Greengard's ChessNinja.com

2007 US Women's Ch

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Ready to go back to Stillwater, Oklahoma? I knew you were. This one, as the DJ says, is for the ladies. The 2007 women's championship runs July 16-20. Frank K. Berry dug around in his pockets for a $25,000 prize fund with a top prize of $7,000. It's also a zonal with three spots for the FIDE women's world championship. It's a 10-player round-robin with Black Belt annotator Irina Krush and defending champion Anna Zatonskih as the top seeds. They are playing a rough two rounds per day except for the final round. No rest days. Ouch.

The venue is the Quality Inn, which regular readers will remember as perhaps the finest hotel in the world (photo). Game broadcasts are by MonRoi, so that should be entirely trouble free since they never ever ever have any problems at all and don't you forget it or we'll come to your house and boil your pets. There's also an open at the same venue starting the day after the event ends.

I'm not motivated to cough up my usual humbug about women-only events. Many good people are doing good work, and certainly the players deserve to get whatever they can get and play where they can play. Jan Newton at the ever-essential Goddesschess is getting into the giving spirit and donating a $300 brilliancy prize. Brava! There's also a related Chess and Goddess blog.


Hey Mig,

Are you providing matching funds as you did in the US championships ?

Nope. I'd be happy to put up a donation link and manage the funds though.

By the way, anyone know the final World Open standings? It looks like all the leaders just drew all the way home with arranged draws in the final rounds. How many tied for first? Seven or eight? Good grief.


As far as I can see , there was a tie for the 1st with 6.5 points - Nakamura, Akobian, Chanda, Yudasin, Mikhailevsky, Najer, Becerra and Stripunsky. I am not sure about Milov.

I wish for somebody to explain to me the logic of organizing an entire site, complete with multiple links, only to have the site NEVER updated, with the only (somewhat) useful information being the link to MonRoi's website. Once again, MonRoi did an awesome job of broadcasting, so that Teddy Coleman's game at first was posted but inactive, and then finally disappeared from the docket altogether. At least we got a few moves out of the way in other games throughout the tournament before results popped up in positions that could not possibly have been the final ones.



Oh, BTW, Shabalov also tied for first, defeating Perelshteyn in the last round with black. Milov drew.



That must be a recent, post-flooding picture of the Stillwater QI.

this is not monroi. really. why must you hurt us? why can't we all just get along? why can't our website do what we ask it to? you won't play nice, mig. according to our lawyers, now all your pawns are belong to us. not a jopke.

are you making fun about the hotel in stillwater?
I've never been there but I can imagine is a nice hotel.
happy july 4th dear americans friends.
Rafael Llanos.

I did some coverage on the new blog.


Nine-way tie for 1st with Akobian winning the blitz match against Stripunsky. Last year there was also a nine-way tie for 1st with Kamsky winning the tiebreaker.

I have lots of photos and possibly some videos. I may YouTube them. Decent tournament with lots of fighting chess.

Next year... back to downtown Philly.

Thanks for the coverage, Daaim. Seeing Kazim Gulamali do so well in the blitz tournament is really cool. I remember beating him more than 10 years ago at the Atlanta Chess Center. He would crush me today (and subsequently did so a few times on the way to mastery).

To be fair to MonRoi, if anything goes wrong with the live broadcast for this one it will be the fault of the organizers, myself or the hotel. I will be doing the live broadcast on behalf of the tournament and no official representative from MonRoi will be there. Of course we will be using their system, software and their live broadcast mechanism.

As for the zonal, you are correct that this is a zonal tournament but the top 3 qualify to play in the Americas Women's Continental Tournament down in San Luis at the end of August where they will get a chance to qualify for the FIDE Women's World Championship. See http://www.fideamerica.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=467&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0 for more details.

The complete round by round pairings for the tournament has been posted on the website. Hopefully this will help with the preparation efforts of the players because of the tight schedule.

It's kind of sad that there's not a single U.S.-born play in the U.S. Women's Championship.

Although I know she doesn't have a prayer of winning, I'm a big fan of Battsetseg's play. For me it can be a lot more enjoyable to watch great play that is just a few levels above me than to watch 2700s play the Slav. She has had so many exciting attacking games as well as tough holds against stronger players. Go Battsetseg!

I second stendec's remark that it's more enjoyable "to watch great play that is just a few levels above me than to watch 2700s play the Slav."

From the time I first saw Daily Dirt about two years ago, I cringed at seeing one reader after another (most of them probably much weaker than 2200) declare not only 2200-level games too weak to interest them, but even 2500-level games. (I'm not exaggerating, do a keyword search and you'll find many such declarations here.)

Only the games between 2700 players are worthy of such fans' exalted attention. I guess confining one's attention to the world elite is a sensible means for a chess player to assure himself a steady stream of things to complain about, if he can only build a life around complaining. After all, 2500 players rarely play 15-move draws, and 2200 players never do.

Anyway, now that Stendec has been bold enough to admit enjoying to watch players of Battsetseg's level, I'll shed my inhibitions and say the same.

Fans of Battsetseg can read a lot about her personal life and history in J.C. Hallman's book, The Chess Artist.

So Mig, I understand the arguments against women's tournaments, am also bored with them, but are you also objecting to the idea of a women's championship? Seems kinda like that should be the exception, even for the diehard chess purists....

Incidentally, while I wasn't born in this country geographically, I was born a US citizen. Just a shout out to any nationalistic xenophobic fans out there....


I think that there is value in observing both games at the very highest levels and games between players who are just a few levels above oneself.

The case for following games of masters is simple. I wouldn't classify myself as much weaker than 2200 (rating is exactly 2100, actually), but I still learn a bit by observing games between two 2300 players, for the reason that they are better at highlighting the holes in each other's games that I might miss. There is a big difference between being able to beat a 2300 here and a 2400 there and showing the ability to perform well against an entire field of such players, and getting a feel for how to play for advantage at those levels is not a useless benefit. A 1600 player would stand a much greater chance against me if he understood the holes in my game and how to exploit them, and so, too, do I stand a better chance at winning consistently against stronger players by watching others expose their weaknesses. (This is akin to a sports coach watching a team defeat a strong opponent and thereafter adopting some of the same plays or similar strategies.)

Following the games of strong GMs gives me something else, a better understanding of what ideas are possible, when the "rules" may be "broken" properly, etc. Comparing it to scholastic chess, it was quite a revelation to a number of my former students when they learned that giving up a pawn is not always bad, that having doubled pawns (even isolated ones) was actually sometimes an advantage, etc. Similar lessons of a higher sort are available when following the games of stronger players, because rarely are their considerations as dubious as risks that might be taken by lower-level players. In addition, tactical sequences of a higher order must be reckoned with in real-time, which cannot hurt as training for when I am in competition against players who are not as tactically sound. Finally, an overlooked element of studying stronger players is that they DEFEND better; they see dangerous attacks and recognize when to grab material and hold on, when to board up the house, when to race to attack on the other wing, etc. Studying weaker players gives less understanding of how to defend difficult positions or even how to evaluate true danger, because attacks are botched so often or inferior efforts at fortifying are set forth.

These are my cases for following games between players of multiple levels rather than only 2200+ or only 2700+.



To follow up on Liz's point, the location of birth is not nearly so significant as where one developed one's chess strength, and clearly it cannot be argued that a player like Krush should count as foreign-made in that regard. I remember Irina playing under the U.S. flag in U10 international tournaments.



I understand that this may come across as (and in fact may well be) obnoxious and self-promoting, but I have to disagree with Maliq. One huge reason chess isn't popular in America is that it isn't popular in America. Sounds retarded, ok true, but popularity is self-perpetuating, anyway, point is that coming from a family in which chess is considered a high status activity is probably a help to the developing player. And thus children of Soviet immigrants have more motivation, incentive to play than children of American parents.


ps totally proving my point: http://www.theonion.com/content/opinion/im_prepared_to_give_my_life_for

Although i should and do acknowwledge that ps's are a completely obnoxious, self-serving literary anachronism in today's brave new world of Microsoft Word.

I'm rated 2200, and the reason I don't look at 2200-level games is that in my experience, 2200s (myself included) are total patzers. Only at the 2400+ level does any glimmer of real chess understanding shine through.

Looking at the games of 2200's will teach you the wrong habits, because they play so amateurishly. 2400, on the other hand, play fundamentally the same game as higher-rated players, except that they fall short in a few minor areas.

Most 2400's have a fundamentally sound understanding of the game. Perhaps this is because you can't (generally) get to 2400 without a serious program of focused study. The same cannot be said of 2200s, many of whom are just one-trick ponies who, say, know how to play a certain class of openings decently, and can fake the rest through tactical alertness.

Interesting observations. The scorn I voiced in my previous post was aimed at people who had argued that they could always and easily tell the difference between 2400 or 2500 player games and super-GM games, and they felt the former were so weak as to be unenlightening and uninteresting to watch.

A defensible point to make, I suppose, if one is 2400 or 2500 oneself; but of course that was hardly the case for the people who made those long-ago posts I was thinking of.

It follows that I have no beef with macuga's above comment. I do get the feeling though, that this business is inherently subjective: I mean, if you're 2200 and it feels like people 200-300 points higher lie at the lower threshold of having any "real chess understanding," then would a 1700 player be any less justified in voicing the same thoughts about 2000 players? Where we stand seems to depend on where we sit.

In fact, if you take macuga's words and just substitute "Playing games against" for his "Looking at the games of," you will have a classic textbook explanation of why anyone trying to improve should face mostly opponents who are 200 points or so above them. And as anyone who has coached or been coached will recognize, that maxim (in terms of what level of opponents help you improve fastest) applies regardless of the player's level.

So again, it may be less a matter of 2200s or 2400s or 2500s demonstrating a certain level of understanding, as it is the difference in strength between those we are observing and ourselves.

I remember having a discussion with GM Kevin Spraggett some 20 years ago when I was a newly-minted 2300. He congratulated me and said something to the effect that I could now be said to have a beginner's understanding of how to play the game. I didn't grasp what he meant. I do now. ;-)

These are the greatest posts ever. Even Jon Jacobs is making a scintilla of sense (Okay, not really)!

I have been 2600+ USCF and 2540+ FIDE for years, and I understand nothing!

There are more possible games of chess than atoms in the universe....so I do not think it is simple to have any understanding of the game (except Fischer, Kramnik, and Kasparov).


Seems to me that in nearly every open Swiss, one or more 2100-2200 players beat 2400-2500 players.

Thanks for the reply, Jon. I was, of course, expecting this rebuttal. For the record, I wasn't particularly impressed with 2200's as a 2000, so I don't think it's just the glow of a 200-point difference that is coloring my perceptions. I think there's a genuine qualitative difference there.

2400s seem to have a holistic understanding of the game--whereas the rest of us, 1600 or 2200, just have a patchwork of dirty tricks, half-understood theory, and recycled positional ideas. 2400's are strong enough that they can afford to be creative (whilst still playing soundly!). That's another big difference.

Fundamentally, it's the difference between amateurs and professional-level players.

By the way, it's possible that the difference between 2200 and 2400 is a specific artifact, or peculiarity, of the title/rating system.

To become a 2200, all you need to do is pretty much the same thing you've always done--study tactics, play games, beat up on club players.

To become a 2400, you need to play in international tournaments--lots of them. These aren't necessarily easy to come by, and require a whole different level of dedication. You need a focused program of study. You spend a fair amount of time pursuing IM or GM norms while playing against other professional-level players. All this (I would assume) "builds character" and results in a far better-rounded player than any amateur.

Kramnik: You know, sometimes I think I have understood a position, but after a couple of years I realize that I have understood nothing. That is what is so mysterious and fascinating about chess. You have a board with 64 squares, and it is so deep that not even ten Kramniks can know which is the best move. Sometimes you simply feel lost. You cannot feel the ground.

Good points by macuga. I suspect very few people can reach 2400 on pure ability (and those that do will usually go much higher), so we can expect players at this level to have studied the game seriously, removed the obvious weaknesses from their play and acquired considerable "street wisdom".

I like playing through games at this level as well. I found a magazine in Germany called Rochade, which features lots of games from IM tournaments and the less glamorous encounters in the Bundesliga. It was a refreshing change from superGM games - although those certainly have their place - but I haven't found anywhere local that sells it.

Everyone - or at least, everyone who's honest with themselves - seems to think they're a patzer compared to players a couple of levels above them. I remember reading of a 2600 GM, trying to get into the top 100, who complained he had no real talent for the game!

Then again, compared to an Anand or a Capablanca, who does?


If there really is some glass ceiling separating 2200s and 2400s, you are not the only one with that opinion. Funny enough, it was Battseteg's husband, Enkhbat (can't remember his last name), who told me that in his opinion anyone could become a 2300. He something like, "It's easy: just play good solid moves and don't drop pieces." Sounds funny to a B-class player like myself, but he was sincere! So, like you, he was saying that it does require something extra, something different, to enter the 2400-2500 range.

One the other hand, even if that is true, it is without question that an expert can, in general, attack, defend, and understand positions better than I can. When I watch their games I can put myself in their shoes knowing that they will still make mistakes, but I will at least have a better chance of understanding their choices. If I can understand what they are thinking, then it has a better chance of helping my own problem solving--including avoiding their fatal mistakes. I dunno, for me, I find more hope looking just a few rungs ahead than looking over the next 100 rungs. Besides, games between experts and 2200s have give and take; one theoretical mistake does not cause a resignation on move 25. There still is a sense of blood, sweat, and tears--just the way I like my chess!

What is this "usual humbug about women-only events" ??

I have been a big fan of Elizabeth Vicary ever since her blogging at last year's U.S. championship.

Also impressed with the success of the high school students coached by her.

Good luck to Elizabeth this year!

Liz, you are correct in that enthusiasm for the game of chess as a competitive pursuit is culture-specific, and that this might contribute to a child's desire to become good at the game. However, I do consider that the effects of such things are blunted when children are raised in a society that espouses different priorities. As we get older, the influence of our parents decreases, while the peer effect increases, so maybe there is a threshold beyond which cultural ideology does not lead to the expected endpoints outside of native environments. (Of course, ethnic enclaves do much to preserve native environments and therefore may push this threshold further.)

Moreover, it takes more than enthusiasm to develop talent on level with many of the young chess players in the U.S., so that it might be suspect to argue that Alex Lenderman developed his abilities because of his ethnic background while a Robert Hess just "happened". At some points, commonalities between their experiences should be answered for. The question is far from resolved outright in my mind, though, so I am interested in hearing your take on the relationship between culture-specific motivation and performance.

On other notes, I am glad to read of your successes, both as a scholar (your masters thesis is quite interesting) and in the chess world (as a player and coach). Take a moment to be proud of yourself, and keep up the great work, Liz!



P.S.(!): You don't come off as obnoxious and self-serving to me; you come across as intellectually engaging, which is nothing to apologize for. :-)

Liz: I thought it was clear that I was NOT expressing my usual antipathy toward women-only events in this case. National championships are a well-established tradition and are largely outside my narrow set of negatives about such events.

Since else someone asked, my feelings can be roughly summarized this way:

1) Affirmative action is necessary and good. Making the game attractive to groups that don't currently play chess requires special attention. So offering special conditions for women such as prizes, lower fees, etc. makes sense. In some cases women-only events fall into this category as well, especially for juniors.

2) Professional women-only events perpetuate a lower standard of play for women. (In pernicious perception and reality.) Playing weaker competition slows or completely halts improvement. Girls end up playing half their games against relatively weak opposition compared to their male counterparts and this often continues beyond their critical junior years. Being bothered by this assumes that becoming a higher-rated player is the main goal of a chess professional, which is not necessarily the case for everyone. Having a fulfilling life in chess is not all about rating, something fans tend to be unaware of.

3) Women's titles are ridiculous and perpetuate both the reality and the myths of women being innately weaker players than men. I don't blame women for accepting them since they can mean income and other positives. Nor do I blame women for playing in women-only events. They have no obligation to sacrifice their wellbeing for my theories or for a greater good that may not even exist.

4) Combining the above, I would like to see more ways to promote female participation without limiting the strength of their opposition. The money that goes into women-only events could go to training or subsidy of entry fees. Or to mixed events with other bonuses for women to participate. I believe there was a Berry tournament along these lines earlier this year.

This is why I liked having the women's championship take place inside the overall championship. Yes, it was often rather arbitrary, as the middle of a swiss tournament tends to be. But that seemed fair enough since it's an affirmative action title and the strength of opposition compensated in my view. The title of "strongest woman chessplayer in the US/world/wherever" is not something we should be focusing on, which is the crux of my thoughts in general. In the long run I think it's harmful.

There are many examples in both directions, but chess is somewhat unique in being an objective, competitive sport. Awards for best female architect or for female leaders in business or technology reward and inspire within a minority group facing adversity on a cultural level. But in something like chess it's hard for it not to come off like condescension, which is how many people take it both inside and outside the chess world. (Try saying "women's champion" to a non-chess friend. Depends on your friends, I suppose, but in my case it always draws an immediate, "why is there a women's champion?") Business women aren't going to see themselves as only competing against other women in business. But in chess that's a real potential consequence. Not so much a glass ceiling as an artificially low one.

This becomes a factor for any woman who crosses the 2300 level. At that point it's almost impossible for her to face any women providing that 200-point learning curve Jon talks about above. At 2400 or 2500 she will outrate almost all of her opponents, as we see with Hou Yifan already. She just mauled the competition in two women-only events, but what did she learn? She could probably reach 2600 on a steady diet of crushing 2400-avg. fields, but even that is unlikely. That's not even an option for men, note. You don't get to keep playing class opposition, but it happens to strong women all the time.

Are you against things like scholastic championships and state championships too?

Sure, those kids who win a scholastic championship might be better off just being a needle in the World Open haystack, as far as having a chance to improve their chess by losing to a GM in round 1 or 3. Hint - in a swiss system tmt, the chance of a 2300 player getting more than one game vs. 2500+ is almost nill.

And why bother having any state championship somewhere like my state of Virginia, where at best you might have a couple national masters (mid-2300s) winning the thing - they'd be better off at the world open too, on your view, than by getting their names on a trophy next to Macon Shibut or Rusty Potter. Hint - we don't all live in NY or California, and the top ten at the Va State Championship probably averaged 2100, and included two young women.... hmmm.


Elizabeth Vicary: “Sounds retarded, ok true, but popularity is self-perpetuating, anyway, point is that coming from a family in which chess is considered a high status activity is probably a help to the developing player. And thus children of Soviet immigrants have more motivation, incentive to play than children of American parents.

I think this is very true. I’ve always considered professional chess an Eastern European sport whose heights were as a state sponsored propaganda tool by the former Soviet Union. Because of this, its importance in the USSR was disproportionate to what it could achieve on its own elsewhere – chess could literally make you a Somebody in a system where 99.9999% of people were destined to be Nobodies. And with very few avenues for achieving Somebody status in a closed society with closed markets, the obsession with chess in the Soviet Bloc was understandable. This completely overblown status of chess in that geographical location slowly defused to neighboring countries mostly under USSR control, but notice that another, very close (geographically) country was able to completely ignore chess (until recently) because it was seen as a foreigner’s game that would pollute its own closed society (China). This shows that chess’ importance as an indicator of an advanced society (the propaganda viewpoint) was by no means universal. It further points out the artificial nature of its status in that part of the world.

In Western, capitalistic societies, there are no state-sanctioned propaganda tools (yeah, I’m smirking at that too, after all Bush did declare an end to major operations in Iraq years ago, but you get my point) that can selectively chosen to be made it a national source of pride artificially because that game (or event or personality) must live or die by its own economic merits. Chess has proven over and over again that it is not viable as an economic entity in free market societies, and thus the reason why I agree with Elizabeth that its status in the West is very tarnished. It is now, as exemplified by the US Championships, mainly funded like an cultural arts program – rich, individual sponsors who know they are taking an economic loss but fund chess out of passion. People who pursue chess as a profession are seen as members of society who have ‘given up’ from the purely capitalistic viewpoint. This leads to problems in finding attractive mating partners weaned on the capitalistic viewpoint, loans from financial institutions, reliable employment, and other stigmas that make you an outcast. Like any artist, professional chessplayers suffer for their choice.

I actually think that, as China and Eastern Europe quickly evolve into a more Western approach to economics, the importance of chess in succeeding generations will decline. The exception might be Russia, since the game has such a rich history and tradition there, probably enough to survive through momentum alone. The rise in popularity of Chess in China in the past few years is mainly due to that nation’s desire to become a more visible, dominant player on the world stage, and thus has a propaganda tint to it. After the Beijing Olympics and its continued rise as an economic powerhouse, they will pull the plug on state-sponsored chess players there too.

Top X reasons I am rooting for Elizabeth Vicary in this year’s US Women’s Championship:

1) The one factor I admire in someone more than anything else – Intellectual Honesty above all, a person of science. Some EV quotes that made me an instant EV fan:

“As to perpetuating stereotypes, yes, of course it’s a concern. I’m not happy, as a woman, to be saying I might be inherently less talented than the guy sitting across from me, although I’m also not convinced that the belief is inherently anti-feminist. But I don’t think it’s acceptable to ignore science, and while the relationship between three-dimensional rotation and chess calculation is pure speculation by me, the male advantage in 3D mental rotation is not.”

“So there’s one moment where the seven Republican nominees were asked to indicate by show of hands who doesn’t believe in evolution. The moderator asks the question and there’s this long pause, then three of them, Huckabee, Tancredo, and Brownback, raise their hands. One of them even says something like “I don’t see how that’s relevant. I’m running for President, not for the School Board.” I’m not sure if he’s implying that education is apolitical or just thinks it’s unfair to ask such a hard question. And I’m watching, thinking, “These people have lost their minds.” It’s like they believe in whatever version of reality they feel like. What I’m trying to say is I think it’s unacceptable to ignore science just because it doesn’t fit in with your personal agenda.”

2) Her work. I remember the 2006 US Championship blogs where she was constantly giving shout-outs to her students. I thought she was just some teacher, knowing nothing about what she taught. I then read about her in the “Kings of New York” book that detailed her life and her classes and how unique her program is in the US School system. That she does it in a public school and the way she deals with her students in the book and looks after them won my admiration. There is a passage where some of her former students go over to her house just to say hello, find out she wasn’t home, and break in just so they could let her know they were there. That type of reaction, especially from children, cannot come from anything other than genuine love and admiration. It was really touching to read it, and told me a lot about EV’s character and the lasting impact she has on these children’s lives.

3) Seems like a really fun girl with a good sense of humor. She reads The Onion, and, again from the 2006 US ChampBlogs, she seems to like to make challenge/bets on random things – a person after my own heart. I remember some kind of swimming challenge and some kind of Capitals of the world challenge and other bits of playfulness (and gambling opportunities). I remember, when we were all voting for best US Champblogger, placing her high up on my list just because her blog entries where always filled with whimsy and not just “I played this move and he played that move” droning. I liked her for that even before I had any idea about her from the “Kings of New York” book.

4) Smartie – the topic of her thesis work is no light-weight fluff, and in fact is something I am greatly interested in personally – cognition, gender, competition effects on behavior, information processing. Plays chess and competitive games that mark her intellect. Anyone know if she plays poker? If so, she’d be the type I’d be willing to trade my poker secrets in exchange for hers, because I like her science approach and analytical ability enough that I’m sure it would be worthwhile. Also, she’s not from Canada (kidding, I’m just kidding…).

5) Hottie - http://beta.uschess.org/frontend/news_7_428.php

tjallen: Why would I be against those things? Age, geography, and nationality are not the same as race, gender, and religion. Nobody says there is no point in having a national championship because none of the players are as strong as the world champion. You could make the same silly equation regarding the club championship.

An club/school/state/national championship is not going to limit the development of its participants. Plus, those are based on natural boundaries of time and access that apply by default. (You normally play most of your games against people from your school/club, etc. anyway. But yes, you will be weaker than someone who is regularly finding stronger competition elsewhere.) As for juniors, no, it wouldn't make much sense for Carlsen to participate in the world under-18 or for Judit Polgar to play in the women's world championship.

I'm far from a rating absolutist, however. There is plenty of room for all sorts of "closed" events segregated by profession, age, nationality, whatever you like. It's when it's done on such sweeping grounds (half the world's population in this case) and allowed to develop into a self-sustaining culture that affirmative action can become destructive. (titles, Olympiads, world championships) The famous "soft bigotry of low expectations." You have to slowly remove the training wheels. The system that became entrenched in the 70's is obsolete in the post-Polgar era. Dump women's titles and the women's world championship and find modern ways to encourage more women to take up -- and stay with -- the game. In this era most women non-chess players (that I know well enough to have discussed this!) are simply offended and/or confused by the concept of a "woman grandmaster".

As I said above, I don't expect anyone to sacrifice their earnings, or the pleasure of playing in these events, for some abstract cause, even if they agree with the theory. Institutional change, slow and non-damaging to the players, is what is required. New conditions for women players at big opens is a good place to start. First, get them to show up, and not just the stronger ones. For example, money could go to free or heavily subsidized entry fees and club memberships. Teaching gigs are another way. Increasing the base would do more for more than creating an artificially successful, and tiny, class of semi-professional players.

I don't know, Mig, you sound to me like you are contradicting yourself 3-4 times in the above comments. Let's set out some points.

Suppose there is a General Rule of Rapid Improvement of Chess Rating, which says something like the best way to improve your chess ability rapidly is to regularly play (and lose to) players rated a couple hundred points above you.

(I actually wonder if this Rule is true, and tested statistically, but I believe you accept it, and I am willing to accept it as a point of argument.)

I believe we can agree that this rule is universal, and should apply equally to men, women, juniors, seniors, blacks, whites, Christians and atheists, Africans and Virginians, too.

If the rule is true for everyone, and if everyone has the goal of improving as rapidly as possible (do they?), then everyone should seek to play in tournaments where those conditions can be met. So far, we agree, I think.

But, it is only those players who are topping out of a closed group, who would benefit from breaking out of that group. So of course, people like Hou, who has run out of 200 point plus competition from the group of women, or Carlson, who has run out of under 18 year old competition, benefit from breaking out. But, women rated below what, 2100, and 18 year olds rated under about 2400, can still find plenty of 200 point competition in their narrower or closed group to lose to and learn from.

Thus, for all except the best in a group, there is no reason to deny them the chances to play in more narrower or closed groups, whether by race, gender, nationality, locality, age, hair color, whatever, it's all the same. Why should a woman rated 1900-2100 avoid playing in a women's tournament, when there are plenty of 200 point up opponents? They are not hurt by any bigotry of low expectations, as they find plenty of players to instructively lose to. Why avoid making tournaments for women, when there are only a few a the top who fail to benefit (in the sense of learning), and they will benefit by winning the tournament prize. It seems to me that only a narrow few players who are rapidly rising and topping out of their group, who would benefit from playing in completely open tournaments. Everyone else finds plenty of players to lose instructively to.

(I sure have no trouble finding opponents to lose to!)


I make the point several times that rating isn't everything for everyone. I'm talking about getting more women to play, not just creating stronger female players. More strong players will lead to more GMs, more publicity, and more women playing. One Polgar is worth a lot. A bunch of them would be a major step.

Your group idea is based on everyone having the ability to travel and play without limit, which isn't the case. Girls playing only other girls in school will run out of strong opposition faster than if they also played boys. They don't have to be 2500 for this to happen. A 2300 woman in the US has three or four stronger female opponents on the continent. It's about always playing the strongest available opposition and improving relative to your peers. It's not enough to say that women can get better playing other women. It's that they won't improve AS MUCH AS men who are playing everyone.

And yes, I'm talking professionals, which is the only place this discussion is really relevant. It's those ones at the top you mention I'm concerned about. I don't doubt similar effects at lower levels too, but the super-talents will still be found. It's what happens to them when they start to reach the top 100 or so women that concerns me. An up-and-coming 2400 needs to be playing 2500's and 2600's, not getting a steady diet of 2200-2400's.

Case in point, our Hou Yifan. In all her games from 2006-07, age 12-13, she has outrated her opponents by an average of over 30 points. Over half of her events were women-only. This is a disaster! 20% of her games in that period have been against players 2500+. (She's been over that the entire time.) Meanwhile, Magnus Carlsen at around the same age, looking at all his games from 2004-05, was lower rated than his opponents by about the same amount. 65% of his opponents were over 2500. There were a few weak Norwegian events and he was a high seed at Corus C. No doubt he's had rare opportunities, but he wasn't playing 20+ games a year against significantly weaker opposition. (More to the point, not entering events where it was known in advance that would be the case.) Or take Katerina Lahno, who is a little older than Carlsen. Same time period, her opponents were 32 points lower than her. Women's Olympiad, FIDE women's KO, Accentus Ladies, etc.

"Case in point, our Hou Yifan. In all her games from 2006-07, age 12-13, she has outrated her opponents by an average of over 30 points. Over half of her events were women-only. This is a disaster!"

C'mon, Mig: Hou Yifan needs to play in the Women's Chess events because it is clearly in the best interest of the Chinese authorities (in the chess federation) for her to do so! In order to win Women's titles, she needs to compete in Women only events. Obviously--as was thecase with the "Soviet School of Chess", the Chinese government is the one which pays the piper (on behalf of Hou, by footing the bill for her intensive -- and expensive --training), and so gets to call the tunes. Hou can contribute to the glorification of Chinese society NOW, by being a key component in ensuring that in the realm of chess, the Chinese Women are successful, even dominant, in both team and individual competitions. The federation can opt to reap benefits from the Hou investment now, or they can defer the exploitation of Hou in the hope that, by slowly nurturing her chess skill, she will develop into an elite level player some 10 years hence. That's a speculative venture: Even with Mig managing Hou's career, she may not pan out in the end. On the other hand, it is also possible that having Hou play a relatively weak field of (Women) opponents will not necessarily be detrimental to her development, nor prevent her from realizing her potential.
The Polgar model (of eschewing Women only events) has been quite successful...for the Polgars. It is logical, but should it be the new dogma?

I'm not unaware of the reasons behind it, I'm only talking about the situation and its likely repercussions. Such exploitation is the norm. The Hungarian federation wanted the Polgars on the women's team because it meant medals, even when Judit was the Hungarian champion. They would much rather see her scoring 12/12 against 2400 opposition than making 8/12 against 2650's. (She finally said, "men's team or no team.") That's not a trivial choice to make, especially if the former can be more lucrative as well as obviously much easier.

By "disaster" I meant for her long-term development and, by extension, that of women in chess as professionals. Another few Judits would have a big impact and broadening the reach of the professional (and amateur, most likely) game with women worldwide. Another hundred Stefanovas will not, no disrespect to her intended. I dream of Hou Yifan becoming the Yao Ming of women in sports in China, but that may be one of the things the Chinese authorities fear. While increasingly individualistic, they don't really like the superstar ethos. The "I am but a cog in the great and powerful machine" line still seems to be the norm.

We have the Polgar model, which worked, and the everybody-else model, which hasn't. It's not conclusive, but saying that playing stronger competition is better for your development isn't exactly radical. A 13-year-old prodigy should not be playing down.

Hey, thanks for the super-kind words, Stern and Maliq. They completely made my day. Really, my whole week.

Mig-- Doing away with women's titles seems reasonable, but the women's world championship? That's hardcore. Surely this event is just good for chess in general from a spectator/
sporting/publicity perspective. Aren't you even slightly curious who the strongest woman in the world or US is? (OK, at the moment it's obviously Polgar, but what if in 3 years it isn't obvious? Don't you want to see the 12 game classical time control Hou Yifan-Polgar match? I sure do.)

Which brings me to an idea-- how about a poll / betting odds on the US women's championship? Like Greg had on his US Chess League site. Personally, my money's on Chimi.

Hi Mig,
so we both also agree with the dictum about "the wider the base of the player pyramid, the higher the peak." We both read A. Elo's book.

But I thought that was the very point of having women's tournaments - more women would be encouraged to play if the "sex" component were removed. Women have complained that in mixed tournaments, male opponents show such poor sportsmanship (such as, "She distracted me by touching her breasts!") and rarely did they receive the normal, "You played well." Other women complained about opponents hitting on them, staring at them, and so on. Having women's tournaments was supposed to eliminate that factor, and encourage more women to play.

Perhaps this is where we disagree. Perhaps you think having women's tournaments does not encourage wider participation by women. I don't know whether that is true or not. By analogy, tournament directors do believe that having class tournaments and class prizes does increase participation, and I don't see why that would not be true for women, too.


I once wandered into a women's event in Chicago.

EVERTONE showed up on time. When the tournament director asked everyone to be quiet so he could make an announcement, EVERYONE STOPPED TALKING!!! NO ONE complained about her pairing. No one wore horribly mismatched clothing that had been worn five days in a row. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself.


Good luck at the tournament. If you get a chance to talk to Battsetseg, tell her that her old English teacher from Mongolia says "hi".

Can anyone explain how the 10 participants were selected for this event?

It is a USCF responsibility to run a woman's championship of the USA, so I assume they had final say over the list.

The top 10 female players on the May rating list, who met the eligibility requirements (such as activity), were invited to the tournament.

As players declined their invitations, other players were invited in rating order until 10 players accepted.

Mig wrote:

"By 'disaster' I meant for her long-term development and, by extension, that of women in chess as professionals."

Given the almost non-existance of women-only tournaments with meaningful monetary prizes, I think the use of the word "professional" to describe some women players is highly dubious.

"Another few Judits would have a big impact and broadening the reach of the professional (and amateur, most likely) game with women worldwide. Another hundred Stefanovas will not, no disrespect to her intended. "

I disagree. The above implies that Judith's impact is based on her playing against men only, which is absolutely false. Her impact comes from being a world-class (as in "top 15") GM. To support my point, I'll substitute her name in your example with another "only-male-opponents" player: her older sister Sofia.

Your argument thus becomes:

"Another few Sofia Polgars would have a big impact and broadening the reach of the professional (and amateur, most likely) game with women worldwide. Another hundred Stefanovas will not, no disrespect to her intended."

I don't think the above statement sounds very convincing.

In fact, it could be argued that, were it not for Susan's achievements in women-only events, the whole "Polgar Experiment" would not have gained as much notoriety. Take away her achievements in women-only events, and Susan instantly becomes another run-of-the-mill strong, but not world-class GM, not different from Salov, Kaidanov, Benjamin, Georgiev, Ivkov, Christiansen, Nogueras, Browne, Speelman, etc., etc.

Out of the three Polgars, the only real GENDERLESS success is Judith.

Interesting conversation. I've gone round and round with others about these topics and gotten my head bashed in more than once, but I admit I'm a wild-eyed radical who wants to see women earn as much in their championships as the guys make in theirs. Okay - I see the stones getting ready to be flung at my head...

All kidding aside, Chablis and Glickman's study says, basically, that if the "critical mass" of female players is reached, there will be just as many female GM's and IM's and top level players, etc. as among the guys who, by sheer numbers, presently dominate the game. The problem, of course, is getting up to that "critical mass" of female players. I've no idea, frankly, how this might be accomplished in ways that don't end up insulting someone or other!

Or even if it's desirable. I mean - let's face it - being a professional chessplayer in the USA for the most part means struggling to make ends meet and a life constantly on the road, moving from event to event vying for mostly puny prize money with other equally hungry players who are also trying to pay rent and buy a new pair of shoes once a year. I sure wouldn't want any kid of mine to make THAT a career choice!

So, I'm really torn. Ideally, yeah, there should be no different treatment of players only because of gender. I worked my way through law school and busted my butt, not expecting and not receiving any special treatment because of my gender (female) (the thought never even occurred), and it bugs the heck out of me to hear so much bitching and moaning about how we are the poor downtrodden minority, etc. etc. Like - grow a tougher skin, woman!

On the other hand, we (the collective we) know, based on study after study, our own personal experiences and "anecdotal" evidence, that girls and boys are socialized differently in the USA (and elsewhere), so if we deem it a good thing for more females to become chessplayers and STAY chessplayers at the same rates as males, we've got to come up with some ways/methods/inducements to make this a reality.

Change the socialization paradigm - well, that may take another 20 years or so, who knows? I'm no social scientist. Maybe some of you have ideas about what to do/try. Maybe it will just happen on its own through the slow slog of social change. When I started law school in 1981, there were about 25% women in my class, and the school patted itself on its back for being so "progressive." Today we're churning out about equal numbers of female and male lawyers from law schools all across the country. Well, maybe some of you don't think that's really progress :) I CAN tell you this - the lure of making a decent living is a power motivator - and if chess can attract sufficient sponsorship so that our good players (not just the super-elite over 2700 players) can make say $50,000-$70,000 a year, you will see more female players stay in the game.

ivh "In fact, it could be argued that, were it not for Susan's achievements in women-only events, the whole "Polgar Experiment" would not have gained as much notoriety. Take away her achievements in women-only events, and Susan instantly becomes another run-of-the-mill strong, but not world-class GM, not different from Salov, Kaidanov, Benjamin, Georgiev, Ivkov, Christiansen, Nogueras, Browne, Speelman, etc., etc."

Come on- you've got some strange levels of comparison there. Speelman and Salov got deep into the candidates' cycle and were top 5 in the rating list. Even Judit has never got that far. Susan would never have had a hope in hell of qualifying.

As an aside, the reason she did so well in Women only events was that she played most of her early chess in open events - until she was out-rating her female peers (except Judit).

Posted by: irv at July 9, 2007 10:30

Take away her achievements in women-only events, and Susan instantly becomes another run-of-the-mill strong, but not world-class GM, not different from Salov, Kaidanov, Benjamin, Georgiev, Ivkov, Christiansen, Nogueras, Browne, Speelman, etc., etc.


Why categorize all of these names into one bunch? While Kaidanov, Benjamin and Christiansen may be "run-of-the-mill" strong GMs, the other names actually WERE world class GMs: Salov was #3-4 in the world several times, and was a regular top 10 player. Speelman was a regular top 10 player in the 80s.

So actually, if Susan WAS equal to Salov, for instance, she would be another Judit. Because Judit has never reached #3 or #4 position in the world. Salov has.

These are the facts. Let's not mangle them to prove points.

Al and Robert:

Correction acknowledged. I do, however, stand by my initial position:

"In fact, it could be argued that, were it not for Susan's achievements in women-only events, the whole "Polgar Experiment" would not have gained as much notoriety. Take away her achievements in women-only events, and Susan instantly becomes another run-of-the-mill strong, but not world-class GM, not different from Kaidanov, Benjamin, Ivkov, Christiansen, Nogueras, Browne, etc., etc."

That was the real point of my post. I, in no way, meant to belittle those GM's - it is a great ahievement (at leat in my opinion) to be a strong GM. But it is necessary to compare Susal Polgar with some real names in order to make my point clear.

Overall championship, average prize per player: $65,000/36) = $1,805.55

Women's Championship, average prize per player: ($25,000/10) = $2,500

About half of the U.S. overall championship participants left the tournament losing money or breaking even. These are 2400, 2500 rated players, even some grandmasters; people who have worked hard at chess. Every single player in the women's championship, even those rated 2100, will make a profit (and quite a nice one too, considering also that the tournament is shorter so there is less of a hotel expense). Does this seem right to you? Does it seem fair that someone can make a living at something because of their gender?

Nice point lifeain'tfair. But on the other hand, it's not so bad for 2200 women to play one tournament a year where they have positive expectation. 2200 can't earn anything in other tournaments(outside of teaching). Meanwhile, a guy like Shabalov can make $80,000 from tournaments if he has a hot year. Plus this year was an anomoly in the US championship and they were lucky to do anything at all. All in all, I know (top) pro-players in the US aren't rich, but I don't get the sense that they really suffer contrary to everyone's announcements. Rather, I get the sense that they get "softer" from making draws with each other and beating weak guys that when they play in Europe, they play badly. Probably an illusion.

'Even' Larry C was a run-of-the-mill GM who was able to win Linares. That's not so very run-of-the-mill.

This is not just a one time thing. First of all, for a 2400 female player (or even 2300) it is a nice prize every single year. Typically such a female player, during the last 7 years, has been making an average of lets say 8-10 thousand dollars a year from the af4c championships. Male players of that level were very lucky to even qualify for those tournaments, and even if they got more points in it they would get less money.

But it is not just one tournament a year. Just this year there were tournaments in oklahoma that simply handed out money for being female. In a relatively small tournament for nothing, 1800 fide female players got better conditions than anyone in the us championship. It was organized by the exact same sponsors. There was the tournament in Gibraltar. And there are better opportunities to teach than any male player of a similar level can get. Or do simuls. Now there is a "monroi grand prix" also. And the olympiads, and the world championships. And WGMs paid less than half as much to play in the world open than IMs did (which is incidentally a higher title).

It is no joke that 2300-2400 women can make a good living at chess, while male players of that level need to find another profession. Maybe Shabalov can make 80,000 on a good year. But a female player of his level would be making three times that, from special appearances, higher appearance fees, special women's tournaments IN ADDITION to the tournaments shabba now wins. Considering that Judit does not compete for the women's world championship, a 2640 female could expect to win it almost constantly. That has to be a nice bit of money, right?

Is it true, DP, that you are saying Shabalov is lucky to be making more money than 2200 players? He makes more money, and deserves to, because he is better. If a male 2200 never can go into a tournament with a positive expectation, why should a female 2200? Especially if it is not just one tournament a year.

Most GMs over 2600 are doing ok, i think (or at least they could be). I am talking about the male equivalents to the top female players. And by the way, the average 2500 IM/GM DOES NOT play against a higher average of opposition than a female player of that level. Unless he is 14 years old, and being placed in elite round robins to 'test him' he is playing against an average of 2300-2400 players, in order to make a living.

Youcangive, your argument is greatly flawed. First of all, nobody is making a living off of a couple of tournaments per year, male or female, unless that person is an elite performer. Saying "it is not just one tournament per year" is quite a way of avoiding the fact that there is no real difference between succeeding in one such tournament or five of them. (If somebody is living off of $10,000 per year, this certainly is nothing to be envious of!)

In addition, your comparisons of a 2200 male vs. a 2200 female are way off base, because the path to that level simply offers less resistance for males than for females. There is much to deal with both at and away from the board that women have to contend with. Men don't think about these things because we don't experience them, and the fact that we don't experience them makes many men doubt that additional challenges exist for women at all. Understand that more goes into success in competition than mere talent, and that it is for this reason that achievements of women are notable when men who perform at a similar level go unnoticed; the influence of structure within chess is much different for men than for women.



wow, Maliq is awesome.

Sponsorship is not a payment for quality of services rendered in the form of optimum chess moves. The rewards for sponsorship are publicity (sometimes), creation of a competitive struggle, and encouragement of a hopefully worthwhile activity.

So a sponsor may well find more value in supporting chess played by 2300 women than 2600 men. Now Wimbledon tennis has equal prize funds for men and women - this may even be unfair to women because apparently they are creating more value in terms of advertising revenue and so on.

As for females getting better opportunities to teach, that is a money for services rendered issue. Female coaches are more in demand because they are less likely to be weird perverts than male players. This issue is very important to the parents who provide almost all the money for chess teaching.

DP: "Meanwhile, a guy like Shabalov can make $80,000 from tournaments if he has a hot year."

Since tournament results and prize pools are public record, care to point me to the year he came close to doing this? I don't know if he ever has, but I have my doubts. If so, it was a tail-end anomaly, surely far removed from the median. Enough of an anomaly (if it ever happened) that I'd give odds of +650 that Shabalov will not break 80k in prize money from chess tournaments in the US alone in any given year over the next 5 years for any bet amount up to $1000.

In evaluating a chess player's earning potential, the median yearly income and the length of time one can sustain that earn rate is of greatest importance. If you can show me one example of a chess player living and playing in the US earning $80,000 or more over 10 consecutive years from competition prize money alone, I will be shocked. I doubt even Nakamura will be able to do this. This is being generous in ignoring travel, hotel, meal and other costs that bite into just about every prize payout. $80,000 gross is hard enough, 80K net is surely a joke. Not to mention no health insurance, no 401K, no dental, no paid vacations or any other benefit from regular employment. So what happens to these pros when they hit their 40s? If you are going to choose some sport as your profession alone, you better be able to accumulate a lot of money in that short window where you are on top of the pile to make it worthwhile.

As far as who deserves chess money and who doesn't, in an economic structure of a rich patron propping up their charity of choice, be it Frank Berry or Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the Golden Rule applies. I've said it before, just because you are really good at something does not mean you are entitled to be paid for it. If you are seeking 'fairness', then try an activity that has enough demand that natural market forces can set the pay rate. Chess in the U.S. is not one of them.

Great comments from Maliq, gg & Stern. From an earnings potential point of view, the challenge is as it has always been ... securing continuing corporate sponsorship for professional chess events. Patron funded, and amateur player funded events, will never provide reliable & substantial earning opportunities for even the most highly skilled US based chess players.

Attracting sponsorship from major corporations will require a significant broadening of interest in elite chess competitions among the general public. Fans attract sponsors. And fans are attracted by the full entertainment package .. the best players, dramatic staging, fierce competition (short draws???), interesting personalities & background stories, etc.

Chris, great preview of the tournament at www.uswcc2007.com !

I wanted to respond to a few comments:

First of all, I agree you can't live on $10,000 a year. But that does not make it any less of an injustice. This is still a lot of money, especially for a professional chess player. So for one week of playing chess you can pay your rent for a year. Or you can take that money and use it to travel to all the elite tournaments you want, so you can improve your level by playing against better players (Mig seems to think that women-only events lower the level of female players--actually it gives them alot of money that they could use to go to good tournaments where they will play good players, an option that male players of that level do not have). For most male chess players (actually, most people in general) a sudden payment of $10,000 can change your life. Now imagine every year. And not just that, either.

Second, if sponsors decide they want to give money to people for being a woman, what is the difference between that and giving a job to someone because he is a man? Discrimination goes both ways. The sponsor thinks (maybe correctly, but it only shows the deeper problems in the overall society) that giving money to women gives them more advertising for what they spend, what is the difference between that and a CEO deciding to hire men because he thinks they are smarter? Or he thinks women are too moody to be good employees? Or what if a CEO doesn't like a certain race, thinks people of that race are more likely to be criminals, even if his belief is backed up by statistics? That is called discrimination. The only difference between "sponsoring" someone and "paying" someone is a legal one, not a moral one. Whenever you give someone a better life and better professional opportunities (and that is what giving money away is) because of their gender, race, etc--it is discrimination.

Third, exactly what additional challenges do female chess players experience in getting better in chess? Please enlighten me. Being treated like elites when male players of the same level are treated like dirt? Guilt for receiving more money as a 2200 than a GM gets? Unwanted attention? I hear unwanted attention alot. This is not just part of chess, this is in the world in general. But it also has two sides. Women may receive unwanted attention, but they also receive wanted attention. Men can complain that if they want a natural human relationship they have to put themselves out to be accepted or shot down (sometimes with legal consequences). That's not so pleasant either.

Anyway you try to spin it, giving money to someone because she is a woman is discrimination. Maybe sponsors do receive more advertising from women. But there are higher principles, which are usually defended in other fields, especially intellectual fields. The USCF may not give its own money for the US Championships, but it is the entity in charge, and is a non-profit national organization which charges dues to every chess player. It should uphold a higher principle than "pretty faces gives us more advertising". I would think it would uphold the idea that achieving something in chess gives you the right to earn more.

It's not a matter of spin. It's about goals. People spend money to achieve what they want. If that means a racially diverse college campus or workplace or a scholarship only for Catholics, that's just freedom in action, not discrimination. When it's public funds (state universities, etc) it's a public issue, as we recently saw yet again in the Supreme Court. But the myth of godlike objective merit is just that, a myth. Many universities have decided they provide all of their students with a better education when they have a diverse student body (ethnically, economically, etc.) that isn't selected purely on test scores, for example.

The USCF, and/or the sponsors of the event, have decided this even is a worthwhile use of funds. They think it meets certain goals or necessities. Hiring someone solely on gender is an entirely different thing by definition. That would mean there would be no discernible difference other than gender (or race, etc). The only goal would be discrimination. With the US WCh there are goals that they believe can be achieved with this money. Not everyone agrees with the theory that every nickel in chess should be distributed purely on the basis of results in open competitions.

As for challenges, being a tiny minority in any environment can be extremely uncomfortable. The simple fact that women make up such a small fraction of tournament chessplayers can make it a hostile environment. As in any such situation, active measures can be required to change it, if that is considered a desirable goal.

I'm not against giving money to female chess players. I said it could be given to them without having them face weaker competition. Instead of using the prizes from women's events to play in stronger events it would make more sense to directly subsidize their travel and expenses to those stronger events.

Your long names are screwing with my page formatting so I standardized them. Please pick one, or at least use shorter ones. Thanks.

Saying the reason for an injustice doesn't make it any less of an injustice. And it is an injustice that a woman of a certain level (lets just say 2400) can make a living from chess and a man cannot. Seriously, male and female chess professionals of the same level DO live in a completely different universe, economically, because of all the benefits I have described, and probably many more I am unaware of.

For every kind of discrimination, there is some reason. For every thing that happens, there is a cause. So the USCF, or certain sponsors, want there to be more women in chess. That is their goal. Or a sponsor wants to get more advertising for its money. That is why they practice discrimination. How is this different from a landlord not renting to black people, because they are more likely to be drug dealers? He has his goal. He would like to avoid problems with his property, which could cost him money. But this is prevented by law, because it is an injustice to be discriminated against by race.

How can you say that it is not an injustice if someone cannot find work or money in their profession because of their race or gender, whatever that might be?

Just saying "the sponsor can do what it wants with its money"; or "he who has the gold makes the rules" does not justify it. If that is the case, why have any discussion at all?

By the way, just throwing money at female players does not seem to be working to bring more women in to chess. It simply rewards the same people over and over, while creating hostility against them as well. The reasons there are not many women in chess are the same as there are not many women in other competetive, non-social activities.

Asking for the difference between the women's chess championship and not renting to black people is exactly backwards. Instead, explain how there is any similarity on any level. Apples and screwdrivers. Anti-discrimination laws are based on the theory that certain things - race, religion, gender - should be irrelevant in broad societal contexts, such as jobs or housing.

You seem to be saying that gender should be irrelevant in a chess (rating) context, but there is no reason that should be true. It's a sport with a governing body and federations and sponsors and all have their goals. Some events invite local players, or young players, or exciting players, or highly-rated players, etc. Some invite only women. This isn't discrimination in the pejorative sense at all. Women's events do not cost men anything, for one. Even if you could concoct a convoluted argument to say they did, there is an easy counterargument that bringing more women into the game will lead to better economic conditions for all in the long run. E.g. the WNBA is a money pit for the NBA, and that operating money could instead go into the pockets of NBA players and owners. But the NBA powers that be have decided that it's a worthwhile *investment* to subsidize the WNBA.

I could see this being tricky in the US if public funds were involved, especially with the activist conservative judges on the US Supreme Court these days rolling back Brown vs Board of Education. But as long as sponsors can sponsor what they like and as long as some organizations see something in chess other than rating, we will have such events.

As for economic justice, as I often say, chess doesn't owe anyone a living. Nor does accounting or waiting tables. If you can't do it well enough to make a living, you should consider doing something else. That someone who dedicates his life to chess and becomes a great player can't make a living at chess is tragic, but complaining about a few women's events is just scapegoating. It's also sitting in a boat full of starving people and complaining about the size of your crumbs.

A $50,000 odds game, between a chess player and a poker pro with more money than he knows what to do with. (But IM Greg Shahade, the chess player who gave rook odds, wasn't putting up his own money -- or winning the duffer's.)

See it written up here:

(maybe worth a thread, Mig?)

C, pnb: "A $50,000 odds game, between a chess player and a poker pro with more money than he knows what to do with. (But IM Greg Shahade, the chess player who gave rook odds, wasn't putting up his own money -- or winning the duffer's.)

See it written up here:

(maybe worth a thread, Mig?)"

I emailed this to Mig a day after it happened to see if he was interested in making a thread out of it. I think its worthy, but I didn't hear back from him. I'm probably in his spam filter by now.

You can read "Curtains'" view of the match here:


The 'duffer' is one of the more successful online poker players today, wins and loses more in a week than chess players can make in a lifetime. 50K is just a decent pot size in the 200/400 or 300/600 NL cash games.

Yes. Anti-discrimination rules in the public world exist because it is not right that someone should be denied a job or a house because of their race, gender, etc. This would unjustly give them a worse life, only because of this superficial characteristic, than someone who has equal (or weaker) qualifications, has worked equally (or less) as hard. I am saying that this is similar to what is happening in chess. As a male professional chess player I have a worse life than a female chess player with the same (or less) qualifications. Much worse.

If you want to say that two things are dissimilar, say what aspects make them so. Screwdrivers are metal and apples are organic. Screwdrivers are long and apples are round. Etc. I have explained the similarities pertaining to the label of discrimination.

You say it "isn't discrimination in the pejorative sense". Does this mean you agree it is discrimination any sense? If so, wouldn't those harmed by call it discrimination in a pejorative sense?

It is not true that the special benefits to women takes nothing from men. An example is the U.S. Championship. If the money for the women's championship were in the overall prize fund, players would have done better. The players who earned their spot based on their objective qualifications in chess, not based on their gender. Special women's prizes take away from the general prize fund. Better, higher-paying teaching jobs are given to female chess players because they are "celebrities" (i am talking chess camps, exhibitions, etc.)

Yes, there are some sponsors who would only give to women, but the point of writing is to change their mind, to change the general mindset that even gives rise to this idea.

The difference between what is happening with the female chess players and things like organizers inviting local players, juniors, exciting players, etc--is that everyone is a junior at some point. Everone has a locale. And everyone can try to play exciting chess (but that is part of the game, anyway, so I have no problem with organizers doing that. I don't claim it should all be about rating. I just think it should not be about gender!).

I think one would be justified in complaining if you are sitting on a boat of starving people eating crumbs, but a few people have a steak dinner they didn't earn.

"OK", where is this "steak dinner" that you speak of? It doesn't exist, man! NOBODY is getting rich playing tournaments, male or female. It is astounding to see statistics so irresponsibly thrown about as the one that spoke to "average take-home earnings", as though everybody in the tournament received a $2500 appearance fee every time she shows up at an event.

Wow @ your argument that women chess players are advantaged because not everybody has the opportunity to be a woman. This is akin to people arguing against scholarships for minorities because they don't have the option of being one. Here is my response to such outcries: Lament not having the chance to wear the structural disadvantages that subordinate groups face, and only then should anyone stop to consider your arguments about preferential treatment.



Maliq is correct. I once had someone comment that "suburban kids" never get to do some of the things that inner city kids get to do ... meetings with celebrities, funded slots in summer caps, etc. I reminded them that they were about to fly their own family, 2 parents + 2 kids, to Hawaii for a 10 day vacation. Every person from a disadvantaged background would gladly trade lifestyles, forgoing the occasional celebrity photo-op, for a better socio-economic environment.

Bottomline: Don't envy the circumstances that make the remediation necessary.

The pro-affirmative action folks are practicing a little sleight of hand here.

Not all black "kids" are poor. And not all females are disadvantaged, even in a chess sense. Jennifer Shahade grew up with a Senior Master for a father, and a future IM and national top-5 Juniors list member for an older brother. Yet she's been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the chess world's gender-based affirmative action.

In the present context, rp's concluding line, "Don't envy the circumstances that make the remediation necessary," sounds a little like the explanation of the Native American casino owner who had a bit part in one Sopranos episode shown during last week's 4th of July Sopranos marathon. (Tony S: "You don't look Indian." Casino owner, who calls himself "Chief" something-or-other: "Well, I didn't even know I was, until the Tribal Council made this opportunity available. Turns out, my grandmother was 1/4 Cherokee." I don't have the dialogue exactly, but it went something like that.)

Anon - The Sopranos is a fictionalized TV show. Have you ever talked to Native Americans, who grew up on reservations, about their experiences? Or African Americans, rich or poor, about their challenges? No sleight of hand ... you would not want their circumstances! You seem eager to apply the AA label, no doubt as a disparagement. When the same techniques of focused investments are used to address all kinds of other business or social challenges, we don't call those AA = we're just doing what it takes to be successful. Is having more women active in chess a desirable goal? Yes! Then do what it takes to make that happen.

It is always the technique of those who oppose remedies to cite the exceptions and say "Why should this person benefit?!" Outstanding job there, guy, asking about Jenn Shahade and using her situation as a proxy for the situations of the overwhelming majority of female chess players nationwide. First, I am not sure that you even are remotely aware of challenges that Jenn may have faced in her own climb up the rankings. Second, it is ridiculous to talk about a system that is designed to address structural disadvantage using anecdotal evidence of a case that is a CLEAR exception. I'll talk more about this later when I have the time, but I did want to immediately point out how a) expected and b) flawed your counter-arguments are.



The main problem with comparing female chess players to disadvantaged minorities in the 'real' world is that female chess players have never been discriminated against. Even going back to Vera Menchik, she was put in every supertourament of the day, although she did not measure up to the other players. There have never been tournaments that restricted entries to men, with the exception of some countries where women are discriminated against in every part of life.

I especially don't see how today's female players have it difficult being in the minority. I know some of them, and they seem to really enjoy the attention they get, and frequently use it to their monetary advantage.

The reason affirmative action has some justification in the real world is that those who have been discriminated against in the past have poorer parents as a result, giving them (the children) less opportunities. This justification has no bearing on female chess players at all. If women were born poor as a result of past discrimination, then they would not have as much money for chess training, tournaments, etc. But women are not born poor, even if women were discriminated against in the past. So justification for affirmative action does not apply here.

Maliq, the amount of extra money that female players make may seem like small change to you, but it is not to the majority of male chess players.

I doubt any of you would like it if you were consistently denied opportunities to earn a living because of your race or gender, whatever it might be. Put yourself in another's shoes. Imagine you have worked hard at something, and the rewards are instead heaped on another because of their race or gender, meaning that you cannot do what you love to make a living. And imagine this gives you no other options, because this is what you have spent your life doing.

Again, ok, point out to us where there is this abundance of female players making a living off of prize funds or recognize that your point is not a strong one. What you are talking about when you mention what it may seem like to "the majority of male chess players", you are speaking in terms of relative poverty vs. absolute poverty, and I submit to you that if an entire collective is living in absolute poverty, the category of "less poor" is downright irrelevant.

With regard to women chess players being recognized as minorities, you turn to mention of socioeconomic factors because that is a type of disadvantage that you can at least imagine; you can't perceive others. As a black male, let me assure you that the disadvantages that have limited life opportunities for racial minorities are far from exclusively socioeconomic in nature, and the same holds true for female chess players. The females who get into position to benefit somewhat from their playing strength are the ones who have made it through a male-dominated gauntlet in order to get that far. It is easy enough to say that women have never been discriminated against in chess, because people tend to cite only conditions that they can perceive and thereafter recognize as unfair as "discrimination". What we consider "the norm" never falls into this category, but it is precisely in this area that we must look in order to find the structural disadvantages that are being spoken of.




I fail to see what kind of gauntlet female players need to make it through to become of the "professional" level. You sit down and play. If you win, you move up. A female player is, in fact, more likely to be put into strong tournaments and given more opportunities. What kind of difficulties are you talking about? Obnoxious little boys picking on them in school chess clubs? Obnoxious little boys also pick on other little boys, probably more so than they pick on girls, which is not accepted even at a young age. If you are imagining some kind of male circle-jerk grandmaster club, the fact is female players have more access to that as well, if they want (not that it is of any benefit).

The number of female players making a better living from chess is not relevant. Arguing about how much extra money is too much is silly. Any amount is still discrimination. I can tell you that the winner of the US Women's championship will probably make more in that one weekend than a male player of her strength will make in prizes in an entire year.

I would think that as a black male you would be acutely aware how angering it is to see someone awarded with a better life as a result of a characteristic like race or gender. It really does not matter if the people discriminated against are the majority or minority in a society. There are situations in the world where a minority race has exploited and discriminated against the majority.

By no means do I think that this injustice in the chess world is the worst that is going on in the overall world today. But I am a chess player, and it acutely affects my life.

Women-only tournaments and women's prizes in chess are to recognize the top women players in the sport. They have nothing to do with affirmative action.

Wimbledon women's tennis is not there for affirmative action until women can play against men.

Chess is primarily mental rather than phsysical, but it is not necessarily the case that for every such activity men and women, absent socialization and discrimination, can get the same results.

This is a long one - sorry if it puts you to sleep.

Some recent statements by OK:

“Female chess players have never been discriminated against” – you surely must have heard about Susan Polgar being denied the opportunity to play in the zonal for the World Chess Championship because she was a woman. You might also want to read Maria Ivanka’s “Silver Queen” – an enlightening look at chess under the old Soviet system, under which even the most talented chessplayers of the time were kept in the “women’s chess ghetto” simply by virtue of their sex and denied opportunities to compete against male chessplayers.

“Vera Menchik, she was put in every supertourament of the day, although she did not measure up to the other players” – I believe Vera was, according to today’s standards, about a 2200 player. What were the ratings of the top GMs of her day? 2600? 2500? Whatever they were, Menchik defeated several of the top male players of her time. What is your record against the top male players of our day, hmmmm?

As for Menchik being invited to EVERY supertournament, please provide us with a comprehensive list of all of those supertournaments to which you allude, and then we’ll check the listings (perhaps Mr. Winter can assist) and see if Menchik played at each of them. One of your arguments is that if women want to play chess, they should play against men and take their lumps. Well, Vera Menchik tried to play according to YOUR RULES – back in a day when it was even more difficult than now for women to do so, and yet she did okay – better than okay in many instances. And yet you’re bitching about what she did. That’s a hypocritical double-standard.

“If women were born poor as a result of past discrimination, then they would not have as much money for chess training, tournaments, etc. But women are not born poor, even if women were discriminated against in the past.” Hmmmm, let’s see if I have this straight according to your thinking. A poor family has four children, two boys and two girls. The boys born into this family are poor because of prior historical discrimination against the family’s progenitors (I assume you were thinking of a racial minority in your example). Their two sisters, though, are NOT poor, because “women are not born poor.” Clear as mud to me.

“The amount of extra money that female players make may seem like small change to you, but it is not to the majority of male chess players.” And what is this extra money that female chessplayers are making? You are arguing from a false premise. You are assuming that if there were NO WOMEN CHESSPLAYERS, then any money “earmarked” for prizes for women players would automatically flow into the prize fund for male players. On what do you base this assumption? Sponsors of chess events, particularly of women’s chess events, do so for a reason. Remove the reason for the sponsorship, it does not automatically follow that those dollars would flow to male chessplayers.

Many of your prior comments have led me to believe that you had in mind particularly the prizes that women chessplayers have won in the U.S. Chess Championships under the sponsorship of AF4C, when the total prizes were $250,000 or greater annually. During that period (2002-2006), top prize for the women’s chess champion was FIFTY PERCENT of what the overall champion (always a male) won. That never seemed particularly FAIR to me, since the female champion’s ELO was NEVER FIFTY PERCENT of the overall champion’s ELO. So why was her victory only worth FIFTY PERCENT of the male winner’s prize? From a purely “what’s fair” point of view, that doesn’t seem to make much sense, now, does it?

Regarding your general premise that U.S. women chessplayers are raking in the cash because of their “privileged position” of being a small minority simply by participating in a few events each year, I offer as counter evidence Exhibit A, prizes awarded in the recently concluded World Open:

Open (92 registered players):

All of these players split a pot of combined prizes for the top because they finished tied for 6.5.
GM Hikaru Nakamura (USA 2738) 6.5 $5102.12
GM Sandipan Chanda (IND 2719) 6.5 $5102.12
GM Leonid G Yudasin (ISR 2679) 6.5 $5102.12
GM Evgeny Najer (RUS 2672) 6.5 $5102.12
GM Alexander Shabalov (USA 2671) 6.5 $5102.12
GM Alexander Stripunsky (USA 2669) 6.5 $5102.12
GM Victor Mikhalevski (ISR 2663) 6.5 $5102.12
GM Julio Becerra (USA 2592) 6.5 $5102.12

The “winner” was Akobian after an “Armageddon playoff) who, by virtue of this won, a prize slightly more than $500 higher than his fellow-6.5 finishers. (1) GM Varuzhan Akobian (USA 2651), 6.5/9 ($5,648.12)

Other prize winners in the Open:

GM Vadim Milov (SUI 2731) 6 $453.60
GM Borki Predojevic (BIH 2709) 6 $453.60
GM Jiri Stocek (CZE 2692) 6 $453.60
GM Abhijit Kunte (IND 2637) 6 $453.60
GM Alexander Ivanov (USA 2625) 6 $453.60
GM Lars B Hansen (DEN 2704) 5.5 $328.75
GM Daniel Fridman (GER 2669) 5.5 $328.75
GM Yury Shulman (USA 2667) 5.5 $328.75
GM Milos Pavlovic (SRB 2638) 5.5 $328.75
GM David Howell (ENG 2611) 5.5 $328.75
GM Eugene Perelshteyn (USA 2611) 5.5 $328.75
GM Sergey Kudrin (USA 2583) 5.5 $328.75
GM Melikset Khachiyan (USA 2553) 5.5 $328.75
IM Emory A Tate (USA 2435) 5.5 $1097.00

All the prize money in the Open was won by male players, with not a dime allocated to “women’s prizes.” Here are the female players in the Open and their finishes: (33) WGM Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant (GEO 2458), 5.0/9; (35) WIM Batchimeg Tuvshintugs (USA 2275), 5.0/9; (53) WFM Alisa Melekhina (USA 2163), 4.0/9. Please note that IM Emory A. Tate, who is rated 2435 USCF, won more money that several higher ranked GMs. And he’s a guy. Now is that special treatment, or what?

Under 2400 (131 registered players):

All tied with 7.0/9:
IM Mikhail Zlotnikov (USA 2387) 7 $5922.80
FM Tegshsuren Enkhbat (USA 2386) 7 $5922.80
FM William Morrison (USA) 7 $5922.80
FM Ilye Figler (USA 2281) $5922.80
(1) (Winner on tie-break) Anton P. Del Mundo (PHI 2388), 7.0/9 ($5,922.80).

Remaining top finishers (all males):
FM Braden Bournival (USA 2362) 6.5 $968.75
FM Matthew Hoekstra (USA 2361) 6.5 $968.75
Vishnuvardh Arjun (IND 2265) 6.5 $968.75
Charles A Galofre (USA 2200) 6.5 $968.75
IM Ganbold Odondoo (MGL 2376) 6 $326.80
FM Miles F Ardaman (USA 2369) 6 $326.80
Denys K Shmelov (USA 2363) 6 $326.80
Todd D Andrews (USA 2344) 6 $326.80
FM Alexan Kretchetov (USA 2344) 6 $326.80
FM Robby Adamson: r/e (USA 2340) 6 $326.80
Pedram Atoufi r/e (USA 2316) 6 $326.80
Aydin Duman (TUR 2304) 6 $326.80
Chikwere Onyekwere: r/e (NGR 2288) 6 $326.80
Craig W Jones (USA 2269) 6 $326.80
Evan D Ju (USA 2264) 6 $326.80
Daniel A Yeager (USA 2240) 6 $326.80
Libardo Rueda (USA 2215) 6 $326.80
Leonardo Martinez (USA 2200) 6 $326.80
Daniel Naroditsky (USA 2150) 6 $326.80
These are the female players in the U2400 Section: (35) WGM Katerine Rohonyan (USA 2304), 5.0/9; (37) WIM Evgenia Hansen (DEN 2275), 5.0/9; (39) WFM Tatev Abrahamyan (USA 2265), 5.0/9; (67) WFM Iryna Zenyuk (USA 2204), 4.0/9. As you see, none of them won any prize money.

Under 2200 (170 registered players):

(1) Chris J. Mabe (USA 2188) 8.0/9 ($14,624.00).
Christopher Toolin (USA 2173) 7.5 $5484.00
Christopher D Williams: r/e (USA 2170) 7.5 $2000.00**
Zoltan Revesz: rr/e (USA 2133) 7.5 $5484.00
Batsai Tserendorj: r/e (USA 2168) 7 $1462.33
Evan B Mah (USA 2098) 7 $1462.33
(7) Tatiana Vayserberg (USA 2087), 7.0/9 ($1,462.33) (FEMALE)
Yaacov Norowitz: r/e (USA 2176) 6.5 $495.78
Joshua C Sinanan (USA 2168) 6.5 $495.78
Patrick J Tae (USA 2135) 6.5 $495.78
Damir Studen (USA 2124) 6.5 $495.78
Matthew H Davey (USA 2120) 6.5 $495.78
Garrett L Smith (USA 2112) 6.5 $495.78
Chayim Goodman r/e (USA 2108) 6.5 $495.78
Manis Davidovich (USA 2102) 6.5 $495.78
Francis Brea: r/e (USA 1990) 6.5 $495.78
Joshua Bakker (USA 2172) 6 $195.11
Dimity Kishinevsky (USA 2169) 6 $195.11
Jeffrey De Jesus (USA 2135) 6 $195.11
(20) WFM Elizabeth Vicary (USA 2127), 6.0/9 ($195.11) (FEMALE)
Brian Goldstein (USA 2088) 6 $195.11
Paul Szuper (USA 2076) 6 $195.11
Tegrun Shadoyan (USA 2068) 6 $195.11
Kasaun E Henry (USA 2058) 6 $195.11
Mario Chavez (USA 2013) 6 $195.11

Here are the other females who participated in thei U2200 and their finishes (none earned any $$$): (32) Anna Levina (USA 2063), 5.5/9; (55) Lilia Doiban (USA 2126), 4.5/9; (58) Hana Itkis (USA 2089), 4.5/8; (80) Jennie S. Liu (USA 1831), 4.0/9; (115) Vanessa West (USA 2062), 2.5/8.

Like many of their male counterparts, most professional level female chessplayers in the USA cannot afford to travel around from event to event trying to win a share of miniscule prize money. They limit themselves to one or two big events a year and end up losing money, just like most of their male counterparts. Do the math: The female players in the 2007 World Open, U2400 and U2200 constituted 15 players out of 393. That’s 3.82%. I didn’t bother to do the math on the percentage of prize money won by male players, but I think it’s pretty obvious that the women won a lot less than 3.82% of the total prize funds.

Chabris and Glickman’s study showed that male and female chessplayers drop out of chessplaying at about equal rates at certain levels, but because there are far fewer female players than males, we see the devastating results of losing female players far more, statistically speaking. We’ve lost more former U.S. Women Chess Champions from the ranks of chessplayers than their male counterparts, for instance (Belakovskaia, Hahn, Shahade, to name just a few recent examples). Not being able to make a decent living playing chess in the USA is not limited to YOU, ok.

"surely must have heard about Susan Polgar being denied the opportunity to play in the zonal for the World Chess Championship because she was a woman."

Susan Polgar was not allowed to play in the Men's World Championship. That is terrible. Oh, wait, was Peter Leko allowed to play in the Women's World Championship? such hypocrisy. do you wanted to be treated as an equal or not? only when it's convenient?

Emory Tate won more money in the World Open than some players because it was a (and the only) class prize in the Open Section. It had nothing to do with the fact that he is a man.

All of these huge lists show is that if the prizes are distributed base on merit, it is more difficult for the women to win money because they are not as good at chess.

for what reason should a woman who plays at a lower level than a man receive some sort of special prize? this is not basketball. women can (or can they?) get as good at chess as a man. creating an environement where reaching 2000 is more celebrated than a man reaching 2400 lowers the bar for women. why kill yourself trying to become 2600 when 2200 makes one a celebrity?

As far as the AF4C having the women's prize fund 50% of then overall prize fund not being fair, why is it fair that women rated below 2200 are playing in the US Championship when men rated 2300, 2400, 2500 do not even get to play? It was difficult for a man to qualify to play in the tournament. If a woman wanted to play, all lshe had to do was show up at one of the qualifiers. So much for merit. Is that fair? Again, do you wanted to be treated as an equal?

"Like many of their male counterparts, most professional level female chessplayers in the USA cannot afford to travel around from event to event trying to win a share of miniscule prize money."

what professional level female chessplayers? to be a professional chessplayer in the US, you'd best be 2600+, and even that is a grind. I don't believe there are any 2600+ women. Perhaps Polgar, but she does not play.

the best thing women could ever do for women's chess would be to stop taking handouts and play chess.

"I believe Vera was, according to today’s standards, about a 2200 player."

According to Chessmetrics, Vera Menchik had a rating of 2535 in May 1929, which made her number 52 in the world - although of course there were a lot less players then.

In the Penguin Encyclopedia of Chess, published in 1977, Harry Golombek described her as "probably the strongest woman player in the history of the game".

She regularly competed in the British Championship, where she "did well". In the Ramsgate Team Practice Tournament, she came equal second with Rubinstein, half a point behind Capablanca, but ahead of her teacher Maroczy. In Maribor 1934 she came 3rd, ahead of Spielmann and Vidmar.

I don't know if she played in any other supertournaments, but at Carlsbad 1929, which included all the top players except Alekhine and the then-retired Lasker, she finished equal last.

She was certainly capable of upsetting anyone (the "Vera Menchik Club" had 19 members, including Euwe and Reshevsky), but not strong enough to compete consistently against top players.

Her playing level seems to have been that of a strong IM (around 2500), not 2200.

You know what this whole debate reminds me of?
It reminds me of some lady who refused to vote for my blog entries in the 2006 US Championship because I qualified as a woman and thus didn't really deserve to be there. Wow, that pissed me off *so much.* This year, no more funniness from me. I'm planning on revenging myself with blogs filled with long columns of Fritz analysis and mind-numbing descriptions of what everyone ate for dinner. No more amusing little stories for you folks.

Two more things:
1) Let's not playerhate ok? All I want here is to play a few nice games of chess. You don't like the tournament/prize structure/state of the world? Complain to or about the people in charge please, not about the few females who bother to show up.
The money I figure I'm making playing in this tournament ($1000) is getting spent on a plane ticket ($380), hotel (60x 6= $360), cab fare to and from JFK airport (2x $35=$70), meals ($25/day x 6 days = $150) That will leave me $40, which I intend to spend in the bar. Don''t get me wrong: I'm super-grateful to the Berrys for having the tournament and donating the prizes, and I'm psyched that the tournmaent will be essentially free to play in, but I'm not exactly raking in the money by the armful.

2) What organizers ought to do with prizes and conditions depends only on what they want to achieve. I happen to believe that in the long term, chess in general would benefit from more women, simply because women are an untapped field of expansion. More women = more players = more money = more good ideas = more great chess books = more tournaments = more social status for players = more happiness for all of us. (Notice that = is not implying a causal chain of effect, just a relationship to the first two items, i.e. good ideas don't come out of more money, but everything comes out of having more players.)
But if you don't think having more women would help chess, then it's reasonable not to support "affirmative action." Dave Vigorito is a good example of someone who just doesn't care much about gender; he's only really interested in chess itself. If women don't want to play chess, that's ok with him. And I think this is at least a logically coherent point of view. Much more reasonable than, say "the best thing women could ever do for women's chess would be to stop taking handouts and play chess." Especially since OK seems to be complaining about women taking handouts *in order* to play chess.
Elizabeth Vicary

OK, here is the OBVIOUS flaw in your argument about Leko not being able to play for the Women's title: the two titles are NOT equally valued. Please, your statement is akin to the comments by Jim Crow apologists who say "True, blacks couldn't use restrooms reserved for whites, but whites also couldn't use restrooms reserved for blacks!" When a CLEAR second-class citizenship is dilineated, claiming that the superordinate group is burdened by not being able to take advantage of opportunities reserved for the subordinate is just outright ridiculous.

You also forward an argument that many who are against remedies for disadvantage make: disadvantaged groups want to be equal at some times but nevertheless refuse to disavow group-specific opportunities because it is "convenient" for them to be part of their group. Riddle me this: When is it possible for a member of a disadvantaged group to refuse to be part of that group because it is inconvenient? Can women decline to wear the disadvantages of being women just by "wanting to be equal"? Man, saying "If you want to be equal, let's pretend that we are all equal" is an overt way of arguing that groups should make a statement by accepting all of the disadvantages of being subordinate without any trade-offs whatsoever. We do NOT live in a society that is fair and balanced, and claiming that things would be better if people just pretended otherwise is an incredibly bogus position to take.

OK, the best thing you can do for chess is stop acting like there are no hierarchies within the chess world and stop speaking as though what is best for the dominant groups should be recognized as what is best for "chess".



Personally, and speaking as someone with a rating which certainly wouldn't enable me to make a living in chess as a man but might conceivably were I a woman, I'm all for women getting prizes, appearance fees and whatnot, which reflect their gender rather than their ability, for the simple reason that it makes the game socially more agreeable.

With regard to Janet Newton's post above, I would like to propose RDH's Law, which states that anyone accusing an anonymous opponent in internet debate of hypocrisy should be deemed to have lost the argument. Positions in argument cannot be hypocritical. They are consistent or not consistent, nothing more. Hypocrisy means not living according to your professed moral code. It doesn't mean simply being wrong, as so many posters seem to think. And since we have no idea how ok lives, no-one can sensibly call him a hypocrite.

There was an interesting little book in the 80's called Why Women Lose at Bridge, by an Australian bridgeur called Joyce Nicholson. Anyone on here read that? Many of its arguments related to bridge (and partnerships) rather than chess, but others not.

Joyce N would have been delighted by Stern's panegyric to EV. Not that I disagree with any of it - the woman is clearly a goddess in human form - but anyone who wants to know why women lose at chess needn't look any further than the last paragraph of that. If women indeed have the capacity to play chess as well as men they certainly won't realise it in any numbers until such time as those who post intelligent and reasoned contributions to debate are not met by compliments on their looks - and even more significantly, like it.


thank you for making an excellent point for me. the best solution to the discrimination of black/white restrooms was to desegretate the restrooms. but if the women want the championships to be segregated, then they should not complain about being "discriminated" against. you can't have it both ways.

I think the people conducting this interesting debate argue under a false premise: that there are "professional" female players in the USA.

Not many people would consider them "professional", when they LOSE money at the end of the year if they play in more than a couple of tournaments.

As for women getting prizes not available to similarly-rated male players, the explanation is quite simple: the chess establishment recognizes and accepts that the best female players are significantly weaker than their male counterparts. It happens in basketball, tennis, golf, soccer, etc., etc., etc.

Now, I personally think that the reason the top female chess players are much weaker than the top male players is that far fewer women play the game (or even take it seriously). Women are much more psychologically stable than men, thus their lack of interest in chess (which, not surprisingly, reflects the general attitude of society toward the game).

On one side, this debate is represented by a single person, even though he signs his posts differently each time. Maybe one of these days Mig will have enough free time on his hands to write some code to prevent that. One corollary of the Chabris and Glickman study referenced by Janet Newton is that if as many women were posting on chess blogs as men, then we will see female trolls as well.

The great majority of men support or at least neutral towards women's prizes. For the ones who envy women's chess earnings and fame, there is a simple, if painful, solution: sex change. It was successfully implemented by Angela Jennifer Alston (formerly Tony Alston), an expert player from San Antonio Texas, who's been winning Texas Women's Championships for most of the years of her legal existence.

rdh: “If women indeed have the capacity to play chess as well as men they certainly won't realise it in any numbers until such time as those who post intelligent and reasoned contributions to debate are not met by compliments on their looks - and even more significantly, like it.”

[Cue Music]

“You're enjoying your day
Everything's going your way
Then along comes Debbie Downer.

Always there to tell you 'bout a new disease
A car accident or killer bees
You'll beg her to spare you, "Debbie, Please!"
But you can't stop Debbie Downer!”

Thanks, Debbie Downer. If I knew my list would be significant at a later time for wasting effort in arguing with a guy who clearly has no intention of ever changing his mind or listening to the other side of the debate (like Maliq and Janet are doing – very intelligently I might add, but still an exercise in futility), I would have maybe left the #5 reason I’m rooting for EV off of there. But I don’t care about US chess politics that much and certainly don’t care about trying to win over irrational people who don’t show any capacity to listen to others before making up their mind.

I prefer to give my honest opinions on matters, including why I’m rooting for EV. If this didn’t segue into some come-to-jesus debate about the fairness of women in chess, it would be recognized for what I always meant it to be – a small, additional compliment that adds to my great admiration for her for many other listed reasons.

In fact, I’m reading an interesting text right now (about 60% through, it's an 80 page article) that makes me think a person like EV is even more exceptional than I thought before. What I’m currently reading makes me feel even stronger about my Reasons #1, #2, and #4 on my previous list, and, strangely enough, the more I feel strongly about my #1, #2 and #4, the more I think #5 is true about her. So my #5 reason stands. Sorry. I’m not enough of a sheltered geek to pretend I don’t notice attractive women, or want to pretend it doesn’t matter to me just in case some blowhard will use what I mean as a compliment as something to be used against all of womankind in the future.

Let’s also recognize where it is on the list. I would agree with you completely, rdh, if you said “If women indeed have the capacity to play chess as well as men they certainly won't realise it in any numbers until such time as those who post intelligent and reasoned contributions to debate are not met *SOLELY* by compliments on their looks - and even more significantly, like it.” I would expect only a very militant feminist to fixate on that one sentence of mine regarding EV above all the others I wrote. It actually reminds me of what ‘ok’ is doing here – taking everyone’s select words and re-twisting them and their intended meaning to comply with his views and absolute correctness about the world. Tiresome.

I will say one thing though. At the time I wrote my ‘panegyric’ (yeah, I had to look that up), I meant every word. But if I knew how things were going to play out in the following days, both on and off this comments section, I probably would have left #5 off. But not because I think it was in any way demeaning towards EV or any women in general, but solely for other reasons.

I mean seriously…

EV: “That will leave me $40, which I intend to spend in the bar.”

…how can you not root for this girl?

"That will leave me $40, which I intend to spend in the bar."

Maybe time and money would be better invested in a { Dvoretsky | Speelman | Beliavsky / Mikhalchischin } or other analytical work in order to close the gap between pretension (being a professional chess player) and reality (rating-wise).

Blundered-pawn, who is "pretending" to be a professional chess player, poisoned pawn? Liz has NEVER claimed to be a professional player; she was working on a masters degree and simultaneously coaching teams, and she occasionally will play a tournament because she enjoys the game and because she is fairly successful at it. Your statement was outright idiotic, and I think you owe her an apology for insinuating that she is pretending to be something she is not merely by accepting an invitation to play in a tournament.

I am a 2100 player and have played in invitational tournaments; does that mean that I was pretending to be a professional player? I also coached chess teams and occasionally played tournaments (i.e. Foxwoods, World Open, etc.), even claiming prizes sometimes, but never have I claimed to be a professional player. No, people at our level simply enjoy playing competitive chess and take opportunities to do so whenever possible, and you have NO RIGHT to put Liz down for what she does.

Incidentally, your statement about "closing the gap" is quite idiotic; chess rating does not make one a professional player, any more than batting average makes one a professional baseball player.



"Many of your prior comments have led me to believe that you had in mind particularly the prizes that women chessplayers have won in the U.S. Chess Championships under the sponsorship of AF4C, when the total prizes were $250,000 or greater annually. During that period (2002-2006), top prize for the women’s chess champion was FIFTY PERCENT of what the overall champion (always a male) won. That never seemed particularly FAIR to me, since the female champion’s ELO was NEVER FIFTY PERCENT of the overall champion’s ELO. So why was her victory only worth FIFTY PERCENT of the male winner’s prize? From a purely “what’s fair” point of view, that doesn’t seem to make much sense, now, does it?"

I think it makes perfect sense. If money earned and rating were placed on a proportional scale, then any relatively active 1400 rated player should now feel entitled to half the earnings of the best player in the world. Prize money is (and should be) more connected to the difficulty in achieving a certain level, i.e. if only 20 players are rated 2700-2800 while 2000 players are in the 2500-2600 group, the top level group deserves substantially greater rewards.

I have only written under the name "OK" since Mig said my names were too long. I am not the same person as the others who have posted here (I am not, for example "Okeydokey"). I am glad at least some people agree with me that the situation is not fair and there should be a discussion about it.

As far as Susan Polgar not being allowed to compete for the men's world championship, this was a one-time FIDE silliness (probably having to do with trying to get chess recognized by the olympics--i.e. there must be separate categories for each sex) and may have also had to do with personal politics (remember fide also gave every female player except for her 100 free rating points). Name a group of people who hasn't been screwed over by FIDE. Of course this one incident of actual discrimination against a woman has been compensated by the huge benefits given to her and other women (the women's world championships that she did win had to add up to a nice bit of money). If she were a man, she would be eking out a living traveling to open tournaments (like other 2550 GMs) and teaching chess; not refusing to play in the US Championship because it would cost her $100,000 in already-scheduled events! (As she herself said)

Oh, and just to address Janet Newton's comment:

'Hmmmm, let’s see if I have this straight according to your thinking. A poor family has four children, two boys and two girls. The boys born into this family are poor because of prior historical discrimination against the family’s progenitors (I assume you were thinking of a racial minority in your example). Their two sisters, though, are NOT poor, because “women are not born poor.” Clear as mud to me.'

Obviously by saying "women are not born poor" I did not mean that women are never born poor. That is obviously not true. Perhaps I should have phrased it differently, but what I meant is that a woman is not born poor due to being a woman, in the same way that racial minorities can be born poor due to employment discrimination their parents suffered. It seems that if you had thought for a moment you would understand what I meant.

Other things you said were quite absurd, but most of them have been addressed by other people. The whole list of World Open winners was pointless, since the World Open was not a special women's tournament with women's prizes (although there were special women's entry fees! If you are a WGM you paid less than half what a male IM paid, and an IM is a higher title--any women who has the IM title is also automatically a WGM). I hope you can understand this.


"It doesn't mean simply being wrong, as so many posters seem to think"

Are these posters, by any chance, from a country where religious fundamentalism is still highly influential?

"Anyone on here read that?"

Not me. Any chance of a quick summary?

Reading the link Stern posted, I was interested to see Elizabeth Vicary postulate that a slight difference in innate ability (in one aspect of chess cognition) between the sexes could cause a significant difference in the numbers appearing at the extreme end of the distribution curve.

This sounds reasonable to me, but didn't a Harvard professor get hounded out of his job for suggesting something similar with respect to scientists?

Not a Harvard Professor, James. The President of Harvard. (A former U.S. Treasury Secretary, to boot.)

Who is this Debbie D of whom you speak, Stern. She a goer?

C'mon, I'm not criticising. I'm not offended; nobody is. I too enjoyed EV's observation about her plans for the 40 dollars and I too respectfully wish her success in this tournament. I just couldn't pass by the irony on this thread of you (and I indeed) deciding our rooting strategies (phwnarr!) for this event on, er, evolutionary grounds. But it doesn't bother me; I guess all thngs considered that ensuring the adequate propagation of the species is more important than more women playing chess, after all.

Didn't someone else get hounded out of the Clinton administration for describing some policy as niggardly? That must have made everyone very proud to be American.

As to Joyce N, her main two original points (apart from the usual stuff about women being valued for looks not brains, taught to nurture not to compete, distracted sexually in various ways in a man's world) and so forth) were specific to bridge.

The first is connected to the economic structure of bridge. Most bridge pros make most of their money playing in partnership with rich sponsors (even world championships get won this way). Obviously the pro is very much in charge of these partnerships at the table (in a bridge sense, anyway). Since no-one likes deferring to a(nother) woman, no-one hires women pros. Hence women can't make money at the game the way men can and thus can't progress.

She also pointed out that in bridge it is more or less necessary (more so than in chess; in bridge you cannot get good without meeting other people and understanding how they think about the game, because what your opponents and partner will think shapes your actions much more than in chess) to spend a period of your life (usually when young) utterly devoted to the game and ignoring your job, looks, conventional hours of the day and night, etc., if you want to get good at it. Her point was that besides being socially unacceptable this is simply more dangerous for women.

rdh: “Who is this Debbie D of whom you speak, Stern. She a goer?”

I would have to say a definite “NO”, but her two sisters aren’t bad. But as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so you can judge for yourself:


Anyone know if the USWCC is being broadcast in real time or delayed? Right now in Round 1 the games are only on move 20-25. If they have to all play a whole new Round 2 in just three hours from now, that seems really brutal.

Go EV!

Woohoo EV! Level with Krush after two rounds!


Man that was sick to watch. EV up an exchange and 2 connected passers PLUS a huge time advantage, and her opponent still wouldn't resign. When her opponent played 32...Ng4 for the swindle attempt, I had to watch through my fingers. Not that I don't have faith, but it is still so sick to have to wait for an update in that spot (refresh, refresh, refresh). I had to close all my poker games, I couldn't concentrate on them. Those last few gyrations from her opponent in time trouble were like a roller-coaster.

It's actually pretty cool to have a horse in the race. Maybe chess has some future as an Internet broadcast sport, if they could just find a way to bet on it besides win/lose/draw odds....

I have a question: is it possible to get a copy of Ms. Vicary's thesis. I would be very interested in reading it.

Thanks Janet, but unfortunately proved unhelpful.

Alisa Melihkino is hot, thats the fact jack

wow, thanks so much for all the kind comments. i'm really floored. i was overall happy with the tournament-- not so many points but plenty of interesting games, and i felt concentrated during most of the tournament, which was my main goal. im really overwhelmed that i won the brilliancy prize... i guess its everyone's dream. im glad irina won the tournament, she seems like clearly the best, most serious professional player. although i was also super impressed by rohonyan. she's like a machine at the board, totally working the whole time. but also a nice, cheerful person, fantastic genuine laugh.
regarding the psychological difficulty of being a female at tournaments, it really freaked me out when i was 18--i couldnt handle it at all--
but now its no big deal, except for a couple of stalkers, but even them im almost ok with at this point.
if anyone wants my thesis, it's about teaching chess to sixth grade girls at a public junior high school in brooklyn, i'm happy to email it to you. my email is evicary@yahoo.com-- but im warning you, its kinda boring.

Hey EV, I'm so glad that you won the Goddesschess Brilliancy Prize. I was rooting for you :) (well, to be absolutely honest, I was also rooting for Melekhina). Next year we hope to post a larger Brilliancy Prize, hope you'll be in that event, too! I admired and appreciated your fighting spirit in this year's tournament. I hope you won's be using the extra $$$ to pay off a credit card or student loan - go shopping at Bergdorf-Goodman and splurge on something absolutely useless and absolutely essential to being a chess femme!

The U.S. Women's Championship should be determined by a women-only event, rather than awarding the title to the highest scoring woman at the U.S. Championship. Is the British Champion the highest scoring Briton in the European Championship? Is the World Junior Champion the top scoring junior at the World Championship? Is the Big Ten basketball conference championship determined by a closed event, or by comparing overall records? And yet one could have become the U.S. Women's Chess Champion (in some years) without having played another woman!?

Ray, there are no more Big Ten championship tournaments. They have all been renamed the Ohio State invitational!



Maliq has to be the supreme trash-talker on this blog. I'm glad none of the players in the field were Buckeyes. :-)

Daaim, I wasn't talking trash, but was rather merely informing the man of the goings-on in the Big Ten! I would've gladly acknowledged the same for another team had, say, the Illini (just random name selected) been doing anything worth noticing. ;-) Unfortunately, the chess scene here in Columbus isn't exactly electric -- everybody is just waiting around for football season to begin! I'll have to find time to get outside of this territory to play in some tournaments eventually, but until then, blogging is the closest I'll come to staying connected.






I thought you were saying that the Big Ten tournament is now "owned" by THE Ohio State!

You still are a good trash-talker. Go Illini! Go Bulls! Go Blue! I'm just kidding about the last one. :-)

That's what passes for trash talk these days? What wimpy times we live in.


We're all about peaceful ribbing -- nobody really talks trash in support of the Illini nowadays. Trust, you don't want the kind of stuff that goes on around these programs coming across on the boards! All you need to know is that when Ohio State played archrival Michigan last November, Ann Arbor, MI sent its own police force here to make sure that fans were okay. Think soccer hooligans and you can get a pretty clear picture of what Buckeye Nation can look like sometimes. The riots a few years back, the police escorts for Texas Longhorns fans in 2005 and the "tradition" of setting things on fire, overturning cars, etc. after big wins are things we can get along pretty well without. Of course, last year was a great showing for the Columbus police department; they wisely realized that there is no way to stop 106,000 people from rushing the field and instead just exercised mild crowd control and made sure that the goalposts didn't get torn down. Ah, academic life!



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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on July 4, 2007 8:40 PM.

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