Ashley Inspires Budding Chess Coaches Via ChessWorks
By Jamaal Abdul-Alim   
October 13, 2011
Washington, D.C. -- When it comes to chess programs, many deal with teaching youths the skills necessary to get a checkmate.

An innovative program unveiled this week by the U.S. Chess Center will take things to another level and give about 30 youths the chance to get a check -- as in a paycheck.

The program -- called ChessWorks -- is the brainchild of GM Maurice Ashley, who was on hand at the U.S. Chess Center Tuesday to inaugurate the program. Through the program, about 30 high school students who are former proteges at the center will get the training needed to return to the center as paid assistant chess instructors.

After playing a simultaneous exhibition against 30 of the center’s students, all of whom he checkmated in about an hour or so, then checkmating another youth during a game of blindfolded chess, Ashley shared some of the life experiences that ultimately led him to suggest the creation of the program to U.S. Chess Center founder and president David Mehler, who embraced the idea and hopes to launch the program later this year.

The story begins back in high school, when Ashley got his first taste of defeat in the game of chess.

“I got my butt whooped,” Ashley said of the experience, which led him to read a book on chess in hopes of using the knowledge in the book to emerge victorious during the next game.

He ended up getting beat again.
“I went back and played him again, and found out he had not only read that book but nine others,” Ashley told the students. “That’s when I realized that knowledge is power.”

Ashley committed to learn more about the game of chess, and eventually landed a job teaching chess for $50 an hour. This was, of course, before he ultimately went on to chess stardom.

Ashley told the students that through dedication and focus, they could become paid chess instructors as well.

“You may not get $50 an hour,” Ashley cautioned, but they could nevertheless get paid.

Ashley first suggested the idea to train youths to become paid chess instructors a few years back during a conversation with a colleague in Belize, where Ashley does chess training for youth, but the colleague wasn’t in a position to make the program a reality.

Ashley suggested the idea again to Mehler this past spring at the National Elementary Championship, and Mehler liked it.

Bringing Ashley to the Chess Center to have him kick off the program this week was essentially the opening move in making the program a reality.

In order to reach the next stage, Mehler must maneuver his way through what could be a tough middle game, where one of the primary tasks at hand is to secure funding.

The end game will involve getting the youths hired and trained as certified chess coaches through the United States Chess Federation.

After that, the idea is for the checkmates -- and the checks -- to start rolling in.

“The idea is you get motivated to do what it takes to become a teacher,” Ashley said.

He told the students -- all of whom are prospective candidates for the program -- that by learning chess well enough to teach it, it will help them in other areas as well.

“The game develops all of the skills that you need to be successful in life,” Ashley said.

See Ashley's blindfold game against former U.S. Chess Center student Sophia Mortensen, 18.


Also see the Washington Post for a report on Ashley's simul.