Poker and Chess with the U.S. Chess League

by Greg Shahade

Hello, my name is Greg Shahade and I play on PokerStars under the screen name "curtains." I am also an International Chess Master and have organized something called the US Chess League. More information on this league can be found at In order to encourage some of the top players in the United States to play, we needed to get sponsorship money, and the entire chess scene in the USA thanks PokerStars for sponsoring the event for the second year running.

The US Chess League involves players from all over the nation, as there are currently ten teams in Baltimore, Boston, Carolina, Dallas, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Tennessee. The format of the league is based loosely on professional sports leagues, with a ten week regular season followed by a three week playoff to determine the USCL Champion. In the 2007 Championship Match the San Francisco Mechanics led by the young International Master Josh Friedel took on the New York Knights, led by Grandmaster Pascal Charbonneau. The final match went to "overtime" as it was tied 2-2 in regulation and only at 1:30 AM was the winner finally decided, as the San Francisco Mechanics were victorious.

More and more chess players are starting to play poker. Some are playing as a hobby, yet some chess players are shifting over to poker altogether. A few well known examples of this phenomena are Dan Harrington and Howard Lederer, however there are a lot of lesser known "former chess players" whom are now making a great living from playing poker, and mostly from playing on

Take a look at what some of the poker/chess players who play on PokerStars are saying:

Gotmilk -- Ricky Grijalva, (4th Place finisher in 2004 WPT Championship and rated chess expert):

"The US Chess League is the most exciting chess event in the country. To top it all off, my hometown team won this year, the San Francisco Mechanics. It’s great to see poker and chess finally come together."

TDA111281 -- Todd Andrews (player/manager of Tennessee Tempo):

"Many thanks to the team at PokerStars for helping out the Tennessee Tempo in the upcoming 2007 season! This will give our team the chance to improve and to cover the travel expenses that are unique to our team. We are working to improve the status of chess in Nashville and Tennessee and this should be a big help. I’m happy that the poker site which I feel is the best one around is also the one that supports chess. Cant wait for the season to begin."

Jenium -- Jennifer Shahade (manager of NY Knights, 2003+2005 US Women's Chess Champion and author of ChessBitch)

"PokerStars is a great place for chess players. I was playing in one table and won a hand off a guy who told me: 'you're lucky it's poker, not chess.' It turned out to be America's top chess player, Hikaru Nakamura! This is an extreme case of the very common experience of running into chess players on Stars. No doubt that the PokerStars sponsorship of USCL has increased this trend- first board for my team, the New York Knights, Pascal Charbonneau signed up for Stars midseason. The website I edit, has mentioned the US Chess League dozens of time and we will probably increase coverage of what is IMO, the most exciting chess event in America."

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in