Jen Shahade: No Reason Grown-Ups Can't See Chess as Fun Game

Shahade2
"The kids are the first to discover that chess can be a fun game."

Jennifer Shahade is a writer, editor, commentator, two-time US Women's Chess champion and, of course, a poker player.

As if that wasn't enough to keep her busy she's also now the ambassador of Mind Sports for PokerStars and its affiliated tours.

Chess and poker have always had a somewhat symbiotic relationship. With new events on both the chess and poker circuits looking to meld the two together even more, there's never been a better (or more profitable) time to play both.

PokerListings managed to sneak a quick talk in with the busy Shahade on a break during Day 2 of the EPT London main event.

PokerListings: You're now PokerStars "Mind Sports Ambassador." What does that actually entail?

Jen Shahade: I help out with connecting chess and poker players. We just had an awesome event on the Isle of Man where we had a chess-and-poker combined tournament and an international chess tournament.

Jennifer Shahade
A lot of good poker players play chess and vice-versa.

We are also trying to interest new players to the game but there was already a lot of interest and we had a star-studded chess event with the top players from France and England, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Michael Adams.

It was won by none less than Grandmaster Nigel Short. I‘ve been doing a lot of chess promotion in the US, for example in my hometown Philadelphia, in St Louis and just recently in Indianapolis.

PL: Is it true you played 30 games of chess simultaneously?

JS: Yes. I do a lot of chess courses for children and in this show event I was playing against 30 kids aged between six and 10.

It is quite amazing how popular chess is amongst the youngsters.

PL: There have been earlier attempts to combine poker and chess – like WPT Prague and the Mind Sports Festival – but none of them had a lot of success. Why is this going to be different?

JS: I think with chess events and mixed events integrated into PokerStars events it's going to feel like a much more natural combination.

It's obvious that a lot of good poker players love chess and it's the same the other way round so it's definitely a good idea to challenge them on both.

For example on the Isle of Man we had two Supernova Elite players taking part in the chess events

There was Radoslaw radoom Jedynak, who is also a chess grandmaster and who plays 30-40 Hyper-turbo SnGs simultaneously. The other one was Simon Ansell from London, a PLO Zoom specialist.

PL: There is a lot less money in chess than in poker. How do you make a living?

JS: It is possible, but most professionals don’t live on playing alone. Like me they are teaching a lot, do promotional work and of course play the big tournaments.

They’ve just had a $1m tournament in Las Vegas where the winner took home $100,000. The winner is actually number 10 in the world.

Jennifer Shahade
Chess doesn't have to be stiff and silent.

PL: Is an event like the one in Vegas a proper way to make chess more sexy?

JS: Absolutely. And the bigger money will make it more attractive, too.

PL: Doesn‘t an event like this not contradict the notion of chess being an intellectual sport played in silence and in a rather stiff atmosphere?

JS: It shoudn’t be that kind of game. The kids are the first to discover that chess can be a fun game.

There is no reason why grown-ups can’t see it the same way.

Editor’s note: The “Millionaire Chess Open” at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas was won by Filipino Grandmaster Wesley So who beat American Grandmaster Ray Robson. So received $100,000 while Robson went home with a $50,000 check as second prize.

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