Lisa Lane, Chess Champion Whose Reign Was Meteoric, Dies at 86

Lisa Lane, an early star of American chess who was a two-time United States women’s champion and the first chess player to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, died on Feb. 28 at her home in Carmel, N.Y., in Putnam County. She was 90.

Her death was confirmed by the town clerk’s office in nearby Kent, N.Y., which registered her death.

Ms. Lane was a late bloomer in chess. She was in her first year at Temple University in Philadelphia when she saw students playing the game in a lounge; she immediately began playing as often as she could.

Within two years, she had won the United States women’s championship.

The win catapulted her into the limelight, partly because of her late start and meteoric rise in a game that usually takes years to master, and partly because of her youth and appearance. Wherever she went, people commented on her looks as much as on her chess ability, if not more so.

In May 1961, she appeared on the television game show “What’s My Line?” on which four panelists asked her questions, trying to guess her occupation. When they failed to discover that she was a professional chess player and the women’s national champion, one panelist, the writer and Broadway director Abe Burrows, commented, “Because she is so pretty, we ruled out anything intellectual.”

A Sports Illustrated cover profile in 1961 cemented her stature in the game, as did television appearances and articles about her in national publications.

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