GM Ashley gives tips to Youth champs
By Jennifer Shahade   
August 26, 2006
GM Maurice Ashley and Darrian Robinson

On a summer day in New York City, Grandmaster Maurice Ashley met up with two promising American stars, 15-year-old Medina Parilla from the Bronx and 11-year-old Darrian Robinson from Brooklyn. Both girls will participate in the World Youth Championship in Batumi, Georgia (October 18-29,2006). It will be the first time two African-Americans participate in a World Youth team.

Maurice played blitz with both girls, and gave them numerous tips on preparing for such a high-level competition. First and foremost was his recommendation to study tactics incessantly. Maurice told them that he used to read a tactics book cover to cover, and then start back again at page one. He'd read it up to five times, just to hone his instincts for a major tournament.

Maurice Ashley and Medina Parrilla draw a crowd.

Second was his recommendation to play more blitz, noting that the girls seemed tentative in speed chess. (Of course, that might have had something to do with playing a GM and one of their heroes!) Maurice recalled how when he was a rising star, rated around 2400, he used to study all morning after which, "I'd come to Washington Square Park to play blitz, and give John Fedorowicz his lunch money." Maurice stayed motivated despite losing to "Fed", because he won about 2 out of 10 games in brilliant tactical style.

He also told them to focus on filling opening holes, rather than trying to overhaul their entire repertoires. As for endgames, he said that four months may not be enough to internalize deeper endgame knowledge.

Play! Play! Play! was his final advice.

Then he showed them a nice tactical motif, which he commented they'd likely spot instantly after five go-throughs of a tactics book. In a blitz game with Darrian, Maurice finished with this pretty mate:


This finish reminded Maurice of a puzzle from a blitz game that his friend, IM William Morrison, had sent to him.

White to Move and Win
[PUZZLE:43][/PUZZLE][PUZZLE:43]Click here for answer.[/PUZZLE]

Unfortunately, the blitz and advice session ended on a sour note when a fight erupted just a few feet away from the girls. Afterward, one regular, Simon, noted that the north, west and east side tables of the chess circle are where real chess takes place, while the south perimeter often hosts seedy dealings. "The fighting has been getting worse in the past couple years," said Simon. Maurice hurried the girls out of the park after the fight escalated, with several more men joining each side. Like most bystanders Medina was calm, commenting: "I've seen much worse in the Bronx."

The blitz session was rudely interrupted by a fight.

Despite this unpleasant incident, the meeting with one of America's greatest chess legends was a treat for two girls, who have been immersed in chess as long as they can remember. Both got started in programs sponsored by Chess-In-The-Schools, a New York based non-profit.

Darrian Robinson and Medina Parrilla.

Darrian has been coached by Elizabeth Vicary, GM Miron Sher, Greg and Jennifer Shahade and Irina Krush at her current school, I.S. 318 in Brooklyn. In 2005, she won the Under 10 division of the All Girls Nationals. Medina worked with IM Yury Lapshun and Fritz Gaspard for many years at the National Junior High School Championship team M.S. 118, as well as David MacEnulty at P.S. 70, also a national championship team. The Knights of the South Bronx is based on David's (played by Ted Danson) experiences teaching at 70. One of the fictional characters in the movie is loosely based on Medina.

This isn't Medina's first international outing. She has represented the United States in Greece and France. Here's a game from her first try, in 2003:


Darrian recently participated in the Pan-American Youth Games in Ecuador, her first international outing. She did well, earning 5/9. Here's a game:


For more information on Darrian, e-mail Cenceria Edwards at [email protected] To find out how to make a donation to defray costs of Medina and Darrian's trip and training, please go here (a special initiative on the chess drum website.) For all other comments or questions on this article, e-mail [email protected]