US Chess Safe Play: Real-life Examples


When WGM Jennifer Shahade posted “Time’s up.” on X (formerly Twitter) on February 15, 2023, she was the Women’s Program Director for US Chess. Less than a month later, an article in The Wall Street Journal stated, “former U.S. women’s chess champion Jennifer Shahade alleged on social media last month that she had been sexually assaulted by a prominent grandmaster named Alejandro Ramirez.” On April 5, 2024, US Chess published a Safe Play example that had some of the same elements found in allegations against Ramirez.

Safe Play

Jennifer Shahade
Jennifer Shahade
Photo By Maria Emelianova

Here is the US Chess definition of Safe Play:


Safe Play

Safe Play is a comprehensive player safety program consisting of education, screening, reporting tools, and policies for appropriate conduct in chess.

On April 5, 2024, US Chess published Safe Play: A Guide for Tournament Directors, Organizers, and Participants. In its announcement of the new publication, US Chess wrote, “The document covers the purpose of Safe Play, training and reporting requirements, and how to implement Safe Play using real-life examples.”

US Chess Example

Safe Play: A Guide for Tournament Directors, Organizers, and Participants presents the following example:A male US Chess member gets drunk and physically grabs a female at a bar and tries to force himself on her.” Question 1 asks “What would you do?” and Question 2 asks “Is there a safe play violation?”

Before giving the answers, here is a description from American Chess Magazine of the alleged assault by Ramirez on Shahade and descriptions from The Wall Street Journal of the alleged assaults by Ramirez on Shahade and on Claire Grothe.

American Chess Magazine

The US Chess Executive Board endorsed a Pete Tamburro editorial published in American Chess Magazine #37. The board’s endorsement article links to a PDF of Tamburro’s editorial. Tamburro wrote of Ramirez’s alleged assault on Shahade, “‘He forcibly kissed me the second time without my permission’ doesn’t quite conjure up the same image that ‘sexual assault’ does.” After citing this quote from Tamburro, Shahade posted, “Sorry my account wasn’t graphic enough for y’all.”

The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal article included a description of one of Ramirez’s alleged assaults on Shahade: “in 2014, she said they were at a small gathering in a large house in St. Louis when, at a moment when no one else was around, he ‘slammed’ her against the wall and forcibly kissed her.”

Perhaps more like the example in Safe Play: A Guide for Tournament Directors, Organizers, and Participants is the following account. According to The Wall Street Journal, a 2014 reception organized by the Saint Louis Chess Club adjourned to a nearby bar. At that bar, Ramirez allegedly grabbed Claire Grothe, kissed her, and reached into her dress. In 2014, Claire Grothe was a program manager at the World Chess Hall of Fame, which is part of the Saint Louis Chess Campus.

US Chess Answers

To Question 1, “What would you do?” the answers according to Safe Play: A Guide for Tournament Directors, Organizers, and Participants are:


What would you do?

● Be safe and find assistance.
● Be loud and draw attention to the inappropriate behavior.
● Call the police!

To Question 2, “Is there a safe play violation?” the US Chess answer is:


“Is there a safe play violation?

Maybe. Facts that might make a difference:
●The bar was rented out by a US Chess affiliate as part of the closing ceremony of a rated chess event.
● It was a private event, unrelated to any chess activity.


At the beginning of March, a post on X announced that, for her claims against US Chess, Shahade is represented by three law firms.

At the end of March, US Chess appointed Melinda Matthews as its Safe Play Manager. There is a June 1 deadline for tournament directors to complete the required SafeSport training to keep directing US Chess-rated tournaments. But some tournament directors may refuse to take the SafeSport training.

The maneuvers raise questions: Are Shahade and US Chess headed for a settlement or for a legal battle? Will SafeSport training be embraced by most US Chess tournament directors?

WIM Alexey Root, PhD

Alexey Root is a Woman International Master and the 1989 U.S. Women's chess champion. Her peak US Chess rating was 2260. She has a PhD in education from UCLA. You can find her books on chess on

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