On this day in 1999, Maurice Ashley became the first Black chess player to earn rank of Grand Master


In this April 12, 2016 photo, chess grandmaster Maurice Ashley talks during an interview at Chess Forum in New York. The Brooklyn resident has been inducted to the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
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Maurice Ashley became the first Black chess player to earn the rank of International Grand Master on March 15, 1999. It is the highest designation made by the World Chess Federation and is only handed out to a limited number of players worldwide based on their aptitude. Once it is given, the title is held for life.

Ashley graduated from the College of the City of New York in New York City and played chess on the school’s intercollegiate team. He also opened the Harlem Chess Center in New York City in 1999.

Continuing his advocacy for the game, he wrote the book “Chess for Success: Using an Old Game to Build New Strengths in Children and Teens” in 2005. He has traveled around the world promoting the benefits chess can have for young people.

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