Chess grandmaster has a brand new game

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Move over, Su Doku! Chess grandmaster Maurice Ashley has a new mind game: pawn mowers.

Ashley — the nation’s first black grandmaster — invented pawn mowers, and has now published a book of its puzzles, to teach both beginner and intermediate-level players the basics and strategies of the ancient game of chess. The set-up features a central piece — a rook, bishop, knight, or queen — surrounded by pawns. The objective is to “mow” down the pawns in a designated number of moves, without moving to an empty spot.

“My target audience is the middle-aged woman who says, ‘There’s no way you can teach me how to play chess,’” said Ashley, who lives in Park Slope. “Then I show her pawn mowers and she’s like, ‘Wait a minute, this is easy!’”

When he’s not designing brain-teasing chess games, Ashley teaches the strategy of the royal rumble. While he wants the game to be even more prominent, Ashley acknowledges that Brooklyn can hold its own at chess, citing some of Brooklyn’s greats like Bobby Fischer, Gata Kamsky (who is currently the top player in the United States), and himself.

“Brooklyn represents chess,” he said.

“Pawn Mowers” is available at

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Reader Feedback

Scott from Flatbush says:
The link is just to his homepage, here's a demo page here with two sample puzzles.
Aug. 3, 2009, 9:47 pm

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