Now here’s some good and inspirational news for everyone: three African American teenaged boys are among the youngest players to ever be named chess masters, each obtaining this advanced rank before their thirteenth birthday. The article in today’s New York Times, found here, notes that these three young men, Justus Williams, Joshua Colas and James Black, Jr., while rivals, are all friends and all live in the New York City area. They understand that they are, as James noted, “pioneers for African American kids who want to take up chess”, and they are comfortable in this role. James’ father, James Black, says that all of the boys’ parents acknowledge what their sons represent. The parents are careful not to pressure their sons too much, but the boys know “that pressure comes along with the territory”.

The boys study chess with professional grandmaster coaches, a fairly expensive endeavor, which the families have found sponsors for or paid for themselves. The boys all aspire to be grandmasters by the time they graduate from high school, which only a few dozen players of any race have ever done. Maurice Ashley, the only African American to have ever earned the top title of grandmaster, is now 45, and he earned this title at age 34. He is very impressed with these young men, but is not sure that their success will inspire other young African Amercians to play, noting “chess isn’t that big in the African American community.” But he is pleased to watch the phenomenal rise of the young masters. As he states in the article, “It is special, and that we know for a fact”.

These are the kind of stories we at GCP love to bring to your attention: young black men excelling in a field which they are passionate about, being solidly supported by their families. Congrats to the boys and their families!