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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ex-US Chess Champ Jen Shahade on 'Hidden Beauty' in Chess

Chess blog for latest chess news and chess trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2013

Hi everyone, 

Here's a 'beautiful' feature from the two-time US Women's Chess Champion with an insight and passion for the sport of chess that only a true chess lover can possess. Enjoy reading.

On Chess: Unveiling the hidden beauty
By Jennifer Shahade, WGM, special to the Beacon

Marcel Duchamp is best known as an artist, and he is revered at the World Chess Hall of Fame, which is directly across the street from the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. Duchamp, also a chess master, famously said, “In chess there are some extremely beautiful things in the domain of movement, but not in the visual domain. It’s the imagining of the movement or of the gesture that makes the beauty.”

Jennifer Shahade and Yasser Seirawan are providing live play-by-play commentary of the U.S. Chess Championships to thousands of viewers online.

Indeed, much of the beauty in a chess game lies in hidden variations that are imagined in a chess player’s mind but not played over the board. Play-by-play commentary unveils this magic to a larger audience and is one of the reasons insightful and entertaining live commentary is key to making chess popular in America.

The St. Louis Chess Club is at the forefront of chess innovation in America, and this year’s approach to coverage and commentary is yet another example. Spectrum Studios is covering the 2013 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship for FOX Sports Midwest and will produce a one-hour recap special that will air at 6 p.m. May 25. This is an important step toward increasing the popularity of chess and a sign that we are nearing a tipping point.

The live show streams daily at 1 p.m. on the website of FOX Sports Midwest, and also on the main tournament event website: Every round, I join Grandmasters Maurice Ashley and Yasser Seirawan to unravel the mysteries of the 17 games for thousands of viewers in hundreds of countries across the world.

Maurice Ashley interviews Gregory Kaidanov, a recent inductee into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame, after his first-round victory at the 2013 U.S. Championship.

Both Ashley and Seirawan are among the most renowned commentators in chess history. Both have appeared on ESPN, and Ashley even joined Garry Kasparov in commenting on “Magnus Carlsen vs. the World” at a G-star Raw fashion week event in September 2010. Four-time U.S. Chess Champ Seirawan has commented on chess tournaments all over the world, and fans adore his soothing voice and instructive strategic analysis.

I’ve also focused on chess commentary in my own career, serving as a commentator for the U.S. Championships each of the five years they’ve been held in St. Louis. Another special project of mine was a TV show pilot called Extreme “X Chess” Championships, where games played out to checkmate so viewers could see every bloody finish.

This year’s approach to commentary is a little different: Yasser and I supply a steady stream of analysis while Maurice breaks in with key moments and beautiful variations.

So far, viewers have been pleased with the coverage, though there is always room for improvement. As I tweeted (@jenshahade) after yesterday’s round: “Need some more jackets for live shows. Color suggestions? Feeling dowdy next to two best-dressed GMs Seirawan & @MAURICEASHLEY!” Leopard print was the public vote, but I’ll be looking for the perfect combination of black and white.

Come see the action in person at the Chess Club on the Central West End, or catch the play-by-play for the remaining rounds online at I’ll keep working with Maurice and Yasser to explore the hidden variations lurking in the minds of the country’s best chess players.

Jennifer Shahade is a Philadelphia-based writer, gamesplayer, author and commentator. She is a two-time U.S. Women's Chess Champion and is the editor of Chess Life Online at Shahaded is on the board of directors of the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis and was a commentator and organizer for the 2009-2013 U.S. Chess Championships.

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