It’s morning at I.S. 318 on Walton Street in Williamsburg and James Black, Jr., 12, looked across the chessboard at his opponent, coach Elizabeth Vicray, and hit the timer with his right hand.
“Checkmate,” he said, smiling.
And so went another chess victory for Black, Jr., a Bedford-Stuyvesant resident who is determined to become the youngest grandmaster in the United States.
Black, Jr. recently led the school’s team to the national championships in both the K-8 and K-9 divisions. He is only seven points away from the 2,200 needed to be named a master by the United States Chess Federation.
“I think it will be great,” said Black Jr. of the notion of possibly being the youngest grandmaster ever in the United States. “I’ll make history.”
And Black takes his skill very seriously; he practices outside of the chess club for about six hours a day.
“It seemed like an interesting game of war,” said Black, Jr., about what first attracted him to the world of chess.
He first started playing when he lived in the Bronx after being introduced to the game by his father James Black ,Sr. Then he joined a chess team at his former school, I.S. 308 in Bed-Stuy.
Black, Jr. says that playing chess has strengthened his academic skills, noting the game helps him and his fellow students in reading, math and history.
James Black, Sr., tells a funny story about a time when it was James’ mother’s birthday and he was begging his mother to let him play chess.
“His mother would get upset with me because he wanted to play chess outside,” said Black, Sr. “I told her it’s not me, it’s him, he wants to play the game.”
His father states that from day one, young James’ goal has always been to be a grandmaster.
“He’s a more well-rounded kid. We’ve always talked to him about being modest,” said Black, Sr.
Black, Jr. agreed noting that his friends still treat him the same despite his recent achievements. He also finds the time for other hobbies such as basketball and football.
But there’s no denying his heart is really in the game of chess.
“He (James, Jr.) always tells me it would be a big deal when he becomes a grandmaster,” said his proud father.