A Star of the Raging Rooks, He Helped Change the Face of N.Y.C. Chess – The New York Times

Chess Tournament

Mr. Robinson died suddenly on Oct. 13 at age 43, his family said, declining to say more than that he died of natural causes. His death dealt a blow to the citys chess community, where he had remained a fixture and role model, having taught at Mott Hall, a middle school in Harlem (where he won another national championship, as assistant coach, in 1999), and later at Chess NYC, which offers private chess instruction, and at Success Academy, a network of charter schools.

I wish we had more Charus, said Debbie Eastburn, the chief executive of Chess in the Schools, a city nonprofit, for whom Mr. Robinson also taught.

Mr. Robinson is survived by his two sisters, Stacey and Aisha.

The early 90s success of the Rooks, composed of Black, Latino and Asian students, changed chess in New York City. Until then, scholastic chess had been dominated by mostly white players from elite schools such as Dalton, Hunter College High School and Trinity.

There was no clear evidence that chess could be an inner-city sport, said Jerald Times, a self-taught master who is now the chess director at Success Academy. So when these kids showed up, these Raging Rooks, on the front page of The New York Times, it transformed the landscape of how we see inner-city chess.

As many as 90 percent of participants at national tournaments were white at that time, Mr. Times estimated. The proportion of minorities has grown fourfold since, he said, to 40 percent, because of the example of the Raging Rooks and an I.B.M.-funded research study, the Margulies Report, that tied reading performance to playing chess.

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A Star of the Raging Rooks, He Helped Change the Face of N.Y.C. Chess - The New York Times

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