5 Famous Black Chess Players

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Chess isn’t a mainstream sport. It’s also not popular within the black community. The game is largely white and is popular in countries like Russia, the United States of America and Ukraine.

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Despite the small numbers of black people in chess, those who’ve attempted it have produced phenomenal results. Let’s take a look at the famous black chess players. 

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1. Maurice Ashley

Maurice Ashley is one of the famous black chess players. In 1999, he made history by becoming the first black person to win a Grandmasters. Maurice was born in Jamaica on 6 March 1966 and moved to the United States at 12. 

He came across chess during his schooling days as he told The Breakfast Club: “Brooklyn Tech High School. I used to play the game with my friends every day. I then went to the parks and met a bunch of brothers playing and that’s how I got into chess.”

Later on, he set up the Harlem Chess Centre. In 2005, Maurice wrote the book Chess For Success, where he shared his story as a chess player. He then organised one of the biggest chess tournaments, the HB Global Chess Challenge

Currently, Maurice Ashley works as a chess commentator on the American outlet ESPN. He’s covered some elite sports tournaments like the US Chess Championships, the World Chess Championships and the Grand Chess Tour.

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2. Kenny Solomon

Kenny Solomon is one of the most famous black chess players in the game’s history. He’s also one of the biggest African chess players. The South African picked up the sport at the age of 13, following in his brother’s footsteps, after he qualified for the Olympiad in Manilla

It didn’t take him long to find success. 2003 Kenny won the South African Championship and the South African Open. In 2004, he was granted the title of International Master. 

In 2014, he ascended to the top of the game, becoming the first South African chess player to be a Grandmaster. This is after he won the Africa Chess Championship.   

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3. Amon Simutowe

5 Famous Black Chess Players
Amon Simutowe, the first Sub-Saharan Chess Grandmasters. Image Source: Facebook  licensed under CC BY 2.0

Amon Simutowe is the first black chess player from Sub-Saharan Africa to achieve grandmaster status. He’s also the third black player after Maurice Ashley and Ponuts to reach that level. His brother introduced him to chess and he quickly mastered the game. At the age of 14, the Zambian became the youngest national champion.

That was just the beginning of his journey to becoming a grandmaster. He attained the International Masters status in 1998. At the age of 16, he became the youngest champion of the South African Open 

In 1999, Amon won the African Junior Championships. The following year, he recorded big victories against Grandmasters Peter Wells and Collin Crouch. He claimed a couple more Grandmaster norms and finally earned the Grandmaster status after his victories in Italy and Croatia. 

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4. Pontus Carlson

Pontus Carlson is one of the most famous black chess players. After he lost his family at one year old, he was taken in by the former president of the Swiss Chess Federation, Ingvar Carlson. This is where he learnt to play chess and became one of the best.

He was the first man to win the Swedish Tusenmannaschacket Rapid tournament three times. In 2007, he represented Sweden in the European Team Chess Championship and was undefeated. It took him a short time to become an International Master and a Grandmaster. 

He got his IM in 2005. He then won four GM norms to join the elite club of chess players to have the Grandmasters title. 

  • The European Team Championship
  • The Open de Tarragona in Spain
  • The Torneig Internacional Ciutat de Sóller
  • The 3rd round at the European Club Cup.

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5. Darrian Robinson

Darrian Robinson is one of the famous female black chess players. She represented the United States in chess tournaments and became the US’s highest-rated black female chess player. She held the Candidate Master (USCF) United States Chess Federation titles.

Chess is still not the most popular sport in the world. Despite the success of these black chess players, it’s still elusive in the black community. 

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