Maurice Ashley, who is the first African American to reach the rank of International Grandmaster in chess, was born in St. Andrew, Jamaica, in 1966. He attended Wolmer’s Boys School and migrated to the United States at age 12 and started to play chess at age 14. He attended Brooklyn Technical High School and stated that he discovered chess while in Jamaica as his brother played the game with friends. He got serious about it in high school in Brooklyn, and he played in clubs and parks throughout the city. He graduated from City College of New York (CCNY) with a degree in creative writing. He also represented the school in intercollegiate team competitions.
Maurice Ashley earned the title of National Master in 1986 and is well known for his commentary on high-profile chess events. He has also taught chess for many years and coached the Raging Rooks and the Dark Knights, both teams from Harlem and both winners of national championships under his teachings. He completed the requirements to become a Grandmaster in 1999 with his defeat of Adrian Negulescu. Also in 1999 he founded the Harlem Chess Center. He was named Grandmaster of the Year in 2003 by the US Chess Federation. He returned to Jamaica in 2007 and became the first Grandmaster to play in a tournament on the island. Ashley became a Director’s Fellow at the MIT Media Lab in 2012 and was a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University from 2013 to 2015. He was inducted into the US Chess Hall of Fame in 2016. He is currently a chess commentator on many major chess events.