Chess Bitch

Women in the Ultimate Intellectual Sport


  • 320 Pages
  • 6x9 Hardbound
  • Glossary, Index
  • B&W Photos
  • Siles Press
  • 9781890085094
  • 1-890085-09-X
  • Available electronic format(s):
    Kindle, iBook,

“The fascinating true stories of the lives of champion chessplayers. All women should take up the challenge and pick up a board! Chess anyone?”
—Yoko Ono

In the game of chess, where being female has been long considered a major disadvantage, the strongest piece—the Queen—is often referred to as “bitch.”

Chess Bitch, written by the 2004 U.S. Woman’s Chess Champion, is an eye-opening account of how today’s young female chess players are successfully knocking down the doors to this traditionally male game, infiltrating the male-owned sporting subculture of international chess, and giving the phrase “play like a girl” a whole new meaning.

Through interviews with and observation of the young globetrotting women chessplayers who challenge male domination, Chess Bitch shines a harsh light on the game’s gender bias. Shahade begins by profiling the lives of great women players from history, starting with Vera Menchik, who defeated male professionals with incredible frequency and became the first woman’s World Champion in 1927. She then investigates the women’s chess dynasties in Georgia and China. She interviews the famous Polgar sisters, who refused to play in separate women’s tournaments. She details her own chess adventures—traveling to tournaments from New Delhi to New York to Shanghai. Shahade also introduces us to such top players as glamorous Grandmaster Alexandra Kosteniuk and current Women’s World Champion Antoaneta Stefanova and such lesser-known players as the flamboyant Zambian Linda Nangwale, the transgendered Texan Angela Alston, and myiad female players who hop from one country to another, playing chess by day and partying long into the night. For those who think of chess as two people sitting quietly across a table, Shahade paints a colorful world that most chess fans never knew existed.

“The fascinating true stories of the lives of champion chessplayers. All women should take up the challenge and pick up a board! Chess anyone?”
—Yoko Ono

Chess Bitch is enlightening to read—eloquent, playful, and beautifully written—an in-depth look at how several generations of women have cut their own paths in the world of chess. Jennifer Shahade has a gift for incisive portraiture, and her vivid account of chess stars past and present is lit with a lovely clarity of judgement. This is an amazing, pioneering book about genuine pioneers.”
—Joan Silber, author of Ideas of Heaven (2004 National Book Award finalist)

“With crisp prose and a hypnotic rhythm, Shahade runs us through a vast range of colorful, affirming characters. Chess Bitch is a worldwide trot in search of a common humanity, a precise critique and a wild ride that transcends its own subject.”
—J.C. Hallman, author of The Chess Artist: Genius, Obsession, and the World’s Oldest Game

“An absorbing account of the women who have infiltrated the male world of championship chess. Jennifer captures what it’s like to be a female in the chess world, the passion we have for the game, and for winning.”
—Irina Krush, International Master and 1998 U.S Women’s Champion

“She speaks playfully and provocatively on chess as meditation, as art and as philosophy . . . how passion can be more interesting than genius, and the importance of sexy.”
The Philadelphia Independent

“Jennifer is so down-to-earth, so much “one of us,” that it’s easy to forget you are talking to an award-winning, Olympics-competing champ.”
Bust magazine

“In every generation a book comes along that shows us who we are and where we’re going. This is that book for chess. With insight and artistry, Jennifer Shahade unravels the war between the sexes, on and off the board. Chess Bitch reveals the truth in a way no chess book ever has.”
—Bruce Pandolfini, author and featured character (played by Ben Kingsley) in Searching for Bobby Fischer

“Jennifer Shahade’s writing is as powerful and fearless as her chess.”
—Paul Hoffman, author of The Man Who Loved Only Numbers and Wings of Madness

Jennifer Shahade

Jennifer Shahade is a chess champion, author, commentator and poker player. She is a two-time American Women’s Chess Champion and the editor of Chess Life online. She holds the title Woman Grandmaster and is a two-time U.S. Women’s Champion (2002, 2004). She has represented the U.S. in international competitions in countries all over the world, including Spain, Russia, China, India, and Brazil. In 2002,

Jennifer received a degree in comparative literature from NYU, where she was an editor for the literary magazine Brio. Her writing has appeared in Chess Life, New In Chess, and the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Through the non-profit Chess-in-the-Schools program, she coaches inner-city youths, including the three-time National Junior High Championship team from Brooklyn. Shahade is a color commentator for the Internaet radio station She has participated in performance art projects at New York’s psychogeography festival, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, the Viewing Room Gallery, and served as a joror for a design competition at the Noguchi Museum. Her Webpage is