Reports | December 28, 2011 18:25

Making chess more popular, more... sexy!

Making chess more popular, more... sexy!

Visitors to this site enjoy chess, period. But what about all those people out there who know too little about the game, and might become interested? How to reach them? How to solve that difficult problem of making chess more popular? Jennifer Shahade and Leslie McAllister have their own ways of boosting up our game.

American Chess Star & Extreme Chess

Jennifer Shahade, well known for her books Chess Bitch and Play like a girl and recently featured here at ChessVibes for her naked chess performance, has been involved in some interesting projects lately. In different ways she is trying to point out that chess can be on TV too, like any other activity where competition is involved. In November Jennifer produced a trailer for a chess reality TV show together with her brother Greg Shahade and Daniel Meirom:

The same producers have now created the first episode of the X(treme) Chess Championships (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook), which take place at the Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan, New York. In a nicely produced video, a group of young Americans of different cultures fight each other at the board with 15 minutes plus 5 seconds increment, and the commentary to their games includes an explanation of the game of chess at novice level.

All in all we see admirable attempts to find a broader audience for the royal game! And what about the following?

Pin-up calendar

American photographer Leslie McAllister has created a chess pin-up calendar for 2012. In an interview with Katherine Sweetman, McAllister says:

To me, playing chess is sexy because it requires intelligence, assertiveness, artfulness and aggression. And a cultivated balance of these traits should make for a desirable lover, shouldn’t it?

The product page, where you can order the calendar, writes

What's even better than pictures of beautiful women? Why, pictures of beautiful women studying chess, of course! This calendar will inspire you to get back to your chess studies all year round. Whether you're a guy who plays so much chess that he misses female companionship, or a girl who wonders why she doesn't see more other women studying the game, this calendar is sure to bring joy and encouragement into your home or work place. Each month shows a lovely pin-up model studying a famous chess move, to help you brush up on the history of the Royal Game as the months go by. The calendar will also remind you of upcoming women's chess events and teach you fun facts about some of the great women of the game. We'd ALL love to see more women playing chess, right? And let's face it, folks: Playing chess is sexy!

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.


Berliner's picture

This is the silliest thing I've ever heard of. Chess is chess and sex is sex, and both are wonderful activities, but they don't have anything to do with each other. Jeez!

mcfreudian's picture

I m pretty sure Reuben Fine(strong master and psychoanalyst) would disagree, as he thought that chessplayers fulfill a secret masturbation fantasy.

By the way everything is in some sense connected to sex.

stevefraser's picture

Didn't Fine say it was all about Oedpius and Jocasta?

choufleur's picture

I agree with Berliner : this is completely ridiculous.

Johnny's picture

Regarding the tagline, "because chess is sexy":

Show don't tell.

bhabatosh's picture

thats completely against chess .... we are not looser , we dont need to show those pictures to attract people in the game ....

Anonymous's picture

American idiocy! is not the first, not the last! they look stupid on which to sell his latest miserable idiot "product", haha​​!

MasterKilikanzer's picture

Sorry,I have in mind "they look for fools on which to sell his latest miserable idiot "product"​​!

pat's picture

i live how chessvibes regularly censors comments, but calling a nation of people idiotic is fair game. keep it classy, keep it classy.

fen's picture

Shouldn't that chick in the pink underpants be holding up a "Chess in Schools and Communities" poster?

*snort* *eye roll*

You know, because the majority of people interested in chess are school-aged kids?

/end sarcasm

For chess to have any chance of becoming more popular, it needs to be promoted by people who understand chess and the target audience. The people who are using sex to promote chess seem to be more interested in turning a quick buck than anything else.

Anthony's picture

Complete degeneration.
But it's only a silly little girl showing the goodies, she'll be gone soon.

DirkBredemeier's picture

Well, the position the nice girl is playing is taken from a famous Pillsbury-Lasker-Game. Black plays Rc3 to a3!! and wins by a very beautiful combination.
So the producer of the calender surely put some time and thought in the chess-theme. Let´s not be too critical!

AWT's picture

I take it you mean Rc6-a6? Rc3 loses a rook.

Johnny's picture
Zeblakob's picture

For me, all these ladies are fat and old.

RuralRob's picture

This all has the feel of sheer desperation. Just let chess be chess. *Sigh*

S3's picture

Carlsen fans will like this.

Guest's picture

Very interesting! But I would prefer a naked male on the calendar instead.

vhomas topalov's picture

chess and women in general, two things that have nothing to do with each other.

chess is cool, women are hot, and a knight is a knight

stevefraser's picture

Great picture...chess needs to find a way to keep the huge number of kids into chess in the schools connected to the game...Of course there is no substitute for a professional level of chess with enough money of several dozen people in the USA to do well financially.

Annie's picture

Jennifer Shahade is LESBIAN?????!

steve's picture

her boyfriend seems to think not...

lex's picture
Pablo's picture

The worst article I saw in the whole history of Chessvibes. Women are fighting to have more space into the world of chess and you came and post this thing. Oh, my. This happens when people just want to get readers and are not interested in the facts behind the news. Why are you posting this? What are women? Just a naked body to put into the marketing world next to any object?

English is not my native language and I can't find enough adjectives to talk about this. Nonsense.

pat's picture

i agree

Arne Moll's picture

Pablo, nobody here says women are 'just a naked body to put into the marketing world next to any object'. That's your interpretation only, and the fact that you think like that is rather telling in my opinion.  Women are indeed fighting to have more space in the world of chess, but some do it in different ways than others. What's so bad about that?

eso es's picture

Why are You plugging these people's products? Besides, there is really nothing new in trying to combine the seeming opposites sexiness and chess - Kevin Spraggett ( runs a great blog combining both in an intelligent and ironic way for years. Plus oodles of other instances, like fe Peter Kruchem's chess pin-ups. So what?

The whole idea of "popularizing" chess by dumbing it down is absurd. Teach chess in schools, and it will be more popular. The game itself is quite demanding - needs a strong will to self improvement- teach that and chess and we will get somewhere.....not by the umpteenth attempt to make chess palatable to a mainly apathic and passive TV audience....anyway, it is steadily gaining ground on the web....

Teh way to

Nigel P's picture

That show is terrible. Dumbed down chess commentary to drive away those interested in chess, and nothing interesting enough to keep the attention of those just curious about the game. Additionally, Shahade's dulcet tones don't help.

The BBC's Master game inspired many people to take up the game precisely because it credited its audience with some intelligence.

Xeno's picture

Pawn movies next?!

Simple Pole etc.'s picture

The best pun of the month!

red-white-chess's picture

in the light of article's headtitle, we lack of photos here.

KingTal's picture
noyb's picture

I'm sure the USCF is "oh-so-proud" of their online CL editor engaging in such "family-unfriendly" activites.

lex's picture

I read the rules, and couldn't find ONE THING in my post that would justify it being deleted. Whoever is responsible for this, shall re-read the rules himself. Seriously.

LeScruffian's picture

Why can't we all just lighten up and enjoy the fact there's a damn hot woman next to a board???

Also to Pablo's comment, showing the female form isn't automatically degrading, this is clearly done tongue in cheek and in a positive way rather than some sleazy pin up calendar.

Finally anyone who tries to make some sarcastic comment about chess not relating to sex or vice-versa is being completely disingenuous. Sex permeates everything, especially a game which is an expression of power, even if it is intellectual rather than physical. Shabalov cracked me up in an interview when he said, ‘In most games, I am thinking about girls for about fifty to seventy-five percent of the time, another fifteen percent goes to time management, and with what’s left over, I am calculating.’

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