“Check & Mate” by Ali Hazelwood

Table of Contents

“Check & Mate” is a captivating young adult romance novel that delves into the world of competitive chess, family dynamics, and personal growth. The story follows Mallory Greenleaf, a talented chess player, and Nolan Sawyer, the current world champion, as they navigate their complicated past and present. With its intricate characters, engaging plot, and nuanced themes, this novel is a must-read for fans of romance and coming-of-age stories.

Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood | Goodreads
“Check & Mate” by Ali Hazelwood

Main Characters

The central characters in “Check & Mate” are:

  • Mallory Greenleaf: The protagonist, a chess prodigy who has been hurt by the sport she loves. Her character development revolves around her dealing with guilt and trauma.
  • Nolan Sawyer: The current world chess champion and Mallory’s rival. His character is revealed through his interactions with Mallory, showing a more vulnerable side to his personality.
  • Mallory’s family: Her parents and siblings, who are all affected by the family’s complicated history with chess. Their relationships with Mallory are complex and multifaceted.


The main conflict of the story revolves around Mallory’s struggles with her past and her present feelings for Nolan. As she navigates the competitive chess world, she must confront her guilt and trauma related to her family’s experiences. Meanwhile, Nolan’s character is revealed through his interactions with Mallory, showing a more vulnerable side to his personality. The plot is character-driven, with a focus on the emotional journeys of the characters.


The story takes place in the world of competitive chess, with tournaments and matches serving as the backdrop for the characters’ emotional journeys. The setting is vividly described, immersing the reader in the world of chess.

Check & Mate - Carole's Random Life
“Check & Mate” by Ali Hazelwood


“Check & Mate” explores several themes, including:

  • Personal growth: Mallory’s journey towards healing and self-discovery is at the heart of the story.
  • Family dynamics: The complicated relationships within Mallory’s family and their impact on her life are a major theme.
  • Romance: The slow-burning relationship between Mallory and Nolan is a key part of the story.
  • Gender bias: The novel highlights the challenges female players face in the male-dominated world of competitive chess.
  • Trauma and healing: Mallory’s experiences and recovery are an important aspect of the story.

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“Check & Mate” is a heartwarming and engaging novel that explores the complexities of family, love, and personal growth. Through its well-developed characters, intricate plot, and nuanced themes, the story provides a captivating commentary on the world of competitive chess and the human experience. With its relatable characters and engaging storyline, this novel is sure to resonate with readers of all ages.

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