In the back of the Reflection Eternal Barbershop in Baltimore’s Barclay neighborhood, owner Sundiata Osagie sits locked in an intense chess battle — with a 12-year-old boy.
A skilled chess player, Osagie easily beats most of the customers who challenge him at his shop. But this is no ordinary challenger. This 12-year-old boy is Cahree Myrick, who has just been crowned the first individual national youth chess champion in the history of Baltimore.
“This is the chess champion of the country right here,” Osagie brags to customers, as the two players trade pawns.
Though Cahree has learned to play in a formal chess league, his mother, Yuana Spears, brings him here to the barbershop — amid the buzz cuts, jazz music and history books — to test his skills.
“It’s a different style,” Cahree says. “When I play people in standard tournaments, I know what to expect. Here, they play more freestyle.”
Ever since Cahree went a remarkable 7-0 in Nashville two weeks ago to win his division at the United States Chess Federation SuperNationals, many people, like Osagie, want to brag about his achievements. The Baltimore Kids Chess League, where Cahree plays, touted his victory as perfection. Mayor Catherine Pugh honored him and his teammates at City Hall Wednesday. And the Baltimore Orioles invited him to Camden Yards Friday.
To be sure, Cahree’s victory did not come in the event’s highest division, but the commissioner of the Baltimore Kids Chess League says it’s a standout achievement nonetheless.
“This is a big deal,” says Steve Alpern, the league’s commissioner. “To win it with a perfect score is pretty incredible. People don’t think Baltimore City is producing these kind of achievements, but we are.”
Since the Baltimore Kids Chess League started in 2003, the program — which is open only to public school students in the city school system — has produced a number of excellent chess…