Women in Chess from the Screen to Saint Louis
By Jennifer Shahade   
April 12, 2011
QTP300.jpgIt's a great season for women in chess. Besides the recently concluded All-Girls Nationals in Chicago, the US Women's Championships are starting up in just three days in Saint Louis, Missouri. This year's US Women's features the highest first prize in the tournament's history, $18,000. An eight player round robin will lead to semifinals and a head to head final. 

AnnaZ.jpgThe favorites are reigning champ IM Irina Krush, who played fantastically last year and bravely recorded a Victory Rap and three-time champ Anna Zatonskih. Anna has been playing very well lately and has broken 2500 FIDE- check out her sick graph! Don't forget to make your own predictions in fantasy chess.

Two weeks ago, I went on a mini book tour to San Francisco, Fremont and Tucson to promote Play Like a Girl and to participate in the 9 Queens Annual Chess Fest. I had a lovely time. On the first leg of my trip, I taught an All-Girls camp and conducted two simuls at Ted Castro's fantastic new North Cal House of Chess in Fremont. I also gave a lecture at the historic Mechanics Institute in San Francisco. (Thanks John Donaldson!) It was also a lot of fun to catch up with West-coasters I mostly communicate via facebook, like Arun Sharma of the USCL (though I'm still bitter that he beat me in the simul with 1...f6 and 2...Kf7), IM Jacek Stopa & Katie Kormanik, Amanda Mateer and 9 Queens executive director Jean Hoffman.
Signing Play Like a Girl at the Mechanics

The talented girls at my North Cal House of Chess Simul and camp placed 1st in the Girls Under 8 and Girls Under 10 at the All-Girls Nationals last weekend!


Dressed as the red queen, Photo Jeffsmith.usa
Next I flew to Tucson for the 4th annual Chess Fest, and got dressed up as the red queen for a re-enactment of the chess game in Alice in Wonderland. The wonderful women of the Tucson Ladies Chess Club (as featured in the New York Times) , including Margo Burwell and Vicki Lazaro, made my trip particularly enjoyable! Jeff Smith also took some excellent photos- look for more on the 9 Queens facebook page.
The red and white queens reunite! Photo Jeffsmith.usa

The tournament poster to promote Chess Fest was more of an art piece than a flyer; it was inspired by Through the Looking Glass, which includes a fantastical chess game.
Despite majoring in literature, I had not read it before the Chess Fest. One of my favorite lines: "It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place."  Sounds like the Red Queen would be a fan of hula chess.

Continuing along the theme of powerful chess femmes, Last night, I went to see Queen to Play, an independent French movie about a woman who discovers chess through her work as a maid. While some may quibble about whether it's realistic to master chess in such a short time as an adult, I absolutely loved the pace, acting and scenery of the movie. There was even a moment where the heroine, obsessed with chess, fantasizes that her toiletries are chess pieces, in total keeping with the Play Like a Girl trailer! Queen to Play depicted chess very lovingly, and the protagonist's obsession with the game was portrayed more as a blessing than as a disease.
All this excitement around women in chess will climax next week in the US Women's Championship, which coincides with the overall US Chess Championship. Catch live commentary by me and GM Maurice Ashley on uschesschamps.com, and for an easy way to remember the day that the US Champs kick off, it's April 15 aka Tax Day (although this year, Uncle Sam is giving us till April 18.) A little US Championship action should be a fine distraction from that pile of receipts :)