Carol Jarecki: From chess mom to one of the game’s greatest referees

Sometimes even a shooting star can leave a permanent mark in the sky.

John Jarecki had a brief but notable chess career in the 1980s, holding the record for a time as the youngest American player to earn the title of master. But as so often happens, Jarecki decided against the life of a full-time chess player and decided to pursue other career paths.

But he would have a major impact on the game in an unexpected way — through his mother. Carol Jarecki, who died June 13 at the age of 86, went from toting her kid to weekend Swisses in New Jersey to becoming one of the premier organizers and international match arbiters of the past four decades. (A nurse, a licensed pilot and with her late husband, Richard, a notable student of how to win at the roulette table, a nice summary of her remarkable life can be found at Chess Life Online).

Jarecki was an invaluable resource for this columnist at the 1995 PCA world title match at the top of the World Trade Center between Garry Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand, oversaw numerous Olympiads and U.S. national events, and was the arbiter for the celebrated second Kasparov-Deep Blue match in 1997. Her storied career is another useful reminder that our game could not exist without the people who rent the playing halls, police the boards, and update the wallcharts.

John Jarecki played some notable games in his too-brief career, and even represented the British Virgin Islands in a number of Olympiads. His best performance was at the 26th Olympiad in 1984 in Thessaloniki, Greece, going 11-3 on Board 2. He scored a nice win against Paraguayan master Alejandro Bogda, a taut Sicilian Scheveningen in which young Jarecki’s tactical acumen wins out in the end.

White tries to get his kingside attack rolling, but Black beats him to the counterpunch: 18. g4?! (already restraining lines such as 18. Rd1 Bf6 19. Rd3 were in order) Bf6 19. Nd1 Bh4! (alertly switching gears to exploit some combinational opportunities) 20. Nf2 d5 (the classic Sicilian freeing move, though also good was 20…e5 21. g5 exf4 22. Bxf4 Nde5, with a clear edge) 21. Rd1 Bxf2, and after a series of more or less forces moves, Jarecki winds up after 26. Qf3 Qd7 with domination of the open d-file.

With a positional plus, Black does not fear the tactical complications on 27. Nd2 (a5 Qd1+ 28. Rf1 Qxf3+ 29. Rxf3 Rd1+ 30. Kg2 Nxa5) Qxa4! 28. b3 Qa1 29. Nxc4 Qxc1+ 30. Kg2 b5 31. Ne5 Nd5, emerging a clear pawn to the good. White’s desperate attempts to gin up an attack predictably backfire: 37. Ne4+ Kh8 38. Nxf5 (see diagram) Ne5! 39. Qf4 (Rxe5 Qxh2+ 40. Qh3 Qxe5), and Bogda resigned not needing to see 39…Ng6+ (also cute is 39…g5+! 40. Qxg5 Nf3+ and wins) 40. Kh5 Nxh4+ 41. Kh4 g5 mate.


The COVID-19 shutdown of the global chess scene came at a particularly bad time for U.S. GM Sam Shankland. Shankland had a breakthrough year at the board in 2018 — including his first U.S. national championship and a dominating win in the Capablanca Memorial — but has had trouble building on that success as the tournaments dried up and the game moved online.

Happily, we can report that the California GM looks to be back on track to judge from his convincing 51/2-11/2 win at the recent Prague International Chess Festival over a quality field. It’s a result that will put him comfortably above the 2700-rating mark once more.

Shankland combined accuracy and aggression in a fine Four Knights English win at the event over Czech GM David Navara.

The fight for the center breaks out in earnest with 16. Nd2 Rad8 17. d4 c6 18. f4 exf4 19. gxf4 f5 20. e5 c5, and Black emerges with a slight pull given the unhappy state of Navara’s bishop on b2. White compounds his problems with 25. dxc5 Bxc5 26. Qb5? (either 26. a5 or 26. Bc1, going into a defensive crouch, was indicated) Be3! 27. Rxd8 Rxd8, when 28. Bc1?? Rd1+ exposes the clumsiness of White’s set-up.

After 28. a5 Nc4 29. a6 bxa6 30. Qxa6 Bd5, White’s big pieces on the queenside are a sorry spectacle as Black’s kingside pressure builds. Shankland doesn’t miss his chance: 31. Rd1 Bd2 32. Bc1 (Nxd2 Qxd1+; 32. Rxd2 Nxd2 33. Nxd2 Bxg2+34. Kxg2 Rxd2+ 35. Kg3 Qg4 mate) Kh8! (a nice bit of housekeeping to avoid any annoying checks ahead of the final assault; the tempting 32…Qg4?! is bad because of 33. Rxd2 Nxd2 34. Qa5 Rd7 35. Qc5!, defending because of the threat of 36. Qc8+) 33. Rxd2 Nxd2 34. Qa5 Rd7, and White resigns as his position collapses; e.g. 35. Nxd2 (Bxd2 Bxf3 36. Qa2 Bxg2+ 37. Kxg2+ Qe2+; or 35. Qa6 Nxf3 36. Qc8+ Bg8 37. Bxf3 [Qxd7 Qxh2 mate] Qxf3+ 38. Kg1 Rd1 mate) Qd1+ 36. Nf1 Qxf1 mate.

Bogda-Jarecki, 26th Olympiad, Thessaloniki, Greece, November 1984

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Be2 Be7 7. O-O O-O 8. Be3 Nc6 9. Kh1 Qc7 10. f4 Na5 11. Qd3 a6 12. a4 Rd8 13. Rae1 b6 14. Bf3 Nc4 15. Bc1 Bb7 16. Nb3 Rac8 17. Qe2 Nd7 18. g4 Bf6 19. Nd1 Bh4 20. Nf2 d5 21. Rd1 Bxf2 22. Rxf2 dxe4 23. Bxe4 Bxe4+ 24. Qxe4 Nf6 25. Rxd8+ Rxd8 26. Qf3 Qd7 27. Nd2 Qxa4 28. b3 Qa1 29. Nxc4 Qxc1+ 30. Kg2 b5 31. Ne5 Nd5 32. f5 exf5 33. Nc6 Ne3+ 34. Kg3 Qg1+ 35. Kh4 Nxg4 36. Re2 Rf8 37. Ne7+ Kh8 38. Nxf5 Ne5 39. Qf4 and White resigns.

Navara-Shankland, Prague International Chess Festival, Prague, June 2021

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Bg2 Bc5 7. O-O O-O 8. d3 Re8 9. Bg5 Nxc3 10. bxc3 f6 11. Bc1 Be6 12. Bb2 Bf8 13. Qc2 Qd7 14. Rfd1 Qf7 15. e4 Na5 16. Nd2 Rad8 17. d4 c6 18. f4 exf4 19. gxf4 f5 20. e5 c5 21. Nf3 Be7 22. Kh1 Nc4 23. Qe2 Qh5 24. a4 Nb6 25. dxc5 Bxc5 26. Qb5 Be3 27. Rxd8 Rxd8 28. a5 Nc4 29. a6 bxa6 30. Qxa6 Bd5 31. Rd1 Bd2 32. Bc1 Kh8 33. Rxd2 Nxd2 34. Qa5 Rd7 White resigns.

• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

You Might Also Like