Queen for a Day: An Interview with Lauren Goodkind

by Alexey Root
2/8/2020 – Lauren Goodkind took some special education classes in high school and has had a speech impediment since she was two years old. Now, at age 36, her US Chess rating is 1878. Her twin sister Barbara's rating is 1818, putting both in the top 8% of all US Chess-rated players. As WIM ALEXEY ROOT reports, Lauren is also an author; her third book, Queen for a Day: The Girl’s Guide to Chess Mastery, was just published. | Pictured: Judit Polgar and Goodkind in London, December 2019

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Guiding girls to chess mastery

Lauren Goodkind is a chess author and teacher, conducting private lessons throughout the San Francisco Bay area. She also volunteers teaching chess at libraries and serves as a board member for the Eade Foundation, as mentioned in a previous ChessBase article. FM James Eade said, “I wanted board members who are building communities through chess. Lauren’s name was one of the first that occurred to me, and I am so happy that she said ‘yes’ to being the board’s Secretary.”

An excerpt from Lauren’s first book (PDF), explains her challenges growing up. For example, Lauren was bullied and did not succeed academically. Her high school GPA was in the C+/B- range and she had to repeat Algebra 2. Chess became her positive outlet, helping her finish high school and earn a college degree.

Lauren's first book, How to Win at Chess by Answering Questions, is available as a free download from her website. Lauren also published a second book, 50 Poison Pieces, available on Amazon.com. I edited Lauren’s third book and ran a contest to name it. According to Lauren, “Queen for a Day: The Girl’s Guide to Chess Mastery is endorsed by Jennifer Shahade, Jennifer Yu, and other respected top chess players and organizations.”

You can see Lauren in a video from October 22, 2019. More recently, Lauren attended the London Chess Conference and was a panelist for the Round Table on Inclusion and Equal Opportunities. I interviewed Lauren via email on December 31, 2019.

AR: On your website, you annotated your draw in 2003 against National Master and billionaire Peter Thiel.

Can you share a more recent game against another strong (or famous) player?

LG: Here’s a more recent tournament game that I played at the 2018 US Amateur Team West tournament.  My opponent was Vlad-Bogdan Ghita, who is US Chess-rated 2028. This was my first time playing against him.


Click or tap the second game in the list to switch

Have you read Rick Riordan’s book The Lightning Thief or seen the musical? The song Strong made me think of you, particularly that Percy Jackson (the main character) has disabilities and struggles in school. His mother reassures him that his future will be better because “there’s a place you need to go where you belong.” Tell who encouraged you and why chess is “where you belong.”

I actually have not read that book or seen the musical. I would like to read the book soon since it seems inspirational! My parents encourage me. They never pushed me to play chess, but I kept on playing because I loved winning, and I was naturally good. Playing in chess tournaments once a week was a positive outlet for me outside of high school. I met interesting chess people. Playing chess against boys and men didn’t bother me at all. After I graduated from Notre Dame de Namur University in December 2006, I had a very hard time trying to find a full-time job. After a frustrating job search that took several years, a mentor of mine suggested to me to teach chess, one-on-one. I eventually got one student, then several more private students.

I am extremely thankful to be a self-employed chess teacher in the San Francisco Bay area. I love to share my chess knowledge with my students and see them make progress. Some students play in tournaments and some do not. My youngest student is 4 years old and my oldest is an adult. I like to work with people of all ages. Many of my students have been with me for over one year. Some students have been with me for over several years. This means that I know that I’m doing an excellent job teaching chess, which makes me feel good inside. I will continue to teach chess six days a week and continue to help the chess community out. Without chess, I would be pretty lost in life.   

From November 30-December 1, 2019, you attended the London Chess Conference. The theme of the 2019 conference was “Chess and Female Empowerment.” Can you share one or two memorable moments from attending it?

Polgar and GoodkindMy most memorable moment was meeting the amazing Judit Polgár [pictured] for the first time! I enjoyed listening to her on the panel. Afterwards, I shook her hand and even got her autograph. I gave that autographed paper to my most advanced student, who is US Chess-rated 1600. I am inspired by the Polgár sisters since they are among the best women chess players in the world. I told Judit Polgár that my students love playing in her sister Susan Polgár’s chess tournaments for kids.

My second most memorable moment was just meeting other chess professionals! Most of the other chess professionals were from Europe. There were other people from Africa, Mongolia, USA, and more. It was a wonderful opportunity to network with these people and I hope that we’ll be in touch for a long time. Networking with other chess professionals is always a good thing. I also enjoyed learning more information about females and chess.       

At the London Chess Conference, you were a panellist for the "Roundtable on Inclusion and Equal Opportunities". Give a brief summary of that roundtable. Also, was there a debate over separate versus inclusive tournaments?

Goodkind in LondonWe were talking about inclusion and equal opportunities for people who have disabilities. I accidentally came a little late to the roundtable, so according to me, there wasn’t really a debate over separate/inclusive tournaments. Here are my thoughts: People who have disabilities can compete in regular tournaments like everybody else. If special accommodations need to be implemented, then that's what needs to be happening. For people who have disabilities and want to play against others that have disabilities in a separate tournament, I think that’s perfectly fine too.         

Are there analogies between the arguments for and against occasional separate tournaments for people with disabilities and similar occasional separate tournaments for girls and women (separate from boys/men)?

I am not too sure about analogies. I think that all kinds of tournaments should peacefully co-exist. I think that separate tournaments for people who have disabilities is a good idea. But I also think that people who have disabilities should also compete in general tournaments too. I think that separate tournaments for girls and women is a good idea too, since chess is a male-dominated game. Such tournaments provide wonderful opportunities to play against other women and girl chess players. Friendships can develop. Girls and women should also play against boys/men too!

There are other popular hobbies that are female or male-dominated too, like crochet/knitting. I like to crochet too. I have noticed that some knitting shops have male–only knitting social groups since this hobby is a female-dominated hobby. I think this is a good idea, so men can meet other men that enjoy knitting. I'm sure that other gender-dominated hobbies do the same thing.   

Would you play in a separate tournament for people with disabilities? Would you play in a separate tournament for girls/women only? If yes or no to either, tell why.

I fully support separate tournaments for people with disabilities. However, I am personally not interested in playing in a separate tournament for people who have disabilities, even though I was bullied in school, took special education classes, and saw speech therapists for many years. Even though I may never have perfect speech, at this time, I strongly don’t want to associate myself as having a disability.  

I want to continue to play in all-female chess tournaments in the future. In the past, I have competed in all-girl and female tournaments at the Berkeley Chess School and Menlo Park. I really enjoyed playing in these tournaments, since I get to play against a woman or a girl every single round. It's very nice to talk to female chess players between rounds, and perhaps make some new friends!    

What are your goals for 2020, and, if you want to look further ahead, for this new decade? 

book jacket

For 2020, I want to inspire more girls and women to play chess! Therefore, I want to promote my book Queen For A Day: The Girl’s Guide to Chess Mastery. I am available to give book talks and simuls, locally, throughout the USA, and internationally (good thing that I renewed my passport several months ago). Contact me by email if you are interested in my coming to your club, organization, and more. I have been really enjoying teaching chess for the last seven years, and I plan to continue to teach in 2020. I’m also available for online chess lessons.

For this new decade, I am a big believer in “thinking big” so in November 2019, I started another major chess project. I estimate that this confidential project will probably take five to ten years to complete. I also plan to write more instructional chess books for girls and women. I'm also thinking about developing other chess material to expand my chess business.    

On another note, as you know, I am open about sharing my personal adversity issues when I was in school, growing up, so I can help others. This is a sensitive topic for me, of course, but I realize others struggle a lot in school too. I feel that I successfully overcame my adversity issues in school, so here’s my special message for people who have disabilities who are struggling in grade school, middle school, or high school. Always have a positive perspective of yourself and believe in yourself as a person, even in frustrating situations. You are smart in your own way. Also, maintaining your mental health is crucial — this is more important than getting decent grades in school! Don’t let the school environment destroy you — you have to believe that you are strong inside. It seems like some people who struggle a lot in school for many years don’t know how to cope and sadly end up getting a serious mental health condition and or end up developing a very negative perspective on themselves as a person…Always stay positive.

Alexey was the 1989 U.S. Women's Chess Champion and is a Woman International Master. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Puget Sound and her doctoral degree in Education at The University of California, Los Angeles. She has been a Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at UT Dallas since 1999 and is a prolific author.


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