YANSS 238 – Jennifer Shahade on how we can learn about passion, obsession, representation, sexism, strategy, tactics, and sideways thinking by exploring the world of professional chess players

In this episode we sit down with Jennifer Shahade, a two-time U.S. Women’s Chess Champion, author, speaker, and professional poker player whose new book, Chess Queens, is the true story of the greatest female players of all time interwoven with her own experiences as a chess champion.

iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Patreon – Soundcloud – OmnySpotifyAmazonAudible


For fans of The Queen’s Gambit, this is the real life story of a female chess champion travelling the world to compete in a male-dominated sport with the most famous players of all time.

Jennifer Shahade, a two-time US Women’s Chess Champion, spent her teens and twenties travelling the world playing chess. Tournaments have taken her from Istanbul to Moscow, and introduced her to players from Zambia to China. In this ultra male-dominated sport, Jennifer found shocking sexism, as well as an incredible history of the top female players that has often been ignored. But she also found friendships, feminism and hope.

Through her own story as well as in-depth profiles of pioneers of the game , Jennifer invites us into the extremely competitive world of chess. She shows us the rivalry and the camaraderie; the ecstatic highs and the excruciating losses; the glamour and the hard work. She describes the coach who told her that her period will affect her standard of play, and gives us thrilling blow by blow accounts of the matches that made history.

Intertwined with Jennifer’s own story are those of the top female players from around the world. We meet the famous Polgar sisters, the three Hungarian girls who were all child prodigies; we meet the glamorous jet setters who travel the world partying, and the players who escaped war-torn countries to become champions against the odds.

Chess Queens is a fascinating glimpse into the exhilarating world of chess and an essential book for all the aspiring chess queens of today.

Jennifer Shahade

Jennifer Shahade grew up in a family of gamers.

Her brother is IM Greg Shahade is founder of the PRO Chess League and the US Chess School, while her mother, Dr. Sally Solomon (1940-2013), was an avid bridge and poker player. Her father, FM Michael Shahade is a four-time state champion and taught her chess at five. Jennifer did not take to the game right away, gravitating instead to acting and writing. When she got back into it in high school, she fell in love and quickly improved, becoming a National Master at the age of 16, and the first female to win the US Junior Open. She went on to win two US Chess Women’s Championship titles and a Silver Olympic medal.

Jennifer’s joint passion for games and art led to dozens of creative projects through her career, including authoring Chess Queens, which chronicles the true stories of the top women players in history, intertwined with Jennifer’s own life. She’s also the host of two award-winning podcasts, the GRID and Ladies Knight. The show is a game within a game, as Jen fills out the entire 169 grid of possible poker hands, with no repeats.

Jennifer is the MindSports Ambassador at PokerStars and loves to show how games like poker and chess can help anyone make better decisions. Her titles include a Championship belt at the Open Face High Roller Championship in Prague. Jennifer fights to make games more inclusive through her work with US Chess Women, where she helps bring chess to girls, gender minorities and women. She’s also an ambassador for Poker Power, an organization that aims to “flip the table” and teach one million women poker.

Links and Sources

iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Patreon – Soundcloud – OmnySpotifyAmazonAudible

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