While her last name may reflect noble human qualities, when it comes to playing chess, Menlo Park resident Lauren Goodkind can leave those attributes -- certainly the "kind" one -- at the door.
"On the chessboard, I would say I'm a mean kind of person," she said, smiling, in a recent interview. "I'm a competitive person. It feels really good to win, so I can be mean on the chessboard. ... If you're playing chess, you've got to be mean, if you want to win."
A French proverb offers these words for the kindhearted: "You cannot play at chess if you are kindhearted." Another French source, painter, sculptor and chess player Marcel Duchamp, described chess as "the movement of pieces eating one another."
OK, so you probably have to be mean. Ms. Goodkind, 33, apparently has what it takes, with 15 years of playing behind her and a current rating of Class A from the U.S. Chess Federation. She's one category away from being rated an expert.
When she plays, her opponents are usually men or boys.
She says she once played entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel. At the time, he was in his mid-30s and enjoyed a chess-master rating while Ms. Goodkind was just a year out of Woodside High School and rated well below Mr. Thiel. Ms. Goodkind says she played him to a draw. "Oh, it was exciting to draw against Peter," she says.
(Mr. Thiel has not responded to requests for comment.)
Occasionally she'll run into a bad apple, like the time she beat an older man in Burlingame whose skill level was one rating above hers. He began swearing at her after she won, she says. "Really bad sportsmanship."
She's been teaching chess to Peninsula residents of all ages for about four years and is the author of the recently self-published "50 Poison Pieces," a 217-page book of 50 chess puzzles. Each puzzle asks the beginning player to analyze a situation in which capturing a vulnerable piece is a mistake, and often a costly mistake.
"One silly move can cost you the entire game," she says.
Chess was relief
In high school, chess served Ms. Goodkind as an escape. The arc of her life before ninth grade included working with a speech coach and spending time in special-education classes, she says. In high school, she says she was bullied because of the way she talked.
With a C+ grade point average and unable to concentrate on her schoolwork because of the bullying, Ms. Goodkind says she had no interest in taking advanced-standing or advanced-placement classes. "I didn't really care," she says. "My classmates were really mean to me."
The weekly chess club offered her a way past the misery. "Chess helped me get through high school. It felt good to win and I felt happy beating other people," she says. "Everybody is smart in their own way."
She graduated in 2002 and went on to earn a bachelor's degree in communications from Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont.
Women and chess
Playing other women is something she especially appreciates, but it doesn't happen often. "I hope to see more women and girls playing chess," she says.
Most of the top players in competitive chess are men. At tournaments, she says, the number of women players is usually less than 2 percent.
"A woman can beat any man," says Alexandra Kosteniuk, a Russian grandmaster and author of "Diary of a Chess Queen," published in 2010 by Mongoose Press.
Ms. Kosteniuk says the challenges of attracting women and girls to chess are like the challenges in other areas, including physics, math and being an astronaut. The key, she says in a 2016 interview at the World Chess Hall of Fame in Saint Louis, Missouri, is creating more chess clubs that are friendly to girls and more programs to support them.
Asked about women mixing it up with men in a milieu in which men outnumber women, Ms. Goodkind had a simple reply: "Women are strong. We can play chess, too."
Judit Sztaray is the executive director of the nonprofit, BayAreaChess Inc., and the mother of three chess-playing girls. At BayAreaChess, she is organizing girls-only events to give them a better chance of winning titles.
She says she sees no differences between girls and boys in their ability to play. "The value of learning chess is universal," she says, "especially among the young in that their brains and capabilities are still developing."
Resistance from men to the idea of playing against women is "very, very rare," she says, though boys do tend to tease girls about it. "I have to say that generally kids who are playing chess are the more civilized people," she says.
Chess is a civilized game then? She laughed. "Depends on who you ask," she says. "Mentally, it is a brutal game. It's win or lose."
Avoid silly moves
Skilled chess players typically think two or three or four moves ahead, which takes practice. A lot of practice. With her puzzles, Ms. Goodkind gets the readers on the road by asking that they think just one move ahead. And avoid moving without thinking.
An inner Q-and-A about upcoming moves for you and your opponent, and whether they can succeed, should become second nature, she says.
"You have to focus," she says. "That's the key to playing chess."
Sign up for Express to get news updates. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
- October library events include snakes, 'Stranger Things' and spook-tacular crafts - The Turlock Journal - September 28th, 2019
- Knights, kings, and chess champs - Aldergrove Star - September 17th, 2019
- Chess puzzles - chess.cool - September 11th, 2019
- Chess Puzzles 43-44 for Kids | Mate in 1 | Queen-Bishop ... - September 21st, 2017
- Why the world's toughest maths problems are much harder than a chess puzzle, and well worth US$1m - The Conversation UK - September 6th, 2017
- Can You Solve the Million-Dollar, Unsolvable Chess Problem? - Atlas Obscura - September 2nd, 2017
- Young Marape shines in Zimbabwe - Mmegi Online - August 30th, 2017
- Chess Ultra Makes A Move On Nintendo Switch - Nintendo Insider - August 7th, 2017
- Checkmate is possible when Chess Ultra comes to Switch - Vooks - August 6th, 2017
- Chess Ultra Coming To Nintendo Switch; New Trailer Released - DualShockers - August 2nd, 2017
- Small-Business Success Story: Learners Chess Academy - Kiplinger Personal Finance - August 1st, 2017
- Solve Puzzles (And Sometimes Crime) In Picross Dating Sim - Kotaku - July 6th, 2017
- Play Chess For Your Soul In Chess Ultra - VRFocus - June 21st, 2017
- 8 must-see indie Xbox and PC games you may have missed at E3 2017 - Windows Central - June 20th, 2017
- Chess Ultra is now available for pre-order on Xbox One - OnMSFT (blog) - June 9th, 2017
- Chess Ultra release date announced for Xbox One to go alongside ... - TheXboxHub (blog) - June 7th, 2017
- Play the Grim Reaper and Save Your Soul in Chess Ultra This ... - VRFocus - June 7th, 2017
- On Chess: Are chess books dying? - St. Louis Public Radio - May 18th, 2017
- On Chess: Are Chess Books Dying? - KBIA - May 17th, 2017
- New data show most drivers use handheld devices - The Salinas Californian - April 28th, 2017
- Can You Outsmart Our Elementary School Math Problems? - FiveThirtyEight - April 7th, 2017
- Desktop v Mobile the best platforms for online gaming - Live in Limbo - March 23rd, 2017
- 'Chess Ultra' is Bringing its Luxurious Game Environments to PSVR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive - Road to VR - March 15th, 2017
- Shakira Ampaire all set for the Zonal Championships - Kawowo Sports - March 13th, 2017
- Chess Puzzles - 365Chess.com - November 25th, 2016
- Chess Problems, Puzzles, & Compositions - Chessopolis - November 15th, 2016
- Chess puzzle - Wikipedia - October 25th, 2016
- Chess Puzzles | Brilliant Math & Science Wiki - September 8th, 2016
- Home | Chess Puzzles! - June 20th, 2016
- Chess Puzzles | Solve Chess Problems and Compositions ... - September 28th, 2015
- IM Daniel Rensch Plays Beat The Clock With Chess Puzzles - Video - April 28th, 2015
- How to Solve Chess Puzzles #23 - Video - April 22nd, 2015
- How to Solve Chess Puzzles #22 - Video - April 17th, 2015
- Your Daily Chess Puzzles: April 8th, 9th and 10th 2015! - Video - April 13th, 2015
- Your Daily Chess Puzzles: April 5th and 6th 2015! - Video - April 10th, 2015
- Your Daily Chess Puzzles: April 3rd and 4th 2015! - Video - April 10th, 2015
- Solving Chess Puzzles #1 - Video - March 23rd, 2015
- How to solve Chess Puzzles: Chessworld.net Puzzle Practice #29 - Video - March 7th, 2015
- How to solve Chess Puzzles: Chessworld.net Puzzle Practice #28 - "Forcing moves force cooperation!" - Video - February 24th, 2015
- How to solve Chess Puzzles: Chessworld.net Puzzle Practice #26 - Video - February 19th, 2015
- How to solve Chess Puzzles: Chessworld.net Puzzle Practice #27 - Video - February 19th, 2015
- How to Solve Chess Puzzles #21 - Video - January 31st, 2015
- How to solve Chess Puzzles: Chessworld.net Puzzle Practice #25 - Video - January 30th, 2015
- How to solve Chess Puzzles: Chessworld.net Puzzle Practice #24 - Video - January 29th, 2015
- How to solve Chess Puzzles: Chessworld.net Puzzle Practice #23 - Video - January 29th, 2015
- Alice: Madness Returns [Part 6] - Chess Puzzles - Video - January 18th, 2015
- The Best Chess Puzzles #33 The solutions of the chessbase.com Xmas puzzles - Video - January 11th, 2015
- How to solve Chess Puzzles: Chessworld.net Puzzle Practice #22 - Video - January 10th, 2015
- The best chess puzzles #32 The solutions of the chessbase.com Xmas puzzles #7-8 - Video - January 10th, 2015
- The best chess puzzles #31 The solutions of the chessbase.com Xmas puzzles #6 - Video - January 7th, 2015
- The Best Chess Puzzles #29 The solution of the chessbase.com Xmas puzzles #4 - Video - January 5th, 2015
- The Best Chess Puzzles #28 The solution of the chessbase.com Xmas puzzles #3 - Video - January 4th, 2015
- The best chess puzzles #30 The soluton of the chessbase.com Xmas puzzles. #5 - Video - January 4th, 2015
- 10 Daily Chess Puzzles #1 - Video - January 3rd, 2015
- The Best Chess Puzzles #27 The solution of the chessbase.com xmas puzzles #2. - Video - January 3rd, 2015
- 10 Daily Chess Puzzles #2 - Video - January 3rd, 2015
- The Best Chess Puzzles # 26 The solutions of the chessbase.com christmas puzzles #1 - Video - January 1st, 2015
- The Best Chess Puzzles #25 A cute mate in 3 for Xmas - Video - December 28th, 2014
- The best chess puzzles #24 a lovely mating attack. - Video - December 21st, 2014
- The best chess puzzles #22 A lovely kingside attack by Geller. - Video - December 16th, 2014
- The best chess puzzles #19 The hardest puzzle ever (?) - Video - December 3rd, 2014
- Tactical chess puzzles from 5 minute blitz games - Video - December 3rd, 2014
- Chess Puzzles #30 Checkmate in 3 moves - Video - November 27th, 2014
- The best chess puzzles #19 The "Benko-Riddle" - Video - November 26th, 2014
- The best chess puzzles #18 An easy mate in 4 by Lloyd. - Video - November 25th, 2014
- Cool Chess Puzzle #1 - Video - November 22nd, 2014
- The best chess puzzles# 17 A really fun study by the amazing Gady Costeff - Video - November 21st, 2014
- The best chess puzzles #16 Reti's amazing pawn ending revisited - Video - November 15th, 2014
- The best chess puzzles #14 A cute and clever mate in 3 puzzle for any skill level - Video - November 14th, 2014
- The best chess puzzles #14 A cute and easy mate in 4 puzzle by Anderson - Video - November 13th, 2014
- The best chess puzzles #13 The - 2 rooks 2 kings riddle- - Video - November 11th, 2014
- The best chess puzzles #12 A lovely study by Pogosiatns - Video - November 8th, 2014
- How to Solve Chess Puzzles #20 - Video - November 7th, 2014
- The best chess puzzles #11 The fastest possible stalemate from the starting position + a surprise:) - Video - November 7th, 2014
- The best chess puzzles #10 A fantastic mate in 3 by Grimshaw - Video - November 5th, 2014
- The best chess puzzles #9 Another lovely study with an unusal draw - Video - November 2nd, 2014
- The best chess puzzles #8 A brilliant study by Hurtig - Video - November 1st, 2014
- How to Solve Chess Puzzles #19 - Video - October 31st, 2014
- The best chess puzzles #7 Construct a game where black delivers mate on move 5 by playing Rxh1 - Video - October 30th, 2014
- The best chess puzzles#6 - Video - October 28th, 2014