Reports | November 27, 2009 20:12

Chess player wins Beauty and the Geek

Jeremy Reading, a 24-year-old chess player and coach from Canberra, last night won Beauty and the Geek Australia. Both Reading and his team mate Emma Cam cashed 50,000 Australian dollars (a bit over € 30,000).

A total of 7 episodes running from October 8th, Beauty and the Geek Australia's first season finished last night with a grande finale. The Australian reality television series on the Seven Network, hosted by Bernard Curry, is based on the US version Beauty and the Geek created by Ashton Kutcher.

It's all about eight "Beauties" (young women who have relied primarily on their looks) and eight "Geeks" (young men who have relied primarily on intellect rather than social aptitude or looks) thrown into a house together, teaming up to compete in a series of challenges to "test their brains and charisma", struggling to overcome their differences in pursuit of a $100,000 prize. Among the beauties there was a glamour model, an air hostess and a spray tan technician while the geeks group had a physicist, a "child genius" and a "comic collector".

But it was the "chess champion" who won the $ 100,000 prize of the first season, together with his team mate, 21-year-old Emma Cam ("Miss Congeniality"). Emma turned out to be not stupid at all; in fact the Australian Miss Universe competition finalist works as a promotions model and event manager, and comes from an academic family of scientists, accountants and school principals.

In the final episode, the teams were paired up for a race challenge. Armed with cryptic clues, they had to work together to track down three eliminated contestants scattered throughout the city. The first two teams to find their friends and return to the mansion were Emma/Jeremy and Hadassah/Xenogene, who were eventually eliminated by Emma and Jeremy.

Jeremy Reading is a chess coach in Canberra. He was ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Junior champ in 2004 and he also won the ACT Rapid Championship two years later. Winning Beauty and the Geek, and rated only 1892, he cashed roughly as much money as the losers of the semi-finals of the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiyk will. On the website of the tv show he tries to explain what chess is about:

“Some people consider chess a sport. You need to be strong mentally – I’ve played for up to 4.5 hours – and to be able to concentrate for that long I would consider it a sport. My chess playing is probably my geekiest attribute. I’m the ACT champion – it’s really annoying not being able to say state champion.”

Naturally, the editors of the show emphasize how incredibly geeky it is to play chess:

Jeremy is a chess champion and while his lack of emotion might come in handy when psyching out his competitors, it has had the opposite effect on attracting girls.

“I’ve never had a girlfriend,” he confesses. “I’m not a very emotional person so maybe the beauties can help bring that out in me a bit."

GM David Smerdon, who auditioned for the show but wasn't found "geeky enough", writes on his blog:

Unfortunately, and somewhat surprisingly in my opinion, Jeremy suffered a mixed reaction from the Australian chess community to his participation. About half the polarised chessplayers felt this was degrading to Australian chess, and reinforcing negative stereotypes. The rest of us saw it as ‘any publicity is good publicity’, as well as a chance for chess players to rise up the coolness stakes of the geek world in which we have been involuntarily thrown. (...) Whatever your opinion of the show, noone can deny that he’s done remarkably well. And the next time a gorgeous girl is faced with a choice between an online gamer, an astro physicist and a chess player (as so often happens), perhaps Jeremy’s success will convince her to play for mate, as it were. Congratulations Jeremy!

Jeremy Reading is not Australia's first TV celebrity playing chess. Levon Aronian's girlfriend, 22-year-old Arianne Caoili, was one of the dancers in the fifth season of Dancing with the Stars, finishing runner-up, and in an episode of the TV show Deal or No Deal she won a car for the home competition entrant.


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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Mort's picture

I wonder what opening he played =P

ceann's picture

Who cares about Pap TV like this................NO ONE.
Must be a slow newsday for you Doggers

Rob Brown's picture

Will the real geeks please stand up.

Geeks were originally side show attractions at circuses whose main stunt was biting the heads off chickens, bats, frogs and other helpless creatures.

The dorks who dream up and produce these unreal reality shows and dopes that watch the puerile pap are the real geeks.

ChessGirl's picture

Well I thought it was a nice bit of information, you guys are not actually FORCED to read every single article on this website :)

DTK's picture

From now on he'll probably answer both 1.e4 and 1.d4 with 1..e6 and as White he'll play: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Lc4..
Saying something in French or Italian might be a succesful opening line towards girls, so his chess repertoire simply has to cope with this :)

Arne Moll's picture

What I like about the story is that he is not just a 'chess nerd' because he plays for the university team or knows the rules or something (like in the Revenge of the Nerds movies) but is an actual chess coach. Reading, in other words, is a real chess player, like the rest of us. Also, the fact that he has won as much money as a good pro in a world cup tournament is interesting. It shows that chess not only has potential when you're world class. Pity that most sponsors still do not realize this. Perhaps it will change after this show.

Inventorist's picture

'The first two teams to find their friends and return to the mansion were Emma/Jeremy and Hadassah/Xenogene, who were eventually eliminated by Emma and Jeremy.'

Actually, the first two teams to find their friends and return to the mansion were Lisa/Corin and Emma/Jeremy. Hadassah/Xenogene were eliminated as they were the last to arrive.

A very good article, well done Peter :)

Poek's picture

For the Dutch version some grandmasters were asked, but alas they refused :)

test's picture

>> What I like about the story is that he is not just a ‘chess nerd’

Sure. But the producers needed a geek and chose a chess player, reaffirming the stereotype. The funny thing is that people whom I consider to be a geek usually do not know how to play chess.

Arne Moll's picture

Well, test, you may be right but the fact that they refused Smerdon, also a chess player, perhaps indicates that Reading being a chess player was not the most important factor in their decision.

test's picture

>>...they refused Smerdon...
But for arguments sake: that does not really change anything imo. It does not matter to the producers how good they play chess, they probably don't know the first thing about chess anyway, all they (and the general public) know is that they are geeks. Apparently.

Arne Moll's picture

Actually I'm afraid there is something geeky about many chess players. As long as i've taken non-chess playing girlfriends to chess tournaments, they've been absolutely astonished as to the amount of nerds present in the playing area. They can't all be wrong ;-)

test's picture

You have a girlfriend?!
J/k ;)

To be honest, I don't really share that opinion. If you divide the world into either "jocks" or "nerds", than sure: there will be more nerds than jocks at a chess tournament.
But the real world is not divided black and white like that. The majority of people at a chess tournament, including amateur chess tournaments, are just normal people. Sure, the average IQ is probably higher than that at a football match, but that does not make all those participants at a chess tournament into nerds, just like it does not make all spectators at a football match into jocks.

Next time take your girlfriend to a football match and ask her to take a close look. I'll bet she'll be astonished as to the amount of retarded cavemen present. ;)

All that being said, the bright side is of course that now maybe* Reading has set the record straight. ;)

* I haven't seen the show. I don't watch much TV in the first place and "reality" shows being the last thing I would watch. I have read interviews of participants of these kinds of things, and the general tone almost always is that what you eventually get to see on TV almost bears no resemblance to what actually happened. They can make it look however they want with editing, and usually what they want does not look pretty.

John Boon's picture

I wouldn't have thought that ELO 1892 rated being called a geek. A middle rating like that suggests that he pushes the pieces about, but doesn't really play the game, and he plays the Rubbish Defence....

Thomas's picture

@John Boon: That's not very respectful towards an advanced amateur player, what's your own rating?
When my own rating was above 2000 (currently it's 1956) and non-chess players asked me about my level, my standard answer was "about half-way between beginner and world champion" - and I know at least a little bit about opening theory.

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