Jamaican-born Maurice Ashley started playing chess at the age of 14, and by 33, he became the first black person to achieve the title of Grandmaster. And now – he is the first black person to be inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame on April 13, 2016.
Ashley is now a famous personality as a commentator and organiser of the Millionaire Chess Open, but his chess accomplishments are also very significant.
Born in St. Andrew, Jamaica, Ashley became the first black Grandmaster in the world in 1999. His contributions to chess in New York and the United States cannot be overstated.
Raised in the tough streets of Brownsville, Brooklyn, Ashley discovered his love of chess at the age of 14 after a high school friend challenged and beat him in a contest. From that point on, Ashley immersed himself in every aspect of the game as a player, coach, instructor, lecturer and ESPN commentator.
In 2005, he organized the HB Global Chess Challenge with (at the time) the largest prize fund of US$500,000.
Congrats @MauriceAshley inducted into @WorldChessHOF; w/fam and mom Thelma of Jamaica! What tearful/humble speech! pic.twitter.com/97pMfPTFdQ
— Devil’s Advocate (@GentryTrotter) April 14, 2016
In 2014, Ashley launched Millionaire Chess, a tournament offering $1,000,000 in prize money, the richest in chess history, with his business partner, Amy Lee, an entrepreneur from Canada, in the hope of gradually building a global audience and turning the game into a lucrative entertainment business, just like poker.
His stance to make chess exciting and TV-friendly has been his mantra for more than a decade. His contributions and ideas have been invaluable.