FIDE bans transgenders from Women events

by Albert Silver
8/21/2023 – In a move that is sure to cause a significant stir, FIDE announced that it would be setting restrictions on transgenders participating in official FIDE Women events, specifying that any such restrictions pertain exclusively to man to women transgenders. These regulations come into effect on August 21. See the statement and share your thoughts.

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FIDE, and thus chess, is not the first world sports federation to take this position. A notable predecessor is FINA, the International Swimming Federation, which adopted this same position one year ago with the following stipulations:

The new gender inclusion policy, which is set to go into effect on June 20, 2022, says that male-to-female transgender athletes will only be eligible to compete in the women’s categories in FINA competitions if they transition before the age of 12 or before they reach stage two on the puberty Tanner Scale. -- CNN

This says that simply reconfiguring the testosterone/estrogen levels as an adult will not make a person born male suddenly transform into a female on all points. FINA is saying it starts earlier, much earlier (age 12 is the cut-off), and this affects the eligibility for a transgender male-to-female to compete in FINA events. 

So as not to leave transgender women out in the cold, excluded from the pleasure and desire to compete, a few days ago FINA announced a new category specifically for transgender athletes. 

Regardless of one's thoughts on this, the physical disparity between men and women is not in dispute, so the concerns that surgical reassignment won't suffice to swing that are understandable. However, chess is a mental sport, and while physical stamina is a factor, raw physical strength is not a determining one in chess performance. So does this decision make sense, or is it backward thinking short-sightedness?

Women in chess

As a discipline, chess is still struggling to overcome a paradox it represents. On the one hand, there is ample documentation, well established, that states that the mean average IQ of women and men is identical, so if IQ alone were the key to chess performance, FIDE's position would be nonsensical at best.

Annemarie Sylvia Meier is the only known transgender woman to win a national title in the Women's category when she became German Women's Champion in 2003 at the age of 46. She came out as a transgender when she was 25. (source: Wikipedia)

The problem is when facing the hard historical reality that only two women have ever broken into the overall Top 100 players: Judit Polgar and Hou Yifan. The causes of this have been studied and speculated and theorized, and no hard conclusions have been reached. Judit is by far the biggest outlier, having peaked at world no.8, and has championed the idea that it is an educational issue: all you need is to revise the way women are educated and the gap will disappear. There is little question that the way one is educated can impact self-image and that self-image is often a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you think you can’t, you won’t.

Still, with no end of admiration for her and her accomplishments, and setting no restrictions on the potential of females in chess, the fact is that Judit's two older sisters also enjoyed similar educations, but had nowhere near her level of success. This suggests that while her education may have been singular and successful, the biggest difference was her, and her genius. Just as raising 50 youths exactly like Magnus Carlsen is unlikely to magically produce 50 more just like him. It is far more probable that Judit does not represent an unexploited norm, but that she is the exception that confirms the rule. 

Without disputing that the mean average IQ of men and women are the same, we also know that their brains are not strictly identical. Evolution has had its say after all. Is that decisive in chess? Who knows. 

The statement by FIDE on transgender women effective August 21

Let us assume that it is possible that there is some difference that for whatever reason has an impact on chess performance. Because for now, like it or not, there is a significant difference in the results at the peaks, and it is likely that if it does exist that that difference won't be undone simply with gender reassignment.

What if a 2650 male grandmaster were to suddenly undergo such a change, would women embrace this new arrival now dominating all the prizes and results in the Women categories and events? Yes? What about a dozen new arrivals? This is the quandary that FIDE faces, and for now they are likely preferring to err on the side of caution to avoid disenfranchising all the sacrifices and efforts the non-transgender women have made to establish their place in professional chess.

Food for thought.


Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.
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lajosarpad lajosarpad 8/24/2023 11:10
Thanks for the link!
shivasundar shivasundar 8/24/2023 03:41
Coda: Ironically, USCF's transgender policy seems progressive and adequate. Wonder if it's current.
shivasundar shivasundar 8/24/2023 03:13
Ahhh FIDE. Ahhh Sutovsky [I am retracting my earlier comment - I read some comment he might have been a lawyer, but maybe not - he certainly *tweets* like one] - the arrogant bully!

I am sooo glad, I do not play OTB chess events! Some food for thought:
1. The CEO openly disparages (top) women's chess by putting out openly misogynistic twitter polls.
2. He combatively debates anybody who disagrees with him and "runs off" like a child to "Threads" saying "Less toxic" or some such thing. Offers no points/logic to support anything he says.
3. FIDE still known to openly accept oligarch corp money and is generally uselessly opaque about funding.

My point: they simply cud have taken a data-based impact approach instead of alienating the LGBTQIA+ community, who are already facing several ethical and legal issues. How many "men" wud wanna "play down/get WCM/WIM titles" or what not. I am guessing in the dozens. Sanction individual suspicious cases. SIMPLE!

ALREADY, women don't wanna play chess after their teens:
1. Ramirez
2. Gareyev
3. USCF, who nobody likes or cares about anymore. Sheesh!

Now transgenders won't! Unsubstantiated Chess Rumors, and r/chess are your friends guys - stay woke! Guess it takes more than Anand to fix FIDE!! Mic drop - peace.
lute lute 8/23/2023 07:27
For those interested, is worth a listen if you have the time for a podcast. Research papers would be far superior if trying to validate this hypothesis. The Cleveland Clinic podcast suggests there are similarities in brain structures and brain functions based on post-mortem data.
Unfortunately, they do not give references. So, I performed a Medline search (National Library of Medicine's database). I could only find one postmortem study on the subject. Conclusion: it involved only 41 subjects - much too small a sample to make a valid conclusion.

Does this mean the Cleveland Clinic is wrong? Of course not, but it does not confer it as a fact, either. A better source might be Wikipedia's "Biology and Sexual Orientation." Better yet, forget generic search engines, instead, use Medline searches - you will get the actual research papers to make your own inferences.

If you research this area, you might find "There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender identity or sexual orientation." Please do not misconstrue this statement as a fact. It is neither right nor wrong. It simply means there have been no studies to prove it does (nor to prove it does not). The hypothesis remains valid. By the way, good luck trying to get funding if you would like to attempt to prove social environment does affect gender identity or sexual orientation. It will not happen in today’s political arena. Indeed, the whole field of science is suffering because of today’s political arena. They are only going to support studies that reinforce their own points of view.

Going back to my original comment "there are distinct differences in the brains of men and women - maybe enough as to protect Women's Chess as a special category." This remains a valid hypothesis (regardless of what the boys at the Cleveland Clinic might say), and until it is ruled out, we should protect Women’s chess.
e-mars e-mars 8/23/2023 04:53
@angiewei your conclusion is that brain differences are those responsible for the existence of the women-only tournaments and norms which reinforces the belief that women are inherently weaker than men in chess by biological design, which hasn't been proven - not conclusively, we only have statistical proof without cause, so a trans woman brain can play against women. Instead of helping the idea of men-women equality in chess, your point is making it worse.
And as a reminder, the existence of women-only tournaments and titles are not ONLY for that reason. It's ALSO the same reason why different sex-related spaces i.e. changing rooms exist: this is much more important than the "brain debate". If you are making an exception because of a very specific case "trans women brains are more similar to women's" you end up opening a huge, dangerous Pandora's vase which already happened in other sports.
angiewei angiewei 8/23/2023 02:53
@lajosarpad E.g.,
lajosarpad lajosarpad 8/23/2023 09:47
@angiewei interesting. Are there research papers that prove this?
arzi arzi 8/23/2023 06:51
angiewei:"Transwomen's (please don't call them 'transgenders')..."

What should we call them, angiewe, if they themselves don't always know if they are women or men? The best description then is transgender.

There is an interesting Thesis, "False shells, gender reassignment surgery process in Finland", about gender correction. It is in Finnish but maybe you can use translator?;jsessionid=5E582C150FC409C74C9B5D6E05D2B06D?sequence=2
angiewei angiewei 8/23/2023 01:40
Transwomen's (please don't call them 'transgenders') brains are more akin to female brains than to male ones. Is that [brain evolution] decisive in chess? We'll never know if we ban this tiny minority of players right off the bat.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 8/22/2023 11:29
@lute well said.

@e-mars We agree about what a woman is, that is, according to me, gender is determined by biology rather than feelings and desires.

I would like to live for 300 years, but my desires will not override the biological realities.

But nevertheless, the definition of the concept determines who can play at women's tournaments and it is not you or me whose definition is applied but the definition of decision-makers and institutions. So, while I agree with you about what a woman is, it is still the definition ultimately accepted that determines whether super GMs can play at women's tournaments as long as they claim to identify as women.
e-mars e-mars 8/22/2023 07:54
@lajosarpad woman: adult female human being; female: XX chromosomes (or any other very rare genetic condition linked to female phenotypes, though they usually end up with sterility) and (potential) capacity - by genetic design - to produce egg cells. This is middle-school biology. It is impossible to change one's sex. Impossible. No one can replace all single cells switching XX->XY (or vice versa) and even with surgical reconstruction of organs the body wouldn't be able to produce oneself gametes of the opposite sex: impossible. This is still middle-school biology, something that most of the Western world seem to struggle to grasp.
e-mars e-mars 8/22/2023 07:42
@Frits Fritschy true, unlikely, but one case is one too many and you can't give the opportunity to players as it happened in other sports with vert bad, horrible outcomes (bad, horrible for women, of course).
As I applaud FIDE's decision as it shows coherence for once, I do still reckon that women-only tournaments and titles should be abolished: this will boost women's strength, ability and confidence in chess.
lute lute 8/22/2023 05:06
If one looks at FIDE ratings, it is obvious there is a difference related to the genetic gender of an individual. The difference is significant enough to justify having a Women's category in chess. IMO, it is important we protect this category.

As with physical sporting events, I believe allowing transgender people to compete in a Women's category is unfair to the biological women.

I know some folks are thinking "but chess is not a physical sporting event, and since we all agree there is no difference in IQ between men and women, the necessity of having a Women's category is inconsequential." I disagree. Yes, IQ might be the same; but there are distinct differences in the brains of men and women (e.g., the amygdala is larger in men, the hippocampus is larger in women, etc.).

Does this biological difference account for the FIDE rating differences between men and women? It is a strong possibility. I concede there are other factors that might explain the difference in FIDE ratings, but since we cannot rule-out the possibility that being a biological male confers an advantage in chess, we need to protect Women's chess.
sokaspkarpov sokaspkarpov 8/22/2023 12:05
Necessary rules! Because there is a difference between men and woman.
Thats why there are OPEN and WOMEN competitions.
Pionza Pionza 8/22/2023 11:27
@Frits. Maybe, maybe not. Leaving people in the dark can hardly be called good governance.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/22/2023 11:11
Pionza, as I wrote before, that may be connected with the problems refugees and stateless people will have to produce evidence (and as the document shows, FIDE recognizes that problem). And that is relevant, as transgenders are in serious danger in some countries, and as such become refugees. For others, 'at the earliest possible time' seems a reasonable point of view for something with which there isn't much experience, I guess.
Pionza Pionza 8/22/2023 11:01
To those who say that transwomen should just play in open tournaments: perhaps they have the same reason for wanting to play in women’s events as other women? At women’s events they probably feel more at ease.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/22/2023 10:58
Lajos, that is exactly why it is irrelevant. There is nothing to be gained from changing your registration from female to male. But putting the sentence at a prominent spot, it heightens the smell of discrimination just below the, as I said, contentious headline.
Pionza Pionza 8/22/2023 10:57
Frits: Based on this regulation FIDE is free to ban any transwoman, because no specification for their decision is provided. Also, two years is a rather long period to leave someone waiting.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 8/22/2023 10:50
There are open and women's tournaments. Anyone can play at open tournaments. It is specifically women's tournaments where restrictions are made. Whether these restrictions are correct depends on how we define the term "woman". Because, if we define the term in some manner, then we will end up restricting everyone that does not fit into that definition from women's tournament. I tend to think that there are biological traits, like sexual organs, bone structure and other stuff that are not really changeable, even though some people mutilate themselves to do so.

The question we need to ask is: "what is a woman?". Luckily this formerly simple, but now increasingly complex question was also asked by Matt Walsh

lajosarpad lajosarpad 8/22/2023 10:44
@Frits Fritschy

'Any such restrictions pertain exclusively to man to women transgenders'

It actually makes sense. A woman to man transgender is not restricted from playing in the open and it is specifically women's tournament that restricts transgender people. Woman to male transgenders can play in women's or open tournaments anyway. So it makes sense and it is relevant indeed.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/22/2023 10:42
Pionza, that is not a ban, it's a waiting period. When your passport is being checked at the border, you wouldn't say you are temporarily banned either. Nor would you say that that ban is revoked for your individual case.
Pionza Pionza 8/22/2023 10:29
@Frits Fritschy, yes there is a ban, although FIDE can revoke it in individual cases:
“In the event that the gender was changed from a male to a female the player has no right to participate in official FIDE events for women until further FIDE’s decision is made. Such decision should be based on further analysis and shall be taken by the FIDE Council at the earliest possible time, but not longer than within 2 (two) years period.”
arzi arzi 8/22/2023 09:55
Flopmartin:"Genuine (meaning "xx"

A person's gender identity does not depend on chromosomes, i.e. although XY chromosomes are more common in men, an XY person can also be a woman, the opposite sex, or something else. Female identity is common in people with androgen resistance.

However, an abnormality can occur in the chromosome system, whereby an individual has an abnormal amount of chromosomal material. Such a change is most often born by chance as a new change in a single germ cell, but sometimes it can also be inherited from a parent. Disturbances can also occur in the number of sex chromosomes. The most common are the lack of one X chromosome (45,X i.e. Turner syndrome) or an excess (47,XXY i.e. Klinefelter syndrome).
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/22/2023 09:47
'Any such restrictions pertain exclusively to man to women [sic] transgenders': what is the point of this sentence? And why is it in the first paragraph, it being completely irrelevant? Or gives changing your registration from female to male any advantages?
Flopmartin Flopmartin 8/22/2023 09:35
Genuine (meaning "xx") female players deserve respect and fair play. Transgenderism is a threat in all women's sports. In chess, the question may seem irrelevant, as it's a purely intellectual game, but it's not rocket science to understand that, in the current range of players, an average male player could well boost his career and income by entering female competitions on the grounds of assuming another gender identity.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/22/2023 09:08
People are fooled here by the headline which is contentious and should be changed.
Gerald C Gerald C 8/22/2023 09:07
Albert Silver's analysis is well-balanced. It seems a wise decision by FIDE.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/22/2023 09:03
Read the link at the bottom of the page for the full document. There IS no ban on transgenders playing in women's tournaments.
arzi arzi 8/22/2023 07:31
tom_70:"It's bad that we live in a world where guys pretend to be women so they can try and claim a sports title they don't deserve...If you weren't born a woman..."

How transgender pretend to be woman when he/she has both genitals? He/she can either be woman or man. It is his/her choice. You are now mixing homosexuals with transsexuals. Transgenderism is specifically about gender and has no direct connection to sexual orientation, right?
tom_70 tom_70 8/22/2023 06:31
It's all silly until a transgender person actually does it. Then everyone is up in arms asking "how could this happen?". FIDE is just taking steps to prevent a situation like this. It's bad that we live in a world where guys pretend to be women so they can try and claim a sports title they don't deserve. But it is what it is. If you weren't born a woman, you should not be able to compete in the women's section of any sporting event.
Green22 Green22 8/22/2023 02:08
@johnfmichael LMAO!! thats a good one. I fell for the sarcasm. Good stuff
Mamack1 Mamack1 8/22/2023 02:04

No, that's really not how it works. And why on earth would anybody do that anyway?
Pionza Pionza 8/22/2023 01:29
“Erring on the side of caution” seems hardly the appropriate phrase when banning people. Has anybody seen these hypothetical hordes of transgender chess players threatening the women’s competition? FIDE seems to be chasing ghosts and one would almost think they’re politically motivated… The lonely transwoman caught up in this is probably just average. Also, the reason for the elo-difference in men’s and women’s chess could just as well be a numbers game: fewer women pursue chess, therefore the statistical chance of geniuses is smaller.
tom_70 tom_70 8/21/2023 11:59
This a smart ruling and will protect the integrity of the competition. Without rules like this in place, some guy in the top ten could identify as a female and become the next woman's world champ.
savantKing99 savantKing99 8/21/2023 11:00
And that is absolutely right. Look at in what kind of world we live in. All the lies about transgender, climate change, black lives matter, corona, pharmaceutical industry, solar panels, windmills and so on! The world would be better if people would do some research of how things really works. And what the meaning of Agenda 2030 is. This has nothing to do with equal rights. Stupid people, smart person!
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/21/2023 10:44
People are highly unlikely to change gender just to win women's tournaments. Transgender women just want to get recognized as women, also in chess. However, there should be some control; one shouldn't have the right to change one's FIDE gender registration for a high-prized women's tournament, just to change back to manhood after collecting the money.
I think the FIDE policy strikes a reasonable balance. By the way, in several media it was suggested that there is something like a two year ban for all transgender women. That is not what I read in FIDE's decision. Annemarie Meier (and also a former contender for the Dutch women's title) are still listed as female, so it's likely to be only for new changers. And the two year period for taking a decision about gender registration change is a maximum (refugees and stateless persons are recognized as having difficulties to prove their status, so that might take a while). That maximum also creates legal certainty: after two years of waiting, your gender change should be accepted (the CAS wouldn't accept otherwise).
nielslau nielslau 8/21/2023 10:05
Common sense, really, otherwise women chess will be flooded with male opportunists and fortune seekers.
mangocupcake mangocupcake 8/21/2023 10:01
The simple solution would be to do away with gender categories altogether, replacing them with two new categories: "Sane" and "Insane."

The transgender players can then play in the Insane category against Fischer and Morphy.
johnfmichael johnfmichael 8/21/2023 09:43
This is a travesty of justice. FIDE has no right to subjugate transgender people in this manner and should reverse this ruling and issue a formal apology for the harm it has caused.