Check & Mate

Ali Hazelwood

Putnam, 2023

Agent: Thao Le

In this clever and swoonworthy YA debut from the New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis, life’s moving pieces bring rival chess players together in a match for the heart.

Mallory Greenleaf is done with chess. Every move counts nowadays; after the sport led to the destruction of her family four years earlier, Mallory’s focus is on her mom, her sisters, and the dead-end job that keeps the lights on. That is, until she begrudgingly agrees to play in one last charity tournament and inadvertently wipes the board with notorious “Kingkiller” Nolan Sawyer: current world champion and reigning Bad Boy of chess.

Nolan’s loss to an unknown rook-ie shocks everyone. What’s even more confusing? His desire to cross pawns again. What kind of gambit is Nolan playing? The smart move would be to walk away. Resign. Game over. But Mallory’s victory opens the door to sorely needed cash-prizes and despite everything, she can’t help feeling drawn to the enigmatic strategist....

As she rockets up the ranks, Mallory struggles to keep her family safely separated from the game that wrecked it in the first place. And as her love for the sport she so desperately wanted to hate begins to rekindle, Mallory quickly realizes that the games aren’t only on the board, the spotlight is brighter than she imagined, and the competition can be fierce (-ly attractive. And intelligent…and infuriating…)


“Filled with the author’s signature humor, well-developed characters, and realistic conflicts, plus the fully realized setting of competitive chess, this captivating romance will delight teen readers as well as Hazelwood’s adult fans.” Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Hazelwood has captured many a reader’s heart with her adult rom-coms. Now, she makes her YA debut with a story that sparkles with her signature wit and relatable characters. Headstrong Mallory Greenleaf has a passion for chess but gave up playing when the game caused friction in her family and life landed her with huge responsibilities at home—namely earning a paycheck while taking care of her little sisters and ailing mother. The novel gives readers a deep dive into Mallory’s plight, and her emotions resurface when her best friend begs her to attend a new chess competition for a charitable cause. Mallory hesitates but ultimately decides to give it a shot. It’s there that she quickly butts heads with celebrity-player Nolan Sawyer, known as the “Kingkiller” in the chess world. Hazelwood’s writing style makes the characters’ banter shine even as she tackles important themes, such as coping with family struggles, finding oneself, following forgotten dreams, and learning how to move forward from a difficult experience. Readers will fall in love with this chess-playing duo as Mallory and Nolan bounce between being extremely competitive and being drawn to each other. This highly enjoyable, emotion-filled romance will attract teens and even loyal fans of her adult novels as it blends wit and wisdom with love’s tendency to make pawns of us all." —Aurora Domingue, Booklist

"Ali Hazelwood is the queen of smart rom-coms, and Check & Mate is her best book yet. Filled with snappy banter, clever characters, and crackling tension (and lots of chess!), this is the perfect rivals-to-lovers romance. Check & Mate will have you swooning, laughing, staying up all night, and smiling so much your face hurts. This book is my new obsession. Who knew chess could be so romantic?" —Alex Aster, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Lightlark 

"Ali Hazelwood brings her signature wit to YA and the result is nothing short of delightful! Check & Mate stole my heart from the first page — it's at once an irresistible romance, compelling character study, and fascinating peek into the world of chess. I couldn't put it down!" —Rachel Lynn Solomon, New York Times bestselling author of We Can't Keep Meeting Like This 

"Ali Hazelwood is a known master of deeply clever, ridiculously satisfying 'JUST KISS ALREADY!!' slow burns, and this book is all of that and so much more. Readers are going to ship Mallory and Nolan hard enough to break their sails. If you’re not ready to swoon and gasp and cackle in front of strangers, read this book in public at your own risk." —Emma Lord, New York Times bestselling author of When You Get the Chance

“Ali Hazelwood is a Grandmaster of romance. Check and Mate is so delightfully hilarious that you won't see the play coming before Hazelwood steals your bishop, sneaks by your defenses, and checkmates your heart. A charming riot of a YA debut! Ali Hazelwood has never let me down!” New York Times bestselling author Ashley Poston

“It’s the YA romance I have been starving for and truly, only Ali Hazelwood could deliver. Wickedly smart, highly addictive, fun and emotional all wrapped in a wonderfully heart-clutching book. I can’t stop, won’t stop screaming about this one!” —Susan Lee, author of Seoulmates