Chess and the twisted radio show

1/16/2003 – What do chess players do on a rest day? Well rest they don't. Some give simuls for children, others take part in costume chess battles. Jennifer Shahade appeared on a classical rock radio station ("Bob Rivers and Twisted Radio") and humourously answered questions about whether she undid a few buttons on her blouse before playing against men. Read all about it in our latest report on the US championship in Seattle.

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No such thing as a rest day...

A popular misconception has it that on the rest day the backroom staff and the players in big tournaments have a "rest". Maybe in other events, but this isn't the case in the US Championships. While there are no games played as the tournament reaches its midway point, there is however a lot of chess work to be done - and for the good of the game in the community.

The mission statement of the AF4C is "to invest in the education of our children and to bring chess into our cultural fabric." So, in order to compete in the US Championships that has a record-prize fund of $253,000, all the players have to sign a contract with the AF4C that has within it a provision for them to "give back" two days of their time within one-year of signing to promote chess. Mostly the players spend this time in Seattle by playing simuls or visits to schools in the Washington area where we have scholastic chess programs. Sometimes we even ask the players to do something similar a lot nearer to home if we deem it a worthy cause, though in general most of this community work is done in and around Seattle during their free time.


A living chess battle staged by the Seattle Knights

In between Christmas and New Year, we called on the services of WGM Elena Donaldson and her husband, IM Georgi Orlov, to take part in a Living Chess Battle held at the Seattle Center, with the redoubtable Seattle Knights, a professional mediaeval combat troupe, playing the part of the chess pieces on a giant-sized board. This was a Living Chess Match with a difference, though. When a piece was taken in the game, they then had to do battle on the stage with real weapons!

The whole day proved to be big success - especially with the kids. Not only did Elena and Georgi play two games (Georgi winning 1.5-0.5), but in-between the breaks we recreated the chess scene from the first Harry Potter film (which incidentally was composed for the Hollywood blockbuster by our commentator, IM Jeremy Silman.) and had three kids selected from the audience to play the parts of Harry, Hermione and Ron. A fun day out that helped both to promote chess in the community at large and the forthcoming US Championships.


When human chess pieces do battle

We also call on some of the top players to do some special media work for the AF4C during this time. On the rest day I had the task of getting defending women's champion Jenn Shahade out of bed before 8.00am accompany her as she was the "special guest" on the "Bob Rivers and Twisted Radio" morning show at Seattle classic rock radio station KZOK (102.5 FM). From the billing on the KZOK website we knew it wasn't going to be easy: "Jennifer Shahade (rhymes with "hottie"), defending U.S. women's chess champion, competing in the U.S. Chess Championships this week in Seattle."


Jennifer Shahade on a talk show

On arrival, however, the radio hosts were amazed that Jennifer was a chess player, let alone a women's champion. Assorted jokes about whether or not she undid a few buttons on her blouse before playing against men were about as intellectual as their conversation got, and our feisty defending champion took it with good humor despite the early hour.


Children's simul in Seattle

The main activity of the day, though, was a giant simultaneous organized at the Seattle Center as 25 of the players each taking on rows of 20 K-12 students (over 300 kids). This included a bus load of students from Seattle area low-income schools such as Bailey-Gatzert Elementary, a participant of the AF4C classroom chess program.


GM Walter Browne giving a simul for children

The kids loved it! They got to play some of the top stars in the game like Maurice Ashley, Boris Gulko, Yasser Seirawan and Walter Browne. More importantly, the player's loved it as they felt they were doing a worthy job of taking chess to the community.

You can follow all 29 games live over the Internet at www.af4c.org.


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