Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Road to San Diego

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I just posted the latest updates to the 2006 US Championship site. There are qualifiers from the National Open as well as the Senior and Junior championships.

One oddity, mentioned in the AF4C's report on the National Open, is that there were two women's spots available but only one woman paid the registration fee. This meant she would gain entry to the Championship automatically. Kelly Cottrell is rated 1684 and she scored 2/6. (Kelly was good company at the 2005 championship as she watched every move of her beau IM Ben Finegold's games. [Upgrade that to husband, I am reliable informed below.])

To paraphrase an old Saturday Night Live skit, where all da wimmin at? Last year the AF4C had to shift a spot to the men when one woman after another declined to play and they didn't want to invite anyone below the 2000 rating level. Of course this isn't Cottrell's fault, but it is almost certain that new rules will be put in place to avoid a repeat of this situation. If the number of potential qualifiers is the same or lower than the number of available spots, a rating or score minimum should be put into place.

Obviously the carrot of the US Championship isn't enough to bring out the top women players, at least not to Vegas. The number of women's spots will likely be cut in the face of such apathy. Many of the top female players aren't playing in these massive opens. It's an expensive trip under tough conditions with little chance of a prize for a player rated under 2400. Additional affirmative action on the professional level doesn't seem like the right direction.

Addendum: Best wishes to AF4C press dude and Scotsman columnist John Henderson. He broke his leg playing soccer on Friday and just got out of the hospital. Even worse, they took away his morphine drip. Soon to be replaced by a whiskey drip, no doubt.


Blazin' Saddles, Mig. Not SNL.

Best wishes to JH.

I was thinking of the Garrett Morris bit on SNL where he is dragged away singing, "Gonna get me a white woman wearning a navy blue sweater..." Mixed it up with the "where da white wimmin at?" from Blazing Saddles.

Did blowing all the cash on the Polgars have anything to do with the weakest national Open ever?

Yes good company and good music. I will have to disagree with the word choice of beau though. We have been married for a while, I think we are beyond the belles and beaux. He usually refers to himself as 2600; but this will give way to 2700 or GM. :)

it's beyond me why more "strong" players didn't compete in Vegas this year. The vast majority of players are rated under 2200 of course..and didn't seem to suffer from the lower numbers of titled players...or even notice for that matter. The Polgar sisters certainly put "butts in the seats" as Vince McMahon might say in the lower class divisions. If their fee shorted the prizefund in the open section that would certainly explain the absence of GM's & IM's...tell me more? Good luck to Kelly Finegold in S.D.

Married for a while? Now Mig does not know when we were married! And, for a chess journalist...he should of course know that Kelly and I were married in 2001, at a chess tournament! And...it was the National Open! Maybe Maurice was the only GM in attendance, but ace reporter FM Aviv Friedman was there as well.

IM Ben Finegold

blowing all the prize money on the Polgars and then not even keeping their own tradition of giving IMs free entry.

It was a good tournament but I think low attendance was because of the recent big tourney in Minnesota. I had a good time playing the Polgars as well.

this year, as always, a plus score got you a $25 gift card to the bookstore. but because the USCF farms out their books sales now the $25 only got you books from the 70's or a Smurf chess set at the "bookstore".

Of course lets face the facts that it does not do Igor Novikov(for example, replace with your favorite GM) any good to have the Polgar's there, while a few more g's in the prize fund surely would make it lucrative. This was a tournament designed for amateurs which I don't think is a bad thing. I think amateur events like this could be in general fantastic. In other professional opens more money could go to the top guns. I mean I personally find events like the world open where amateurs often make more than the pros to be ridiculous and something in desperate need of a solution. That way Minnesota wasn't bad.

Better question: why are you being such an ass, "Vadim"? Of course Yermo is jealous, as would anyone be of players getting more for exhibitions than others get for playing. If you have information to post about exactly how the Polgars "saved the National Open," post it. Otherwise you're just another insulting jerk making stuff up and we already have enough of those.

It's up to the organizers how they spend their money, but as you can see here, more than a few professionals aren't happy about seeing one of the largest events in the west cut its prize fund. You can be happy about it yourself, and say so, without being insulting to those who aren't.

I have little to no interest in the marital status or the otherwise personal lives of chessplayers, which in general is something they appreciate. I saw Kelly and Ben every day for several weeks and never inquired as to the exact status of their relationship. Why this would necessitate an apology to anyone is beyond me.

Married at a chess tournament. Oy!

Let's not under estimate Yermo's "fanbase". His "Road to chess improvement" was a unique and inspired book. He added points to my puny class "A" rating..and I bet there are a horde of Yermo fans and students out there who are just as grateful as I am to him. "100 times more popular" is a ridiculous over statement.

And of course that's entirely beside the point. Had the same criticism been launched anonymously, (the way "Vadim" does it, for example) it should still be evaluated on its merits and not by half-assed accusations. Pro events moving toward amateurs is a worthwhile topic of conversation.


Shame on you! You should know marital status of all chess players! Get with the program.

How have the Polgars done more for chess than Yermo? They certainly haven't for me. the USCF is very pro-Zsuzsa, er, Susan now, and everything she touches goes into the good old spin machine. I'll take Yermo's book any day over Susan's Chess Life columns and Queen of Chess books. I really don't get the whole "women's movement" in chess. Players like Krush and Shahade have become good players, regardless of gender. With all due respect, a 1600 really has no business playing in the US Championship. I tried to get a friend to enter her adorable 5 year old daughter (rated 100!) into the 2-day Open Section of the National Open. she would have qualified for the US Championship. laughable, but true. it would have made for interesting publicity...

Yes married at the tournament. After we were married we celebrated and then as we were walking around the Riviera people called him in to play 1 minute in the tounrey room. He crushed a slew of people and seemed to enjoy himself very much. Dima Gurevich told me that he was impressed by his speed. It was the best part of my wedding, besides the fact that Allan's wife was very helpful and supportive during the wedding. I would not have changed a thing. Who else can say that Ashely snuck into the wedding with a bucket of quarters? Also, if anyone needs an apology it's IM Mark Ginsburg who bought the post wedding celebration refreshments but was not mentioned in attendence. Also, thanks for the lovely compliment Vadim. But I have to say I am jealous of Mig who knows Garry [the greatest chess player ever!:)] Lets hope he comes back to competitive chess. The Polgar simul by the way was very interesting. Judit had a very strong reply to her opponent in her final game. Not to mention the fact that she looks fierce when she is playing. On the other hand I would play Yermo in a simul any day as he is an excellent player too. The only way for all factions to be satisfied is for more corporations to sponsor chess simuls and tournaments, especially leagues. It is unfortunate that most leagues can only be found in Europe, as they are a main staple of the professional chess player's income. The championship is probably the best tournament for professional chess players in the US right now. The effort put into the tournament is evident and appreciated. Plus what a great venue to see Hikaru, De Firmian, Gonzales, the up and coming Milman and Snyder. Last year was great... everyone should take a day and visit. The San Diego La Jolla area is a good place to vacation as well. There are wonderful beaches with seals, scenic highways, the every entertaining Mig, and an ice cream shop called moo time, plus the strongest tournament that will happen in the US for a while.

And to the comment about what is my business and what isn't... would you pass up the chance? I think not. I take the oppurtunity to improve when it avails itself. It is a shame more women don't play; It would have shown my qualifying score wasn't zero. Maybe this will interest more women into playing this year as now they know they have a chance. I also hope this makes the tournament more money. It doesn't hurt things for me to be there... in fact it might inspire some to improve or try in the first place.


Of course I don't blame you one bit for participating. I really don't mean offense to you personally. I know Ben and have admired him for years. I just question a system that allows a player to "qualify" for the US Championship simply by entering the National Open, be her rated 1600 or 100. For many it is not so easy to qualify, even for Grandmasters! Really I question how important it really is to bring women to chess. If woman want to play, so be it. If they don't, they don't. Personally i think the US Championship would be more prestigious with more GM's and IM's than to have a bunch of woman rated below 2000 just for the sake of having women in the event.

I'm sure I would feel more strongly about this if I didn't know Kelly. The worst she can do is only a half-point worse than a 2150 did last year!

But in general I agree that the entries need to be tightened up, and I mean up as in upwards. They should have taken it as a hint last year when a 2150 scored half a point and women filled 10 of the bottom 12 places. It's a great experiment, giving the women a chance to play against the best players instead of being ghettoized. But if the country's top women don't play, it's bad for the event overall to have so many under-2200 players and bad for the women's title to be chosen almost at random in the lower middle of a swiss. Half of the top 10 FIDE-rated women in the US are basically inactive right now.


the obvious solution would be to have 64 men in a swiss and a concurrent tournament for the women- perhaps a 10 player round robin. of course the women could participate in the "men's" if they earned the qualifying spot. A player like Krush or Goletiani could (would have to) qualify for the "men's" or she could choose to play in the women's. both events would carry prestige. Remember last year Goletiani won (deservedly enough) by winning her last round vs Zatonskih, but Krush had to play black vs Shabba.. although she had her chance to win as well. As you pointed out, last year it didn't really do anyone any good to have a few of the women just getter bashed at the bottom of the crosstable. Women also earned more money than men simply by being women. For example, Krush earned more money than Lakdawala for a lower score. and Krush was higher rated.

"I really don't get the whole "women's movement" in chess." - fluffy

May be due to so many Chess Queens?

I think you have to give the 64 player co-ed format some time. Take a look at how allowing the NBA players in the Olympics has changed the competitive level of international basketball. Many of the best NBA players (including the MVP) are foreign plus take a look at the last olympics where Argentina won. Allowing women to compete at a higher level is going to improve their game - we have had US women's champions since 1937 - 60 years on the old format - why don't we give the new format a couple more years to see the results?

Being a simple master, I don't really care about having women's spots because my chances to Q-up aren't great and the few times I might have qualified, I didn't pay. I actually never do but I think the payment thing is a good way of keeping the event strong, so that some guy like me doesn't have a good tourney and then get half a point(poor Olga). But, I remember last year Browne was playing everything, desperate to get into the championship, and for a guy like that, well he probably is a little bitter that a 1684 can q without performing a miracle in the open section. 2/6 seems to me quite decent. Of course if your given the chance, enjoy it Mrs. Finegold! Just don't run into Walter if he doesn't make it...

My mistake Browne won the senior open. You're safe Mrs. Finegold.

I am curious about one of the rules. For most events the rules show that 4 players overall qualify, but 2 women qualify. Does that mean that if a woman gets the top spot that three women advance? Since Mrs. Finegold took one spot and the other women's spot remained empty, does that spot go to another woman or to another player at the National Open?

Ed Yetman, III

if a woman takes on of the "overall" spots, then an extra woman will qualify. best of both worlds. because only one woman entered, the spot will go to a seeded player. of course it should go to one of the players who did not qualify due to tiebreaks. or it should go to the winner of the US Under 50 championship, which was run alongside the US Senior, which Browne won to qualify. of course yours truly fits both of these criteria.

I remember Walter after the Seattle championship, and last year when he was going over his game with Ben and he has always been a gentleman. Q or not I think he will always be a nice person to me, he has too much class to be other wise... in my opinion. In response to the other comments. Not many players in with this amount of time under my belt will get this chance, so a rating cap or score cap is not logical to me. The purpose of a woman's spot is to encourage women to get better. One tournament women gave up because we spend over 1,000.00 to qualify sometimes... it's not only 75.00 as some mistakenly pointed out. I tried once and got in... so God smiled on me. Has it happened before, not to my knowledge... so why the fuss? I know women who try time and time again and they have more experience and are under 2000 and they fail to Q, so the system works. If this happens twice then you have to think about the structure; but once... once is a blessing because now if women are smart they will take their shot and the higher rated women will get out and take the risk simply not to be out done. I calculated my odds well in advance and gambled... so it played out for me. It doesn't matter how you win, just that you win right? Basically I got rewarded for wanting to and putting the effort forth to get better. I played in the section I always played in and I got a shot, so I feel I have a purpose for being their. I didn't think it would be funny to qaulify, I went there with the intention of getting into a tournament with strong players because I thought I would benefit from it, chess is that important to me. Other players have done the same look at Glen Fleer. I wonder if he got so much flack as well, probably not as he was the local boy. Like I said I hope this moves women to play. I would really like to see all my little girls who are playing to go to a tournament and not say why am I the only woman in this section? Maybe this will bring back the women and give my girls something to aspire to. Also thanks for the deference Mig, that and your musical taste makes you coolio in my book... well that and the fact that you speak Spanish.

Of course I was only kidding about Browne. He is a nice guy although he has his moments,especially with organizers. I did not mean to give you flack, whatever that is. You were planning to go out there, and now you have something new to do. I hope it is a fantastic learning experience as well as that you suprise a few people and give them a run for their money.

With respect to the "worthwhile topic of conversation", I said earlier that I find the idea that an amateur could theoretically make more than a pro by being the best of the worst to be quite paradoxical. I think that huge class prizes also create all the wrong incentives for improving. The idea that there are incentives to be ranked lower is something I have also never heard of in any other sport. Were I an organizer I would think about holding pro events separate from amateur ones. Amateur ones would be like USATE or National Open. More about the mood and learning than the prizes. There would be simuls, lectures, exhibitions, lessons etc. Then you would have the pro events with more money. As USATE shows, you don't need big prizes to make a fun tournament for amateurs(or in that case even GMs) These would probably need some corporate sponsorship (tricky clearly) and offer good prizes. I don't know what the rating limits would be, but I guess 2400+ seems fair. Anyone else would need an exemption or would pay an extra fee.

Sorry Kelly, you qualified due to a loophole. You don't belong in that tournament, but you are free to keep kidding yourself.

Jeez, what an attitude! Kind of you to give your permission. By "loophole" you mean the rules as written? What should she do, decline the spot? You may not like the result, I don't either, but the last person to blame is Kelly. It's not her fault the rules created this possibility.

I am not saying that she didn't qualify fairly since the rules are the rules, but her attitude seems to be that she earned it through playing strength...She showed up. "I calculated my odds well in advance and gambled". Odds? She could have scored 0/6 and qualified.
It is this attitude that I take offense to, not going when she qualified fairly.

It was more than the 75 dollars so it was a gamble. I knew who Q previously, and who had no chance of going because of where they lived. So what do you call it? Anyways thanks for your opinion it was entertaining.

I cannot comment on the fairness of the rules, or who should qualify...but..If my name was KCotreau, I would be thrilled that some named KCottrell qualified!

IM Ben Finegold

I really don't think anyone is blaming Kelly for qualifying. the way that she qualified though must make some take notice and question the system being used. and sorry, but only the $75 was a gamble (and it really proved to be a sure thing). it's not hard to pick the winner of a race with only one horse running. any other expenses are no different than the "gamble" every player in the tournament took simply by entering. what is this women's movement for though? it doesn't make sense to me. there is no qualifying spot for top African-American. The problem in the USA is not the promotion of women's chess; it's the promotion of CHESS. I couldn't care less if 100 women or 1 woman show up at a tournament.

It is more than 75 when that is why you went to the tournament in the first place. Any person trying to Q will tell you that. A woman's spot is a carrot to attract the women to play. They are doing just that to some extent. Why, because not every woman was encouraged or allowed to play chess in the past for whatever reason... so this is supposed to compensate. I am elated that there's a Krush, a Shahade, a Zatonski, and a Polgar in the United States today that is great for chess over all, but these are a hand full of players in comparison to the number of strong male players. And as far as a spot for an African American woman, sounds like a good idea to me. If it gives a player money and helps them continue and get better at chess then that can't be a bad thing.

It seems to me that some people would like to turn the US Championship into the US Open. This sounds bad to me. I don't even think that if I went and payed my $75, then won the World Open, that I should be allowed into the championship. The fairest thing to me, would be to make an invitational, meaning let there be a panel to announce the players who can come. They could judge overall results in tournaments, make it so enough women, seniors,juniors, African Americans, native Americans, Mongolians.... whatever suits their fancy. And they could do it while avoiding fluky qualifications, which are not uncommon at all. People its not just Mrs. Finegold or women, but alot of men barely over 2200 as well who get there and then hang out at the bottom of the cross table.

Okay so maybe it was only J. Kleinman but the year before that it was M. Esserman and there is always at least one.

I am not a big fan of the qualifying system, as many point out. What is good about the system, is that people are talking and arguing about who should play and how many, and what format, when, in previous decades, it was simply a 10-16 player RR with the same players, and a ton of draws, and few spectators or interest.

The current format is very interesting, and although it may need to ne tweaked, I think it beats the old boring way, and gives way to upsets and the thought that "anyone" can play. In reality, only 2-5 people get in every year who would "normally" have no chance, assuming they simply invited players by rating.

I think the sponsors should be open to suggestions about how to change the system and tweak it to make it somewhat better, and I am sure they are.

Seriously, would ANY of you be AS interested if the tournament was a 10 player RR with: Gulko, Novikov, Nakamura, Goldin, Kaidanov, Shabalov, Ibragimov, Yermolinsky, Onishcuk, and Stripunsky? The quality would certainly be VERY VERY high, but there would be a lot of draws, less press coverage, less spectators, and I wouldn't get to play every year! ;)

Also...if I left any TOP players off that ten player list, that was just off the top of my head!

IM Ben Finegold

I totally agree. I DO like the large swiss. It is interesting at least. Funny that of the 10 players you mentioned, NONE were born in the US (although I for one, consider Nak to be as American as you or I).

I do hope they keep tweaking the system. Even the NFL does this every year to try to improve the game. I would not begrudge Kelly her spot, but I find it hard to accept that she really took a gamble to "earn" her spot. Plenty of people paid the Q fee. She was the only person ever to qualify simply by entering. I wouldn't mind those odds every time I pay to go to a tournament to try to qualify. As I pointed out, a five year old local girl rated 100 (yes, 100) could have qualified to play in the prestigious US Championship simply by entering the National Open 2-day schedule at the last minute.

I just like the qualification idea. Allowing in a set of relative outsiders adds excitement just like it does with elite events like Dortmund. The usual suspects are so well known to each other and the public that it's hard to keep the interest level high without doing goofy things to the format. The top end of a nine-round swiss is accurate enough, I'd say. And in a country where there is so little overall interest in chess, rigor can be sacrificed a little for entertainment and PR value. I feel differently about the world championship, where rigor is more important because credibility is more relevant.

Ten player round robin is indeed boring. But I guess I'd prefer top 64 US players(Ben Feingold would be more than fine) by rating in a swiss (obviously) to the current format. That would not be ideal either. But it essentially turns into that in a few rounds anyway because the "weakies" ALL sink to the bottom and the big fish fill the middle and top of the cross table. So why throw them into the championship in the first place, when they are almost guaranteed just to end up playing one another. So that they can play a really good player for two or three rounds ? To see what I mean lets take Anna Levina. All of her games were played against people in the lower half of the cross table. All but two against players who finished 45th or below. For Vanessa West, it was just three players above 54. For that, they can just enter the World Open. The US Championship is supposed to be something special. Nevermind the very strong players who are 50-64th on the rating list who want to play but cannot. Solution: fill as many places as you can with strong players from the top 64. Then pick the remaining players according to your mood. Say 49/64 decide to participate. You could then add 5 women, juniors, and seniors and keep a cap of like 2300. In general a rating cap seems like a good idea, so that even the weakest players still know how to bite back a bit!

For years women have said they want equality as in the same treatment as men. Why should a woman who enters a chess tournament only have to compete with less than 4 other women where as the men have to compete with the rest of the field. At the National Open men who wish to qualify have to compete with 90 odd other men to do so this is not a right balance. I played Kelly at the National Open and yes she is a nice lady and all but really I don't believe she is strong enough to play in the US Championship.Players in the US Championship are all professionals for the whole. The only reason these women go in the open sections is because they know they have a great chance of qualifying for the US Championship by doing very little in the tournament. A 1600 player certainly does not belong in the open section. They should state that players can play only one class up. So that would mean anyone between 2000 and 2200 could play up into the open section and noone else that would make more sense. Why is it such a big deal to get women to play in the US championship are we saying that women need help to be good at chess are they somehow inferior to men ?


Jon Burgess

Mr. Burgess,

Some women participate in the gender-restricted spots. Many don't.

Last year Chouchan Airepatian became the first woman ever to qualify for a gender-neutral spot to the US Championship. She did so through an amazing performance at the Chicago Open, where she finished with the same score as GM Nakamura! Quite an accmplishment for a 2100 player. On that basis, she clearly earned her spot (which was also open to a man) for the Championship.

I don't think it's necessary to limit who can play in the open section of a qualifying event, but there are a number of women, myself included, who agree with you that there's no reason for special "women's invitations."

Women already have a championship to play for--the same one as the men. :)


I'm not sure the spots for women are encouraging them to play... it may be quite the contrary if they continue to occupy 10 of the last 12 spots on the chart.

I believe that the movement for girls will have problems as well. What kind of future will they envision? If they see women getting slammed 0-9 or 1.5-7.5 in the U.S. Championship, then why would they want to aspire to play in these tournaments?

Havent Judit Polgar& co. proved that, with disciplined effort,women can compete with men in chess? I believe most women would agree.
Then why hold women to lower standards of excellence by using the"bringing more women to the game "argument. Hungary's Polgar has no use for women's events as she knows it wouldnt benefit her game to lower her standard of play.
chess is not tennis or basketball, where physical differences make segregated competition necessary for women to compete.
Nor is chess a spectator sport(eg:no one can tell the sex of a player when going over a game).
Again , as trailblazer Polgar& others have proven,If women really want to improve, they should not be rewarded for mediocre results & continuously held to a much lower standard than men. Its time to fight for women's equal chess rights and eliminate "women's chess" as we know it.
The Us championship would yield a stronger champion each year if ONLY the best players in the country were allowed in to this open,regardless of sex, age, color, etc! This would drive players like Krush et al. to work even harder to improve, rather than have their eyes on merely the "best woman"prize. I think most women know this idea is true,but would rather keep lining their pockets with appearance money while much stronger, more deserving,players are denied a spot simply because they are men.

Moderman FM,

I agree with everything you said (that there is no reason to offer women invitations or titles or prizes based on lower standards) with the exception of the last sentence, that "most women would rather keep lining their pockets..."

Change the "most" to "many" and I think it works. But there are a large number of women who feel that "women's prizes," while well-intentioned, are not in the best interest of women, chess, or women in chess.

I myself, although at best an 1800 player, have never accepted any gender-segregated prize, not even a trophy. (And I have always told TDs of my intention to decline any such award at the beginning of an event.) I played in one women-only event many years ago at the urgent request of a friend who needed to fill out a field at the last moment--and have not done so since.

If the goal is to get more women to play tournament chess, I would suggest simply that local tournaments put the names of those who bring in a new female USCF member into a drawing for a prize.

That would limit the outreach effort to new members but provide the benefit equally to men and women. And it would ensure that a new woman player has a "sponsor" at the event to help address any harassment issues (which do occur from time to time).

It's not a big enough reward to tempt people to bring in females who aren't interested in chess, but at least it puts the spotlight where it belongs: on bringing new women players into the sport.

Beyond that, I think the only thing that needs to be done as a form of encouragement is to publish THREE (not two) top 100 lists for the various age groups: Top 100 Men, Top 100 Women, Top 100 Overall. But these lists should not be the basis of any other awards or invitations.

The publication of this kind of list automatically rewards a minority group by letting them get their names published sooner, but it still emphasizes that the important list is the Overall one. And it does not send the message that men are expected to dominate the Overall list, as the present two-list structure (Top 100 Overall and Top 100 Women) does.


Judith Polgar and co? Whose the co? Polgar is the only woman ever to have cracked the top ten and is probably the only one in the top 100. Of course that may be because women are just not interested in chess.

Daaim Shabazz,

Excellent point, and one that I think gets overlooked too often.


The usual "& co" given are GM Judit Polgar, GM Susan Polgar, and GM Pia Cramling. Granted, Cramling was never a "top 100 overall" player, but she was a legitimate GM at a time when there were only 600 or so GMs in the entire world.

Those were the times when the question wasn't "Can a woman be the best?" but simply "Can women play seriously against men?"

Another type of "& co" to be considered is Laura Ross, who in 2002 became the #1 US player of her age, male or female, on the USCF's top 100 lists.

But I'd like to stop for a moment and consider the issue from a different mathematical perspective. Rather than looking at who gets into the top 1% (an argument can be made that there simply aren't enough women who play tournament chess to fill out "the ends of the curve"), let's look at the justification for gender-segregated tracks in other endeavors.

In most sports, the AVERAGE man has a significant physical advantage in height, reach, or upper body strength over the AVERAGE woman.

So the two genders are offered different tracks. Not because of what happens among the top 20 or the top 10%. But because of what happens at the mode. Most men are better than most women, so the pools are separated.

If an individual woman is really good, she is generally given the opportunity to play with the men if she prefers.

But the purpose of the track is to address what happens for the AVERAGE player, not those at the very top of either group.

In chess, there are no similar modal arguments to make. As Susan Polgar has said, "A 2400 player is a 2400 player." Female 1600 players don't lose more often than male 1600 players.

And statistically, when women are only 4% of registered tournament players it's not surprising when there aren't any in the top 1%.

In fact, women are somewhat OVERrepresented in FIDE's top 20, which shows how difficult it is to do analysis with such small samples.


Polgar is the only woman on the top-200 list. It is stretching it to make it sound like her achievements "prove" anything apart from her being a genius. It shows that *she* can do pretty much as well as the top men, but one single player in the top doesn't even nearly prove that women generally have the same capabilities.

The problem is the size of the pools. Less than 4% of registered FIDE players are female, and when you only look at the top 200, you're way out at the end of the bell curve.

That's why it's not possible to predict the performance of a minority group simply by looking at the "top" lists. And as you suggest, it makes it very hard to draw any reasonable conclusions, even if Judit Polgar had the same rating as Susan.

There was a time when people said that no woman would ever be a grandmaster. Susan Polgar not only became a GM, she did so by breaking Bobby Fischer's age record. Then Judit broke it again. Pia Cramling didn't break the age record, but she was yet another woman who became a GM.

So they simply proved that being female was not automatically a barrier to being a GM. No more, no less. But at the time, that was a lot.

Today, the fact that the number one girl (female under 21) is a GM doesn't surprise anyone--and that's a good thing.

For a long time, many people believed that no woman would ever become a Grandmaster.

Then GM Susan Polgar not only did so, but did so by breaking the age record for youngest person to become a GM. Judit broke it again. And Pia Cramling, while never a 2600 player, also became a legitimate grandmaster.

So what they proved was simply that being a woman did not automatically mean you'd never be a GM. It may not seem like much now, but it was a big step at the time.

Hi Duif, You show remarkable intelligence & common sense in your letters. I still say "Most" as opposed to "Many" because its Human nature to Take the money if its handed to you;even if its only for showing up and being female.
I've heard Acirce's argument many times ie:that Judit Polgar is some sort of freak"genius" for making it to the top ten. Duif pointed out susan Polgar & Pia Cramling(exactly who I met by "&CO":-) as other examples of high ranking women. How many women in the top 100 would it take to show that Acirce's view is dead wrong? Genius id 10% inspiration and 90% pirspiration. Get to work ,gals!

Duif, whose posts I also admire and appreciate, actually agreed with my point.

Wouldn't you agree that Judit Polgar is a genius? Maybe she isn't, and maybe Kasparov and Anand aren't either. I guess it's a matter of definition.

Hi, I believe that there are many geniuses in chess;many outside the top 100. As I said, genius is not just Talent, which is what you seem to
infer itis.
JUdit, Like Kaspy & Kramnik,had a great , hard chess work ethic,as well as excellent teaching methods,

instilled at a very young age.
Actually,if you read duifspost carefully, she refutes, rather than agrees with your point. Separating women from men in chess, after what the polgars, Kramling etc have acomplished,is a step back for women, and an approval of mediocre standards.


It is quite a misguided action to measure female competency by the number who have cracked the Top 100. The Top 100 simply acknowledges the top 100 talented players who decided to dedicate themselves to chess. This is not to say that women would not be able to reach the same heights if given the same opportunities. Note that, for all of her genius, Judit would NEVER have gotten to these heights without the concerted effort of her father and the trailblazing of her sister, so it is clear that nurture has as much to do with such achievements as nature does. I think that it is silly only to focus on the Top 100 when considering the talents of women. Instead, focus on the fact that, when given the attention and the environment in which to develop, 3/3 Polgar sisters became titled players during a time when it was rare for women to do so. Given the opportunity, Jen Shahade developed. Laura Ross was raised with a chessplayer as her father, and he gave her the opportunity to develop, so she continues to do so. Kosteniuk has a similar story. Again, this is great evidence that nurture can help to develop female talent (which is not limited to the Top 100 players in the world). The extra benefits women need may be the provision of the best environments in which to develop their talent rather than a make-up opportunity as compensation for not having the same opportunities. This is along the lines of my contention that Affirmative Action needs to benefit minority communities at the elementary school level moreso than at the college level, and I believe that it can safely be applied to women in chess, as well.



Peace to you ,Maliq & congrats on a well written letter which I mostly agree with.
I believe that parental guidance and nurture is the best form of"affirmative action" there is. FIDE & the uscf should stop imposing there misguided brand of affirmative action on their members. Perhaps they shpuld take a vote among members on this issue, instead of their well- intentioned chess beaurocrats doling out the rules as they see fit.

Duif, if you check the results of the Active Top 1000(rated 2465 and above to allow for a decent sample) you realise that there are 19 women in this group, which is 1.9% of this group. This represents roughly half of 4%(this small percentage is a problem in and of itself). If we leave aside the legitimate question of whether women have the same aptitude for chess as men do(I assume so, but the brain chemistry is very different) is clear that women are underperforming even their paltry representation. Is this a problem? I don't know. Everyone seems to think so. But its like men in yoga. Not common and leads to stereotyping. For those men that enjoy it, great. But I am not about to go buy a yoga mat...

An interesting point in Maliq's post was the fact that the fathers played a key role in helping their daughters prepare mentally for battle against men (Polgar, Kosteniuk, Shahade, Ross) This is one reason that I think Susan Polgar's approach may not bear the fruit she is planting. She is trying to raise girls in a system that was unlike the system that made her successful.

I believe that giving girls special training is good, but male trainers can also make a big difference in helping girls to become more confident. If we're talking about increasing the amount of girls to merely play chess (to have fun and smile at each other), then that's one thing. If we are talking about producing female Masters, then that's another.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on June 26, 2005 11:39 PM.

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