Chess goes hip-hop
By Ted Geoghegan Special to amNewYork
6:45 PM EDT, June 24, 2008

In 2003, Jay-Z opened 40/40 nightclub in NYC and installed a vertical chessboard in its VIP Cognac Room. (Associated Press)

The public perception of the geeky chess club is getting a hardcore makeover, thanks to Wu Tang Clan founder RZA, Jay-Z and other rap luminaries.

Welcome to the world of hip-hop chess — a growing faction of urban youth who have traded in war on the streets for combat across the chessboard. Call it the thinking man’s battleground, an opportunity to flex one¹s intellect in an environment where brains always win over brawn.

“[Chess] teaches you how to exist in the world. It teaches you how to think multiple moves ahead, to strategize,” says RZA. “It teaches you how to attack and how to defend.” RZA launched his online game room, WuChess, earlier this month.

Two 1994 films, “Searching for Bobby Fischer” and “Fresh” feature energetic scenes involving NYC street hustlers, passionately battling it out over the game. Those moments, one WuChess player explained to us online, were some of the first to really show chess on the streets, portraying it in an exciting environment that he could relate to.

Chess has been a longtime mainstay on the sidewalks and parks of New York, but thanks to new social networking sites such as WuChess.com and The Hip-Hop Chess Federation, it is quickly attracting a plethora of new young players.

WuChess challenges urban youth to games of “hardcore chess with half the stuffiness,” while offering exclusive downloads and positively fostering hip-hop culture. RZA even hops onto the site and takes part in matches when not competing in live tournaments.

Here is the full story.

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