The question at hand is not a trick, but it is tough. About a decade before Bobby Fischer made the cover, the inaugural chess player on the cover of Sports Illustrated was 1960s U.S. chess star Lisa Lane.
Lisa Lane, the groundbreaker. | Photo: August 7, 1961 cover of Sports Illustrated.
Lane won her first of two U.S. women’s championships at age 21, only a few years after taking up the game, yet she left chess abruptly even before Fischer made that a thing. Now Sports Illustrated is back with a retrospective on Lane, which leads this compilation of “In Other News.”
Gender inequality in chess
This subject is often explosive and not new to the chess world, but Sports Illustrated has a little more standing than most mainstream outlets to cover it since they broke ground with their Lisa Lane issue way back on August 7, 1961. To give some historical context, no woman had even flown solo across the Pacific Ocean at that time.
Even the writer who penned the feature back in Mad Men times felt he needed to mention in the opening graph that she’d bought a dress and later in the article about her “feminine loveliness” and other aspects of her appearance.
Here’s Lane on To Tell the Truth (Bobby Fischer was once on I’ve Got a Secret):
Now cut to the 2018 article and see the juxtaposition, which asks the question about why there are female-only events and why their prizes and formats are different. There’s also a lot of catching up with Lane herself, who admits still playing casually online into her eighties.
GM Susan Polgar offers an interesting take: “The women take more risks. They play more dynamically. And they make more mistakes. I’ll be the first to admit that. But from the fan’s perspective, I think they play more interesting games and they’re more enjoyable.”
Fressinet: Team Magnus’ secret lair was in Bangkok!
That GM Laurent Fressinet was one of Magnus Carlsen’s seconds for the 2018 London world championship is not surprising. He had, after all, helped out in the last few matches as well. (In 2016 Fressinet fibbed to this reporter when asked directly if he would be helping in the New York match; it’s safe to say he doesn’t need to protect his employer anymore since he’s now surely a “regular” in Magnus’ camp.)
Laurent Fressinet being asked in 2016 if he would be part of Team Magnus in that year’s world championship match. After the match, the GM later apologized to this reporter that he understandably couldn’t tell me truth!
Read along to see more about Fressinet’s career, and also some interesting insights into his squad’s decampment in Thailand for the match—the large seven-hour time zone difference meant they could sleep while Carlsen played and then work while their boss slept.
The French GM also dropped some hints about the ever-elusive “Team Magnus” seconding squad (Fabiano Caruana was much more transparent, putting his team on social media). Fressinet mentions a “main coach” on site in London (surely GM Peter Heine Nielsen) and four seconds in Bangkok (known would be Fressinet, GM Jan Gustafsson, GM Nils Grandelius, and recently Carlsen confirmed recent World Rapid Champion GM Daniil Dubov, although others have had strong rumors so it’s not clear which one may have worked from elsewhere if Fressinet’s accounting was correct).
The lone surviving chess store in New York City
Owned by a Palestinian refugee, here’s a lovely vignette of the shop that houses the rank-and-file players of New York. There are no GMs in the short film, just regular players like you and me.
Enjoy King of the Knight, a profile of the shop and its proprietor, Imad Khachan.
Actor’s first feature-length directing gig to focus on chess
John Leguizamo, whose multifarious career has included more than 75 films and many one-man plays on Broadway, recently directed his first silver-screen feature. Critical Thinking, a movie that tells about an underprivileged high school’s national chess championship in 1998, will also have Leguizamo play the team’s chess coach, Mario Martinez.
The movie gets its name from Martinez’s chess class and is expected to be released in the fall of 2019. Shooting wrapped shortly before Christmas and the real-life chess champions were consultants for the film. Among the more famous players from that year were FM Marcel Martinez (who went 7-0 to win the individual high school title that year); Rodelay Medina (who later became a master); and Gil Luna (who later became an expert).
Chess in “The New Yorker”
There were two quick mentions last month:
- Garry Kasparov, the “incorrigible optimist,” mostly talking about politics but in the final paragraphs discussing his place in the chess world today: “I’m an amateur, and I feel comfortable with that.”
- A long feature on U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff, which also discusses the meeting of deputy Russian prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich and Carter Page, a foreign policy advisor to president Donald Trump. Schiff questions Page about writing a memo stating that during their meeting Dvorkovich expressed “strong support for Mr. Trump.” Since that meeting took place Dvorkovich has been elected president of FIDE.
FIDE president Arkady Dvorkovich, shortly after being elected in 2018. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Pelletier and Carlsen in arts magazine
GM Yannick Pelletier is not only one of the top Swiss players, he’s also the project coordinator for Yunomi. This Luxembourg-based publication focuses on art and lifestyle and is fully managed by Pelletier’s wife Marie Boyard, who represented her country a couple of times at Olympiads. You might not be surprised then that there’s a feature on chess in the inaugural issue, and that it focuses on Magnus Carlsen.
The world champion in the first issue of Yunomi, which sounds a lot like “you know me.” | Photo: Official site.
Carlsen gives the magazine an exclusive interview, which is previewed in the online edition.