Emory Tate: A Legacy of Chess and Inspiration
William T Green

William T Green

Sep 01, 2023

Emory Tate: A Legacy of Chess and Inspiration


Welcome to the exhilarating world of chess, where creativity meets strategic planning, and unconventional brilliance leads to an expected life. In this article, we embark on a thrilling journey through the extraordinary life and groundbreaking achievements of Emory Tate, the indomitable chess maverick who shattered conventions, inspired generations, and left an enduring legacy. Get ready for a wild ride filled with bold moves, unforgettable battles, and the infectious spirit of a true game-changer.

From Chess Enthusiast to Extraordinaire

Born on December 27, 1958, in the vibrant city of Chicago, Emory Tate discovered his passion for chess at the tender age of six—by accidentally knocking over a chessboard and falling headfirst into a world of kings and queens. With a natural strategic prowess and an insatiable curiosity, Tate's journey as a chess prodigy began to unfold. Inspired by watching his older brother play, he quickly absorbed the intricacies of the game, unleashing his intellectual curiosity and knack for strategy.

Tate's determination and unconventional approach were evident from a young age. As a member of the wrestling team at Concord High School in Elkhart, Indiana, he showcased his competitive spirit. According to his high school teammates who often quoted him as a ‘sore loser’. Despite having the option to study pre-medicine at Princeton, the audacious young talent chose Northwestern University, setting his sights on a different kind of intellectual pursuit.

The Rise of a Fearless Maverick

Emory Tate's ascent to chess greatness was anything but conventional. In the late '70s, while the ratings were frozen in the U.S. Chess Federation, Tate's rating remained at 1797 for a year. But that did not deter him. Armed with a deep understanding of the Sicilian and deep understanding of the game, Tate began his meteoric rise, dispatching local masters and leaving them bewildered by his deflated rating.

It was during this period that the philosophy of "Tateism" was born. Inspired by the bravado of Muhammad Ali and Bobby Fischer's style of play, Tate's games bled a fighting spirit with his daring sacrifices. He developed a near-cult following by captivating audiences with his attacking gems and giving commentary at the same time. It was and still not common for chess master’s to give their chess game analysis in public gatherings. The chess community, particularly in America's Black neighborhoods, hailed him as a folk hero, transcending racial boundaries and inspiring players worldwide.

Empowering Through Chess

Emory Tate's impact extended far beyond his own successes. He recognized the transformative power of chess, particularly in underprivileged communities. With unwavering passion, he dedicated himself to promoting the game among youth, believing it fostered critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and discipline.

Tate's charismatic personality and unyielding commitment to the game made him a beloved figure in the chess world. His games were not just battles; they were theatrical performances, drawing crowds of 30-50 onlookers who hung on to his every move. With gesticulations, quips, and wordplay, he transformed demonstrations of his games into spellbinding lessons, often punctuated with proclamations of "triple exclam." Emory Tate's performances were truly a sight to behold.

Unveiling the Chess Maverick's Legacy

Emory Tate's legacy is etched in the annals of chess history. His highest FIDE rating of 2413 in October 2006 placed him among the top 2000 active players in the world and the 72nd highest-rated player in the United States. Furthermore, his peak USCF rating of 2508 on December 30, 1996, solidified his position as a formidable force in the chess world.

Throughout his career, Tate earned numerous accolades, including winning the United States Armed Forces Chess Championship five times and clinching the Indiana state championship on six occasions. In 1992, Emory Tate achieved a significant milestone as he became the first African-American player to earn the title of International Master, bestowed by the World Chess Federation (FIDE). This groundbreaking achievement not only highlighted his exceptional abilities but also broke down barriers, inspiring aspiring chess players from diverse backgrounds.

Tate's unique playing style captivated opponents and fans alike. With a penchant for unorthodox openings and complex middle-game positions, he kept his adversaries on their toes, often leaving them perplexed and searching for counterstrategies. His fearless approach, characterized by daring sacrifices and imaginative combinations, earned him a reputation as a formidable and unpredictable opponent.

While Emory Tate celebrated victories of beating more than 80 Grandmasters, his bold style also meant he experienced losses, including a memorable 9-move defeat to Alexander Yermolinsky, where he humorously allowed himself to be checkmated. Such audaciousness defined his approach to the game, proving that in chess, as in life, risks are worth taking - but not in this case…

Tragically, on October 17, 2015, Emory Tate's journey came to a premature end when he suffered a heart attack during a tournament in Milpitas, California. Dying doing what he loves most, coming out of an unpredictable moment on top. His passing was a profound loss to the chess community and left a void that could never be filled. Grandmasters and international masters from around the world paid tribute to his remarkable contributions and celebrated his life and legacy.

Even in death, Emory Tate's impact endures. To honor his profound influence on the game and the lives he touched, the Emory Andrew Tate III Chess Scholarship Fund was established. This initiative supports young chess players who aspire to pursue higher education, ensuring that Tate's commitment to empowering through chess lives on.

The spirit of Emory Tate lives on through his son’s Andrew & Tristan Tate, who have carried forward their father's legacy with their own remarkable achievements. Like his father, Andrew has shown an unwavering commitment to pushing boundaries and defying conventional norms. In some good and some bad ways. For example, as a world champion kickboxer, Andrew mastered the realm of combat sports with the same fearless determination and audacity that Emory displayed on the chessboard. Both diverging from their given a typical path, Emory an intellect played chess instead of becoming an engineer & Andrew chose kickboxing in Europe over boxing. They both seemed to fall into their destined path, not what made sense to others but only to themselves. In his own unique way, Andrew embodies the indomitable spirit of his father, proving that the Tate legacy of courage, unconventional wisdom, and unyielding pursuit of excellence can transcend generations. Andrew & Tristan Tate serves as a living testament to the enduring impact and inspiration of his legendary father, Emory Tate.


Emory Tate's life and chess career were a testament to the power of daring to be different. As a chess maverick, he challenged conventions, inspired generations, and carved his unique path to greatness. His audacious style, fearless sacrifices, and unwavering love for the game left an indelible mark on the chess world.

Beyond his individual successes, Emory Tate was a passionate advocate for chess education, particularly in underprivileged communities. He believed that chess could transform lives, instilling critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and discipline. His infectious personality and theatrical game demonstrations made him a revered figure, drawing crowds who marveled at his moves.

Today, let us celebrate the extraordinary life and accomplishments of Emory Tate, a true maverick of chess. May his legacy inspire us to embrace our own audacity, take risks, and pursue our passions with unyielding determination. In the spirit of Emory Tate, let us unleash our inner mavericks and make our boldest moves, both on and off the chessboard.