Are men and women different, when it comes to chess?

MARCH 19 ― As I write this, the Women's World Championship in the form of the 64-player knock out tournament I mentioned in my last column is underway in Sochi, Russia.

And finally, someone has acknowledged the absence of Women's World Champion Hou Yifan at the championship; the well-known chess website Chessbase went so far as to explain her absence due to personal reasons and that she reserved the right to play the new champion in a match as she had qualified to be the challenger by virtue of being the World Cup winner!

Shoddy journalism indeed.

Last week, I had already pointed out how sad it was that no one thought much of the champion not defending her title and as a result how devalued the championship was.

But it seems that maybe many are tired of the almost uninterrupted run of success by the young Chinese prodigy and perhaps some of the girls playing are even looking forward to having a chance to become world champion in her absence.

While no one can blame those playing for wanting to win, I have yet to hear any expression of regret at her absence or the fact there is at least one other serious contender ― Russian Kateryna Lagno ― who is also missing!

China's Hou Yifan is the reigning Women's World Champion. ― Pictures by Peter Long
China's Hou Yifan is the reigning Women's World Champion. ― Pictures by Peter Long

I think perhaps I should be clear as to the main point which I am making. Very simply, it's what I feel is a very inconsistent approach and perhaps understanding of what women's chess is in the eyes of FIDE (World Chess Federation).

Basically what I am arguing is that FIDE has to stop insulting women and state clearly if there is indeed a difference between men and women in chess and from that determine equitably their participation in the game because as it stands now, girls can play both with men and amongst themselves in official competitions!

Politically correct research would seem to show there is a difference but blame it on the fact that there are just so many more men in the game even if the drop out rate is about the same and there is a very small percentage of men who seem to be so much stronger.

Russia's Kateryna Lagno is not playing in the Women's World Championship.
Russia's Kateryna Lagno is not playing in the Women's World Championship.

So my argument is first that if there is really no gender difference (I am not saying that I think there is or not except that I have a high regard for the quality of play of many women players) then why have separate men and women events? Why then do we have titles awarded only to women who requirements way below that of men but which some women have also been able to achieve?

And secondly, if there is a difference for whatever reason, then let's have men and women play their own events and not be so condescending as to allow the women to also play in open (men) events.

My best guess is there should not logically be a difference other than a social environment that makes it just harder for women and that is a result of sexism, not chess.

But at the same time, I will have to say that sometimes the women in chess want it both ways and in our male dominated world that is increasingly more and more so. Women are then effectively deciding or accepting that they are the weaker sex.

I would rather celebrate the positive and necessary differences between men and women and apply it to the structure for chess competitions and the attendant title and rating system.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

Related Articles