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Women Troubles

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As has been tracked here in the past, the late but unavoidable change of dates of the US Championship (San Diego; Feb. 28 - March 12) moved the event into conflict with the FIDE women's world championship (Ekaterinburg, Russia; March 10-27). Among the complications, the Championship has obligations to the host NTC Foundation, whose employees dedicated to the event are on limited schedules. Pushing the Championship to April wasn't an option.

But some creative thinking by the AF4C may yet save the day and prevent the US participants from having to make a painful choice between the two most important events on the calendar. The plan currently under consideration has the women playing the field as normal for the first four rounds and then moving into a separate event against each other for the last five rounds, which will be played in three days. (All the women, not just the top scorers.)

As I understand the process, this was first floated by FIDE to make sure norm chances would be intact, then passed to the USCF. Now the women players themselves will vote on the new plan, in a secret ballot with unanimity required. Kudos go to Irina Krush for not taking things lying down, even when it didn't look like anything could be done. It was her drive that pushed the powers-that-be to come up with this attempt at a solution. Let's hope for a happy, and speedy, ending.

I also agree with Irina that this should never happen again. Official US events shouldn't be allowed to conflict with official FIDE events (on the rare occurrence that FIDE has their dates set well in advance). Of course this was accidental, caused by construction delays at the US Ch venue, but it should be in writing in the future.

Updating the official US Championship site now with a variety of things. Btw, I just stumbled onto that FIDE item about the 64-player Ekaterinburg KO event, with regulations, qualifiers, and reserves. The invited US women are Susan Polgar, Rusudan Goletiani, Tatev Abrahamyan, and Irina Krush. Anna Zatonskih is far down on the reserve list.

Can you name the current women's world champion? No peeking. Topalov's victory in San Luis put her back in the news, if you need a hint.


The AF4C has been doing such an incredibly great job with the US Championship. I am surprised they ran into this problem. It is wonderful to see them be able to come up with a solution.

Much praise to everyone at AF4C. Keep up the good work. I am sure this problem will not happen again. One of the fun things about life is solving problems. So please dont be discouraged by a little bump in the road.


Anyone know why Judit Polgar wasn't invited by rating? (Of course she would decline, but so will many on the FIDE list, e.g. Xie Jun and Susan Polgar are likely to decline).

She was invited to the actual World Championship (Men's championship ??)

Well, is there a rule that says you can't be both 'overall champion' and women's champion? or that you can't try for both if elegible?

Regarding the proposed change in format...

Let's imagine that, as a fan, I would like to see GM Susan Polgar win the US Championship (not the gender-restricted title, the overall). Maybe not so likely, but not impossible. (She is the #13 highest rated US player by FIDE rating) If she had a great event, it could happen. Even to finish in the top 3 would be a real accomplishment.

Let's further suppose that, as GM Polgar has said, with her children at a young age she is not as interested in long events or travel away from them these days.

So let's suppose that, yes, she is interested in being the overall US Champion. Perhaps she is also interested in winning the gender-restricted US title if it doesn't require a second event. But she's not interested in playing in the gender-restricted event upcoming in Russia.

So they play the first few rounds. GM Polgar plays brilliantly--she's clearly on form.

Now the moment comes to send the top women off to play their own little event? Does she have to give up her chance to fiinsh top 3 in the overall in order to play for the gender-restricted US title?

(Remember in this hypothetical situation, she never intended to leave the overall event early, as some of the other women did, in order to go play for the gender-restricted world title.)

Having to make this kind of decision is one of the reasons why I believe gender-restricted titles prove a distraction for the best women players.

I want to see Susan play the best she can, finishing as high as she can in the quest for the overall title. But if she had to give up a chance to finish top 3 for the overall in order to play for the gender-restricted, that would be a real tragedy.

Not only that, she knows that Irina and the other top women who DO want to play in the Russian event need her to agree to this format in order for them to be able to go. Is it fair to ask her to make that choice?

Gender restricted events make sense when the women have no chance to compete for the overall title.

But once they do break into the top 100 (and at this point several have), gender-restricted events tend to interfere rather than enhance their career paths.

This proposed format is a perfect example. It works ONLY if you assume that no woman participant has any chance in finishing near the top of the overall event. And that's rather a sad statement, I think.


The women's event is there as an alternative. Susan and the other women can no doubt do as they like. This should be confirmed by the AF4C, but I can't imagine they would care if one of the players opted out of this plan. Can't see why anyone would mind, actually, so I don't know why the change has to be unanimously approved. If you opt out of the women's event you could still be eligible for prizes, but of course you would be facing a much stronger field. Dunno, it's all a bit weird.

This is basically true of all women-only events these days. No one is forced to play in them. (Thought that used to happen.) I also favor their elimination.


I guess my basic question is is it possible under the proposed format change for a person (i.e., GM Polgar) to play for BOTH the overall title and the gender-restricted title?

It looks to me like the format forces the person to choose between the two events.

Which again makes it even more likely that there will be no women near the top of the chart for the overall, right?

Or am I misunderstanding something?


Not both at the same time, no. I can't see how that would be possible under the new format. It should be possible (my recommendation, not my knowledge) for a women to opt out of the women's only event (and the chase for the women's title and prizes). But they have a right to play under the original format, so they can shoot it down (although I don't see why).

The integration of the women into the main event was done for a reason and this desperate solution to the conflict with the FIDE women's world championship contradicts that reason, obviously. It's an attempt at a compromise and not intended to be taken as a change in direction. This is why it will be left up to the players to decide.


Well, it's a bit awkward, however it ends up. By the way, I don't fault the organizers in this at all--I know they're trying to satisfy all the constituencies. As long as a considerable percentage of the top women WANT to play for gender-restricted prizes, we're going to have this kind of thing come up.

Obviously it takes a great deal of courage (as well as financial sacrifice) to choose an integrated only path.

Reportedly Jackie Robinson was offered a salary 6 times what he was getting from the Dodgers (an integrated team by virtue of his presence) if he would leave the majors and go back to the "Negro Leagues." The arguments were many of the same ones we hear regarding gender-segregated chess. That it was better for the majority of African-American players to have a separate league, that if he persisted he would be hurting THEM, that it was in his own best financial interest to remain the big fish in a smaller pond.

But he chose to stay with the Dodgers.

I don't knowwhat empowers someone to make that kind of decision. I don't think you can mandate it. I know there is pain and loss in the transition from a system that supports two player pools.

But I do think the day will come when the best women players choose to challenge themselves fully, to seek the best competition and the most prestigious opportunities.

Until then, the organizers will just have to manage things the best they can.


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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on January 16, 2006 11:21 PM.

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