“Women’s chess”: A misleading and counterproductive label

by Alisa Melekhina
7/24/2017 – The label has settled into chess parlance, but its usage is a disservice to the inherent meritocracy of chess that all players appreciate. FM Alisa Melekhina argues it's time to let the term “women’s chess” fade into our patriarchal past | Photo: Doug Morisoli

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What's in a label?

The challenge for women chess players extends beyond the board. We are often the subject of complaints that the quality of our play is low, our games are plagued by blunders, and we have an overall poor understanding of the game.

Such pronouncements about and against “women’s chess” are often heard. In an article titled “Girl Power in Chess” during the elite tournament in Baden Baden, Germany, last April, grandmaster Grigory Serper lauded Hou Yifan, who was leading the tournament at the time, and Judit Polgar, the retired super-grandmaster. Then — in what I consider a genuine attempt at praise — he added, “The progress of women’s chess is amazing if you consider the quality of the following game played in the women’s world championship less than 80 years ago.” The follow-up was an admittedly embarrassing game in which Annabelle Lougheed lost to Vera Menchik in 1939 in 14 moves after ending up down a rook.


Playing through the above game was a reminder of Bobby Fischer’s famous remark that he could beat any woman with knight odds.

Covering the same tournament and Hou’s commendable performance for The Guardian, Leonard Barden wrote that her “results against [Fabiano] Caruana and [Magnus] Carlsen were a landmark for “women’s chess.”

Both uses of the term “women’s chess” in those articles were benign. However, they suggest that the term “women’s chess” has become a real concept. Indeed, the label propagates an imaginary subspecies of chess that can be ascribed only to women. The epithet has evolved to describe, and thus validate, an alternate state of reality in which women play a game wholly different from regular “chess.”   

Unfortunately, the term “women’s chess” is misleading and counterproductive to efforts to actually promote women’s participation in chess.

Melekhina at the World Team Championship

Melekhina at the World Team Championship in Chengdu, China, 2015. | Photo: Yupeng Liu

“Women’s chess” is an outgrowth of women-only chess tournaments and titles, which are artificial creatures of the chess world. Like many epithets accumulated through outdated and persistent usage, its meaning is not well understood. Whereas “women’s gymnastics” or “women’s figure skating” make sense because the female competitors are (i) confined to competing only against other women, (ii) have exclusive rankings relative only to other women, and (iii) are scored based on completely different physical techniques than those employed by men, chess is different: Women play by the same rules as men and with the same pieces and boards.

Let's stick to Elo

2700chess.com for more details and full list

What about describing chess in the context of the strength of the players? This seems more within the realm of the meaning of “women’s chess.” It makes sense to have a concept of “grandmaster chess” or “2700 chess” (for those elite players rated over 2700), particularly if used in comparison to a lesser degree of chess strength played by “beginner chess.” Here, the qualifier to “chess” denotes the type or quality of chess in relation to the strength of the players. 

To use the “women’s” qualifier in the same regard would signify that women possess a certain type or quality of chess exclusive to women, meaning that women innately play chess differently than men. But women play in all types of styles. Polgar is regarded as one of the greatest attacking players, male or female. The past three United States Women’s Champions — Sabina Foisor (2017), Nazi Paikidze (2016), and Irina Krush (2015) — are primarily positional players, particularly Paikidze. Hou has a more universal approach.

Another reason that women are routinely thought of as less skillful chess players is that there are so few who are among the world’s elite. But the percentage of grandmasters who are women — a bit more than two percent — is somewhat comparable to the number of women who are rated by the World Chess Federation — less than 10 percent. A well-respected theory suggests that if the overall participation rate of women rose, their representation among grandmasters would catch up.

More importantly, women-only tournaments, even those that are limited to the top female players, have a significantly lower overall average rating than the averages in top tournaments in which men compete. For example, the average rating of the 2017 United States Women’s Championship was approximately 2295, compared to 2685 in the open section. 

Games in which players are rated 2300 obviously are of a lower quality than games between players who are rated 2700. To describe the games between the players who are 2300 as “women’s chess” is misleading and unfair — they play like 2300s, not like women. If there were side-by-side tournaments featuring men of comparable ratings, it would be natural to expect the same quality of play in both tournaments. 

The proper comparison to make between women and men would be to compare the play of masters to that of grandmasters, which would be a gender-neutral analysis. Instead, women get labeled with a disparaging term based on the numerosity of women participants playing at and against a lower rating level, rather than comparing any characteristic inherent to women.

Kings vs. Queens, the experiment


A more accurate assessment of whether women have an innate style proper for the label of “women’s chess” would require a prolonged study comparing games between men and women, controlling for equal rating strength. The closest to such an experiment was the Kings vs. Queens match hosted by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis in September 2011. The organizers carefully handpicked male and female players for each five-member team that would correspond as closely as possible in rating; the average of both teams was 2476. The match was a double round-robin consisting of both rapid classical and rapid chess 960 games. 

In the ten rounds, the queens scored only 18.5 match points while the kings scored 31.5 points. So far, that was the first and last match like that. One data point — especially one that omits classical slow games that constitute the basis for the ratings in the first place — is hardly enough to draw supportable conclusions; there would need to be a significant sample of studies or matches. But this format had the right idea of how to more precisely measure male vs. female performance in chess.

(L-R) Kings: Nakamura, Stopa, Arnold, Finegold, Cao; Queens: Krush, Kosteniuk, Lahno, Fierro, Zatonskih | Photo: SaintLouisChessClub.org

The topic will always be a charged one, as are all discussions relating to female advancement. In order to continue having productive conversations, it is best to use language that does not arise from and propagate a misconception — that there is something called “women’s chess.” The label has settled into chess parlance, but its usage is a disservice to the inherent meritocracy of chess that all players appreciate. There is not a separate, enclosed bubble of “women's chess” that is separate from regular “chess.” Chess is chess.

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Alisa Melekhina is a FIDE master and one of the top female players in the United States. She won a gold medal at the 2009 Women’s World Team Championships in Ningbo, China. Alisa has competed in the United States Women’s Championships eight times, finishing third in 2009 and fifth in 2014. She is currently an attorney in New York City, practicing in the fields of intellectual property and commercial litigation. She is author of “Reality Check,” a book that discusses successful competitive strategy on and off the chess board. Her Web site is alisamelekhina.com.
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Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 7/27/2017 03:50
@ moderncheckers : "I only pointed out that analysing performances of equally-rated players in the way pursued by that single article says more about the ratings than about the players." Very true indeed !
moderncheckers moderncheckers 7/27/2017 01:04
@fgkdjlkag If you find any different self-consistent interpretation of the data in that article, let me know.

You were proposing arguments why men play better than women. Many of them may be true; a mere look at the FIDE Top Players list says that some arguments like the ones of yours must be true. I only pointed out that analysing performances of equally-rated players in the way pursued by that single article says more about the ratings than about the players.

One idea how to measure the innate differences between sexes would be to teach a group of young boys and girls to play chess and to observe their progress in the same environment, but this basically has been done in junior clubs all over the world with known results.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 7/26/2017 09:35
@moderncheckers - Very interesting.
Zmeu Zmeu 7/26/2017 08:16
To those complaining about free entry to WIM's, etc., this is the free market at work. Chess ability is not the only thing that matters for organizers, sponsors, and even for participants - I'd happily trade in a few dollars of lost expected prize money for a pool of players that is not 100% male.

I still haven't seen any serious examples of men actually losing something substantial due to the women-only perks. It seems it's mostly a sour grapes, "why should they get special treatment?" complaint.
moderncheckers moderncheckers 7/26/2017 12:59
"But what they found is that if a female and a male player each are rated 1800 and play each other, the male is more likely to win"
"But in my mind, the fact that two 1800-rated female players have 50% results against each other, but do worse against male 1800 players, means that there are some psychological factors at work."
This means only that women are in average overrated, or men underrated, just as most chess players from Myanmar were overrated at the end of 90's (and psychology is a necessary part of chess ability – have you ever read "Winning with Chess Psychology" by Pal Benko?).

Women play a lot of games among themselves, and men play mostly with other men, which produces this disproportion.
(the link is unfortunataly called "Cheating in chess", but I do not think it's cheating, but something that can happen naturally in relatively closed pools of players).

If there were no women tournaments and men tournaments, but women and men played each other randomly, then their Elo would naturally converge to the true values. It is only natural: if your rating is 1800, and you have 50% chances against some players rated 1800 and less than 50% against some other, than in the long run your rating will fall by a certain amount, and the rating of those with whom you lose will rise. Your rating does not fall only if you are prevented from playing players from the second group (by e.g. gender segregation).

And the statement "women are overrated", proven involuntarily by that article, does not mean "women are worse in chess", just as the statement "chess players from Myanmar are overrated" did not mean "chess players from Myanmar are worse than players from other countries". It just a statement about what may happen with the Elo rating system when we have gender segregation (or closed pools of players formed by other means). In principle, it might have happened the other way round.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 7/26/2017 09:11
@Peter B - Yes, I agree that I do not know if singlemindedness is nature or nurture, but the possibility that it is nature cannot be ignored.
Here is a review article on a large number of research studies on cognitive abilities - it consistently shows differences in the genders, with males being better at certain types of tasks and females being better on certain types of tasks:

@moderncheckers, I understand what you are saying - that if a group loses 54% of games against another group, then by definition the 2 groups cannot be equal. This is correct, but look at the study methodology: They are using pre-game elo ratings to predict the results of games. So you would agree that if 2 players rated 1800 played each other, then over a large sample, the wins and losses should be equal, with some statistical variation (and if a 2000 played an 1800, the 2000 player would win 75% of the time, and the 1800 25% of the time, and so on). But what they found is that if a female and a male player each are rated 1800 and play each other, the male is more likely to win. So you are saying that they are not actually equal, males are better than females. I suppose the solution to that would be to make an elo modification for gender! But in my mind, the fact that two 1800-rated female players have 50% results against each other, but do worse against male 1800 players, means that there are some psychological factors at work.

This article proposes at least 3 reasons why males may be better than females:
1. stereotyping - females play worse than they should because they believe they are inferior players, or some similar line of thought
2. increased cost to travel/play in tournaments because female chess-players do not share accommodation with mostly male coaches
3. lack of competitiveness in females, which comes more naturally in males according to the author/interviewees
moderncheckers moderncheckers 7/26/2017 06:55
The analysis might be OK, but the interpretation is wrong. If we divide chess players into two groups, and one group consistently wins the majority of games against the other group of players then their chess ability is by definition unequal. It holds no matter what the numerical split between groups.

If the players of one group win 46% and lose 54% of games against players «of equal chess ability» in the other group, and win 50% and lose 50% of games against players «of equal chess ability» in their own group, as the article says, then all in all they win less than 50% and lose more than 50% of games against all players «of chess ability equal to theirs». But this is contradictory because "chess ability" is precisely the capacity to win games (not the capacity to play beautifully, or fast, or to play a different opening in every game, and not even the capacity to make more moves liked by a computer). In a large statistical sample groups of "equal ability" MUST by definition win and lose 50% (± statistical error) of the games between them.
Peter B Peter B 7/26/2017 02:51
@fgkdjlkag "Then why do tests showing certain abilities (visual-spatial) contradict your statement?" - All the studies I'm aware of show a rather weak correlation, with lots of outliers. (i.e. lots of women outperform most men).

As for my comments on singleminded devotion, I am trying to draw a distinction between ability and personality. Men have no more ability. However men are more likely to have the personality which causes them to immerse themselves in chess at a young age. Whether that personality trait is nature or nurture - I'm not sure. What I am sure of is that is discouraged in females by society. Again I point to the Polgars as proof. Where this sort of single-mindedness was encouraged, they became brilliant chess players, and one of them (Judit) became world class. That is simply not possible in physical sports, but I assert that it is possible in chess (or any other mental discipline).
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 7/26/2017 01:47
Regarding all the arguments - a 2190 male player no one would notice, but a female 2190 player is lauded - if there is an inherent difference in ability of the genders, then isn't it much more impressive to be a 2190 female player? A female who is #100 in the world among females is an equivalent achievement to being a male ranked #100 among males ? If there is some data that men and women can play chess equally, why haven't we seen in among a plethora of studies done all over the world?

@PeterB, you say "There is no doubt in my mind that men are innately no better at chess (or any other mental activity) than women."
Then why do tests showing certain abilities (visual-spatial) contradict your statement?

You then give reasons to explain male performance:
"HOWEVER to be really good at chess requires a certain type of singleminded devotion, not to mention nurturing in one's young years which does not discourage this singlemindedness, and both of these are more prevalent in males. "

If the first factor is genetically more likely to be prevalent in males, then you are contradicting yourself in saying that the inherent abilities are the same. Junior chess clubs have roughly 50% females and males, and for a long time. There have still not been many females reaching the top. I doubt (but it is possible) that all these girls are not being nurtured as much as boys.

About stamina -Is there any evidence that males have more stamina? Women seem to have done as well (one recent study I saw found that women may do better) in long-distance running and other sports requiring stamina. Because Lagno think's that women have less stamina does not mean it is the case. In all chess tournaments, many players of both gender play worse toward the end, due to stamina.

@JeffreyDM - just because Melekhina wants to create a definition of "women's chess" does not mean that she can make it standard. Other's use "women's chess" to mean differences in performance.

@moderncheckers - I don't understand your argument. That was a statistical analysis with a large number of players and games. I did not see anything unsound in it. I think you are saying that because 90% of the subjects were male, this should cause a bias in the results, but that is false statistically. If you have 2 players with one having pregame Elo x and one having Elo y, then it is possible to calculate the probability of each outcome. Over many games/players the results are highly accurate. There is no reason that a 10%/90% split would mathematically invalidate the elo calculations.
FMMichaelBaron FMMichaelBaron 7/25/2017 07:04
I agree, lets get rid of the ''women's chess''...but to keep things fair and square - lets also get rid of women's titles and consequent free entries/conditions for WGMs/WIMs
yesenadam yesenadam 7/25/2017 06:26
Gee, one of those topics that sure brings out the loony sexist commenters.

I used to wonder about why women were so much weaker than men in chess - people suggest all kinds of reasons - until I read this study, which David Smerdon linked to on his blog a few years ago.


Some of the abstract: "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."

Now I mainly wonder why this isn't better known, and years later people still write pieces trying to explain such a puzzling thing. (I don't mean that this piece is one of them.) Funny how no-one feels driven to write about how e.g. German chess players "according to all historical and statistical measures, are "in general" inferior in quality and strength" or "To date, I have not seen any convincing arguments that demonstrate that Germans overall (not individually) have equal abilities as chess players. The different numbers in the top 100 is fact enough, despite all efforts." or how "Germans cannot compete at the top levels" or "Germans are never our equal. Never were and never will be. Stop living in denial and accept the truth. For every elite of yours we have 10. It has nothing to do with you not having opportunities. There are non-Germans who have beaten far greater odds! We have contributed more to the world than you ever have and will be." etc etc. (Arghh that was awful reading those comments again.)
e-mars e-mars 7/25/2017 05:37
OK, interestingly no one pointed out that Mrs Melekhina managed to list a set of problems, first of all the discriminatory label "Women's chess", but... she DOES NOT propose any concrete SOLUTION. I am waiting for a PROPOSAL Mrs Melekhina: spit it out!

(And don't cheat: simply stop using that label is not a solution, it's a workaround...)
Chessischess298 Chessischess298 7/25/2017 05:28
I agree with this sister.
To have this form of Racism in our noble Game break my Heart, I truly love the Game so
Much..but I'm No Bobby Fisher in play.
But to me it's the Friendships I have made over Many years.

Not the Entrapment of Ego..
Like one sees with Most Men in chess, WAIT
Maybe that is the Root of it How many Males would choose to lose to there Female Counterpart.

SO I say.. lets have a Friendly Game of Chess
The Top Players Males and Females battle it out for change..oh we know this want happen why ?..Old Male Chess Players Fear losing
There EGOS ..

SO sister please do this you would put them in check mate with the idea..but a Game Would be fun.

And Remember, chess is chess
Zmeu Zmeu 7/25/2017 05:04
@Peter B
"Wow. If the chauvinism in these comments is typical of most chess clubs, is it any wonder so few girls persist with chess!"

Exactly! Chess doesn't help develop social skills much, unfortunately, and many male chess players have trouble interacting with women. Interesting that the women who would be most likely to be interested in them are the ones who play chess, and yet they want to exclude them too.
fons fons 7/25/2017 12:23
These are weak arguments:

>> "because the female competitors are (i) confined to competing only against other women,"

Chess has women only tournaments.

>> "(ii) have exclusive rankings relative only to other women,"

Chess has women only titles.

>> "Women play by the same rules as men and with the same pieces and boards."

Men and women in gymnastics and figure skating play by the same rules and with the same equipment as well, just like in any other sport that I can think of.

Gymnastics and figure skating are physical sports and men and women have different physiques, that argument alone is sufficient I think to explain why calling them women’s gymnastics or women’s figure skating makes more sense.
riccardo riccardo 7/25/2017 11:41
Totally agree.
Only reason for "women's chess" is more money for FIDE, while hindering real talent development.
If you have ever played tournament chess - at least-, you know that you improve when you can fight those who are stronger and more experienced than you. Human-to-human chess isn't just about technical skills and homework: you must master the psychological pressure OTB.
It looks like Hou understood that, and she's "pulling a Polgar" by refusing to play women-only events.
This is the only way to achieve equal opportunities in competitive chess.
It should be followed widely.
BabyPfuscher BabyPfuscher 7/25/2017 11:21
An excellent article. Words are a direct manifestation of thoughts and ideas and can be a powerful manipulator, so choose them wisely. Words become actions and actions habits. Habits form character and character becomes destiny.
Peter B Peter B 7/25/2017 07:09
Wow. If the chauvinism in these comments is typical of most chess clubs, is it any wonder so few girls persist with chess!
Peter B Peter B 7/25/2017 04:22
There is no doubt in my mind that men are innately no better at chess (or any other mental activity) than women. HOWEVER to be really good at chess requires a certain type of singleminded devotion, not to mention nurturing in one's young years which does not discourage this singlemindedness, and both of these are more prevalent in males. The case of Judit Polgar proves it: given the sort of environment which very few girls are given, she rose to the top 10 in the world. If and when it becomes socially acceptable for girls to immerse themselves in chess at a young age (as the Polgars were), there is no doubt in my mind that there would be equal numbers of women in the elites.
As for now, I think women-only events are a good thing, because they encourage more girls to play. Perhaps, one day in the future, they won't be necessary.
chessdrummer chessdrummer 7/25/2017 03:44
Pieces in Motion... Judit Polgar's wins against the top players were not occasional. With that comment, I'm not sure you even have any credibility.
Pieces in Motion Pieces in Motion 7/25/2017 02:53
I don't know if the author was paid to stir the pot with this ridiculous article or she's spent too much time in the States and been brainwashed by a western liberal education, but facts and results show that women are lesser Chess players than men. It doesn't matter whether one wants to use the term women's Chess or not, the fact is women perform substandardly compared to men and such a differentiation exists because of that. It's like separating amateurs from masters; there's an amateur style of play, and there's a master style of play. And the occassional wins by Polgar and Hou against men obviously don't alter the facts.
benedictralph benedictralph 7/25/2017 02:36
What's next? A women-only chess solving/composition championship? So they don't have to compete with men? LOL!
slim409 slim409 7/25/2017 01:25
Fine then. Take away women's tournaments and the Women's World Championship. Let the men and women play in the same tournaments. Then after all the women lose, which will happen since men and women are different, don't cry and complain about it. I'm tired of this everyone is the same crap. Men and women are different. Their brains are different. That cannot be changed. Get over it.
laskodrender laskodrender 7/25/2017 12:15
Don't bite the hand that feeds you. It's men like Bobby Fischer who are the reason why chess players even make money in the first place. Men created the FIDE.I don't understand this ingratitude. It's good thing that women and men don't play in the same tournaments, leagues etc. Otherwise there would far less women than right now. The women in my chessclub play in the 2. Women-Bundesliga in Germany. They are able to meet other girls and women from all over germany. For girls and women the community and company of other women is very important more important than for men. Without that they wouldn't continue playing. That's what I've observed in my chess club.
moderncheckers moderncheckers 7/25/2017 12:12
@diegoami "When a woman plays against another woman of the same ability, she has a 50% chance of winning. But when a woman plays against a man of the same ability, she only has a 46% chance."

I and my friends Alice and Bob show our true ability of 2300 FIDE only when we play each other, and each one of us has then 50% chance of winning. Unfortunately, when we play any other players of our ability, that is of course 2300 FIDE, we make more mistakes than they do, and we mostly lose. Of course, this strange but consistent underperformance should not make us doubt that the three of us are of FIDE Master-level ability. Or should it?

The sentence you quoted is self-contradictory, and as such should not have appeared in a research article. If you make more mistakes than the opponent in your games against 90% of all chess players "of your ability", and you play exactly as good as your opponent in your games against the other 10%, then those 90% are not "of your ability", after all, but better, and the assessment of your ability should be revised, basing mostly on your performance against the majority of players—and that's what I wanted to say.
diegoami diegoami 7/24/2017 10:14
I didn't pull out my statements out of my hat, it is things that have been said before. This does not make them necessarily true, but may be worth a thought.

About women underperforming when playing against men: http://voxeu.org/article/women-competitive-environments-evidence-expert-chess

Quote : "The gender gap in performance is due to the gender composition of games. When a woman plays against another woman of the same ability, she has a 50% chance of winning. But when a woman plays against a man of the same ability, she only has a 46% chance. This is equivalent to a handicap of 30 Elo points when the opponent is a man."

About women having less stamina than men in tournaments: http://www.chessblog.com/2014/04/womens-world-rapid-chess-championship.html

"Speaking at the press conference, Lagno did mention that lesser rounds with more players could suit the Women's Rapid World Chess Championship better. She said even though men play over 15 rounds (the open blitz world chess championship), women have lesser stamina and that showed in the drop in quality of games towards the last few rounds... particularly in the last round where her opponent squandered the game with a mate-in-one blunder."
JeffreyDM JeffreyDM 7/24/2017 09:43
Let me create three samples of 100 games played from the following three players: a) a typical beginner with no special talent, b) a GM who has managed to keep any of his games from being published, c) a 2300 female player. The names of the players are hidden; all that is known in each sample is whether the person giving the sample was White or Black.

Now, I give these sample to another GM. Would the GM be able to determine if one of the players was a beginner? Most likely, yes. Would the GM be able to determine if one of the players was from a fellow GM? Most likely, yes. But would the GM be able to determine that one of the players was a woman? If so, just what characteristic would the GM look at?

/That/ is the point that Melekhina is trying to get across -- that there is no characteristic about the way a woman plays chess that you can call out that marks "women's chess" as opposed to the way chess is played by others. That is the basis for her wanting to do away with the term.

My philosophy professors in college would emphasize that you need to try very hard to completely understand the author's point before writing up a response criticizing it. Based on that standard, a large number of the comments here wouldn't get a passing grade.
EatMyShorts EatMyShorts 7/24/2017 08:49
OH WAIT!! (head slap!) I GET IT!! Seeing as how she was the tail-ender in the 2016 US Women's Chess Championship (scoring a dismal, pitiful, 1.5/11), blowing easily winning positions in the process (such as the one she had against Krush in Rd.3); and seeing as how she wasn't invited back in 2017; and seeing as how she is now employed as an attorney and doesn't need Women's chess to be her money-making occupation...Melekhina wants to get back at all of the other female chess players who pwned her, and ruin their ability to make a living!!

Such a cutthroat mentality will serve her well in her role as an attorney!! YOU GO GIRL!!!!!
turok turok 7/24/2017 08:32
In the USA I started the first ever Female ONLY state championships. This includes in the world. I got many people boycotting my tournament because of what some people say as sexist. But then people understood why we did this and here is the truth. I saw my daughter who was a top junior player and the abuse she took from males at tournaments. The same stuff you hear about. The ONLY reason we started the female only tournament has zero to do with them not being able to compete. It was a tournament where females could come togehter and celebrate chess without the males around to do what they usually do and just enjoy the game of chess without that male influence. Nothing more-nothing less. No sexism involved at all.
KevinC KevinC 7/24/2017 07:57
Alisa, you cannot have it both ways. You complain about it, but the only reason we have ever heard of you is because of women’s chess. You have benefited greatly from this segregation. You, should, and will continue to hear about "women's chess" because it exists. And why does it exist? Because so far, with the exception of Judit Polgar, women cannot compete at the top levels with men.

When I watched the last U.S. Women’s Championship, there were only two 2400s, and the ratings went all the way down to three 2100-players. Sorry, that is not very strong. I can find that just about any weekend. In fact, this month’s NH Open, which is a small tournament, had a 2450, 2500, and 2650. Just because you are indignant does not make your chess that great to watch.

Even the Women’s World Championship is fought between players, who would otherwise never be known outside of their local area. I cannot tell you how many young male GMs, who are 2650 to even 2700, whom I have never heard of.

You listed the FIDE ratings of the top women. Hou Yifan is 88th in the world, and the second-ranked woman, Wenjun Ju is 346th in the world among active players. For now, women ARE less skillful, overall. The numbers don’t lie, even if you don’t want to acknowledge them. In the old days, it was because it was a part-time pursuit, but that is no longer the case with many of your peers doing nothing but playing chess. What is the excuse now? Women’s Chess: It is what it is…. You need to accept that.

It really is time to abolish women-only competitions so you can get a clearer view of what is really what. I know that you are a lawyer now, but if you ever become a trial lawyer, I hope you can make better arguments than this silly article.
basler88 basler88 7/24/2017 06:43
Bravo Fianshetto!! That's the right way to solve this problem. We are all only guest of this planet, so we're all the same.
Fianshetto Fianshetto 7/24/2017 05:38
As if chess is the only type of competition on this planet where humans competing against one another are placed in one of two categories based on gender..

Why not simply label all participants as "Chess Players"? and while we are at it eliminates other labels such as "Junior" events or championships; whether you are a boy, girl, a senior, a junior, a man, a women, old, young, cranky, happy, democrat, republican...etc. you simply get one label and that is a "Chess Player"...what determines what tournament you may play in or against whom you may play is simply you ELO...(a purely objective ELO system hopefully).
Zmeu Zmeu 7/24/2017 05:30
The "problem" is when girls are steered away from chess, math, science, etc. by ignorant parents and teachers. Then these same people point to the dearth of female representation in these fields as proof of absolutist ideas such as "women are bad at chess." For the "if I was rated 2190, no one would even know about me since I'm guy, but since she's a woman blah blah blah" crowd: do you really think the image of chess would improve if women were not incentivized to play? would there somehow be more $$ in sponsorships? would the big chess/vacation open tournaments somehow attract more players? This should be a win-win situation, not a battle of the sexes.
moderncheckers moderncheckers 7/24/2017 04:25
@diegoami What does it mean that "in chess women perform worse against men"? Ca. 90% of rated players are classified as men.

If a group of players "underachieve" when playing against 90% of ELO-rating-endowed human beings (however we choose these 90%), and performs as they should according to their ratings only when playing against the other 10%, it must mean that the ratings of those in the group are inflated.

The situation reminds me of the famous situation in the late 90's, when players from Myanmar underperformed in international tournaments. Why those Burmese players performed worse against players from other countries than against other players from Myanmar? The answer was not "avoiding confrontations with foreigners" or "stress of being in non-Burmese dominated environment" (if there were such a thing), but the simple fact that a limited pool of players who play in in-group tournaments but rarely play against outsiders may lead to rating distortions.

I find the remarks about avoiding confrontations with men and purported deficiency of stamina untrue. Women excel in endurance sports such as ultradistance swimming.

Abolishing women-only tournaments would remove the rating distortions and the underachieving of women when playing against men.
J Nayer J Nayer 7/24/2017 04:00
The writer can either have ‘women’s chess’ (personally I do not see why this is denigrating) or gain 500 ELO and compete in potentially lucrative ‘chess tournaments’. It is entirely her choice. Or is it?
benedictralph benedictralph 7/24/2017 03:36
Newsflash. Men and women aren't equal. No, really. They aren't.
thirteen thirteen 7/24/2017 02:14
@EATMYSHORTS..Similar how you deserve any attention mate...deservedly so!
EatMyShorts EatMyShorts 7/24/2017 01:53
If it wasn't for "Women's chess", Melekhina wouldn't have a soapbox to stand on, similar to how no FIDE 2191 male players garner any attention ...and deservedly so. Fact is, without "Women's chess" and prizes, the vast majority of professional female chess players wouldn't even exist.
diegoami diegoami 7/24/2017 01:27
It may be that is not only ELO that makes the difference between men and women, making the case for "Women's chess".
It is just possible that women perform worse against men. That's because women subconsciously avoid direct confrontation with men, and also may feel the stress of being in a male-dominated environment.
Another factor may be stamina : playing for six hours straight is more tiring for women, that's why women tournaments tend to have shorter time controls.
daftarche daftarche 7/24/2017 12:13
@emars yes and let's abolish the fact top women players in open tournaments get paid thousands of dollars while male players who have finished higher than those female players go back home empty handed.