United States Master Chess League Celebrates African American Chess Players

Justice Williams vs Chikwere Onyekwere during Battle of the Masters. Photo by Damien Coppedge.
Justice Williams vs Chikwere Onyekwere during Battle of the Masters. Photo by Damien Coppedge.

United States Master Chess League Celebrates African American Chess Players

By Tia Carol Jones

Inez Kelley founded the United States Master Chess League (USMCL) in honor of her brother, who passed away in 2019, he was a chess advocate. This is the first year USMCL has been a full-fledge league. It evolved from the Battle of the Masters, a competition between the top master level chess players in New York City in 2023.


Kelley’s first chess event took place in Chicago. It was a small event, but she wanted to make it bigger. She saw the vacancy when it came to African American chess players and wanted to celebrate the African American chess players. It evolved into a full-fledged league after that.


Sedrick Prude, a United States Master Chess League Candidate, has been playing chess for more than 45 years. He’s been competing in chess since he was in elementary school. He is currently a coach at Marist High School and he runs an after school chess program. His official title is Candidate Master with the United States Chess Federation, which is based on a rating system. He said there is a lot of energy that you have to put in to become a Master in Chess. There is only one Black Grand Master in Chess in the United States.


To reach the level of Master in Chess, a player has to have a rating of more than 2200. There are very few master level Black chess players and even less in Chicago. Kelly said having individuals like Prude and another player from New York provide insight and input that has helped her pull the league together. She said that chess is a sport, even though the kind of physicality is different than other sports; chess players use their minds to solve complex problems.

“It takes something to sit and stay contained and to be able to master the thinking process that goes along with it. It’s really great when you give yourself a chance to get in there and learn it and understand what’s really going on,” she said.


The blueprint for the United States Master Chess League (USMCL) is the National Football League (NFL). One of the things it looks to do is bring individual chess players into a team for the sport. The league consists of four teams, three candidates per team and one alternate for each team. Right now, USMCL is looking for chess players to join as alternates for the teams. The season consists of six matches with a championship. Candidates with USMCL are compensated, they are paid for their talents and their service. The aim is to create another space for those who are interested in playing chess to continue to stay in the game.


“I’m actually loving this idea. I’ve been in the chess community for a long time and I’m surprised nobody ever came up with it to actually do it this big; to make a league like this that actually pays players to participate. I’m excited to build nice solid foundation,” said Prude.


On June 22nd, USMCL will have their first match at Salud Center, which is located at 3039 E. 91st St.


If anyone is interested in playing chess and their rating is at least around 1800, USMCL encourages people to visit www.usmcl.org.

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