Friday, July 15, 2005

that's ms. grandmaster to you

Shahade, Jennifer. Chess Bitch: Women in the Ultimate Intellectual Sport. Sept. 2005. Siles Press. c320p. photogs. bibliog. illus. index. ISBN 1-890085-09-X. $24.

for Library Journal

A two-time American Women’s Chess Champion introduces the elite female masters by surveying their feminist beliefs. This curious angle strains to integrate chessic history, unsophisticated feminist theory, and tales from today’s tournament frontlines. The flood of names, ranks, and ratings flows in a disorganized stream-of-consciousness. One brief chapter catalogs disparate players from Iran, India, Ecuador, Vietnam, and Zambia. The exposé dwells on skittles room gossip, revealing sensational anecdotes like masters who moonlight as models or strippers. Surprising dives into vulgar diction eliminate the book’s ideal audience, young girls in search of inspiring mentors. Shahade’s outmoded conceptions of feminine beauty and style may also deter serious feminists. Glimpses of professionals in action—a day in the life of the Polgar sisters, the Menchik-Graf rivalry, Chinese women’s invasion of the Chess Olympiads in the late '90s—and an appendix of over fifty games in notation prove worthwhile. Readers seeking a learned feminist history of chess (with an emphasis on the queen’s role) might turn their attention to Marilyn Yalom’s Birth of the Chess Queen (HarperCollins, 2004). Not recommended.—Elizabeth Kennedy, Oakland, CA