'Thinking Like A Chess Player Can Change Your Life': Ashley's New Book Tops Amazon List

GM Maurice Ashley draws on his extensive chess experience to impart life lessons in his latest literary offering. His new book has already hit number one on Amazon.

On April 2, Ashley released his new book Move by Move: Life Lessons on and off the Chessboard, where the Jamaican-born U.S. grandmaster explores the fundamental principles that chess has instilled in his life. In the book, Ashley notes ”Thinking like a chess player can change your life.”

After an appearance on CBS Morning, his Move by Move: Life Lessons on and off the Chessboard hit first on Amazon’s best-selling chess books, ahead of GothamChess’ How To Win At Chess, though it has since dropped a few spots. Two weeks after its release, it remains top among ‘New Releases in Chess.’

Speaking to Chess.com, Ashley said: “I think it’s amazing that the book hit number one on Amazon, and I’m definitely super-grateful for the interest and the support, especially from members of the chess community. It’s great to see chess in the limelight, and hopefully this continues as our game continues to garner tremendous attention from a broader audience.”

It’s great to see chess in the limelight, and hopefully this continues as our game continues to garner tremendous attention from a broader audience.

One of the lessons he recalls in the book is when, as an ambitious international master, he had a conversation with a 19-year-old GM Judit Polgar, already among the world’s best players at the time. It transformed his approach to learning.

Judit and I had sat down for lunch at a restaurant in New York City, and I couldn’t help but bring up the topic. “What will it take for you to get to the next level where you can finally start beating these top guys?” I asked. She paused for just a moment before replying, “First of all, you mean levels.” My mind exploded.

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Ashley says the conversation made him realize that despite being ranked in the top 99.74 percent of all players, he was still far off the world’s elite.

Now here was one of the top ten players in existence telling me that there were actually multiple levels of chess skill that kept her from fighting toe to toe with world champions and world championship contenders. I was so shocked by the statement that I could barely pay attention as she explained how difficult it was to bridge the gaps in opening preparation, middlegame understanding, endgame knowledge, and competitive insights.

Maurice Ashley with his good friend Judit Polgar years later.
Maurice Ashley with his good friend Judit Polgar years later. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The 58-year-old said it became clear to him that the gap between him and the very best players was greater than he could imagine, and that even top grandmasters only know a tiny fraction of what there is to know in chess.

It felt as if she could see the number pi racing off beyond a thousand places, while I simply saw it as 3.14.

It felt as if she could see the number pi racing off beyond a thousand places, while I simply saw it as 3.14.

Ashley tells Chess.com that he doesn’t feel he is in a position to point out what lessons or skills the very best players could learn from his experiences. However, he noted:

“What I do believe is that they may not talk enough about what life lessons the game has taught them, maybe because they are too busy thinking about winning games to reflect on how it has helped them over the years. I think it would be very motivating and inspiring for their fans to hear from the best players about the ways in which chess can help them navigate life’s challenges.”

In 1999 Maurice Ashley made history to become the first ever African-American grandmaster. In 2016 he was inducted into the US Chess Hall of Fame. In recent years he has been renowned as one of the world’s most famous chess commentators, in particular during the broadcasts from the Saint Louis Chess Club.

The grandmaster has now shifted focus to writing books, producing Chessable courses, and delivering corporate speeches. However, he hints at occassional returns to commentary.

“I can say I’m very happy doing what I’m doing, but from time to time you can expect me to do one or two super-interesting events a year. If I do return, it will be on my terms and because it’s what I really feel is a perfect time and place to start up once again.”

Ashley has shifted focus from commentary to book writing, and says he doesn't miss the travel grind. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com
Ashley has shifted focus from commentary to book writing, and says he doesn’t miss the travel grind. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Ashley is also releasing a children’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Chess, which is a beginner’s guide to the game for kids.

“If you go too fast you’re not going to win the games, because you’re going to make a mistake and lose pieces very easily. So we teach kids to slow down, to be patient, to make sure they’re focused,” he remarked to CBS.

Readers can save 10% on GM Ashley’s book with the code “MOVEBYMOVE10” at bookshop.org. Chess.com receives no revenue from sales.

Chess.com Community will host an AMA with Ashley on April 17 at 1:30 p.m. ET. The grandmaster will also join Chess.com’s round 11 coverage of the Candidates Tournament, at around 3:30 p.m. ET.

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