TheGrio’s 100: Justus Williams, ‘LeBron James of chess’ is the youngest black chess master

african kings

In just four years, Bronx native Justus Williams went from chess novice to being awarded the level of chess master by the United States Chess Federation at age 12, becoming the youngest African American chess master in history. He describes himself as “the “LeBron James of chess.”

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Williams was your typical Air Jordan-wearing, music-loving kid going to public school. In third grade he started looking for an extracurricular activity to get involved in, and his mother suggested chess. Williams joined an after-school program called Chess in the Schools and caught on to the game quickly. His teachers took notice. From there, Williams started competed nationally and internationally, winning titles along the way.

Justus Williams is making history as… an internationally recognized chess master. Williams is ranked fourth in the world in his age group and has traveled all over the world to play other renowned chess players, some more than twice his age. As the youngest African American chess master, Williams is catching the attention of the black community, a group not often linked to the game.

What’s next for Justus?
Williams continues to compete internationally and is working on releasing a series of video tutorials on how to play chess. He also launched the Dare To Be Different campaign, a national effort encouraging young people to tell their stories of why they chose an unusual path and to expose them to the game of chess.

A little-known fact…
While Williams broke the mold as the youngest African American chess master, two other African Americans closely followed him in earning that distinction. Joshua Colas, a few months younger than Williams, became a chess master a few months after Williams, and James Black Jr. became one in July 2011.

For more information, click here.THE GRIO’S Q & A WITH JUSTUS WILLIAMS

Q: What is next for you in this chapter of your life?

A: Studying hard….I’m competing in Nationals in Slovakia and in San Diego this year.

Q: What is a little-known fact about you?

A: I love martial arts and I long for another dog.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?

A: “Intelligence without ambition is like a bird without wings” by Salvador Dali

Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?

A: What inspires me is: a) God, b) my mom and c) coaching younger children and d) winning.

Q: Who are/were your mentors?

A: My mentors are my mom and Maurice Ashley (the 1st African American Grandmaster of Chess).

Q: What advice would you give to anyone who’s craving to achieve their dreams?

A: Don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you love (as long as it is safe and healthy)….oh and always listen to your mom.