Friday, October 2, 2009

Girl Power

An entertaining article from the as an introduction to the 2009 U.S. Women's Chess Championship 10/02/2009 - A 7-year-old taught me how to play chess. In first grade, Matt got a Harry Potter set in which the pieces were so unique I understood the rules completely as he explained them. Then he beat me. Not every time, but more than I'd like to admit. The real fun was playing Tom, who won a lot, too. But oh, those games I got the best of him were pretty sweet. We haven't dusted off the chess set in awhile, but I was reminded of it when I came across this bit of information: St. Louis is about to become the center of the chess universe when the 2009 U.S. Women's Championship takes place Oct 3-13 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis in the Central West End. Kind of cool, in a nerdy sort of way. Got me thinking about setting up a board again. If you don't know the rules, this column won't help. But I look at chess as a metaphor for a modern American family. The whole idea is to outthink your opponent and help your "family" reign supreme. And you have five helpers, each with a distinct function. Pawns, for example, are your kids. They're everywhere, and they're out in front eager to move. But they can only go so far, and really, they're not very powerful. Rooks are your home or foundation, keeping you in line in a straight and narrow manner. The knights, moving in an L-shape, are your siblings and in-laws - still part of your family but strange and unpredictable. Bishops move diagonally, but follow the rules to the letter and never get out of line. Then there's the queen. Multi-tasking and doing everything in a you-go-girl kind of way, the queen moves backwards, forwards, sideways, diagonally. Plus, she protects the king, who somehow is powerful but can only do one thing at a time. Funny, the game hinges on the king, but it's the queen who does all the work. I'm just saying ... Chess is not for the feint (sic) of heart, but then again, neither is raising a family. The tournament meanwhile, will have some of the biggest names in chess you've never heard of, including Camilla Baginskaite, at 42, the oldest competitor with a master's in art history who also happens to be raising two kids. Or top-ranked Anna Zatonskih, 31, who has a two-year-old daughter. Zatonskih is competitive but says her priorities changed when she became a mother. "I want to win, I want to achieve. Let's just say I'm not so crazy about it now," she says. This noncompetitive woman is the defending champ. You can see all the women multitasking their way through the Central West End for the next ten days. For more information, visit

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