The Hip-Hop Chess Federation holds tournaments that combine chess, poetry, and martial arts. Founded by a lecturer and a visual artist, its last tournament in October was frequented by multiple founders of the Wu-Tang Clan, members of Hieroglyphics and Living Legends Crew, and black-belt Ralek Gracie. Chess master and child prodigy Josh Waitzkin didn’t play – it wouldn’t be fair – but instead, he spoke on a panel.
Many rappers have a tendancy to use chess metaphors in their songs. Rap star GZA once opined, in ‘Queen`s Gambit’: You know, war, capturing, thinking, strategy; Planning, music, it’s hip-hop, and sports; It’s life, it’s reality.` That song was only one of the songs on his 2005 album. It was titled, ‘Grandmasters.’
This federation was founded, first and foremost, to help educate young people. Chess, martial arts, and poetry all involve strategy, deep thinking, patience, focus – all the things that are so underemphasized in popular culture. Their chess tournaments are often mixed, for example, with symposiums on non-violence.