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Jennifer Shahade Resigns Director Position At US Chess
WGM Jennifer Shahade is no longer working for the US Chess Federation. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

Jennifer Shahade Resigns Director Position At US Chess

TarjeiJS
| 149 | Chess.com News

WGM Jennifer Shahade says she was greeted with "hostility instead of support" and "consistently minimized or ignored" by US Chess when she came forward with allegations of sexual assault. The former U.S. Women's Chess Champion resigned as the Director of the US Chess Women's Program on Monday.

Shahade on Wednesday had her last day as the Women's Program Director of US Chess, a position she has held since 2018. She has worked for the federation since 2006, when she was hired as a Web Editor and later promoted to Senior Digital Editor.

"Based on what I’ve seen, I cannot currently lend my credibility to the organization in good conscience. This is especially true since I’ve become a de facto confidante for so many women and girls—making it essential for me to have faith in executive decision-making and communication," Shahade said in a post titled "I Am Leaving US Chess" published on social media on Monday.

The outspoken and influential two-time U.S. Women's Chess Champion, chess commentator, author, poker player, and founder of the non-profit organization 9 Queens, sent shockwaves through the chess world in February when, in a series of tweets, she alleged that GM Alejandro Ramirez sexually assaulted her twice.

The allegations led to a bombshell report by The Wall Street Journal, where it was claimed the grandmaster had become "physically aggressive as he forcibly kissed and groped" women without their consent. Three of them were under the age of 18, according to the newspaper. Ramirez resigned from his position as a commentator and coach at the Saint Louis Chess Club and is now suspended by US Chess.

The Wall Street Journal corroborated Shahade's claim that her allegations and those of others about Ramirez were reported to US Chess, and the Saint Louis Chess Club, but went unaddressed for years. US Chess ignored repeated warnings that the grandmaster had allegedly abused a 15-year-old and herself, and still sent him to work as a coach at the Women's Olympiad—an event with over 100 minors—Shahade said.

"With the truth out, I was hopeful, perhaps naively so, that I could help reset the pieces and forge a better future within US Chess, especially for our girls and children," she says in her resignation letter, where she also talks about what she calls an intimidating letter from a lawyer representing US Chess.

Instead of support, I was greeted with hostility. My tweet—the one that finally instigated consequences—was criticized by US Chess. A lawyer representing the organization told me to be “mindful” that speaking up could violate policy and “jeopardize” US Chess’s process. From the Women’s Olympiad coach selection to the day I resigned, my advice and accomplishments were consistently minimized or ignored.

Shahade tells Chess.com that she was surprised by how US Chess handled her tweets so negatively, "especially since it resulted in so many more victims coming forward, which got us closer to the truth so quickly."

US Chess refused to comment on Shahade's claims for Chess.com, but instead points to a statement on their official website.

US Chess wishes Shahade the best as she seeks new opportunities, and we are grateful to her for her work building what was then a brand-new programmatic area for us. Executive Director Carol Meyer says, "Thank you to Jennifer for her many contributions to the US Chess Women’s Program and for her years in the Communications Department. We at US Chess wish her well in her next professional chapter."

Randy Bauer, President of the US Chess Federation, made some additional comments in a thread on X/Twitter where he responded to the intimidation claim.

On calls for US Chess to more thoroughly investigate allegations of abuse, Bauer writes:

Shahade signs off the letter by expressing her "deepest admiration to the Jane Doe's who stepped up and broke the silence, to make the game safer for the next generation. To any survivors reading this post, whether you’ve spoken up or not: know that to me, you are the important one."

Asked by Chess.com if she is hopeful for the future despite feeling forced to resign from her position, she says:

"Yea, I am hopeful for the future of girls and women in chess and US Chess Women even though short term it’s quite painful to leave. The reaction from the public has been so supportive. Thanks to strong moves by Chess.com and Lichess, people are starting to understand more clearly that we need to recruit more great leadership to match the explosive growth of chess in recent years."

TarjeiJS
Tarjei J. Svensen

I am a chess journalist on Chess.com, the site you are playing on. Hope you enjoy my stories. Let me know if you have any tips on what I should write about!

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