born (1966-03-06) March 6, 1966 (age 49)
St. Andrew, Jamaica
Title Grandmaster
FIDE rating 2440 (November 2015)

Maurice Ashley (born March 6, 1966 in St. Andrew, Jamaica) is an American chess grandmaster, author, commentator, app designer, puzzle inventor, and motivational speaker. He is currently a Director's Fellow at the Media Lab at MIT. In 1992, Ashley shared the United States Game/10 chess championship with Maxim Dlugy.[1] FIDE awarded him the grandmaster title in 1999, making him the world's first African American chess grandmaster.[2] In 2005, he wrote the book Chess for Success, relating his experiences and the positive aspects of chess. He was the main organizer for the 2005 HB Global Chess Challenge, with the biggest cash prize in history for an open chess tournament.

Ashley is well known as a commentator for high-profile chess events. He was one of the commentators of the two matches between world champion Garry Kasparov and IBM's Deep Blue that took place in 1996 and 1997. He provided commentary for the Kasparov vs. Anand World Championship match in 1995, the 2013 and 2014 Sinquefield Cups, as well as several US Chess Championships. In 2003, Ashley hosted ESPN's broadcast of Kasparov's match against X3D Fritz.

Ashley attended Wolmer's Boys School in Jamaica, then moved to the United States when he was 12.[3] He graduated from City College of New York (CCNY), which he represented in intercollegiate team competition. Always promoting chess among youth, Ashley coached the Raging Rooks of Harlem, and the Dark Knights (also from Harlem), both of which have won national championships under his guidance. In September 1999, he founded the Harlem Chess Center,[2] which has attracted such celebrities as Larry Johnson[4] and Wynton Marsalis. Along with GM Susan Polgar, Ashley was named 2003 Grandmaster of the Year by the U.S. Chess Federation.

In 2003, Ashley wrote an essay The End of the Draw Offer?, which raised discussion about ways to avoid quick agreed draws in chess tournaments.

In 2007, Ashley returned to his birth country of Jamaica and became the first GM to ever participate in a tournament in that country. The tournament, a six round Swiss called the Frederick Cameron Open, was held at the Jamaica Conference center on the 15th and 16 December 2007. After sweeping a field consisting of several of Jamaica's top players and Barbadian FIDE master Philip Corbin, Ashley was upset in the final round by Jamaican National Master Jomo Pitterson. Ashley placed second on five points behind Pitterson (5.5).[3]

In 2008, Ashley was featured in an interview for the CNN documentary Black in America. He was shown during one scene in the film Brooklyn Castle mentoring a young chess player. He was mentioned in the chess movie Life of a King starring Cuba Gooding, Jr.

In 2013, Ashley announced he was planning the highest-stakes open chess tournament in history, Millionaire Chess Open. Its first edition took place October 9–13, 2014 in Las Vegas.

In 1993, Ashley married Michele Johnson. Their daughter Nia was born the following year and now attends Barnard College. Their son Jayden was born in 2002. The couple divorced in 2014.


  • "African continent GMs do exist; but, according to the system of racial classification, I am the first Black GM in history... it matters, and doesn't matter, all at the same time."[5]


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