Hip Hop Celebrities & youth Show Off Chess Skillz

Posted: October 30, 2007 in Uncategorized

 Hip-hop celebrities, youths show chess skills at tourney

By Davey D
Special to Mercury News

 Lots of things have been cracking off in the world of hip-hop: Nas is gearing up for a new album with a controversial title. T.I. disappointed fans when he was arrested on allegations of trying to purchase weapons illegally in what appeared to be the ultimate sting operation; his bodyguard was the main informant. Diddy’s bust for allegedly punching someone in the face over a woman was pretty sorry. KRS stirred things up by accepting lifetime-achievement honors at the “BET Hip Hop Awards” and then remarking that Kanye West was not a real hip-hop artist while 50 Cent was. I’m still scratching my head over that one.By contrast, here’s some uplifting news: Congratulations are in order for founder Adisa Banjoko of the newly formed Hip-Hop Chess Federation, which presented the inaugural Chess Kings Invitational Tournament, Oct. 13 at the San Francisco Design Center. It awarded $10,000 in scholarships to teen competitors and a championship belt to winning celebrity contestants.

Special props go to the celebrity winner The RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. He, Wu-Tang’s GZA and Rugged Monk of the Wu-Tang affiliate the Black Knights were among the finalists.

Also in the house were Rakaa of Dilated Peoples, Paris, DJ Disk, T-Kash, Balance, Zion I, Amir Sulaiman, Big Rich, Chairman Fred Hampton Jr., POCC Minister of Information JR, Casual of Hieroglyphics, Sunspot Jonz of Living Legends, Prince Ali, Shamako Noble and D’labarie of Hip Hop Congress, DJ Malcolm Marshall of Street Soldiers, the Brown Berets of Watsonville, hip-hop pioneer Pop Master Fable of the Rocksteady Crew and longtime Bay Area b-boy Bas-1. I won’t even begin to run down the list of chess masters, who came from as far as Miami and the United Kingdom. Also on hand were scores of youngsters from various youth programs around the bay. Four of the the Galleria’s five floors were in full use for the chess battles.When I spoke with GZA at the start of the festivities, he said chess was a microcosm of life, pointing out that each board move must serve a purpose. He spoke about the need to prepare mentally and sharpen your skills to handle any situation thrown at you, both on the board and in life. He also said chess has played a key role in the way he constructed his albums. In fact, his landmark “Liquid Swords” disc was based on the game, as you might guess from the chess pieces on its cover.The tournament was intense. The final celebrity contenders were Rugged Monk and The RZA, after the latter took out GZA. As the final game unfolded, victory seemed certain for Rugged Monk. But The RZA buckled down, finally living up to the words he and others had been preaching. He remained calm and out-thought his adversary. In a series of stunning moves involving his rook, The RZA stunned onlookers by upsetting Rugged Monk.

I had squared off with longtime freedom fighter Hampton, who captured my queen and bishop within the first five moves. But I recovered and was ready to take him out in just three moves.

Pawns are my favorite chess pieces; they represent the average, ordinary Joe, who is often overlooked in the community but can do serious damage when properly deployed. Banjoko noted that pawns have the most potential, because they can be changed to any piece on the board once they reach the opponent’s back row.

Sadly, however, I allowed myself to lose focus, and my ultimate defeat was not pretty. As for Hampton, he gave new meaning to the term “bragging rights” telling interviewers how and why he won.

Other great matches included Sunspot Jonz defeating Paris. Spoken-word artist Amir Sulaiman went up against Casual and lost – which led to a grudge match between the Hiero rap star and Rugged Monk. Monk’s victory put him in the finals against The RZA.

This exciting event drew some 500 participants; from all indications, it will only get bigger in years to come.

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