Friday, June 22, 2007

Blast from the Past - Shahade 2006 Interview

March 12, 2006
The queen speaks!

Provocative U.S. women's chess champion Jennifer Shahade on why the thinking person's game isn't just for geeks -- or guys.
By Gary M. Stern

On the cover of her book last year about women in chess, top-ranked competitor Jennifer Shahade wears a strappy pink tank top, a pink wig and a come-hither look. Make no mistake: At 25, the New York City resident is a two-time national women's champion. Although men may get more attention, Shahade wants to encourage greater respect for and involvement by women. Next up: Her students will compete in the All-Girls National Chess Championship, for ages 5 to 18, March 18 and 19 in Chicago. We spoke to her:

Can you make a living at chess?
There isn't enough money from winning. You earn $12,500 from winning the U.S. Women's Championship.
Only 7.5% of competitive chess players are female. Why?
Role models. ... Since there are so few girls involved, it can be alienating.
Why choose chess? Chess can boost a woman's confidence in her intellectual endeavors and raise her self-esteem. You also can gain a Zen type of concentration.
What does chess teach you about life?
You have to submit to failure and keep going. I lost many times before I won the women's championship, and sometimes it was difficult to pick up the pieces and play again.
To earn extra money, you play many exhibitions. How do those work?
I've played up to 45 people at a time in "simuls," as in simultaneous. They're not as difficult for the professional, because chess is more a game of skill than of thinking. A great player sees the correct move instantaneously. It's about experience and intuition.
Any pre-game rituals?
I usually go for a 30-minute walk to clear my head. Chess is physically grueling. Many chess players lose 10 pounds during a tournament.
When did you start playing chess?
I knew the rules at 6, played a tournament around 9, but didn't get serious until 13. My dad is a chess master, so once I started to show motivation, he took me to tournaments.
What has been a major change in chess?
Chess players use computers to prepare for the game. The computers tell us where we went wrong and help us prepare defenses.
What's your favorite piece?
The queen!
Why are we not surprised?
The queen is the most powerful piece.
What do you see in the game's future?
We're going to see chess on TV. TV will help popularize it, like poker.
Best thing about chess?
Its fairness. It has nothing to do with what somebody else thinks about you or how much money you have. It's based on what you bring to the board.

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