Three grandmasters on a historic chess training tour for 18 weeks in Africa

Grandmasters Pontus Carlsson (Sweden), Maurice Ashley (United States of America) and Kenny Solomon (South Africa) have teamed up with Kasparov Chess Foundation and the Paul Allen Foundation to launch the Chess Masters for Africa program. This historic and groundbreaking program will see the grandmasters embark on a tour to six African countries between February and June 2017.  The program which will cover training sessions in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania is set to benefit more than sixty locally based trainers and at least 1,500 children across the continent.

Maurice Ashley

Grandmaster Maurice Ashley at the World Chess Championship in New York, 2016

Grandmaster Maurice Ashley lives his passion. Through his love for chess, he not only made history as the first African-American International grandmaster in the annals of the game but he has managed to translate is love to others as a three-time national championship coach, two time author, ESPN commentator, iPhone app designer, puzzle inventor, and motivational speaker.

Maurice has travelled the world as an ardent spokesperson of the character building effects of chess. Coming from the rough and tough streets of Kingston, Jamaica and Brooklyn, New York, Maurice has tirelessly shared his compelling story with young people in places such as the crime ridden neighbourhoods of Detroit, the townships of Cape Town, South Africa and the poverty stricken Jungles of Belize , Central America. His book , Chess for Success crystallizes his vision of the many benefits of chess, particularly for at-risk youth, and he continuously spreads his message of living one’s dream to universities, businesses, chess clubs and non-profit organisations around the globe

His app, Learn chess! With Maurice Ashley, has been sold in over 26 countries and has received multiple community service Awards from City government, universities, and community groups for his work. His drive and enthusiasm always has him on the go. In the fall of 2011, Maurice toured 6 Caribbean Nations bringing chess books and technology to kids in the region. Find out more about Grandmaster Maurice Ashley.

Pontus Carlsson

Grandmaster Pontus Carlsson

There are only four living Black Grand Masters in the World. These are Amon Simutowe of Zambia, Maurice Ashley of America, Kenny Solomon of South Africa and Pontus Carlsson of Sweden. Among these, Pontus Carlsson is the highest rated with elo 2454. His peak rating was 2532 in May 2012.

When Carlsson was one year old, his family died. He was subsequently adopted by a Swedish couple and it was his stepfather, Ingvar Carlsson (former chairman of the Swedish Chess Federation), who taught him the game of chess when he was 4.

Carlsson became an International Master and Grandmaster within a space of three years. He achieved the IM title in August 2005, and the grandmaster title in October 2007 after earning four GM norms. This made him the 16th Swede to become a GM.

For a full biography of Pontus Carlsson, please follow

Kenny Solomon

Grandmaster Kenny Solomon in action

Kenny Solomon was the first Grandmaster South Africa. A few years ago Africa Chess Net wrote about Kenny’s rise in the chess world to the coveted title of Grandmaster. Kenny readily admits that becoming a Grand Master was much harder than he imagined it would be.  His early years of regular international competition were tough learning years, where the thrill of finally playing against Grand Masters was tempered with the stings of many defeats.  “I thrived on gaining the experience, though,” Kenny reveals, “I developed even more perseverance and determination.  It certainly didn’t happen every time, but I did play some beautiful games.”

Married to an Italian and a proud father of three year old Leonora, a budding chess player on her own terms, Kenny has lived in Venice over the past few years, which grants him easier access to international competitions.  He remains registered as a South African player with FIDE and he has a keen interest in promoting a richer chess culture in South Africa.  He has made several trips home to participate in competitions, exhibition games and initiatives with the hope of encouraging young South Africans from under-resourced communities to brighten up their lives by turning their minds to the chessboard.

About the Paul G Allen Family Foundation
The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation was founded in 1988 by the billionaire Paul Allen and his sister Jody Allen, has invested nearly half of a billion dollars into improving communities throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Paul Allen was the co-founder of Microsoft.

About the Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa (KCFA)
The Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa was officially launched in March 2012 as a public benefit organisation focusing on the promotion of chess as a tool for education and social development in both South Africa and the broader African continent. KCF-A has established its head office in Johannesburg, South Africa and operates under the patronage and chairmanship of the 13th World Chess Champion, GM Garry Kasparov. The foundation is registered as a non-profit organisation in South Africa and is the third regional KCF foundation to be launched.

You can get involved in this as well.
Access to books and training materials remains one of the biggest challenges for many African countries and the program is seeking to address this need as one of its key objectives. Anyone with access to good quality chess books who may wish to assist with this initiative is welcome to contact the KCF Africa Program Director, Mr Graham Jurgensen at

Editor’s note: If Africa is to get more titled players and grandmasters we need more such chess training tours. Our chess players do not get sufficient exposure to chess tournaments and top quality training. Initiatives like this can go a long way towards inspiring the next generation of chess players. Hopefully this is just the beginning of many such training. A very big thank you to the Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa, The Paul G Allen Family Foundation, Chessbase and of course the Grandmasters Maurice Ashley, Pontus Carlsson and Kenny Solomon. We cannot wait to get updates on this Chess Masters Program. if we get any updates will keep you posted.


Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa
PGA Family Foundation
Maurice Ashley website
Maurice Ashley on LinkedIn
Chessbase – Chess in Africa, the miracle

Bruce Mubayiwa

I am the founder and editor of Africa Chess Net. I have been playing chess for over 25 years and love writing about the game. Our goal is simple, to get more people playing chess in Africa! The game of chess is not only absorbing but a great deal of fun.

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