Chess player wins Beauty and the Geek

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Jeremy Reading, a 24-year-old chess player and coach from Canberra, last night won Beauty and the Geek Australia. Both Reading and his team mate Emma Cam cashed 50,000 Australian dollars (a bit over € 30,000).

A total of 7 episodes running from October 8th, Beauty and the Geek Australia's first season finished last night with a grande finale. The Australian reality television series on the Seven Network, hosted by Bernard Curry, is based on the US version Beauty and the Geek created by Ashton Kutcher.

It's all about eight "Beauties" (young women who have relied primarily on their looks) and eight "Geeks" (young men who have relied primarily on intellect rather than social aptitude or looks) thrown into a house together, teaming up to compete in a series of challenges to "test their brains and charisma", struggling to overcome their differences in pursuit of a $100,000 prize. Among the beauties there was a glamour model, an air hostess and a spray tan technician while the geeks group had a physicist, a "child genius" and a "comic collector".

But it was the "chess champion" who won the $ 100,000 prize of the first season, together with his team mate, 21-year-old Emma Cam ("Miss Congeniality"). Emma turned out to be not stupid at all; in fact the Australian Miss Universe competition finalist works as a promotions model and event manager, and comes from an academic family of scientists, accountants and school principals.

In the final episode, the teams were paired up for a race challenge. Armed with cryptic clues, they had to work together to track down three eliminated contestants scattered throughout the city. The first two teams to find their friends and return to the mansion were Emma/Jeremy and Hadassah/Xenogene, who were eventually eliminated by Emma and Jeremy.

Jeremy Reading is a chess coach in Canberra. He was ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Junior champ in 2004 and he also won the ACT Rapid Championship two years later. Winning Beauty and the Geek, and rated only 1892, he cashed roughly as much money as the losers of the semi-finals of the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiyk will. On the website of the tv show he tries to explain what chess is about:

“Some people consider chess a sport. You need to be strong mentally – I’ve played for up to 4.5 hours – and to be able to concentrate for that long I would consider it a sport. My chess playing is probably my geekiest attribute. I’m the ACT champion – it’s really annoying not being able to say state champion.”

Naturally, the editors of the show emphasize how incredibly geeky it is to play chess:

Jeremy is a chess champion and while his lack of emotion might come in handy when psyching out his competitors, it has had the opposite effect on attracting girls.

“I’ve never had a girlfriend,” he confesses. “I’m not a very emotional person so maybe the beauties can help bring that out in me a bit."

GM David Smerdon, who auditioned for the show but wasn't found "geeky enough", writes on his blog:

Unfortunately, and somewhat surprisingly in my opinion, Jeremy suffered a mixed reaction from the Australian chess community to his participation. About half the polarised chessplayers felt this was degrading to Australian chess, and reinforcing negative stereotypes. The rest of us saw it as ‘any publicity is good publicity’, as well as a chance for chess players to rise up the coolness stakes of the geek world in which we have been involuntarily thrown. (...) Whatever your opinion of the show, noone can deny that he’s done remarkably well. And the next time a gorgeous girl is faced with a choice between an online gamer, an astro physicist and a chess player (as so often happens), perhaps Jeremy’s success will convince her to play for mate, as it were. Congratulations Jeremy!

Jeremy Reading is not Australia's first TV celebrity playing chess. Levon Aronian's girlfriend, 22-year-old Arianne Caoili, was one of the dancers in the fifth season of Dancing with the Stars, finishing runner-up, and in an episode of the TV show Deal or No Deal she won a car for the home competition entrant.

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