Spotlight on Courtney Jamison
By Elizabeth Vicary   
May 15, 2008
CourtneyleadCLO.jpgElizabeth Vicary interviewed Courtney Jamison shortly after the All-Girls Nationals. Jamison, a wildcard in the U.S. Women's Championship, lost her first two games but has seven games left to avoid her biggest fear. Expect to see more of Courtney at future U.S. Women's.

Elizabeth Vicary: Congratulations on being invited to the US Championship. How are you feeling about it and what are you doing to prepare?
Courtney Jamison: I'm nervous about the tournament-mostly I'm afraid I'll lose all my games. The main thing I really need to work on are my openings. At the World Youth, Joel Benjamin was my coach; he wasn't totally disgusted, but thought I had some big holes. I'm also going over games from the other players, trying to get a feel for their style, see if they make any typical mistakes.

: How did your games go in the All-Girls-Nationals?
CJ: I was disappointed to lose to Medina because my time management was very poor. I always have had time pressure problems, but I really thought I had gotten over them.

EV:In general, how do you deal with losses?
CJ: When I was little I would cry all the time, but now I try not to let it get to me. I just try to forget about it. I think I'm pretty good at recovering from a loss. In 2006, I lost round one at the World Open, but came back to tie for third (scoring 7/8 in the remaining rounds-EV).  

EV:Do you find any differences playing against women and men, either in terms of their chess, their behavior, or the psychological situation it puts you in?
CJ:People talk a lot about this-I've heard it said that woman are more aggressive, they like to attack, and also the reverse-that most women play passively. The only thing I've noticed is that women seem to be more tactically sound.

EV: It's always seemed to me that being female in the chess world offers some advantages, like being able to play in tournaments like this one, the US Women's, the World Youth, but also has disadvantages, like the sense of being stared at in tournaments or feeling different. What are your thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages?
CJ: I've been playing so long that I'm much less self-conscious than I used to be. When I was younger I definitely felt more bothered. But I've stuck with it, so I feel like people just got used to me.

EV: Why do you think so few adult women play chess? It seems like even the most talented female teenagers drop out of chess once they get to college. Do you think you will play chess all your life?
Chess has always been the constant for me, my Northern Star. If chess were taken away from me, it would be weird. I might be able to handle it, but I don't know. It would give me some freedom in some ways, but what would I do all the time? Everyone knows me as a chessplayer, and most of my closest friends play chess.

EV: Do you mean male or female friends?
CJ: Female, people like Stephanie Ballon, Etti Nikolova, Abby Marshall, Gayatri Vempati. It's easy to be friends with chess girls because we are all alienated in some way. We really understand each other because of that. With school there is always change: you change grades, schools, teachers, but chess doesn't change.

There's been lots of talk about the need for female role models in chess, but I've always wondered whether chess isn't a very individualist kind of game that attracts people who are less likely to have role models.  How do you personally feel; do you have role models in chess?
CJ:I don't really have a role model. I just don't feel that I need someone to show me how to be. I just gotta study (smiles). But I think it depends on the person: maybe some people need a model and that's totally cool.