Best of CLO 2010: #1
February 1, 2011
Jeff Sarwer
The #1 article in Best of CLO 2010 is Lost and Found: An Interview with Jeff Sarwer by Jennifer Shahade.  Judges enjoyed learning about the former chess prodigy's storied childhood, and how he was later able to apply his analytical skills in poker.

Jeff was the inspiration for Josh Waitzkin's foil in the film, Searching for Bobby Fischer. See Sarwer's wikipedia page and read recent features of Jeff in the Times London (pdf), Bluff Magazine and Cardplayer Magazine. Also watch a video describing his early years on (Part I) and Part II. His poker results are catalogued on

Shahade is a two-time US Women's Champion and the editor of Chess Life Online. She is also the author of Chess Bitch: Women in the Ultimate Intellectual Sport and co-author of Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess. Her next book, Play Like a Girl: Tactics by 9Queens has just arrived at Mongoose Press. The proceeds of PLAG all go to 9 Queens, a non-profit Shahade co-founded with Jean Hoffman.

Jennifer has also served as a commentator and chair for the US Chess and US Women's Championships, held from 2009-2011 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.
One of CLO's latest developments is a periodic video news show, the US Chess Scoop which has recently covered the Liberty Bell Open and the Atlantic City Open. Jennifer also created hula-chess with Daniel Meirom and roulette-chess with artist and curator Larry List.
JENCUNF3.jpgYou can find more writing by Jennifer on her CLO blog and on her personal website, where she most often writes about her two main passions outside chess and writing: art and poker. Jennifer is the co-host of Women's Poker Hour and writes articles to promote women in poker on the PokerStars blog. is also the sponsor of the US Chess League (founded by Jennifer's brother Greg.) 

The Judges Sound Off
Read more about the judges here.

Jenn keeps surprising us by pulling up creative chess-related projects that noone had thought about. Fascinating interview with Jeff Sarwer belongs to the smaller scale projects, nevertheless requiring tons of research about Sarwer's life. Starting out with the questions about the recent chess tournament that Sarwer played, mentioning Josh Waitzkin led to a smooth transition into Sarwer's traumatic childhood experience. Jenn's masterly style of interviewing encouraged Jeff's open and honest answers allowing us to savor Jeff's extraordinary character and life. A real treat!—Iryna Zenyuk

Shahade asked good questions and let him talk. It made him real.  These stories are good to get everyday people interested in chess- IM Dean Ippolito

This article answers another question raised in the movie.   Who was Josh Waitzkin's dark nemesis, and whatever happened to him?   CLO Editor Jen Shahade conducts a deep interview with Jeff Sarwer, the bad-boy genius whom Waitzkin allegedly defeats in the film.   She also provides us with the game score, a King's Indian 4-pawns attack that simplifies into a complex but ultimately drawn B vs. N ending -- completely unlike the dramatic game in the film.  

Sarwer, who traveled in hippie circles for many years before establishing himself as a competent investor and poker professional in Gdansk, Poland, still has the killer chess instinct, demonstrated by a GM-level performance at his only tournament in years.   His candid account of the event, as well as a transparent recounting of the childhood trauma he experienced, reveals the artistic mastery of the interviewer, with compassionate euphemisms like a "tumultuous family history."

WGM Shahade, herself a cross-over between the high-money world of poker and the high-prestige world of chess, is the perfect person to tease out all the important details of Sarwer's story.  Between the lines she acknowledges the sadness of one-sport chess aficionados, as we watch so many great young superstars abandon the game because of its low cash incentives.   But she leaves the reader hopeful that we might see Sarwer return to chess and make a run for the GM title, something we no longer expect from his more famous childhood nemesis—Damian Nash

Shahade doesn't ask why the chessboard is setup incorrectly (black square at h1) in the intro to Sarwer's Web site, but the questions she does ask are poignant and show perspective. Sarwer provides a fascinating figure from chess history.—Howard Goldowsky
CLO Editor "finds" and interviews one of the prodigies of the past in American chess.  Jeff Sarwer  took up poker instead of chess, but recently came back to the hobby of his youth.  This story includes little chess content, but makes for interesting reading nonetheless—Michael "f-pawn" Aigner

A fantastic interview!  It filled in a lot of gaps on a very interesting person who vanished and who has now reappeared—Michael Cornett
Fantastic interview; good mix of personal interest and interesting chess-related Q&A and excellent input from the interviewer as well. Great stuff.--Arne Moll

Best of CLO 2010 Countdown
#1- Lost and Found: An Interview with Jeff Sarwer by Jennifer Shahade
#2-The US Chess School Comes to Dallas by Elizabeth Vicary (Judging article)
#3- Moving up the Ladder by Christian Glawe (Judging article)
#4- A Parent's Perspective on the Chicago Open by Mark Schein (Judging article)
#5-  2010 Chess Olympiad: Final Impressions by IM John Donaldson (Judging article)
#6-the US Chess School Comes to Seattle Part I and Part II by Michael Yang. (Judging article)
#7- The US Championship in Black and White by GM Joel Benjamin (Judging article)
#8-Adamson on IM Norm #2 at the North American Masters by Robby Adamson (Judging article)
#9-The Sicilian Slayed by GM Gregory Kaidanov (Judging article)
#10- Hilton on Not Winning the Pan Ams by Jonathan Hilton (Judging article)