Sarah's Chess Journal

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         The History and The Culture of Chess

Diane Savereide

     February 2007
Curt Monash has a Ph.D. in Mathematics (Game Theory) from Harvard University and so many accomplishments that I don't have room to list them all.

I recently received a letter from Curt Monash concerning the former (6 time) U.S. women's chess champion, Diane Savereide. Mr. Monash had stumbled across a March 2004 posting I had made wryly entitled
"The Mysterious Diane Savereide" and was writing to tell me that he had known her before she had reached those heights. He offered to give me his impressions of her and did so in the following charming vignette -
The early 1970s were evidently a weak time for young players in the US. Although I was never rated over 1650, it seemed that at one time I was the highest-rated player under 13 in the country, and I won the California under-14 prize at age 12. (Mind-boggling, I know, and it was NOT the case that I was particularly better than my rating ...) Anyhow, Southern California was a friendly and relaxed place for teenage chess players around then, including a young-person's only tournament put on by the Santa Monica Bay Chess Club that Diane and I both placed well in but definitely didn't win. Guessing at the year being 1971 or 1972, Diane was at that point one of the better young players in the area, but not the best. She was better than her brother, however. Probably around then she was a rising Class C player; I base that upon the facts that I was slightly ahead of her, and I was just a rising Class C player myself.

   But something happened, and her game took off. I was at UCLA from 1972-4, and I remember her as being an expert, which made her one of the better players there. She wasn't the best; Kim Commons was there in those days, and he was a senior master, invited to the US Championship. Roy Ervin was another expert Bruin, whom I knew before he got there because the SMBCC had recommended him to give a simultaneous I organized at my high school. I still remember with great pleasure partnering with Diane to beat Kim and Roy at Siamese Chess, aka Double Bughouse ... But in any case, Diane definitely had passed some people who previously had been her slightly-superior peers, like Jeff Rabin and myself. This is totally consistent with what you've heard elsewhere about her being an intense student of chess, although I can't confirm those stories from my own knowledge. Maybe she focused more on chess while some of the rest of us got more involved in our actual collegiate studies.

   A lot of the male chess players seemed to have crushes on her, and rightly so. I surely would have been among their number if I hadn't been so much younger than the rest. It was rumored only half-jokingly that Siamese Chess had had a sudden jump in popularity among the elite players because everybody wanted to impress Diane ... This dynamic may have contributed eventually to making her a bit distant, if indeed she was. But that hardly seemed evident at the time; when I knew her, she smiled a lot. Everybody liked her because, well, why wouldn't they? A lot of players can have a bit of an obnoxious edge, but she was never one of those.

   As for ability -- well, she didn't particularly seem more talented than the rest of our group. I think our general talent level was such that several of us could have made Master if we'd committed sufficiently to chess, but anything above that would have been very iffy. On the other hand, it's obvious she didn't become serious about the game until late high school at the earliest, and who is to say what would have happened if she'd started much younger?

In 2005 I had received a letter from Phil Chase who referred to himself as:  organizer of 1979 US Women's Championship (and frequent victim of Diane's play in tournaments!).

He gave his own insight into Ms. Savereide:

Diane is a graduate of UCLA, specializing in Literature, with specific expertise in Russian Lit and modern fiction. She used her Russian skills to study chess, of course, and also to good advantage when she played in the interzonal in Tbilisi and other tournaments. (Note: After returning from the Tbilisi event in 1976 she reported that the local citizens supported Jimmy Carter for US President--because he was Georgian!) Professionally, Diane has been a programmer and systems analyst since the 1980s, evidently a field that offers more opportunity than Lit! Diane is important in chess history because she was the first American woman to take a "modern" professional approach to chess. The generation long dominated by Gisela Gresser and Mona Karff approached he game with enjoyment and creativity, but not as a full-time occupation worthy of consistent and intense preparation. Diane was a serious openings analyst, especially known for her use of the Keres attack against the Sicilian Scheveningen (later adopted by Karpov, no doubt after seeing some of her games) and her mastery of the W[hite] side of the Ruy Lopez, for example, in an interzonal (Alicante) win against Akhmilovskaya. Since the 1970s-1980s, scholastic programs and immigration have raised the level of play among American women (men, too) but even now few players could combine the intensity of preparation and the intensity of play that were both ubiquitous with Diane.

In her 2006 book, "Chess Bitch" Jennifer Shahade, herself a U.S. women's chess champion, narrated the following about Ms. Savereide:

Nearing thirty, with seven national titles under her belt, Diane tried to make a go as a professional player. In the summer of 1984, she took time off from her job as a computer programmer to play in tournaments, but didn't make enough money.
She quit.

. . .

For the past twenty years, Diane has played chess rarely. She sometimes misses the friends, travels and intensity of chess. But she has always been too passionate about the game to play casually even now.


With all the insight above, Diane Savereide seems to be not only a skillful and capable competitor, but also an intelligent and likeable individual...

and a bit less mysterious.

Diane Savereide's games at