"The game of chess .. is like a swordfight. You must think first, before you move."
If you're my age (and a hip-hop fan), those words take you back to the early '90s. If you're a huge chess fan, it's a philosophy. If you're the Hip-Hop Chess Federation, it's the cornerstone of how both rap and chess can come together to help young people. The HHCF brings rappers, chess masters and MMA fighters together under the same roof to show kids that not only is chess cool, but it can help you make the right decisions in life to get ahead.
If you know a kid, or are a kid, who loves hip-hop or martial arts, you'll be surprised at the crossover between what you love, and your local chess club. Yes, rappers play chess. Lots of them. There isn't room in this article to list all the chess-related rap lyrics -- you'll have to Google them, and feel your mind explode.
An easier way is to stop by the upcoming Hip-Hop Chess Federation Tournament. This year, it's in San Jose, at the Alum Rock Youth Cente r, 137 North White Road. From noon until 6 p.m. on Saturday, it'll be non-stop music, Jiu-Jitsu, and chess boards. I've been to these before (disclosure: I'm moderating the Hip-Hop Chess panel at this year's event), and the energy is amazing. I've played chess through the years, but never thought about the lessons you can learn from the game, until interviewing Rza from Wu Tang Clan, and hearing him say, "If people only took an extra second before they made a move -- in chess, and in life -- we'd have a lot less crime, and a lot fewer bad decisions."
Adisa Banjoko runs the HHCF. A chess player, father and former rapper himself, Banjoko has seen kids change their lives after spending time staring at a chess board. "Chess helps kids learn to have faith in themselves," he says. "It forces them to create opportunities for themselves and make them real." He's getting the word out before saturday's event that, yes, there will be well-known rappers and MMA stars -- this year, we'll also see Nancy Cartwright, famous as the voice of Bart Simpson on "The Simpsons." See? Chess can lead you to big things.
If you, or your kids, don't know chess, the day will be a great chance to learn. The HHCF takes pains to start at the beginning; they know a lot of kids come out of curiosity, and leave with a new hobby. As Banjoko says, "The best part is watching the kids discover the power of their own mind and body," through both chess and the martial arts. Give it a try. At the very least, you'll never think of your local chess club the same way again.