Monday, December 19, 2011

Interview with a Hottie ('Hade) - Jennifer Shahade

Naked Chess Exhibition - Max Euwe Memorial
Weak Square:  Recently you participated in a "naked chess" exhibition to raise awareness and attention for chess. Is there a particular reason why I was not asked to participate?

Jennifer: It was all the way in Amsterdam. We'll have to do the next version in your hometown or at least on Twitter.

Seriously, it was a lot of fun. Naked chess started out as video promotion for a book I co-authored on Marcel Duchamp and chess. Duchamp played chess against a naked woman in a famous photograph, so we reversed that. The Amsterdam piece, which coincided with the closing ceremony of the Max Euwe Memorial took it one step further by comically showing how one of the most typical chess exhibitions, the simultaneous, is a lot about showcasing dominance.

Weak Square: Cool! When did you first realize your passion for chess or desire to become a master?

Jennifer: In high school, I developed a very intense passion for chess. Prior to that, I had mostly tagged along with my brother and father, both master players, to major chess tournaments.

At that point, I began to study on my own, especially endgames, openings and tactics. I also played a lot of blitz, especially with stronger players.

Weak Square:
You describe yourself as a professional games player and have had success in both chess and poker. Are there any other games you are equally passionate about?

Hula Chess
Jennifer: The ones I came up with! For instance, hula chess, a video installation I made with Daniel Meirom which combines the intellectual vigor of chess with the constant movement of hula-hooping. You can see that piece and our other game-related video work on

There's also roulette chess, which I developed with Larry List, and combines chess with the luck element of games like poker, you spin the wheel to see which piece you move.

Otherwise, I am highly intrigued by games like Scrabble and Go but don't currently have the time to delve too deeply into them.

Roulette Chess
Weak Square: I wish I had known about Roulette Chess before I wrote an article on chess variants, I probably would have included it. Although naked chess sounds like a fun variant which I've tried to talk my wife into several times but she just rolls her eyes. Anyways, what is your favorite beer?

Jennifer: I'm more of a cocktail person. Lately I've been going for vodka martinis with extra olives. So when I order beer I usually just improvise. I also like wine. Once I played chess with GM Pascal Charbonneau on an all wine chess set, by Fluxus artist Takako Saito, at an all-night art festival in Toronto.
Wine Chess

Weak Square: Granted there are not a lot of good ones out there, and every time I see one there is invariably a chess board set up incorrectly, but in your opinion what is the best chess movie out there?

Jennifer: I wish there were more to choose form. I enjoyed "Searching for Bobby Fischer" and the recent "Bobby Fischer Against the World".  I am also looking forward to "Brooklyn Castle".

On the TV tip, I am very excited about the new made for chess TV show, the Extreme Chess Championships, which I created with my brother Greg and Daniel Meirom. You can follow the progress of that on Twitter and Facebook. We also have a preview on YouTube.

Weak Square: And best Poker movie?

Jennifer: Rounders. I also enjoy watching a lot of livestreams from tournaments like the World Poker Tour and the European Poker Tour. My favorite poker show is "The Big Game" on PokerStars. Watching a lot of poker on TV and online has inspired me to think of the most effective way to promote chess to the mainstream, as poker has done so effectively.

Weak Square: Ah, true! Rounders was good. Ed Norton's character was such a tool in that movie. So, I'm not going to lie, you are kind of intimidating. Have you ever beat up a boy before?

Jennifer: Physically? Not yet. Over the chess board or poker table? Plenty of times.

Weak Square: Cool. Do you have an all-time favorite win or tournament?

Jennifer: Winning the US Women's Championship in 2002 was very special to me because I also had such a strong tournament performance and was feeling great about life and my game.

Weak Square:
What is one of your biggest pet peeve's?

Jennifer: Excessive Negativity.

Weak Square: Same here. And finally, I always ask this of every person I interview, because I think it's an important question for novice players such as myself to hear the answer to: did you ever experience a loss in chess that was so devastating that you considered quitting chess completely?

Jennifer: Not really. If anything, when I used to play super-seriously, losses often motivated me to work harder. Thanks for interviewing me!

Weak Square:
You're welcome! Thanks for taking the time to make yourself accessible for interview!

Jennifer: I really enjoy your Twitter feed and blog.

Weak Square: Ha! Cool! Thanks so much for the kind words. Best of luck with all of your projects.

You can keep up with Jennifer at , her personal website and her Twitter feed

You can follow me, the Weak Square, on Twitter at You can also check out my other interviews with chess stars by clicking here.