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Chess for Success: Using an Old Game to Build New Strengths in Children and Teens Paperback – August 9, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Ashley's autobiographical work touts chess' potential to interest kids in education and divert them from deleterious influences. Ranking near the pinnacle of professional chess, Ashley skims his career, emphasizing his teenage years in 1980s Brooklyn when he was lured into the 64-square universe of chess, saving him from a dangerous street life in Brooklyn. Anecdotes about the crazy pranks he and his friends pulled mark the road not taken. On his ascent to becoming an international grandmaster in 1999, the first black person to achieve the rank, Ashley evangelized chess in schools and coached a Harlem-based team, the Raging Rooks. It won a national championship in 1991, and the recollections of team alumni dispel common teen notions of chess as hard, slow, and uncool. While not overselling chess as a panacea for learning difficulties, Ashley's enthusiasm and inherent role-model status give parents and educators valuable inspiration supported by practical information about organizing a school chess program. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


“Chess improves strategic thinking, attention span, patience, camaraderie, and sportsmanship. Maurice Ashley is not only an International Grandmaster as a chess  player but also as a teacher and activist.” —Wynton Marsalis

“Maurice Ashley has been like a brother to me since I was twelve years old. I know the man, I know the competitor, I know the artist, and I know the teacher. There is no better source for the abundance of educational potential bubbling from the game of chess. Read this book!” —Josh Waitzkin, International Chess Master and subject of the book and film Searching for Bobby Fischer.

“It’s a great message of hope, that chess can be one piece of the puzzle to help our young people shine. It’s what we all want for our kids.” —Will Smith

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; First Edition edition (August 9, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767915682
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767915687
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #869,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Howard Goldowsky on August 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
Intended primarily for parents or educators whos kids are just beginning chess, and written at a level children themselves can find accessable, CHESS FOR SUCCESS is a unique kind of chess book. The book itself is not even shelved in the "chess" section of the bookstore.

The book is written as a kind of pean to the benefits of chess play for children, and Ashley lists the kinds of success chess has created for inner-city youth across the United States. There are testimonials (somewhat overdone), as well as sections where Ashley backs up these testimonials, citing specific studies. These studies include sections where Ashley regurgitates research on the psychology of "flow", as well as where Ashley presents digested explanations of chess's relationship to the "40 Developmental Assets" and to Bloom's taxonomy theory. With all the chearleading and feel-good stories, at times this book reads like a drawn-out Reader's Digest article, but the book has enough meat, however, to transcend that stereotype, and there are enough concepts repackaged and digested to make the reading worthwhile. Early in the book, Ashely presents the reader with a brief history of chess (presumably written to get the chess neophytes up to speed).

There is a well-written chapter on how to motivate young girls to play chess, and there is a final chapter where Ashley waxes philosophic about psychological aspects of chess play. This last chapter is the best, and reminds me of the interview Ashley gave in Chess Life, in 1999, right after he became a Grandmaster. In this last chapter, Ashley talks about how to handle "chaos" over the chessboard and how to "think like a child" again.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers on January 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
Who better to write a book about chess than the first (and so far only) Black International Chess Grandmaster Maurice Ashley? In CHESS FOR SUCCESS, he discusses the important role chess has played in his life, the history of the game, its impact on cognitive development, and its usefulness in educational settings. In addition, he debunks many of the common myths related to the game, allows some of his former students to share their experiencs in their own words, and provides tips for keeping the game fun and keeping children engaged.

Maurice Ashley's personal story is an interesting one. He was born in Jamaica where he and his siblings were primarily raised by their grandmother in poverty. His mother had left for the United States where she was working in order to help support her family back home and save enough money to send for her children. Maurice struggled with feelings of abandonment, all the while fantasizing about the wonderful life in America that would soon be his. After ten years of living apart, he was finally reunited with his mother when he came to live with her in New York City. Aside from the awkward period of adustment to living with his mother, Maurice also had to deal with the shock and disappointment when he realized that although he was now in the U.S., he would continue to live in poverty. As an intelligent young boy, he had little trouble adjusting to the new school academically. However, he struggled socially, as there was no real group with whom he fit. Maurice truly found himself when he ran across a book in the library about chess, this was but the beginning of a lifelong love.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gregory McMahan VINE VOICE on June 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
As someone who has played chess off and on for the better part of my life, I can attest to the tremendous power the game has in shaping young minds. My older brother turned me on to the game when I was about seven or so. He in turn was turned onto the game when he was in high school, much like Maurice Ashley was, but in his case, it was the older dudes in the park in our 'hood that hipped him to the game. Every so often he would come around, and we would fire up a game. Sometimes I won, most times I had my --s handed to me on a silver platter. Yet each time we played, I came away stronger, sharper, and more focused on my academic work.

Just a few days ago, while searching for some books on commercial real estate, I came upon Chess for Success on the shelves. Being somewhat intrigued, I took it and a few other chess books off the shelves, and two days later, after reading Chess for Success first, I pulled out my old copy of Chessmaster 8000 and started reading a book on chess openings. By the time I began writing these words, a profound change had overcome my very being.

You see, thinking back on it, back in grade school when I played chess with a school chum, everything seemed to be so easy. Schoolwork was a breeze. Math problems were trivial, computer programming on the Apple II (yes, I am THAT old) was a walk in the park, and all was well in my world. Homework? Never had any- probably because I had done it all for the entire week by Monday's lunch period. Though I sucked at sports, I excelled in scholarship, and by the time I hit high school, I was hitting my academic stride. I stopped playing chess for a time, and suddenly, geometry was difficult. Back on the chess, I finished not only geometry, but also knocked off all of algebra II for good measure.
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