Ex-US Chess Champ Jen Shahade on 'Hidden Beauty' in Chess
On Chess: Unveiling the hidden beauty
By Jennifer Shahade, WGM, special to the Beacon
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: www.uschesschamps.com/live. 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.
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 uschesschamps.com/live. I’ll keep working with Maurice and Yasser to explore the hidden variations lurking in the minds of the country’s best chess players.
Also see her personal blog at
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