Chess Brain Training: Maurice Ashley and Ask Men

July 3, 2014

This morning, Maurice Ashley has come to the Automotive High School in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to teach his students how to kill. And attack, destroy, and crush. (His words, not ours.) But there’s nothing in the least bit nefarious about Ashley’s AM lesson plan: He’s training these kids how to do it with their brains.

Welcome to the New World Order of high school chess club, more Game of Thrones than Revenge of the Nerds. Here, students spend their free period throwing down, mano-a-mano, like prizefighters in Las Vegas. Trash will be talked, feelings will be hurt. It’s a meeting of the minds and a test of wills: Chess is no longer an attempt at out-dorking your opponent; it’s about how to execute him (via checkmate, of course) in as few moves as possible. “[At] this school, it’s definitely not a geek game. Here, chess is a thug game. It’s like, ‘I will rip your head off. Don’t sit in front of me, because I plan to crush you,’” says Ashley. And it’s not like these kids aren’t applying these new chess assassin skills: Ashley brought them to the 2014 High School Nationals in San Diego, Calif., and they finished third in their section.

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