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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Abolish Women's Тitles? Ridiculous!


Hello everybody!

As the co-chairman of the FIDE Commission on Women's Chess, as a person who has been playing competitive chess for more than 20 years, and also as the current women's world chess champion, I feel obliged to write a reply to the Wall Street Journal article which caused a great amount of discussion lately.

The author of this article, Barbara Jepson, might very well be a professional journalist, but I have never heard of her as a chess player, and she calls for abolishing women's chess players titles, probably knowing close to nothing about professional chess herself. What's more, her demand is supported by Irina Krush, who in this article says "I don't see their benefit". "Women's titles are really a mark of lower expectations."

I also keep receiving the same question again and again "Why there are separate titles and tournaments for women and men chess players?" The main simplistic argument of these people is that "Obviously chess is not a physical game at all so I dont see why male and female players can't all play together", and "I'd like to see a woman be the overall world champion!".

CHESS IS A SPORT!

For people who don't play professional chess it's sometimes tough to understand that chess is a sport, maybe an intellectual one, but still a sport.

Let us first try to clarify the definition of the word sport:

1. Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively.

2. An active pastime or recreation.

From this characterization, we understand that sports should meet some basic requirements. Any kind of sports consists of physical activity, skills, rules and a competitive element. Since the aspect of physical activity conveys the basic obstacle in our question, we shall leave its discussion for the end.

Does chess have a clear set of rules?

Without any doubt, chess has a precise set of rules. Acceptable regulations define a true course of the game, and some actions are under an interdiction.

Sport is a competition of skills, and chess is a competition of skills too?

To master chess skills one needs at least 10 years.

Can chess be competitive?

Chess is a battle of 2 players, so there is always an intense competition, in each chess game.

Is physical strength involved in chess competitions?

Chess demands a lot of intellectual strength, to play chess well one needs to keep focus and concentration for many hours during a chess game. It's known that intellectual work requires some energy if we will take into consideration that a chess game in average lasts 4-5 hours and an average professional chess tournament lasts for 9 days, it will become evident that chess players have to be in a very good physical shape to compete on the highest level and physical strength is required at some point to be able to keep your intellectual abilities on the same high level for a long period of time. It's also a proven fact that thinking does use up calories, and many of them. For example, during the last world championship, which for me lasted 3 weeks from be start to winning the final, I lost over 5 kilos, only playing chess, not running or doing any other kinds of physical sports. I was able to hold on well thanks to the rigorous physical training program I had gone through the 6 months previous to the championship.

Can we define chess as a sport? Yes!

Proceeding from our definition of sports, chess includes many of its components. Chess is a competition with a variety of strategy and tactics, which the skilled player will use on his way to success with much greater efficiency. Chess is not a competition of direct physical strength, but it requires a lot of intellectual strength in which physical strength should be used.

I repeat again that for non chess players, or people who have never played chess competitively, it's almost impossible to explain how physically demanding the game of chess is, and how hard and physically and psychologically challenging is to compete in top-world competitions.

On many chess blog, as well as in many different other sources the difference between women's and men's chess has been discussed many times, and it seems always to be discussed on the surface, either led by ignorance of what professional chess really is, or what sacrifices it requires, or by wish-thinking that women should be as strong as men at chess, even at the highest professional level of competition.

RATING FACTS

Here are the facts: there is only 1 woman in the top 100, and only 18 women in the top 1000:

Ratings from September 2009, ranking versus all players.
  • women # 01 Judith Polgar overall # 47
  • women # 02 Humpy Koneru overall # 228
  • women # 03 Hou Yifan overall # 261
  • women # 04 Zhao Xue overall #508
  • women # 05 Tatiana Kosintseva overall # 558
  • women # 06 Pia Cramling overall # 560
  • women # 07 Nana Dzagnidze overall # 562
  • women # 08 Anna Muzychuk overall # 578
  • women # 09 Antoaneta Stefanova overall # 636
  • women # 10 Marie Sebag overall # 687
  • women # 11 Alexandra Kosteniuk overall # 727
  • women # 12 Maia Chiburdanidze overall # 811
  • women # 13 Hoang Thang Trang overall # 866
  • women # 14 Natalija Pogonina overall # 869
  • women # 15 Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant overall # 886
  • women # 16 Nadezhda Kosintseva overall # 945
  • women # 17 Danielian overall #983
  • women # 18 Zhu Chen overall #995
The overall low rankings of women overall in the world of chess at first seems shocking, but there are reasons for that:

HISTORICAL

Historically chess has been considered a men's game. Men have been playing chess professionally for more than 100 years, women started to consider chess as a profession only in the late 1980's, precisely with the start of decent prizes for women's tournaments and precisely thanks to the fact titles were being awarded to women, and there was an incentive - both financial and prestigious - to try to become a strong chess player.

ROLE MODELS

It is important to note that socially having role models of one's sex is also a factor that makes chess more attractive as a profession. A boy can say "I would like to become World Chess Champion like Bobby Fischer", and that would be accepted readily. But a girl cannot say that, or at least it will not be taken seriously by her peers, parents or educators. It would be much more acceptable for a girl to say "I'd like to be an exceptional chess player like Judith Polgar". Then, when she reaches the level of Judith, who says she cannot go higher? Setting a goal of being the world's #47 (which is Judith's world ranking) is not bad, it's simply an intermediate goal towards that of being #1.

If we abolish women's titles, then to be logical you should abolish the Women's country championships, such as the recent Women's US Chess Championship, recently played in St. Louis, which was won brilliantly by Anna Zatonskih. Why should she be awarded the title of U.S. (Women's) Champion? She should probably fare somewhat worse in the men's U.S. Championship. The answer is: to be a role model and to get encouragement to go higher still!

SOCIAL

Due to these historical and social reasons fewer girls begin to play chess and even fewer continue to play chess professionally. I talked to many people from different countries around the world and all these people keep saying that girls first compete on the same level as boys, but when they reach 14-16 years old they stop playing chess competitively, they prefer to go and study for college or University or consider doing other things in life. Why? Because the chess profession for women in many countries is not considered to be a profession and many girls just cannot consider to become professional chess players/arbiters/trainers because they don't know anything about the existence of these professions or consider it not to be well paid enough (that's true!) and that's only one of the directions where my FIDE Women's commission which I co-chair is starting to work on.

We should also understand that competitive sports is not something that many women like to do since it's very nervous and physically demanding, and requires constant travel.

PHYSIOLOGICAL

Don't forget physiological reasons: men can much easier afford to focus only on one thing in life. If a boy decides to play chess professionally, or at least give it a few years to "try his luck", he can think only about chess, wake up and go to bed with only chess in his mind. On the other hand, one cannot contest that girls by their nature must have a different approach to life, probably mostly due to their biological "clock", girls must start early to think about founding a family or else it will be too late, and those are precisely the young years that you need to become strong at chess. I am sure there were many young girls with enormous talent who could have gone very far in chess but were not ready to take the "risky" path into a professional chess player's profession, and instead elected a "safer" college-work-family solution.

Of course it is possible for a girl to either manage to do everything at once, study chess, found a family, and be successful at chess competition, but that's incredibly hard to do and requires a lot of sacrifices. It's also possible to postpone founding a family until later years, but again that is quite a risky proposition.

PHYSICAL

Physical strength and therefore the ability to concentrate and thus not to make mistakes is higher in men's chess and that's also another reason why, in the long term, men are showing greater results. Many great champions have spoken about that, including the 12th World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov.

AND... NUMBERS!

One most important factor which the WSJ lady forgets about is the purely statistical reasons. A recent study was conducted by Merim Bilalic, Kieran Smallbone, Peter McLeod, and Fernand Gobet, in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, which suggests that 96% of the statistical difference in playing abilities between the sexes can be explained by the greater number of male chess players (Link). Here is an abstract of that paper:

A popular explanation for the small number of women at the top level of intellectually demanding activities from chess to science appeals to biological differences in the intellectual abilities of men and women. An alternative explanation is that the extreme values in a large sample are likely to be greater than those in a small one. Although the performance of the 100 best German male chess players is better than that of the 100 best German women, we show that 96 per cent of the observed difference would be expected given the much greater number of men who play chess. There is little left for biological or cultural explanations to account for. In science, where there are many more male than female participants, this statistical sampling explanation, rather than differences in intellectual ability, may also be the main reason why women are under-represented at the top end.

So this shows that to get more strong women playing chess, we need to have many more women STARTING to play chess, and here we get to a point totally ignored by our WSJ journalist:

ENCOURAGEMENT

People need encouragement for their efforts, they need rewards, or else they will not try to perform at their best. In all areas of life, school, hobbies and sports, to stimulate progress, teachers and trainers have set up levels where participants can be rewarded for their intermediate success, so they get confidence and start tackling the NEXT step. Without those rewards, few would consider entering many activities. And all those rewards need to be is REALISTIC to be effective.

Every kid hobby and sports schools know this and make sure to reward their students with awards, trophies, and diplomas, at all levels, and split by boys and girls, and how different are those from handing out women's titles? They don't indicate "lower expectations", they simply reward for one step completed. Nobody has ever said that WGM is equivalent to GM, everybody knows it's not the case, WGM is just a step towards IM then GM, to make sure the player does not lose interest as it is so hard to attain the higher titles.

Any parent who reads this will understand how important it is to stimulate his or her child and always welcome the distribution of prizes and diplomas to the best in any group in which their child participates, even if it's not an Olympic level, or if it happens to include only girls.

As you have seen from the rating table above, abolishing all the women's titles, such as Woman Grand Master (WGM), and WIM (Woman International Master), and logically all the women titles below that, would just make it less interesting for women players to play, why - they can't even get recognition for success over their peers? Of course it's not total success, they still have a long way to go to become GM's and overall world champion, but the concept of abolishing titles is absurd.

WOMEN-ONLY CHAMPIONSHIPS

If we would accept the reasoning that women's titles should be abolished, we should also abolish all women-only championships, and all professional women chess players (well, maybe a handful would survive) would lose the little prize money FIDE and organizers offer them the opportunity to get.

I am very familiar with scholastics chess events, all over the world, and if girl-only categories would be eliminated, we would have even fewer girls starting to play chess, and as I believe the study mentioned above has a lot of truth it in, fewer numbers of girls starting to play chess will undoubtedly lead to fewer women that earn the highest levels in chess. There are exceptions, yes, but the fact is that more women starting to play chess will give more women chess champions.

I'm sure I can add many more reasons explaining why women for the moment are weaker than men in chess. But here is a very interesting fact:

OLYMPIC GAMES

I've been studying the question of having chess admitted into the Olympic Games, either the Summer Games or the Winter Games. According to the IOC regulations women are not allowed to compete in men's events. I confronted this question directly when I was playing in the 2008 Mind Sports Games in Beijing. That competition was affiliated with the International Committed, and played totally as per their rules. I wanted to build a mixed team, where I would be playing in the men's team, but the rules were strict and I was not allowed to do so. Point 3.2 says: In accordance with normal IOC practice, women shall compete only in Pair Events (Woman) and Women events.

So why does nobody ask this question to the IOC, why a woman cannot compete in any kind of IOC sport, like, for example, shooting? Do all sports in the Olympic family have inherent male superiority? Should we say that in the Olympic Games are accepted only sports in which men are so superior to women that they are not allowed to participate together?

Since chess wants to become a member of the olympic movement we should understand that soon we will need to deal with this issue and possibly women will not be allowed to compete in men's tournaments.

I also must point out that compared to the IOC, the FIDE is a very democratic body which let women participate in men's tournament and also allows them to get men's titles. So women who have achieved a lot in women's chess can go on and continue improving their chess level playing in men's competition. That is a tremendous advantage we women have in chess, as we know one sure way to improve it to play people a little stronger than oneself, and with time and study, the levels will keep getting close to each other.

So it turns out that women in chess have more rather than less opportunities given to them to improve, and this is what we need to get more girls and women to play chess.

WOMEN'S TITLES

The first woman who received the title of Grand Master (men) was Nona Gaprindashvili in 1978, I was the 10th woman in history to get that title in 2004, and since then already 10 more women have made the mark, that means progress is coming quite fast, considering that women have only started playing chess professionally not long ago. I also am encouraged and expected this trend to continue in the future.

Only 21 women so far have achieved the highest men's title in chess - Grandmaster (Men) while there are 1,224 men with such a title.

That however doesn't mean that we don't need women's titles. Women know very well that a WGM is less valuable than a GM, and so what? It's still a nice recognition for success achieved so far. If no WIM nor WGM titles existed at all, there would be many countries without any titled women players at all, I bet those countries would even not consider sending teams to the Olympiads, or sending their best representative to an international tournament, sponsors would be harder to come by, they would have many fewer opportunities for simuls, thank you dear Wall Street Journal reporter, you certainly want to help women's chess!

The WSJ reporter writes that FIDE "persists in the anachronistic and demeaning practice of awarding separate titles for women at lower levels of accomplishment." Nobody has ever said that WGM is the same as GM, everybody knows it's a different title and obviously it has different requirements.

On the contrary, all the encouragement is needed to:

1) Convince girls as well as boys that chess is a fun game worth trying
2) Encourage girls along the way with girls-only tournaments, prizes, trophies
3) Of course allow girls to play also in boys tournaments, which leads to faster progress since at the top levels boys may be rated higher and have more experience
4) Give titles to girls and allow them to play in any tournament they please so they can fight for any titles they can get

That's exactly what we're doing now, and time will prove we are right. The proposal of abolishing women's chess titles is absurd, sounds more like a title for a "yellow" newspaper rather than the Wall Street Journal to attract attention, and would hurt rather than help getting more girls and women to play chess.

My goal, as the current women's world chess champion, and as a chess educator, is to get every girl on the planet interested in chess. And for that I need the same thing every educator has at his fingers - the power to encourage, the power to congratulate, and the power to offer all opportunities that chess has to offer, including titles, however small they are.

I have put my whole life into chess, from the age of 5 I have loved the game, and love it up to this day. I have earned all the FIDE titles that have been available, both women's titles and men's titles, WIM, WGM, IM, GM. I am starting to give the love of chess to my tiny daughter of 2 years old, and I hope she will love it also and will play chess, as I know it teaches skills very useful in school, and later on, in life. I will do all I can to support women's chess, in a positive way, not by attacking or making provocative statements just to attract attention, but in actions.

So if you have a free moment this week-end, please teach a girl you know to play chess and show her how wonderful a game it is.

If you have any constructive and civilized comments, or simply "I agree", or "I disagree with your reasoning because of...", feel free to post below.

Posted by: Alexandra Kosteniuk
Women's World Chess Champion

Labels: ,

91 Comments:

  • At October 17, 2009 at 2:06 PM , Anonymous Jimmy S. Chen said...

    As a male chess player, I consider chess to be a sport. While it may not be as phsyical as most other so-called sports it is nevertheless a sport, and I believe it is classified by the IOC as a sport.

    With regard to women's chess, I totally disagree with the WSJ. There may be a time when women's standards improve and are on a par with men, but the Women's Chess Championship gives the women's game a higher profile and may encourage more players to play chess.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 2:08 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I strongly agree. Michelle Werlich, Minnesota USA

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 2:10 PM , Blogger Amanda said...

    I agree to an extent. I am no Chess expert, but any means, so take what I say with a grain of salt. I agree that there should be a separate title so that girls can feel a sense of accomplishment. Fewer girls learn chess and pursue it at a championship level, and I think because of that, they don't get the experience that males get, nor do they get challenged as much and, as a result, hone their skills as well as boys do.

    However, on the flip side, I can see the point of the WSJ article. In my mind, arguing to have a woman's championship is almost like arguing to have a black-only swim competition. They don't get near the access to pools that white children do, so should they be allowed to just compete against each other? No. Swimming is a physical sport and one that most be competed all together. Chess is a mental sport and since all women agree that our minds are equal to a man's then why shouldn't we compete against them and not just each other?

    Again, I see both sides.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 2:14 PM , Anonymous Andy said...

    Hi Alexandra,

    I love your blog, one can sense you take care into your posts, which are always original and not simply copy-paste like most other ones out there.

    I definitely agree with your post, that Wall Street Journal article was totally off the mark.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 2:16 PM , Anonymous Johnny Binder (via Facebookshare) said...

    I completely agree with you. Speaking about physics, even in small amateur competitions player has to be prepared properly. Two rounds in a day is quite a toughie.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 2:22 PM , Anonymous Nikola Antonov (via Facebookshare) said...

    Great article, Alexandra! This idea is really ridiculous.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 2:23 PM , Blogger Elmer Escoto R. (Likantropo) said...

    Chess IS a sport. And a very hard one. Full of training, competition, stress and over all, beauty. It is a sport that resembles art... or perhaps it is art too.

    There are Women's Soccer Championships. There are Women's volleyball, swimming, all kinds of olympic women's teams. So nulling women's titles makes no sense, as there are fewer women playing chess, and that would dilute women's presence in world rankings.

    Not just because I love you, Alexandra, but because your point is so valid and true. And I share your views and support them. Women should be recognized. Come on guys! Let's love women! That's why we are guys, right? Let's support Alexandra and her struggle against this coup!

    Elmer
    San Pedro Sula,
    HONDURAS

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 2:23 PM , Anonymous Victoria W. Guadagno (via Facebookshare) said...

    I'm on it!

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 2:25 PM , Anonymous pawnsinagame said...

    Excellent article, Alexandra, which makes a clear and compelling case for retaining women's chess titles. With World Class players like yourself as role models I'm sure many girls will take up the game. It is important that they can be competitive among themselves as a group and that success within this should be rewarded. Stripping women's chess of titles would be an insult to women, not progress.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 2:52 PM , Anonymous Elmer Escoto Romero (via Facebookshare) said...

    Chess IS a sport. And a form of art. And as olympics, and leagues, and national associations for other sports have titles for women, so should chess. There are not too many women chess players, and this idea would "dilute" women's achievements and bury them in the long list of men players.

    I am with you Alexandra!

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 2:55 PM , Blogger Vincs72 said...

    It's a very interesting article. I totally agree with your point of view.
    My greatest wish would be to see a woman World Chess Champion and the best way for it is to help them to get interest in chess.

    Continue your great work for chess development for girls.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 2:58 PM , Anonymous Greg Delaney said...

    Maybe I am missing something obvious, but I don't hear anyone calling for an end to women's competitions in other sports. It could very well be that the person who asserted the opinion that women's chess titles be eliminated believes that such titles trivialize the accomplishments of women in chess, since they aren't earned by meeting the same critera as men (thus putting women in a place of "second-class" achievers). I've read in many articles that all-girls chess events help the aspiring players build friendships and create mentoring. This is clearly very different from the atmosphere at an all boys event. Women are different, and the differences should be cherished, not made to disappear. My chess coach, IM Yelena Dembo, competes in both women's and mixed events. She's a chess player who happens to be female. I don't think her accomplishments in girl's and women's events take away anything from the respect she deserves. Thank you, GM Kosteniuk, for bringing this to our attention!

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 3:10 PM , Anonymous Vincent RichetI (via Facebookshare) said...

    totally agree with you Alexandra. I lost so many games cos of physical conditions that it's obvious to me that it's a sport. Go go girls in chess!

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 3:12 PM , Anonymous Marvis Camat (via Facebookshare) said...

    It's a long read, but I read it. I admire your intelligent presentation of the case. In the first place, I agree that chess is indeed a sport. Second, and this is just my opinion, Irina Krush seconding the WSJ journalist's proposal of abolition of women's titles comes from her disappointment from reclaiming the US women's title, which Anna Zatonskih won again for the repeat. The late Vera Menchik, 1st women's champion, was 0:9 against Capablanca. Going into the accounts of the succeeding women champions, many of them reach their peak from the mid 20's to the late 30's. There was even a woman champ who failed to defend her title due to pregnancy. I will have to end for now, as I still have much to say about this.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 3:16 PM , Anonymous Marvis Camat (via Facebookshare) said...

    then they should also start suggesting the abolishing of WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association), and let these women go head to head against Kobe Bryant et al.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 3:31 PM , Anonymous Ezekial1 said...

    Hi Alexandra,

    I feel the WSJ is way off the mark. When I started playing chess in the 60's there were no female chess players within my peer group. The whole aim of the FIDE proposal is to encourage females into trying chess and to motivate them by providing positive role models. By WSJ reasoning women and men should compete on level terms. This would result in no positive role models for women in having female champions. If its good enough for the IOC not separate men and women in other competitive sports then its good enough for chess. By the WSJ reasoning there would be no women's Olympic champions and no postive role models that encouraged our female athletes to achieve gold medals. Through women's chess champions like Alexandra Kosteniuk and others the awareness of women playing chess has been raised. I support Alexandra and would have expected the WSJ to have published better thought out article.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 3:35 PM , Blogger Jan said...

    Dear Alexandra,

    I agree with you 100%. It is ridiculous to argue for abolishing female chess titles in a time when chess is still opening up opportunities for female players and the playing field is still tilted against female players.

    One must not forget that not so long ago - Susan Polgar earned the right to participate in a Candidates' Match for the World Chess Championship, but was denied that opportunity because she was a female!

    We take it for granted today that women who achieve a certain result can participate in the championship cycle, but that was not the case before Susan Polgar! Today we have a few females playing in qualifications for the World Chess Championship (you, GM Judit Polgar and GM Hou Yifan), but we should not forget those women who came before and fought those battles and won! Susan Polgar was denied the right to participate in the World Chess Championship cycle, but she went on to EARN the very first GM title by meeting FIDE'S requirements for male chess players. She set the pace.

    Shortly after Susan Polgar earned her GM title, GM Pia Cramling of Sweden did the same, again - by meeting FIDE requirements for a male GM title.

    Susan Polgar no longer participates in tournament play (I believe her last event was the 2004 Olympiad, where she won an individual gold medal to add to her collection and was the lead on a US team that won a silver medal for the women, a first for USA women), but she is active in promoting the game in the USA for female players and encouraging young players, female and male, by organizing and hosting national and international tournaments.

    After earning her GM title, Pia Cramling took time off from chess to have a family - but starting about five or so years ago, she has come back into the international scene and has done very well in the women's rankings.

    I am not denigrating the GM titles awarded to female players for achievement over the years, such as Nona. She was deprived the opportunities to play in male events, and so she could NOT compete on the level to which her skill level entitled her to do.

    That is all water under the bridge now. Herstory moves on. But we should not forget those women who fought for and won the rights that women chessplayers have today.

    Women's titles are stepping stones to further progress upon a female chessplayer's path toward whatever her ultimate goal may be. They are landmarks along the road to chess excellence. Let us not forget that even today in many countries around the world, women are not even allowed to be in the same room at the same time with males who are not their relatives. These females are not allowed to compete against males in chess events, even if they should be brave and bold enough to go against cultural indoctrination and want to do so!

    Jan Newton
    www.goddesschess.com
    www.goddesschess.blogspot.com

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 3:39 PM , Anonymous Irenejas Lithuania said...

    Absurdity what that!! Women plays not worse men. You of Alexandra an example! And they are worthy summit the name in the chess world. Even there is no also a speech. But I do not think, that who that to be solved on such. I have two daughters and itself on a little bit I learn them :) Alexandra maintain you and weight the female chess world!!

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 3:41 PM , Anonymous Elena said...

    Calling to abolish Women's titles in chess is something one would expect from a tabloid just to get circulation.

    I am WIM and I know quiet well it's not the same as a IM title for men, but at least it's a point on the way and offers some encouragement. I hope to become WGM and then later IM and may be one day GM, although I understand it's almost impossible as I want to go to Technical school and chess requires so much time.

    If we did not have any women titles, then there would be nobody (woman) in my country with any man chess title such as IM or GM and we probably would get not support at all from the federation and we would never have any women's teams at the Olympiads, which I hope to join one day when I get stronger.

    I agree with you, Alexandra, thanks for defending we women chess players.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 3:47 PM , Anonymous Marvis Camat (via Facebookshare) said...

    These past few days, and very timely, I have been reading about the history of the women's world chess championship, starting from vera menchik up to our current champion alexandra kosteniuk. I shared them to my wife and 9 year old daughter, whom I've teaching to play chess for 3 months, and they are really starting to love the game because of the inspiring achievements of these women champions.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 3:48 PM , Anonymous Marvis Camat (via Facebookshare) said...

    I like Bobby Fischer, as a chess player, but I don't agree with his opinions about women playing chess. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdA7I9nPhSU

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 3:49 PM , Anonymous Andrew Greet (via Facebookshare) said...

    Alexandra,

    I found your article interesting, but I'm afraid I will have to disagree with you.

    At present, the performance requirement for a WGM norm is 200 points below that of a 'proper' GM norm. (It is a similar story for WIM and WFM titles.) It seems to me that this is profoundly insulting to women. It sends a clear message to all female chessplayers that their gender is a handicap, and that they should automatically set their sights below the level of male players. Surely this cannot be beneficial for women's chess, or for the game in general.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 3:50 PM , Anonymous Marvis Camat (via Facebookshare) said...

    For the mean time, they should instead abolish the thought of abolishing women titles. Chess requires mental calculation, and academically speaking girls in schools may even beat their male counterparts in Math competitions. But even then, chess is still more than that, that it requires resisting physical fatigue and stress. I experienced it when joining a national tournament. You've got to have nerves of steel to not psychologically break down.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 3:51 PM , Anonymous Irenėjas Urbonavičius (via Facebookshare) said...

    Absurdity what that!! Women plays not worse men. You of Alexandra an example! And they are worthy summit the name in the chess world. Even there is no also a speech. But I do not think, that who that to be solved on such. I have two daughters and itself on a little bit I learn them :) Alexandra maintain you and weight the female chess world!!

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 4:19 PM , Anonymous Mike Blair said...

    Hi Alexandra,

    I found this paper about gender differences in chess ability it concludes,
    "We conclude that the greater number of men at the highest levels in chess can be explained by the greater number of boys who enter chess at the lowest levels."

    You can access this paper at http://math.bu.edu/people/mg/papers/ps-final.pdf

    I think this strongly supports your argument about getting positive role models for young women.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 4:25 PM , Anonymous Sam Raizor (via Facebookshare) said...

    Why would they want to make chess different from most other competitions? In the biggest majority of forms of competition there are different tourneys for men and women. And some like chess allow competition between the divisions in some instances but they still have the separate titles.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 4:40 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    As a male chess player, I have to say that Chess Is A Sport! And, as every sport on this earth, has to exist Women titles as well! NO to Barbara Jepson!!

    Ciao
    Luigi

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 4:46 PM , Blogger Santiago Pastrana said...

    To abolish Women's Тitles is stupid think. Besides of the reasons expound, and if it's true that the women read worst the maps, it is a limitation of spatial thinking.

    Why not ask the same think in other sports with little physical effort: archery, shooting sports, golf, yachting, diving, etc.?

    Why always talk about this who does not know?

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 4:55 PM , Anonymous Cesar Espiritu said...

    I agree with Alexandra. Why abolish something that has done more good to promote the game/sport of chess for women. It also promote sponsorships for the women.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 5:15 PM , Blogger Palamède said...

    Hi Alexandra,
    You clearly bring grace, smarts, and passion to the board and the cause: Q.E.D.! What else is there to say?
    On behalf of all of us, Gens Una Sumus, thank you for this landmark statement - 100% right on, in many ways, not just regarding the gender issue.
    I wonder, maybe the WSJ will propose next to do away with every last type of title and competition save the World Chess Championship... where will that leave all of us and the game of chess itself?
    Wishing you all of Caissa's blessings :-)
    HRS

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 6:24 PM , Blogger Stepa ("Antikaon") said...

    I definitely agree with your point of view, Alexandra.
    Author clearly forgot about chess professionals but devises a plan to change their lives...

    One would say that chess is unique sport, because of its distinctive characteristics of a 'mind game'. And what often forgotten that women in chess give the same performance for outside viewer, as men. There's a difference between women sports in general, where women are considered to play inferior in comparison with men: they run slower, they hit the ball weaker, they ... etc. Look for women soccer for example...

    But even this difference was not taken into account in tennis - major professional sport with many similarities to chess. Women, who give the full commitment of their lives are given the comparable prize funds despite their inferior performance.

    That should be done in chess. Women chess gives the all features of men, and their lower ratings does not mean that they are playing worse. They are just playing more understandable from outside. Without eight-CPU Rybka.

    Unification of men and women titles and tournaments will lead to much steeper learning curve to become chess professional, i.e. to be able to sustain own life on chess earnings especially for girls. And being awarded the title of GM for woman is truly an achievement, when GM title itself is very inflated and its male bearer has no significant privileges.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 6:51 PM , Anonymous Fabrice Wantiez said...

    I totally agree with you Alexandra !

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 7:23 PM , Anonymous Alejandro said...

    Alexandra,

    Congratulations on your article defending chess womens' titles!
    It's very interesting and well articulated.

    I hope The New York Times publishes it and maybe also Chessbase and other
    publications that published that other article.

    Good luck!

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 7:25 PM , Anonymous Fun Fong (via Facebookshare) said...

    I would think that women would generally want the most opportunities to play and be titled.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 8:24 PM , Blogger Kuan said...

    How about sometimes girls don't want to play the boys? At chess club we've found that girls enjoyed and improved their chess more when they studeid with and against other girls.

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 8:36 PM , OpenID davehogg said...

    Alexandra,

    Do you think part of the problem is the confusion from women getting both titles? For example, while you are both a WGM and a GM, there are many other players who are a WGM and an IM. That seems to me to inherently diminish the women's title by pointing out that a WGM isn't a "real" GM.

    The problem is that you can't ask women to not accept men's titles. That wouldn't be fair to the 14 players that are currently rated at 2500+ or their predecessors such as Pia Cramling and Susan Polgar.

    I certainly don't think women's events should be abolished - I think they need to be encouraged in order to get more females into the sport. I also look forward to the day when more women are competing at the top open events.

    But I do wonder if women's titles do more harm than good. Would it be a huge problem to only have 21 female GMs? They are already distinct from the other WGM by virtue of having the male GM title, so why not leave it there?

    (Oh, and just as a historical note, women do compete against men in Olympic equestrian events.)

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 9:22 PM , Anonymous nikita said...

    I agree to keep the women titles, but I get so sick and tired of those men - with personality problems - that always argue women are "weaker" - makes me sick. Women are not weaker - you mentioned the reasons why so less women play chess [reasons all should know by now]. I agree with another reader about your blog, that's why I love to read it too. You clearly have a distinctive "touch" to your blog that makes it standing out! Keep up the great work!

     
  • At October 17, 2009 at 10:19 PM , Anonymous Wayne said...

    Well stated Alexandra,
    At the top levels of chess,the activity is definitely a sport, and not only a sport for these players but an occupation and a way of gaining income to live on the planet. Having been involved in competitive running and also competitive chess in my life, I can honestly say that I have been more tired after playing a game of tournament chess, ( or in a weekend or week long tournament (such as the Canadian Open Chess Championship), than after a twelve mile road race in the mountains of Canada)! For chess professionals, who have to practise and play this exhausting activity day after day, each day of the year, there is only one way such a player can remain competitive:she or he must be in very good condition:physically,mentally and psychologically. And on top of this the player must study and play constantly day after day if she or he is to remain competitive and get invitations to tournaments (which are the lifeline professional chess players must maintain to survive economically). Those players who cannot remain competitive, have only one alternative, to find another career to make an income at.

    For most of us, chess is not a profession, but rather a pastime or hobby,which can be very enriching. Children who are taught chess at an early age have been found to do better in school,especially in the subjects of math and reading (studies have shown this). These children
    also become better at problem solving, which is something all of us must do each day of our lives on the planet!
    (see:http://74.125.113.132/search?q=cache:_OPdy0bBvQcJ:www.psmcd.net/otherfiles/BenefitsOfChessInEdScreen2.pdf+social+aspects+of+chess&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ca)


    The fact that recent scientific evidence shows that playing chess can prevent or delay a person from getting Alzheimer's disease, is another reason why more people on the planet should play the game of chess.


    If we want to see more girls and women playing chess on our world, we must show them the benefits of playing, and not only that but make chess more social in nature. By this, I mean that chess clubs should be encouraging more of their members to socialize with each other, on days in which chess tournaments are being played and on the remaining days of the week as well. Daniel Goleman, in his book "Emotional Intelligence" (1995) noted that it is not only our pure intelligence that helps us to achieve in today’s society, it is also our social= emotional competence.
    Schools are an ideal place to use to increase the number of females playing chess, because girls and boys can be taught the game at the same time, and girls and boys can play against each other and socialize before, during and after their game. In this theatre, girls will learn they can not only compete against boys, but also both of the sexes will also develop the skills and experiences relating to the development of their social-emotional competence.

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 12:09 AM , Anonymous saumilzx said...

    Sportspersons- who are world class (men or women) need to be credited better for their efforts. Being in the top 30 or 100 or even 1000 in the world where a few million people aspire to learn and play a sport is no mean achievement. (If you compare to other professions, there may easily be 1000s of specialist doctors or programmers who get their credit in money/status). But a universal rating system for society is not yet in place, so there needs to be ways to credit sports performances, beyond just the top 3 or 10.

    Now regarding this men/women issue- Alexandra has pointed out many problems which women face outside chess and even within - as it is physically demanding as well (I know of ways to put on 5 kilos in a week sitting- not loose it). So having a WGM entry point a few notches lower is not a problem at all. It is easy to write about sports (I do) and love it (I apply basic chess theory to other sports) but even as enthusiastic as I am, I can say without hesitation that I will listen to a WGM with awe and respect, when she explains a nuance about chess- rather than think of it as tips from some 'weaker' certified person. Any of the FIDE norms that are there men or women, are indicators of excellence (the variations in getting degrees or norms in society are lot more vague and inconsistent- a PhD from Harvard and one from say another average college will be both Dr. At least in chess they are all like top ivy league). But since it gender issue, we make more noise i guess.

    So if it helps to attract more girls to play chess by giving women norms that is fine. How many of us would tweet-follow Alexandra if you see her as 727th in the chess world (I still would, because 727 in millions of possible players is top notch)? But most follow her because she is a World Champ- albeit women's. The women's title has helped her popularize the game and improve the remaining few million who want to learn chess, rather than comment on it, in a news channel which is having a tough time figuring out where their own industry is going.

    lets get back to chess.
    saumilzx
    Mumbai India

    Note: the nature of chess is such that the gap between all the top 1000 odd players is not as much as it might be in another sport- because beyond a point knowledge and skills are not easy to measure- as may be in other sports where speed, power, muscle movements etc can be analyzed . To achieve that level of insight and understanding is why they are Masters -then to progress further is perhaps a matter of application and training beyond most of us.

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 12:20 AM , Anonymous Robert Noland said...

    The WSJ article is wrong!

    And I have disagreed with the WSJ on other opinionated matters in the past as well.

    To all of you young girls out there playing chess: Just think. You probably would beat the person that wrote that article in a game of chess. Seriously! Keep playing. Stay strong!

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 4:09 AM , Anonymous Bruce Fairbairn said...

    I think woman's chess is a great thing. The game itself teaches skills and a though process that I liken to a passive form of hunting/gathering. These traits are inherent in men yet these days are mainly excercised on football terraces and the like.
    If chess can encourage girls and ultimately woman to achieve and understand this predominantly male behaviour then the sooner we can fix it.
    So as well as being fun, it has educational qualities, social implications, is a sport as mentioned by others and one dayay even have a political impact. So WSJ get a life and try and focus on some of the things in the world that are doing harm.
    Bruce

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 4:23 AM , Blogger Nikola said...

    I totally agree with you, Alexandra!

    We have started already a discussion on your comment at Bulgarian Chess Network forum.

    You can see it here - http://forum.chessbgnet.org/viewtopic.php?f=9&p=10389&sid=437c66d7ea4fa34bb267d4ca2dce2176#p10381

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 6:13 AM , Blogger gurdonark said...

    Both the "pro" side of this debate and the "con" side of this debate make good points. The core issue for the chess world remains how to increase participation by both genders, to facilitate the growth of chess. Chess titles for women may advance that goal in the short run. In the long run, I think that such titles will become less important, as women achieve IM and GM titles more often. Someday chess will be a 50/50 participation ratio between the genders, and nobody will worry about this issue.

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 6:40 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    She doesn't agree with women's chess titles, so they should be abolished for everyone? People like Barbara Jepson drive me nuts. I see no indication that she's even a chess player. How exactly would her life or ours be improved if she got her way? People like her are best ignored. Keep fighting the good fight, Alexandra.

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 7:55 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Your comments are very much on the mark and they are persuassive. It surprised me that this is the first formal reaction against that unfair article. Let's hope it receives as wide a distribution!

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 8:47 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hi, maybe a bit ridiculous, but perhaps they are afraid that in the end a women CAN be World Champion (!)
    Anyhow, womens title should stay and there should be 1 competition where everyone plays in it.
    The best female players are ready to storm the mens elite !

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 9:13 AM , Anonymous Myra Detilloux said...

    Wish you courage Alexandra ....your point is clear...wish your voice will be heard and recognize with! take care and good continuation!

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 10:13 AM , Anonymous Edén López Martínez said...

    Good for you, I agree with you, Alexandra.

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 10:38 AM , Anonymous PetrS said...

    The article from WSJ is a bullshit of someone who doesn't know too much about chess, I would say. Absolutely agree with you, Alexandra!

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 11:47 AM , Anonymous Tem Jeito said...

    In Portuguese:
    Eu entendo que o artigo do WSJ fala do fim dos títulos WIM e WGM como uma forma de acabar com uma discriminação existente atualmente, a qual, por um lado, favorece as mulheres (só elas podem ter esses títulos), e por outro lado as colocam em posição inferior aos homens (existem os títulos porque as mulheres teriam menor capacidade?).
    Acredito que devam continuar existindo os títulos (WIM e WGM) como forma de promover o xadrez no mundo feminino, incentivando a participação de mais mulheres neste jogo (esporte mental). Acredito que ter um título tenha um peso muito grande como motivador do xadrez.
    Porém, mais cedo ou mais tarde, acho que esses títulos deveriam ter suas denominações alteradas e deveriam servir tanto para homens como para mulheres (ou que sejam criados títulos com atuais regras de WIM/WGM também para os homens), para assim acabar com a atual discriminação existente.

    In English:
    I understand that the WSJ article talks about the end of the WIM and WGM titles as a way to end discrimination existing today, which on the one hand, encourages/benefits women (only they can have these titles), and secondly, put them in a position inferior to men (are there the titles because women have less capacity?).
    I believe that should continue existing the titles (WIM and WGM) as a way to promote chess in the women's chess world, encouraging the participation of more women in this game (mental sport). I believe that having one title has much weight as a motivator of chess.
    But, sooner or later, I think that these titles should have their names changed and should serve both men and women (or new titles must be created with the current rules of WIM / WGM also for men), thus ending the current existing discrimination.

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 2:28 PM , Anonymous dellblog said...

    So, many sports have a women's division, and high-ranking women chess players DO compete in championships, at least in the U. S. It seems obvious to me that eliminating the Women's division of chess competitions would be counter-productive to women's efforts to show that women are ranking very high in chess. The existence of their division also acts to lure and recruit more women to the game of chess. I'm a man who witnessed first-hand the competition at the recent U.S. Women's Championship over most of its days here at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. I was in awe of the depth to which they calculate and play!! They showed that women also have extreme power to lash out on the chess board!! All of the men in attendance were in awe of the show of power from any one of them that could crush (the most used word that week) any one of us chess club members. I hope
    any ideas or threats to eliminate the Women's division of chess will be eliminated and brought to an end for all time.

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 2:29 PM , Anonymous Raymon E. Niccolls said...

    Alexandra,

    I agree with you and for exactly the reasons you have put so well. I think the jury is still out on the biological factors that influence the ability to visualize and plan, which is so critical in chess. There is some interesting research that leans towards the idea that the major factor influencing this aspect of brain development is actually the level of testosterone in the mother at about the second month of pregnancy, as opposed to the sex of the child. A marker of this seems to be a third finger that is markedly longer than the first. I would love to do some research on chess players both male and female and simply measure this finger ratio. Maybe you can do some casual observation. Start by looking at your own hands and see if this theory holds up in your case. I would be very interested to know if it does or not.

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 4:58 PM , Blogger Elias Muniz said...

    I strongly agree.

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 5:57 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Dear Alexandra,

    My agreement is with every word you wrote, regarding Women's Chess Titles.

    I would use this unique opportunity to point to you the fact that your member organization (FIDE) is awarding titles of WFM on tournaments which do not comply with the many years of standard rules for achieving these prestigious titles for females.

    Awarding direct WFM to little girls with no or almost not any rating (as opposed to classical WFM rating standards) on youth tournaments of under 10 or even under 8, is something that will slow down their progress in the future and leave them without any motivation to play on, for temporary benefits only, resultating in temporary private gain of the player in question or the federation officials in question. These titles are now being given "for free" on many tournaments worldwide, and basically embarass ones who have achieved them through normalized tournament play. Being a WFM with rating of 1600 is not what chess should be about.

    If you try so much as to click in here: http://ratings.fide.com/advaction.phtml?idcode=&name=&title=wf&other_title=&country=%25&sex=&srating=0&erating=3000&birthday=&radio=rating&line=asc

    you will notice 10 pages of WFMs, starting with rating of 1601! (with probably many WFM who even have no rating at all!) until 2108. A 507 point gap!

    Try with WIM, and things get even worse, now, and in the future will be even moreover.

    Thanks for your timing.

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 6:43 PM , Anonymous Mike Blair said...

    Hi Alexandra,

    This web article is the icing on the cake for your argument,

    http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2008/12/why_are_there_so_few_female_chess_grandmasters.php

    It all boils town to simple participation statistics according to this study. Simply put, more men play chess than women.

    Here is a quote from the article,

    'Bilalic's analysis is a scathing blow against people who claim (and frequently so) that the dominance of men in the world of chess is a sign of their intellectual superiority. His explanation is remarkable for both its simplicity and the fact that hardly anyone has thought about it. Recently, the website ChessBase asked some of the world's best female players to explain the male dominance in their chosen game. None of them mentioned differences in participation rates.'

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 7:45 PM , Blogger pulsar8472 said...

    Interesting point of view. I think all children should be encouraged to play chess. The problem is societies everywhere put more resources into promoting the physical sports,movies, tv, music and video games than chess.

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 8:42 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    grrrrrrrrrrrrr... I hate Wall Street now!

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 8:49 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Ha ha! It's not Wall Street, it's the Wall Street Journal who hired somebody from the NY Post at a discount (I don't want to offend the NY Post, sorry)!

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 9:07 PM , Anonymous Andrew Greet (via Facebookshare) said...

    It seems to me that a lot of people are confusing two different issues.

    The first is: seperate tournaments for men and women (e.g. Women's World Championship and others). A lot of comments here seem to focus on this - and yet it has nothing whatsoever to do with the WSJ article!

    The second, and relevant, point is that the performance criteria for the so-called 'Woman Grandmaster' and other titles is far below the standard of standard GM and other titles.

    When the WSJ writer refers to "women's titles", she is talking about the second point. In other words, that we should only have the titles GM, IM and FM - and abolish the special women's versions which are at a much lower level.

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 9:10 PM , Anonymous WGM Natalia Pogonina said...

    Thanks for the great article, Sasha!

    I totally agree with most of the points you've made since I have also written an extensive article about women's chess for Chessbase:
    http://pogonina.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=56&Itemid=32

    I can also think on some more arguments why women's titles should stay:

    1) Differentiation - right now girls who have women's titles tend to play against women, while those who have men's titles usually play (a lot) in mixed events. Pools are different, therefore, ELO is different. In fact, some people claim that "women's ELO" is underrated, others say the contrary.

    2) Image and benefits - let's say there's a girl who's doing well for her age (e.g. has 2100 FIDE at 12). By FIDE's standards, she won't even be eligible for a CM title. However, she can obtain the WFM title and look more attractive for sponsors, e.g. claim that she's a master. That matters a lot since junior chess doesn't bring any money, only expenses. Another example: someone needs to hold an exhibition event with both women and men participating (that looks attractive for sponsors). If the organizers states that all the participants are grandmasters (while some of them may be 2700-rated GMs, while others can be 2300-rated WGMs), it sounds cool. And let's say he said "Ok, we will have male super grandmasters and a bunch of female FIDE masters" - wouldn't that sound weird?

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 9:39 PM , Anonymous Russ Bastable, Strategy Fiend said...

    Hi Alexandra,

    I have 4 daughters and very much appreciate your dedication to women's chess.

    I agree with your position, especially as it pertains to inspiring young women. Celebrated achievements are inspiring, fewer of them in women's chess is not at all what is needed.

    It is difficult to grow involvement in anything without role models, and it's impossible to model anything if nobody is paying attention. Celebrate women's chess often by recognizing achievements and grow the game; remove milestones and reduce the recognizable achievements and you will gain nothing, at the expense of lost opportunity.

    Alexandra you are a great example for my young ladies, thank you. Keep up the good work!!

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 9:57 PM , Anonymous jumcclure said...

    The Wall Street Journal is insane. It is not fair for Women to abolish Women's Тitles.

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 10:51 PM , Anonymous Saad Al-Hariri said...

    I fully agree with your logic and reasoning.

     
  • At October 18, 2009 at 11:35 PM , Anonymous Mark Stump said...

    Well argued Alexandra!
    I'm on your side.


    Mark Stump

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 10:35 AM , Anonymous Robert (pawnman44004) said...

    How does Barbara Jepson feel about an absolute guarantee that women should always be given the right to attend the World Championship if she has earned it as an individual to take on the contender?

    This sort of thing flies both ways.

    Don't know if the URL has been posted to read this story or not, but here it is if you're interested in reading it.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703298004574457393421190888.html

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 11:05 AM , Anonymous Lucio Mauro said...

    I completely agree with you, Alexandra.

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 11:11 AM , Anonymous Loz Cooper said...

    As an organiser of WIM tournaments I may be a bit biased but I think women's titles are a good thing. There's nothing to stop the most talented women achieving IM and GM titles but if WFM, WIM and WGM titles give women a reachable goal and an incentive to keep playing chess then it's a positive thing. One dilemma can arise if you need a draw for a WGM norm or a win for an IM norm but most women at that level play to win anyway.

    Loz Cooper
    Director of International Chess
    English Chess Federation

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 11:45 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Well, it looks like I'm going to be the first and the last one to disagree with Queen, but here we go:

    I see no reason why we should divide the chess world along the sex line and not - to give you an example - the blood group line, or IQ line, or eyes color line, or skin color line??? Saying that women should play separate tournaments is like saying that black people should play separate tournaments too! (Btw, how many black people are ranked in top 100 players???). If one can't be a racist, why the other one is allowed to be a sexist? If we agree to set up Women's World Championship, then no problem - but consequently we should start thinking of setting up the Fat People's World Championship or Left Handed People's World Championship or or Bald People's World Championship. Why not? Why discriminate the bald people communities? Why do people always put their fingers at sex (how about the idea of Homosexual World Championship?), rather than other physical characteristics? I just can't get it, maybe someone could help me understand it, please?

    Also, isn't the idea of separate women tournaments dangerous for women themselves? It simply suggests that women are the "inferior" gender and therefore they shouldn't be allowed even to think to fight for world's crown with a man!

    Summing up, the men's championship should be abolished, so should be the women's championship... Let's just simply have the World Championship. After all, we are all human beings. In my humble opinion.

    Greetings for ChessQueen!

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 12:42 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hello Alexandra!

    I strongly agree with you.
    And it's a shame that Ms. Jepson had written that article, she really has no idea about chess is.

    Judith Swendz

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 1:16 PM , Anonymous Steven j Blander said...

    I believe there is no difference in innate ability, but rather there are far more male players, and because woman have children and men do not, I think there are different live circumstances overall. Due to these two factors, I agree that there should be a separate women's category since it allows distinction to outstanding women players. Without it, women players would be less likely to feel the pride and camraderie of allowed by a separate category. However, having women's tournaments and champions does not preclude those women players such as Judit Polgar and Irina Krush who feel the category unnecessary and promoting inferior play. Certainly those women who do not wish to participate in a women's category can exclude themselves as Judit Polgar has done. Indeed, as a guy I enjoy seeing the focus on women's players because it makes the game feel more sociable, and while this may not be important to some, it is important to me.

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 1:17 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    This is totally absurd to not have any titles for women chess. I agree with Alexandra, we should live chess the way it is. But touching onto different matters I don't like all the politics that goes on inside FIDE about the world championship cycle.

    Ani

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 1:42 PM , Anonymous Macauley said...

    Alexandra, you write:

    "If we abolish women's titles, then to be logical you should abolish the Women's country championships..."

    Why, in your view, does that necessarily follow? The WSJ op-ed certainly doesn't call for that, and without this conditional, much of your subsequent "encouragement and opportunities" arguments are rendered moot. Clearly one could still have national championships with GMs, IMs, FMs and (in some cases) NMs, without WGMs and WIMs...

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 1:59 PM , Anonymous Paul Sheppard (via Facebookshare) said...

    Chess is there to be loved by all. Gender is irrelevant. Nuff said.

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 2:01 PM , Anonymous Eduardo Serrano Salvador (via Facebookshare) said...

    Well, the true is that I don't really see what would lose women chessplayers without those titles.

    A WIM would be for example a 2250 player and in women tournaments the valoration about her would be the same. Ok, she would not count for norms as a titled player, but a 2450 not titled guy does not count either (there are many of them in China!)

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 2:02 PM , Anonymous Lyubka Georgieva (via Facebookshare) said...

    The women cannot spend as much time and energy on chess like men. With their titles they get conditions to play in tournaments.It is hard enough even with the titles for a woman with 2300 to earn smth from chess. If there are no titles and women must pay to play chess I dont think there will be many female chess players left. And part of the beauty of chess tournaments will be gone...

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 2:03 PM , Anonymous Jimmy S. Chen (via Facebookshare) said...

    Yes the main issue is interest. I go to a boys school and play in the team, a few years ago when I was younger chess was quite popular at our school with at least 20 people attending the club each week, nowadays we are lucky to get more than 5. I think in this era, whether it's boys or girls, they just see chess as being old-fashioned. I believe there needs to be a 'revolution' in chess to make it more exciting and interesting. We need to try and get people off the video games and back on the chess board!

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 2:04 PM , Anonymous Michel Magnan (via Facebookshare) said...

    No...no...and no. I have a hard time believing that girls need anything..or any advantage. You want to be a \|GM...then beat gms! You...the Polgars..and Menchick all did it......no way silly titles just because you're girls...that silly. Womens titles SHOULD be abolished....play the game straight...like all the men have to. You don't deserve any more advantage...than say a little poor kid we all feel sorry for.....play!

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 2:05 PM , Anonymous Jimmy S. Chen (via Facebookshare) said...

    I completely disagree with the above comment, while there may be a day that women will be as good as men it is certainly not now. Speaking as a male, albeit one with very liberal views, the dominance of men over women may be due to the treatment men have given women over countless centuries. The standard of female chess players is considerably lower than male chess players, and the Polgars have just been right at the top of the women's game and were able to compete against male GMs consistently, however people like them are few and far between, which is why there should be more female chess players and Alexandra is doing a great job in trying to raise the popularity of women's chess, though, as always, more can be done and more needs to be done.

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 2:08 PM , Anonymous Jacqueline R. said...

    I strongly agree with you Alexandra.

    Congrats for your courage. Go !!!

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 2:38 PM , Anonymous Michel Magnan (via Facebookshare) said...

    well...you have a right to your opinion Jimmy....just not to your won set of facts. Women are just as powerfull as men..and subjecting them to a second class acheivment rating system is sort of demeaning don't you thinK?

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 2:38 PM , Anonymous Jimmy S. Chen (via Facebookshare) said...

    I think if you read Alexandra's blog post you'll find that only around 14 women's chess players are among the top 1000 men. I'm not trying to call them second-rate, they can play against men if they wish to. However as male competition levels are much higher, there are few women who will be able to compete well against men for a mixed title.

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 2:39 PM , Anonymous Michel Magnan (via Facebookshare) said...

    women deserve the same respect as men..that means they must achieve the same heights...not be rewarded for "almost there|" Alex has done this and so have many other women.....we should treat em with respect....not like pets who do tricks..

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 2:42 PM , Anonymous Ani Barua (via Facebookshare) said...

    Alright I have mix feelings about this issues. I believe that men and women should be equal in all fields be it sport or business, education whatever. So I think when it comes to chess I want to see a women who is the world chess champion (the one that Anand is currently). But on the other hand I don't mind of the WIM, WGM titles but I believe after a women have achived those titles they should shoot for the IM and GM titles.
    And on a different note I don't like all the politics that goes on inside FIDE about the world championship cycle.

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 2:47 PM , Anonymous Steven Ryan said...

    That last Anonymous rube who disagreed with Kosteniuk obviously did not even read her blog! Let's see why not black only tournaments or Blood Type AB tournaments, hmm, maybe you should take Kosteniuk's point about how women biologically have to consider raising a family and have to think of their children whilst a man can concentrate his full mental energy on chess. Why no black chess players in the top 100? - give it time..there weren't any black golfers in the top 100 until Tiger came around. Fat, bald, left-handed?...well "Fat" is a bit subjective, and being a baldy or a lefty does not affect your chess game. Your sexuality isn't a physical characteristic..being gay or straight does not affect your chess game. Women tournaments help to promote chess to women so it is a good thing..like Kosteniuk said, which I'm sure you didn't notice.

    I think a woman could be world number 1. Hou Yifan, who is ranked #261 at the moment, is only 15. I think in 10 years she will be in the top 10 in the world. The Chinese government will do everything it can to facilitate her rise.

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 5:13 PM , Anonymous Kramnikaze said...

    If you take away half of the titles in womens chess....what and whom does it benefit ? The only road it can take, is that it turns out negative. Take away some titles and where is the stimulans for those who have achieved those titles ? It also attracts players to compete at a somewhat lower level to achieve those titles.

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 6:31 PM , Anonymous Michael Taylor (Petroupoli Chess Club "Dias", Athens, Greece) said...

    At a time when chess:

    1) has not yet received Olympic Sport status
    2) has 105,685 official players worldwide (FIDE rating list September 2009)
    3) struggles with the labels of "game" or "pastime"
    4) receives an insignificant financial budget as a percentage of investment in other sports....

    .... it is outrageous that ANY chess titles whatsoever should be abolished. If anything, the question should be "what NEW titles should we introduce to encourage participation from the increasingly pluralistic chess-playing population and to help provide more merit-based and achievable goals?"

    With a little imagination, a lot of titles could be introduced to inject energy into chess-playing communities, FIDE and ministries of sport and culture to help push chess into the media limelight by creating and promoting new "stars" that will attract new generations to the sport that so many of us give so much to.

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 7:18 PM , Anonymous wmacgyver (Mac) said...

    If anything I think Chess needs more titles and awareness, not less.

    Besides, in Japanese Go titles, there are separate ones for men and women. I don't see people wanting to disband the women's titles.

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 7:29 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    In response to that rube Steven Ryan:

    - SR: "maybe you should take Kosteniuk's point about how women biologically have to consider raising a family and have to think of their children whilst a man can concentrate his full mental energy on chess.".

    - A: Obviously, you didn't catch the point I made - there are black MEN in the world, who also have a plenty of time/energy to concentrate on chess. But they don't take any places in top 100 players rank anyway, do they?! Following your argument, why not set up Black Men People World Championship? Be consequent, please. If you are already a sexist, then start being a racist too! Why not?

    - SR: "Why no black chess players in the top 100? - give it time. There weren't any black golfers in the top 100 until Tiger came around".

    - A: Then also you should give women a time to enter the top 100 player ranking list in higher quantities! Why divide chess with the sex-line? What's got sex to do with it?

    - SR: "Fat, bald, left-handed?...well "Fat" is a bit subjective, and being a baldy or a lefty does not affect your chess game."

    - A: Please, make a thorough research, before you say anything. There is only 1 (one) bald player among the top 100 chess players (Mr. Beliavsky). It is exactly the same number as the number of women on the same list! But you don't promote Bald Chess Tournaments, do you? So why do you promote dividing chess world along the sex line? Also, there are no players exceeding 120 kg of weight on the same list. How can you say that being fat or bald doesn't affect a chess game then?

    - SR: "Your sexuality isn't a physical characteristic.".

    - A: Excuse me???

    - SR: "being gay or straight does not affect your chess game."

    - A: Well, I don't enough data to undermine your hypothesis, but I'm sure you don't have neither to confirm it. But it's not important. My point is - why create artificial lines where we could enjoy chess without it?

    - SR: "Women tournaments help to promote chess to women so it is a good thing..like Kosteniuk said, which I'm sure you didn't notice.".

    - A: Bald/Fat Tournaments help to promote chess to the bald and to the fat, so it is a good thing. I'm sure you didn't notice it. Maybe one day, I will see some fat, bald, black guy wearing the chess crown on his head before I die? Fingers crossed! We have to promote it...! Chess is cool.

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 7:45 PM , Anonymous Elizabeth Vicary (via Facebookshare) said...

    I wrote a blog post after reading your article and thinking about how much more qualified you are to speak on the subject than Barbara Jepson

    http://lizzyknowsall.blogspot.com/2009/10/wsj-article-about-womens-titles.html

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 7:47 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Here is what Elizabeth Vicary writes in her blog (copied from the link she just gave):

    A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, "Abolish Women's Chess Titles," has been generating some discussion recently (Mig, Kosteniuk). I'm somehow convinced by both sides of the argument.

    But here's my problem with the article: Barbara Jepson knows almost nothing about chess.

    I know this because she contacted me in August to ask some background questions and get Irina Krush's email. I'm pretty sure the opinion she expresses is simply Irina's opinion. Jepson obviously contacted a number of other people, and got some good quotes/points from them, and I'm sure it's possible for a non chess player to form an opinion on the subject of women's titles, but somehow it feels like a weird kind of journalism. Just pick someone famous/knowledgable in the field, ask them for their thoughts on a subject, and then write an editorial? Or maybe it's done all the time?

     
  • At October 19, 2009 at 9:35 PM , Blogger Alexandra Kosteniuk said...

    Thanks to all for your comments! I sincerely appreciate it. Since this is my blog, I was expecting a larger proportion of positive comments, but your comments have been overwhelmingly positive, I'm very happy about that. I have not moderated or deleted a single comment that has come before this one, every single comment is genuine.

    What's upsetting is that the Wall Street journalist, Barbara Jepson, tricked me by telling me that the article she was writing was about "Women's Chess", which made me very happy, as I supposed she would be writing something to support women's chess (not destroy it), that's why I took great care to answer in a positive and honest way (as I always do).

    She asked me several questions including if I thought special women's titles should be eliminated. In my answer to her, I wrote very clearly with my reasoning that "Women's titles and tournaments should exist". And then she changed the title of her piece to "Abolish Women's Chess Titles", and used my name in it (I guess to add some authority to it, as if to boast she consulted with the women's world champion about it), only quoting some insignificant point I made to another question about sponsoring, without stating I was against that idea of abolishing women's titles, so that most people thought I agreed with the idea of abolishing women's titles since I was featured in her article and said nothing about the lead question of abolishing titles.

    This apparently caused on purpose misunderstanding led me to get several emails from people asking me why I supported abolishing women's titles. This lie started to be posted all over the web and can still be seen on several web sites. I had to immediately respond on my blog and set things right.

    Now you, dear reader, please judge for yourself what kind of article that Wall Street Journal was?

    I will now stop commenting about this story, and will try to forget it. At least in my post above you have my opinion.

    I support women's chess. For women's chess to improve, we need many more girls to start playing, we need the ratio girl-boy to increase, we need more role models, we need more tournaments rather than less (including women-only if that helps some women), we need the possibility to encourage them by giving them titles (whatever they are called), and we need to understand men have a physiological advantage relative to women in which they have an easier time to devote their youth to chess without thinking of anything else.

    And we need to think before writing.

    Alexandra Kosteniuk
    Women's World Champion
    www.chessblog.com

     

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