Saturday, May 3, 2014

When the panel was too snobbish

Readers of this blog know I sometimes post entries on chess and often post entries on What's My Line.

In one of my binges on the YouTube What's My Line channel, I ran across the intersection of the two interests. On May 21, 1961 WML brought on Lisa Lane for their first contestant. The panel wasn't blindfolded and there was no attempt to hide her name. She happened to be the U.S. women's chess champion at the time.

She also happened to be very attractive, which didn't make things easier for the panel. (As the producers probably anticipated.) They stumbled around until Lisa won the game. Guest panelist Abe Burrows then confessed that the panel had been snobbish. They couldn't imagine that such a pretty young woman could have such an intellectual line.

Lisa's looks helped to get her onto the cover of Sports Illustrated, one of only two chess players, along with Bobby Fischer, to receive the honor (or jinx). By an odd coincidence, the current U.S. women's champ is also very attractive, Irina Krush. Would the panel guess her on a hypothetical modern-day WML?

Probably not. The only American chess player who might be guessed is Hikaru Nakamura, and that's unlikely. Chess just ain't that big in these parts. Now it would be different on a Russian What's My Line.

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