Jennifer Shahade, Chess Queen
Shahade learnt chess from her father, a four-time Pennsylvania chess champion,
at the age of six. For a long time she tagged along to tournaments with my brother
Greg and her father. "I was more interested in staying at nice hotels than
in the actual chess," she says. But then, when she was about 13, things
started to click and she began to see more tactics, and beat experts and masters
in blitz games. Jennifer graduated from NYU in January this year, and since
then she's been playing and writing and teaching chess to support herself. "This
was not a conscious decision, but just an easy and enjoyable way to make money
without working 9-5," she explains.
"People sometimes ask me if chess is fun," Jennifer says. "'Fun'
is not the word I's use. Tournament chess is not relaxing. It's stressful, even
if you win. The game demands total concentration. If you mind wanders for a
moment, with one bad move you can throw away everything you've painstakingly
Other Smithsonian articles on chess
the Game of Chess "Your Opponent Must Be Destroyed"
When world champion Garry Kasparov lost to IBM's supercomputer Deep Blue, it
wasn't a total defeat: the visibility and interest generated by the event proved
that the game itself is winning an ever-growing number of enthusiasts around
Sometimes it starts with chess, a most abstract form of warfare, with rigid
rules and little identical armies. Sometimes a young player wants more "reality,"
more of a sense that this is indeed a battle, and discovers commercial board
games simulating war.
As chessmen go, they are large, the king and queen nearly five inches tall,
knights and bishops about an inch less, pawns and castles two and a half inches.
Most chess sets come with opposed sets of identical pieces. Not this masterpiece
in porcelain, which replays old struggles between Bolshevik and Czarist opponents.
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