Jennifer Shahade – getting back at Marcel Duchamp

4/21/2009 – In 1963 the artist Marcel Duchamp posed for a picture at the Pasadena Art Museum in which he played a game of chess against a naked model. Inspired by this picture and the circumstances surrounding it two-time US Women's Champion WGM Jennifer Shahade, who has worked on a book on Duchamp, engaged in a one-sided nude chess game at the Philidelphia Soundstages. Here's the video.

Naked Chess

Jennifer Shahade, two-time U.S. Women's Champion plays chess against a naked man and talks about Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess by Francis M.Naumann, Bradley Bailey with analysis by Shahade. Created by Dim Mak Films. Read more about the video and the Duchamp game vs. a naked woman that inspired it: jennifershahade.com/site/2009/04/16/naked-chess/

You probably know the famous picture, taken by Julian Wasser at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1963, of the artist and chess fan Marcel Duchamp playing chess against a naked lady. There are full reproductions here, here and here. If the subject is really of interest to you there's an interview with the model, one Ms Eve Babitz, who in 2000 spoke about the circumstances of the historic photograph ("[Julian] said he had this great idea that I should play chess naked with Marcel Duchamp and it seem to be such a great idea that it was just like the best idea I'd ever heard in my life. It was like a great idea. I would be sort of immortalized.")

Well, recently US American WGM Jennifer Shahade, rated 2322, who has also earned a degree in Comparative Literature at New York University, and done all the analysis for a book entitled Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess, took inspiration from that picture and incident, and engaged in some naked chess play herself. Wearing a corset and using a borrowed "Au Naturel" chess set (price $1,100) Jennifer played a game that was taped in the new Philidelphie Soundstages.

Now before you gentlemen get too excited about this film project, know that the naked model was not Jenny Shahade but a man named Jason Bretz. His nickname is "Smiley", though Jen says she didn’t realize why till after the shoot. "I guess being naked, cold and in a doomed chess position took away some of his natural cheer."

In the video below Jennifer interrupts the game to narrate her involvement in the Duchamp chess biography and talks about the great artist's chess skills, before she is forced to concentrate on her game and the opponent.

For any of you who are in the vicinity there will be a panel discussion on Duchamp’s chess career at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis on Tuesday, May 5, one day before the art exhibit Marcel Duchamp: Chess Master opens at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art (SLUMA).

But on to the video, which has drawn world-wide media attention – well, we found a story entitled "Har du sett på naken?" on a Norwegian news portal. The video was posted on Vimeo.

Shaking up the chess world

A few years ago Jennifer Shahade generated a fair amount of national and international attention with a book very provocatively entitled Chess Bitch. "I have very mixed feelings about the various Anna Kournikovas of chess who promote chess and themselves in sexy modeling shoots," she said at the time. "A big dream is to help get chess on TV or featured in a film so I’m also working on that with a few different producers, hoping that if I shoot enough darts we’ll hit a bull’s-eye one day."

This explains the new video. The 28-year-old Woman Grandmaster is not content to simply play the game she's loved since she was a child. In the book, which features Shahade clad in a pink wig, scarf, and gloves on the cover, she examines high-profile female chess players from countries as farflung as Zambia, Russia, and China, examining the ways various governments support and nurture budding champions and how chess is or isn't valued, both financially and otherwise. She shares her own experiences studying with the likes of Garry Kasparov, and ultimately argues in favor of more women playing more chess, whether it's in all-female tournaments or mixed ones.

Today Jennifer, who twice won the US Women's Chess Championship, is kept busy with a full-time job as Editor in Chief of Uschess.org, the official website of the United States Chess Federation, where she also blogs about the game. You can read an indepth interview with her about her book in The Gothamist, and more about the Naked Chess game on this page (which includes stills from the match).


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