Ashley Lynn Priore was four years old when she began playing competitive chess. Now she runs her own nonprofit, The Queen’s Gambit Chess Institute, to teach others the “science of decision making.”

By S. Rose Eilenberg

Photos courtesy of Ashley Lynn Priore

Pittsburgh native Ashley Lynn Priore began playing competitive chess at the age of four. She started teaching the game at eight years old, and started her own nonprofit, The Queen’s Gambit Chess Institute (TQG), at the age of 14. She’s 19 now and attending the University of Pittsburgh.

When she was younger, her priority was being an aggressive competitor. However, that changed as Priore got older.

“Now I love that chess is connected to so many things; it’s so versatile,” she said. According to Priore, it’s the journey of chess, rather than the goal of getting the checkmate, that makes it such a valuable learning tool. 

TQG, which Priore founded in 2014, is dedicated to chess programming and outreach in the greater Pittsburgh area. Before its founding, Priore was teaching in multiple venues and wanted to bring everything under the same umbrella. She also thought it was important to create a woman-led space in what is still a male-dominated field.

“I wanted to create something that would inspire other women and impact Pittsburgh,” she said. TQG programs are targeted toward the communities of Homewood, the Hill District, and Wilkinsburg, with a focus on women and girls, especially women and girls of color, who face so many barriers in a white, male-dominated field. 

A few of Priore’s students at a past event hosted by The Queen’s Gambit Chess Institute. Children can learn how to make decisions through the game of chess, Priore says, which in turn, can impact their communities. Photo courtesy of Ashley Lynn Priore

Priore believes chess can be used to empower communities through strategic thinking. She has her students think of an issue in their life or affecting their community and pick a piece to represent it. Then, they think of the moves in the game like the many paths their actions could create. Her method highlights the importance of thinking five to 10 moves ahead. Chess, Priore says, is “the science of decision making—it’s not about the product, it’s about the steps. If I decide to move here, what are the consequences?”  She stresses that kids are capable of impacting their communities. 

“I’m really passionate about young people. They have important things to say. We need to give them a seat at the table,” she said. 

TQG programming consists of three pillars: chess programming, which includes classes, clubs, and tournaments, community projects, and partnerships and consulting. So far, TQG has served 500 students in the Pittsburgh area and partnered with over 50 organizations. The organization consists of a 12-person board, five staff members, and plenty of students, parents, and volunteers. Check out the TQG website to learn more. 

You can hear Priore speak about the future of gaming at an informal discussion at the Carnegie Science Center’s 21+ Night: Game Night on Friday, August 16. Explore video, board, role-playing, and casino games and the science behind them. Find out more information about the event here