A Jamaican man has made history by becoming the first black American to be inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame, News Americas Now reports.
Maurice Ashley, who discovered his love of the game at age 14 and has also broken barriers as the first black person to be designated as a chess grandmaster was last Wednesday inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis.
Ashley, 50, got the call in January that he was being inducted, for his contributions as a player, coach and commentator.
“For me to hear that I’m being inducted for everything I’ve given to the game, that I’ve done to promote the game, that I’ve done to help young people play, and for the inspiration I’ve been, has just been absolutely incredible,” Ashley told The Associated Press in an interview at Chess Forum, an all-things-chess shop in Manhattan.
Ashley migrated from Saint Andrew, Jamaica to Brownsville, Brooklyn with his two other siblings at age 12. They reunited with their mother who had a decade earlier to carve out a better life for them in the U.S.
She worked as a nanny and later in a string of office clerk jobs to put her children through school. Ashley got serious about chess during his high school years and continued at New York’s City College. From the start, he wanted to be one of the grandmasters.
Ashley became a grandmaster in 1999 and is still the only black American to reach that status. He now makes a living from the game as a player, coach and author.
The U.S. Chess Federation Hall of Fame Committee considers candidates for the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame and sends its nominations to the U.S. Chess Trust each year. The trustees of the U.S. Chess Trust vote on who should be inducted. The induction itself take place either at the U.S. Chess Federation Awards Luncheon during the U.S. Open or at the World Chess Hall of Fame, which is now located in Saint Louis, Missouri. The induction is almost always performed by either the Chairman of the U.S. Chess Trust or the Chairman of the Hall of Fame Committee.
Current members of the committee are Harold Winston (Chairman), IM John Donaldson, John McCrary, Al Lawrence, GM Joel Benjamin, John Hilbert, WGM Jennifer Shahade, Shane Samole, and GM Andrew Soltis. McCrary and Donaldson are former Chairs of the Hall of Fame Committee. Both Benjamin and Soltis are members of the Hall of Fame. Samole was in charge of the Hall of Fame when it was located in Miami, Florida, from 2001-2009.