By Beth Spotswood
Clouds loomed over the Berkeley Arts Magnet School, but inside, girls ages 5 to 17 were shining. They were competing in the first-ever Girls Age Level State Chess Championship, helping turn the tide on the reputation of chess as the male nerd’s game of choice.
In the chilly school hallway, 79-year-old Elizabeth Shaughnessy pulled her puffy vest tighter and strode past a row of nervous-looking parents. On the wall alongside her, colorful student artwork proclaimed, “You are as good as anyone”.
To understand this chess tournament, you need to understand Elizabeth Shaughnessy. She moved to Berkeley from Dublin and speaks with a brogue, making her instantly likable. Shaughnessy’s journey to chess began when she was 3 years old and the Shaughnessys took in a family of Lithuanian refugees after World War II.
San Francisco Chronicle