Checkmate: PokerStars Ambassador Jennifer Shahade Pens Inspirational Chess Book

Like some viewers of the popular 2020 series The Queen’s Gambit, many poker players around the world were inspired to get out the chess board and embrace some different kings and queens.

PokerStars ambassador Jennifer Shahade has a hand in both games. She has $348,282 in live tournament winnings and is a regular online poker player in Pennsylvania, where she represents Stars in the US market.

An Olympic chess champion and a Woman Grandmaster, Shahade is also a two-time US women’s chess champion. She was also the first female to win the US Junior Open.

When not at the poker table or chess board, the Philadelphia native has also been busy at the keyboard, Shahade recently released a new book, Chess Queens: The True Story of a Chess Champion and the Greatest Female Players of All Time. While the book focuses on chess, the author promises some poker thrown in as well for fans of both these mental games.

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“I talk about poker in many places in the book, especially the last chapter, which explains why I ultimately ended up devoting myself to that game too,” she tells PokerScout. “I also talk about how chess was a conduit to poker for American champion Diana Lanni, and the rare moments in chess when it’s important to keep a ‘poker face.’”

A life of gaming – from rooks and pawns to bets, bluffs, & PokerStars

Games have played a crucial part in Shahade’s life. She began playing at age 5 and fell in love with the game by 13. Ironically, that’s the same age many girls drop out of the game, she says.

“Because my family plays chess, my brother and dad are both chess masters and champions, it was easy to hop in and out of the game,” she says. “Not all girls are so lucky. They often leave chess before they’re able to gain so many of its benefits.

“That’s why it’s so important for me to inspire young girls about chess and its benefits, work that I’ve been doing for over a decade, and most recently via my non-profit program US Chess Women.”

After graduating from New York University, the poker table joined the chess board in her gaming repertoire. Her brother, Greg Shahade, was a professional player and one of PokerStars first players. He founded a chess school and league that was sponsored by Stars for several years.

Greg also began teaching his sister how to play poker and she became fascinated with that game as well.

In the years to come, Shahade even became a writer for the “PokerStars Women” initiative. She began playing chess and poker all around the world, from Monaco to Madrid and everywhere in between.

“I started to become immersed in poker culture,” she says, “which deepened my passion for the game, as well as the community around it.”

Poker rounders becoming chess players

Since the Netflix series, poker players have jumped into chess including players like Daniel Negreanu. That interest may have ebbed a bit, but Shahade believes the games definitely have some overlap.

“The interest from poker players in chess peaked during the Queen’s Gambit boom, but I think it predates that,” she says. “I noticed a huge uptick in chess interest around the same time as solvers took over most poker training programs.”

Shahade believes some players realized their game was becoming more like chess, in practice and study. For many, learning chess simply made sense.

“I created my podcast, The GRID, to showcase the ways the games were merging: chess is becoming more glamorous and story-oriented, while poker is becoming more scientific,” she says.

“But what I love about both games is the combination: the story and community with the pursuit of truth and beauty.”

A return to the chess board

Jennifer Shahade at the chess board. (photos by David Llada)

Chess Queens has allowed Shahade to get back to her roots in the game. The author says this is the type of book she’d have wanted to read when she was younger and learning the game.

The hope is that young and older players alike can be inspired by some of the players’ stories included in the book.

“The world fell in love with the fictional Beth Harmon and the Queen’s Gambit,” she says. “We have so many new chess devotees as a consequence, of all genders and ages. They’re hungry to learn more about the real women of chess, who broke down barriers to become grandmasters against the odds.”

Beyond telling stories of some chess’s great players, the new book also allows Shahade to motivate others with her own story.

“Chess Queens tells those stories and intertwines it with my own coming of age story with chess,” she says, “which changed the course of my whole life, ultimately leading to poker too.”

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Bringing more women into both games

With more women getting into the game, there is hope among many in the industry that more women are also attracted to poker. Many tour operators and online poker companies have initiatives in place to encourage more female players.

Shahde is doing her part in those efforts. She’s also hoping to see even more expansion of online poker in the next five years.

“I’m lucky to be able to play PokerStars Pennsylvania and look forward to more states joining the fun,” she says. “I think there is a craving right now for classic games like chess and poker, that provide a strong community and history, while giving us a precious opportunity to escape our worries and lose ourselves in a game.”

She remains a firm believer that making poker more inclusive will lead to greater growth.

“That’s why I’m excited about PokerStars continual interest in women’s initiatives,” she says. “I also am proud to be part of the Poker Power movement, an organization that aims to teach poker to one million women, unlocking our potential in other fields we are underrepresented in, from politics to the business world.

“I’m grateful that more and more people now see that gender diversity makes poker and chess more fun for everyone.”

Chess Queen’s is published by Hodder & Stoughton and available for $28.99 in hardback and $9.99 in ebook format. The book is available for purchase here.

Chess Becomes King at Partypoker With Challenge & Freerolls; Grandmaster Wins High Roller

Partypoker is running Battle of the Minds on March 11 poker and chess pros teaming up to battle it out on the chess board and poker felt.

Poker players have embraced chess since the The Queen’s Gambit became a hit for Netflix. Big name players have worked on their best Garry Kasparov and Bobby Fischer moves – even streaming their action.

Partypoker is now getting in the act with the Battle of the Minds on Friday. The event features two teams battling it out on the chess board and at the online poker felt. The event promises a unique competition with viewers able to stream all the action.

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What can viewers expect from partypoker’s Battle of the Minds?

The event teams up a poker pro with a chess master, playing both games. The contest features three sets, each consisting of one heads-up sit and go and one chess game.

In the poker games, players will alternate play on every street. For example, one player will have the pre-flop action. A partner will then play the flop and they continue alternating from that point.

If the scores are tied after three sets, the tie-breaker is a hyper-turbo heads-up sit and go. If either team wins both of the first two sets, the third set will still be played. The two Team Partypoker members and their teammates are:

  • Isaac Haxton and super grandmaster Alexander Grischuk
  • Patrick Leonard and eight-time Russian chess champion Peter Svidler

The poker will be played on partypoker with the site teaming with chess24 to host the chess matches. The site is a complete chess news and information portal.

The action will be live-streamed by all four players and on chess24’s Twitch and YouTube channels.

♠♠♠ For more on poker players taking a seat at the chessboard, click here. ♠♠♠

More chess & poker action with Freeroll Series

Partypoker is promising even more poker and chess action. The site and chess24 are allowing others to get in the game as part of the event. 

The Battle of the Minds Freeroll Series runs every Sunday throughout March and April. The festival offers players the chance to win tickets for partypoker tournaments and €50 in chess24 shop vouchers.

Those participating earn leaderboard points to qualify for the second stage of the series. Players in the top four positions at the end of April will play in a knockout heads-up tournament. All four earn prizes with the winner earning:

  • €100 partypoker ticket
  • €100 chess24 shop voucher
  • one hour of private poker coaching session with a pro
  • one hour of private chess coaching session with a pro

Chess grandmaster turns into poker champ

Numerous poker players have crossed over from the world of chess to try their luck at poker. The poker world saw another example emerge last week.

Estonian chess grandmaster Ottomar Ladva traded in rooks and pawns for full houses and flush draws. He took down the partypoker MILLIONS Online $25,500 Six-Max Super High Roller for $525,089.

Ches grandmaster Ottomar Ladv won the partypoker MILLIONS Online $25,500 Six-Max Super High Roller for $525,089. (photo courtesy partypoker)

 That profit amounted to even more considering the 23-year-old qualified via a $530 satellite. That moved him into a $2,650 satellite, where he went on to qualify for the tournament.

After beating out 69 competitors, Ladva came out on top. The final table included poker heavyweights like Justin Bonomo and Jason Koon.

Ladva eventually faced Bonomo heads-up, certinly no easy task. He also had to fight back from a 6 to 1 chip deficit but completed that unlikely feat.

No stranger to poker success, Ladva now has more than $800,000 in poker winnings. The tournament paid out $1.75 million, well above the $1 million guarantee. Bonomo earned $327,468 as runner-up.

It’s been a big month of chess for partypoker. The strategy seems like a nice idea as more operators work to bring more players to the game.

Chess seems like a nice complement to poker with competitive, strategic players in both games.

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