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A Passion for Chess
By Carol S. Wolf

In February 2011, I wrote an article about Michael A. McDuffie’s The Archangel 8 Chess Academy. At that time, I met with Michael, four young people, and their parents. Michael had a career in investments and sports marketing and was to attend the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL but ended up in the hospital for back surgery where he was then placed in the ICU with a blood clot in each lung. Prior to his illness, he was told that he had an angel watching over him and he knew it was the Archangel Michael. His sister, then working at Johns Hopkins Hospital, said that he should be dead. Michael, through his faith and being blessed, knew God had more for him to do and he began working with students through chess clubs in both urban and suburban areas. Thus, he named his program, “The Archangel 8 Chess Academy.”

I recently met and talked with Coach McDuffie at the Audubon Library prior to the start of his class. He grew up on the east side of Buffalo, graduated from PS #39 (now Martin Luther King Jr. School). His father, Horace McDuffie, Jr., a Korean War veteran and a UAW worker at General Motors, introduced him to Chess at age thirteen. It was Michael’s job to pass on the information to his younger brother David. After being selected to attend the Campus School, one of the first magnet schools in the city of Buffalo, his passion was devoted to the game of soccer which he played for several years and into his college career. After graduation, he attended Canton College in Canton, NY where he began a degree in Business Administration. Being member of the Canton College varsity soccer team, he was asked to establish “The Third World Society,” a multicultural organization for a diverse group of minorities on campus: Native Americans and Hispanics/Latinos (some, by way of New York City, were from South America and Brazil). He shared, “We would gather together to learn each about each other’s cultures and scheduled field trips to various places to enhance our education.” After graduation, he then transferred to SUNY Geneseo earned his degree in Business Administration and Management Science and was elected the first African-American officer of the class of 1976.

After attending Geneseo, he returned to Buffalo and pursued his love for soccer; his passion led to being the founder and president of the Buffalo & WNY Junior Girls Travel Soccer League, a league which was disputed because girls didn’t play soccer. He also founded the International Battling Babes Soccer Team, became state-licensed referee, national-licensed soccer coach with the U.S. Soccer Federation, selected head coach of the Olympic Development State and Regional Coaching Staff, and started the Buffalo State College women’s soccer team.

His passion for chess came around when he was teaching his son Aaron how the pieces moved and were captured. Aaron would play chess over the phone with his uncle David, aka Pawn Master, and 1992 Maryland State Champion. Michael was still looking to have Aaron become part of a chess club though, which led him to teach chess classes at the East Utica library and become a member of the U.S. Chess Federation. Aaron was the first undefeated 2007 Mayor’s Cup Scholastic Chess Champion.

Recently, I had a chance to talk to four chess students, Liza Lysy, William Oh, Carson Feero, and Shaan Cheruvu. Please enjoy their stories.

Liza Lysy is a 10-year old 5th grader at Casey Middle School. She is an amazing young girl. She said she learned how the pieces moved when she was nine years old. She shared, “My mom wanted me to play but I wasn’t interested, and then I tried it at Dodge Elementary school and I really liked it. It’s not like checkers; in chess, you really have to think forward and I now want to play forever.” Liza is now a member of the U.S. Chess Federation, plays tennis, piano, and sings in the school chorus. She was the best chess player at Dodge Elementary and if she wins at the All Girls Nationals Championship, she could win a $68,000 college scholarship. Amazing!

William Oh is a student at Clarence Middle School. He is the 2016 Mayor’s Cup K-6 Scholastic Co-Champion. William started playing chess in kindergarten in school and then with Coach McDuffie in 4th grade. He said, “I love the tactics, thinking, and figuring out my advantage and what moves to make.” He also shared that he plays every Thursday and Saturday at the Main Place Mall in Buffalo. William won a tournament two weeks ago and shared that he was really happy that all his hard work paid off.

Carson Feero, 17 years old, told me he is home-schooled, loves playing chess, and, in March, earned third place at the 50th New York State Scholastic Chess Championship held in Saratoga Springs, NY. He said, “I knew a little about chess and played my sister until I started getting serious about a year and a half ago.”

Shaan Cheruvu is 9 years old and in 4th grade at Country Parkway School in Williamsville. He told me he started playing chess with Coach McDuffie at 4 years old. He said, “My brother started playing chess at Audubon, then he quit and I started liking chess and started coming back and I did really good.” He told me he liked it because it is a game of the mind and not just luck and “I want to keep playing and being in lots of touraments.” Shaan also earned fourth place at the 50th NY State Scholastic Chess Championships, his second consecutive State Trophy.

Ashton William, 6th grader, started playing chess in kindergarten and is the first undefeated New York State Scholastic Chess Champion. He attends St. Gregory the Great School in Williamsville.

Coach McDuffie, is also the founder and director of the Girls in Chess Rock enrichment youth chess program to introduce females of all ages to chess. Urban Thinkers Chess Club is an enrichment scholastic chess club for police, city officials, attorneys, judges and firefighters to come in uniform and play over-the-board chess with local students at the Frank Merriweather Library. Sheriff Tim Howard and two deputies have attended and engaged the members over chess. Many of the young students who have participated in National Chess Championships come home with individual trophies for their efforts.

For adult chess players there are monthly US Sanctioned tournaments at the Main Place Mall, BN Canalside Summer Chess (a joint effort with the Buffalo News), and The Players Chess Club meets at the Main Street Gallery.

Other Public schools who have done Chess Groups include Olmsted #64, East High School, MLK#39, B.E.S.T#9, BPS# 3, Community School 53 and West Hertel. Currently, Aloma D Johnson Charter School National Scholastic Chess Team plans to travel to compete at the 2017 Super Nationals at the Opryland Resort from May 11-14, 2017 in Nashville TN. They are the first officially recognized scholastic chess team in the City of Buffalo School District. They are seeking to bring home a 3rd national trophy earned by other teams with Coach McDuffie, two national team trophies were previously earned by East High School Dark Knights Chess Team with special recognition by past Superintendent Dr. James Williams and Mayor Byron Brown. Lockport Mayor Anne McCaffrey has given the Golden Knights of Lockport special recognition along with the Common Council for national trophy winners and the National Champion title.

On Saturday, April 8, 2017 Michael will receive the 2017 Eye on History Award by Eva Doyle for his achievements and contributions to the Buffalo Community. Other awards he has received from the Black Social Workers include: Community Award, Buffalo Chapter of NAACP for Community Service, and Buffalo Chapter of United Negro College Fund– Golf Committee.

Please view his website at <www.knightsof64.com>. For more information, please email knightsof64@yahoo.com. Pictured are Carson Feero, Liza Lysy, William Oh and Shaan Cheruvu.

If you know of a successful program in your community or would like more information please let me know at caroldickwolf@cs.com.

Carol S. Wolf is married to her husband Dick for 52 years. She has 2 sons and 4 grandchildren. She is a writer, speaker, storyteller and leader of workshops and retreats. She is an Associate Spiritual Director at the St. Joseph Center for Spirituality and a member of the Network of Biblical Storytellers WNY.


 

 


Carol wrote this book as part of her two year Master's program in the Academy for Biblical Storytellers. It has just been published and is available for $10.00. Carol is an author, speaker and leader of workshops meditations and conference.
"This book give you an opportunity to experience how, when we become a part of the biblical story, we often find meaning for our own life. It is an incredible resource for confirmation, baptism, and intergenerational groups." Trracy Radosevic, Dean, Academy for Biblical Storytellers.
Anyone interested in buying a book can email me @caroldickwolf@cs.com. The book is $10.00 + $2.00 mailing.