Women’s chess tournaments undermine women in chess

In a society where gender equality is increasing, why do women’s chess tournaments still exist?

Most physical sports separate men and women because men have more upper body and leg strength than women. Men and women have virtually no intellectual difference, yet many chess tournaments have mixed competitions and competitions for women only.

Proponents of this practice argue that the supply of female chess tournaments increases and encourages the participation of women in chess, however, in reality, female chess tournaments feed the misogynistic perception that women are intellectually weak and less capable as men of the enormous logic and reasoning that chess requires.

To understand why we shouldn’t have women’s chess tournaments, we need to take a closer look at why they exist in the first place. The official tournaments have two sections: mixed and female. As data collected by the International Chess Federation shows, only 15% of registered chess players are women. So, female chess supporters point out that we need female chess to encourage the participation of women in this male dominated sport.

The opposite is true. Girls often give up on failures because of anti-female stereotypes. This atmosphere is only accentuated by the women’s chess tournaments, which communicate to children that boys must be better.

Some supporters of women’s chess tournaments think women are just worse at chess. This view is supported by a series of highly questionable essays by Richard Lynn for Nature magazine, in which he proclaimed that “after adolescence, men are smarter than women”. Its main line of evidence came from a review of IQ tests in which men consistently scored 2-5 points higher than women.

Lynn’s conclusions have been widely disputed. There are many variables that can explain the difference in IQ scores. Perhaps the group of people Lynn studied did not reflect the general population. Due to the fluctuating nature of IQ tests and other variables, Lynn’s findings have been largely ignored by the scientific community.

While the participation of women in chess tournaments is shockingly low, at around 15% of players, the number of female grandmasters is even smaller, at 1%. Part of the problem is that less competitive women’s tournaments don’t require players to hone their skills.

Grandmaster Sam Shankland told NPR, “In order for women to really make marks in the chess world, we really need to get some women to reach the top. For that to happen, they have to go through all the same hurdles that men do, because if they only get free cookies every now and then, they won’t have as much of an incentive to improve themselves.

The two highest ranked chess players of all time do not play in women’s chess matches. Judit Polgar, the strongest chess player of all time, who reached eighth place on the mixed chess scale, has not played in any women’s tournament. She said women can be as good as male chess players, but only if they meet this standard.

Hou Yifan, the current world No. 1 chess player, no longer plays in women’s chess tournaments. These players succeeded because they refused to fall into the trap of women’s chess tournaments and became famous thanks to the more competitive mixed tournaments.

Women’s chess tournaments don’t provide women with the tough competition they need to improve, but rather treat women as intellectually inferior to men. Women’s tournaments undermine female participation in sport by subtly suggesting that women are not able to compete at the same level as men.

Aditya Oswal is an eighth grade student at Trent Middle School in Frisco and an avid chess player.


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Michael D. Harman

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