Popular and prominent chess commentator and Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez faces multiple sexual assault allegations from no less than eight women, three of whom were underage at the time of the alleged instances of abuse. Starting in mid-February, two-time U.S. Women’s Chess champion and poker tour star Jennifer Shahade posted on Twitter a statement titled “Times Up” accusing Ramirez of groping her twice, the latest occurring in 2014 and additionally detailing stories that reached her ears of other women who had similar experiences with Ramirez. Soon afterwards, more women came forward, including some who were abused while being coached by Ramirez while on various U.S. Women’s chess teams or at camps where he was an instructor. Shahade reported what she heard, but her concerns are alleged to have been ignored.
The Wall street Journal, then published a damning article laying out the accusations in general as they were reported to Shahade, including allegedly incriminating texts from Ramirez to underage women. In the most serious of the allegations (in a long, stomach-turning list) it is reported that Ramirez allegedly provided alcohol to and then engaged in oral sex with an inebriated minor player on a team on which he was a coach. From the article:
“In interviews, eight women accused Mr. Ramirez of wrongdoing, saying that he used his status in chess to put himself in positions of influence and make repeated unwanted sexual advances toward them since 2011. Mr. Ramirez, they said, became physically aggressive as he forcibly kissed and groped them without their consent. Three were under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged incidents, including one who said Mr. Ramirez supplied her with vodka before he coerced her into performing oral sex.”
Retribution has been swift. The day after Shahade’s tweet, Ramirez resigned his positions as coach of the St. Louis University chess team, and resigned his employment with the St. Louis Chess Club. He was SLCC’s highest paid employee in the two most recent years for which data was available, earning $150,000. Both organizations as well as U.S. Chess have opened their own investigations.
What has yet to be analyzed and discussed yet are the possible criminal implications. If the allegations are true, there are several potential felonies possible on the facts we know now, let alone what else might come out.
A strange mix of opinions arose after the story broke. On their C-Squared podcast hosted by reigning U.S. Champion Fabiano Caruana and Grandmaster Cristian Chirila, the pair acknowledged that they knew Ramirez had a reputation for being “playboy” and a “ladies man,” even a “womanizer,” but never in the years of their working relationship or friendship did they ever suspect anything criminal or even approaching inappropriate behavior. Fabi was clear he’d never tolerate or even countenance that in his company or orbit.
Fabi’s hand was forced a bit as his friendship with Ramirez goes back several years. Ramirez became Central America’s first Grandmaster at age 15. Ramirez also assisted with Caruana’s preparation for the 2018 FIDE World Championship match against Magnus Carlsen as part of the prep team. Additionally, Ramirez was at the post-U.S. Championships party that the C-Squared podcast beamed after Caruana’s victory. In his victory speech at the event’s Closing Ceremony, Fabi thanked Alejandro by name, triggering a small smattering of polite applause from the attendees.
However that stood in stark contrast to the opinions of Grandmaster Ben Finegold and Karen Boyd, who both admitted they knew of Ramirez’s reputation on their podcast. Their show metaphorically ran over Ramirez with a tank.
“I knew what he was about,” Boyd said. “He was always on the make with the ladies….he came across as a male whore.” She went on to tell a story about how she expressed concern to Finegold that she hoped one young female player would never find herself alone with Ramirez. “I got the impression he was this oversexed, smarmy, gross guy….Why is he so popular with the ladies?” she concluded.
“If you told me about these incidents and charges and then asked me which GM it is, he’s at the top of the list,” Finegold added. “I’m not really surprised….In some instances he might like underage women.”
I guess that comes with the territory. The big Chess Life article that introduced Ramirez to the world showed him in a purple suit and hat straight out of the character from the Grateful Dead Shakedown Street album. Ramirez referred to it as his “pimp suit.”
Of course, the great Hikaru Nakamura, Undisputed King of all Chess Podcasters, chimed in, transfixed in horror as he read the WSJ article out loud.
“I-yi-yi” he moaned. “This article is killing me….I’m thinking of a word here that begins with ‘L’…and it’s not ‘loss.'”
He has a point. The situation has expanded to cover the St. Louis Chess Club and the U.S. Chess Federation as questions arise to their liability as some incidents allegedly occurred at “chess houses” owned by the club and at tournaments where the US Team was competing. Two women allege they woke in the middle of the night to Ramirez groping them in their hotel beds.
Ramirez’s stock as a commentator soared after he interviewed Hans Niemann and appeared to outplay him during a post-match interview at the Sinquefield Cup, effectively embarrassing Niemann and igniting further suspicions of Neimann cheating at a time when Neimann had been outed by reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen as potentially not playing fair. Moreover, Ramirez shared a surreal viral moment with fellow broadcasters David Howell and Kaja Snare as they broadcast Magnus Carlsen explosive resignation from a game against Hans Neimann at the Julius Baer Generation Cup.
This is a developing story we will discuss further here and on Jay Flemma Sports Report on iHeartRadio.