Columns | October 16, 2009 17:52

Abolishing women’s titles: a different perspective

Women's ChessI’ve been known to defend the position that women’s tournaments are all nonsense: after all, we don’t have math competitions especially for women, nor do we have girls-only musical concourses. But a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, pleading for abolishment of women’s FIDE titles, made me think again.

Barbara Jepson’s piece
is actually a collection of various opinions rather than a bold op-ed of her own. Her main point is that FIDE “persists in the anachronistic and demeaning practice of awarding separate titles for women at lower levels of accomplishment.” Interestingly, the (female) chess players Jepson interviews are all top-level. For instance, when Jepson argues that “the time has come to drop gender-segregated titles for women”, she quotes IM Irina Krush saying “women's titles are really a marker of lower expectations.” Other strong female chess players she quotes are Alexandra Kosteniuk and Jennifer Shahade – all seem in favour of abolishing the female titles, though it’s Krush’s voice that speaks loudest in the article.

But what about women who are not as strong as Kosteniuk, Shahade and Krush, or the ones who have not been fortunate enough to pursue their chess goals due to lack of means, time or focus? Although I initially tended to agree with its basic premise, I suddenly felt that the Wall Street Journal article was strangely biased, so I asked Dutch women’s international master (WIM) Arlette van Weersel about her opinion on the discussion. Here’s what she said:

Arlette van WeerselI think abolishing women’s titles is a bad idea. Earning a title and working towards the goals to obtain it can be a great incentive, especially for young girls. In my opinion, women (and young girls) need this kind of incentives more than men, given the fact that we’re still living in a male-oriented society.

The idea that women’s titles are unnecessary seems rather black-and-white to me. Of course, a WIM or WGM title doesn’t mean much at a global top level: all female top players have men’s titles. On the other hand, it’s not always possible for girls to invest much time in a chess career. But these players may still want to distinguish themselves from inactive or lower level women.

Van Weersel’s ideas about male-oriented societies will no doubt raise a few eyebrows - until you think about non-Western countries. Chess is not only a game played by people from the US and Europe, and FIDE – gens una sumus – has to think about all countries rather than the ones where female emancipation happens to be rather advanced. Also, sadly, there are still plenty of examples in Western countries where male orientedness seems to be in place as firmly as ever. And it’s not as if Van Weersel is blind to the disadvantages of women’s titles:

It may be argued, of course, that female titles prevent young girls from trying to become stronger. They can be a WIM with a 2200 rating, whereas a boy would need about 200 rating points more for the same title. But for me personally, trying to obtain the WIM title was a big motivation. Given the time I want to invest in chess, becoming a grandmaster is simply not an option, but the goal of WGM does seem possible.

It seems to me it all depends on what you want to achieve with chess. Is chess just for fun or is there money involved as well? This is another point raised in Barbara Jepson’s article: the commercial aspect of women’s chess. GM Alexandra Kosteniuk notes “the most serious challenge for top-rated female chess players in general is to find commercial sponsors or institutional support, like from sports foundations or government sports committees.”

Reigning Women World Champion Aleksandra Kosteniuk

Yet Van Weersel points out that here, women’s titles could actually come to the rescue:

Tournament organizers actually benefit from the existence of women’s titles. The thing is that these titles are regarded as regular titles for calculating [male] norms. If women’s titles are abolished, fewer female players will be invited to closed tournaments. In my opinion, this certainly doesn’t help women’s chess.

Unavoidably, the gender-debate also rears its ugly head in Jepson’s article, and as always, principles often appear to be more important than facts.

Wall Street JournalA number of aficionados claim that men have an edge because chess is a game of spatial relations, and some studies show men scoring higher than women in "mental rotation." Chess teachers say that girls are usually not as competitive as boys, and that hinders their performance.(…) Yet in the long term, women will benefit from having the titles they hold conferred on the same basis as men. "While some men may remain sexist no matter what," observes Mr. Pandolfini, "for the bulk of humanity, ability wins out and speaks the loudest."

Jepson seems to argue that despite these possible differences, competing on the same level is called for anyway. Jepson and the people she interviews seem to hold the opinion that these differences someone must be really overcome, and should be ignored as much as possible at all costs. But perhaps a more sophisticated point of view is called for. As the primatologist Frans de Waal once said, “You can take an ape out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the ape”. In other words, perhaps we should simply accept these differences rather than pretend they don’t exist. Van Weersel, in any case, seems to have a more realistic attitude than the people interviewed for the Wall Street Journal:

The true reason for wanting to abolish women’s titles seems to be that women aren’t dumber than men and therefore can become just as strong as them. I agree with this, but there really are differences, too, such as social issues, dealing with emotions and the way women focus on things. Reaching the top is still very difficult for girls in practice, and only a very small percentage of chess playing women obtain men’s titles. As long as chess development between men and women is so far apart, I think women’s titles are okay.

In a perfect world, we may want a competition that absolutely fair and equal, but reality often forces us to look differently at things. On one level, I am definitely annoyed every time I see women with lower ratings than myself having their entry fee and hotel paid for, while I must pay for everything myself, just because they happen to be WIM. And it's a nice comfort to know that Krush and others acknowledge this feeling.

But when I think about it from another angle, I must admit it’s not such a bad idea. Women really are different than men in some aspects, both by nature and by nurture, and this is especially true for women in underdeveloped countries. Perhaps we should think twice before turning our backs on them just because our ideals tell us so.

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Arne Moll's picture
Author: Arne Moll


xtra's picture

That comment made no sense, Jan. how would men be "keeping chess" by there being women titles? Weird...

Anyway, noting that there could still be women only events to give (top) women more chance to finance their chess, I really think this discussion comes down to if
a) women titles still increase the number of women playing, or
b) they don't.

It is an empirical question, so it is important to not jump to conclusions because it's hard to know the real answer. But one thing is obvious, in the perfect world there would be no women titles, so the goal should be to eventually remove them.
I like the point that it might help more in not-so-rich countries, it's easy to just assume the position of the western world when talking about something like this, without thinking of the rest of the world. Still, it should be asked if an IM titel does about the same job as a wgm title. if so, the IM title just seems better to be using.

I´d like to ask one other thing, about finance: How do male GM:s at the rating of 2500-2600 finance their games? 2600-2700? Is it the case that it is really only the elite of chess that actually lives only off playing chess? What I am actually wondering here is if a women GM (GM, not WGM) is having a harder time than most men at the same rating to financetheir chess. If that is so, it is bad. If not, then it should be kept in mind that financing those women are a matter of allocation of quotas, that is promoting women playing chess in order offset an inbalance founded in unequal opportunities for women and men.

Jan's picture

In my view, chess is a typical male activity. Meaning only men can focus on one single narrow thing and spend their life on it. Chess, but also mathematics, physics, bird watching and other specialist areas.
Women have broader views, are more social, and therefore in general more interesting human beings to deal with! Let us men keep chess - all the rest they are better in.

HJVFan's picture

It's not only about increasing the number of women playing, as Arlette van Weersel says for women who already play it, it's also about making money and especially staying motivated and having fun playing. You can't empirically measure those things so easily but that doesn't mean they're not important.

Maarten's picture

``If women’s titles are abolished, less female players will be invited to closed tournaments.''
I assume that Van Weersel meant ``fewer female players'', otherwise the issue becomes quite intricate ;-)

Muadhib's picture

1) All that talk about "male-oriented societies" is bull as far as so-called western world is concearned. In western world if a woman has the ability and real desire to achieve something, she can achieve it just like men do. But of course she has to have the ability and the will to achieve it. If one of these is missing she will fail, just like other men do too. There is absolutely no disadvantage for them, in fact many times being a woman is an advantage!

2) Like already mentioned women think and act differently than men. If it was all up to women, human foot would never set on the top of Mount Everest or South/North pole or the Moon. Women just don't have this advanterous crazy spirit in them. Men do. Did humankind really profit anything by climbing the Everest, setting foot on both poles and stepping on the moon? Not really, but we men wanted to do it. Why? Just to see if we can!!! Women only climb Everest to prove that they can do it too - that they are no weaker than men, but they would never think to climb it first. This is the main difference between men and women - men are crazy and set themselves new and new crazy challenges and then they give EVERYTHING to achieve it. It's an obsession. Just like chess is an obsession too. Women just don't have this in them. They just can't be obsessive about one thing only and dedicate everything for that thing, like men are.

Rick Lahaye's picture

Isn't it an idea to use inflation correction to restructure the current system? I wonder how much easier it is to earn a title this in comparison with 30 years ago.

Peter Doggers's picture

Indeed, corrected.

EJ Wagenmakers's picture

It is by no means decided that women are, by nature, worse chess players than men; indeed, some evidence suggests that, after correcting for the fact that chess is played by many more men than women, the women actually do slightly *better* than the men (see, "Why are (the Best) women so good at chess? Participation rates and gender differences in intellectual domains").

Of course, it is entirely possible that women as a group have problems with their motivation or set priorities in life differently than men (i.e., women decide not to sacrifice their entire lifes to the game). But it is hard to see why this should be rewarded with a special title. The only solid argument I can see in favor of the WIM/WGM titles is that women have been oppressed by men, and that it is difficult for them to escape the self-fulfilling profecy that "women cannot play chess". Unfortunately, the existence of women's titles may only reinforce this stigma.


EJ Wagenmakers's picture

On a related note, maybe we should determine, on the basis of a series of IQ test, those players who have a low IQ. We could then have special titles "DIM" (dumb IM) and DGM.

After all, it can be very tough for dumb people to play smart guys all the time, and dumb people cannot help it that they are born dumb. Such titles would be really motivating for dumb people. Or would such titles be insulting? (yes, of course) -- then what is the difference with the WIM/WGM titles?


HJVFan's picture

"Of course, it is entirely possible that humans as a group have problems with their motivation or set priorities in track running differently than cheetahs (i.e., humans decide not to sacrifice their entire lifes to running). But it is hard to see why this should be rewarded with a special title."

EJ Wagenmakers, do you also oppose to Usain Bolt's title as the fastest human on the planet because cheetahs run faster than humans? Or is there in your opinion somehow a fundamental distinction between species or physical, mental and social differences between sexes?

Jean-Michel's picture

I would suggest replacing both WGM and WIM titles by a single WM (Women's master) title, let's say 50-75 rating points higher requirements than current WIM title. Then it would be quite clear, you first go for the WM title, to show that you are one of the really strong women in the world, and then you go for regular titles, to show that you are very strong regardless of sex.

The current problem is one of semantics, Grandmaster is instinctively a better ranking than Master, but then we are faced with the contradiction that Women's International Grandmaster is weaker than regular International Master. This unfortunately leads us to devalue all women's titles as basically meaningless, as they don't fit into a natural scheme. With a natural progression, WM then IM then GM, we would instinctively know where players fit in and thus would naturally rate them accordingly in our minds.

Daan's picture

Women titles are just (good) policy.
Chess is something people do for fun (I hope), and "chess men" seem to have fun when surrounded by girls or when they play chess. Women, on the other hand, seem to avoid being surrounded by guys and playing chess.

So, when women titles motivate women to stay in the game, keep the titles. When women titles stigmatize and hereby chase them off, dump them.

In my opinion women titles (and separate tournaments, etc.) are motivating women to stay in the game, so keep them.

By the way, any woman that supports the abolishment of women titles should also refuse to play in special women tournaments, cause the are just as (or even more) discriminating.
So when women like Krush or Kosteniuk are against these titles, they should not cash prize money in women tournaments (where any unknown 2600+ male professional player would love to compete) or accept invitations to tournaments in which not only their rating but also their commercial value due to their gender is why they are invited (like Corus).

good idea

Castro's picture

Call it a "black and white" opinion:
Of course there should NEVER have been distintive competitions for woman.
Other things ought to realy change. Not having those kinds of paliative-auto-fooling things that serve nothing but the statu quo.

Ludo Tolhuizen's picture

Amazingly, a few years ago, the winner of the European Women Championship was automatically rewarded the (general, male) grandmaster title (I'm not sure if this is till so).
This way, the strongest Dutch female player became IGM without ever having had a rating exceeding 2500. Is that fair?

Jan's picture

No its not.

Grayson's picture

Issues of benign (corrective) discrimination are not fresh. The real question usually will be is the time right to literally level the field. The problem is always that the underlying impetuses for the benign discrimination are hundreds if not thousands of years old, and the ill effects will carry on in both subtle and non-subtle ways for an enormous period of time even after the conduct/attitudes are changed. The analogy often given is one of a car hurtling along in a certain wrong direction. When you no longer care to continue in that direction, and you wish to turn, do you only take your foot off the accelerator, or do you also apply the brake. Benign discrimination is likened to a brake.

Are those who howl the loudest about the benign discrimination members of the classes who have traditionally not been discriminated against, or those in the discriminated-against class who have broken through the barriers by opportunity or talent? When a top female player who has received an unqualified IM or GM title says "we no longer need separate titles for women," is she doing the larger class any favor? To some, the argument that people should (ignore the centuries of discrimination and) pull themsevles up by their bootstraps is insipid. To others, the benign discrimination is misguided and only helps perpetuate the problem.

Neanderthalis's picture

Women should play along with males, at the beginning many of those women chess players who already have titles will probably suffer the trauma of competing with stronger players, they will naturally want to maintain the status quo, to be shielded from men, to perpetuate the actual segregation system. But if things change and women are allowed to compete with men in the long run there will be more and more strong women playing chess. Women aren't weak as many men and women think. Let them play, free the woman!

redpawn's picture

A title should mean something.
I'm sure the female players appreciate the little $ they are earning - that there are sponsors willing to pay etc.... But I doubt that they are happy with the fact that fans will always regard them as being pretty good chess players (for a woman).

By reading general comments of male players - women can see MORE male Chauvinism here in our sport then almost in any other sport or field for that matter. the EGOs.....

It would be a MAJOR victory for women - if just 1 woman would beat the world champion in a match and become the undisputed world champion.
(That day will come (I believe it !! )
I have 2 daughters and I have them play in regular tournaments against any oppnents male or female.
What's the difference?
Having balls has no advantage when it comes to chess - this is an intellectual sport (not a physical one).

Woman have a major psychological advantage playing against men - but they don't use it. Instead they are reluctant to play in women's events - and earn WIM WGM titles which are meaningless. (but in private everyone says... "oh she is a very talented and strong chess player.....for a woman....", she is a great Champion - amonst other women...).

There should be only 1 standard. (regardless of gender).
Judith Polgar is the ONLY example that ALL female chess players should look up to - try to follow her path and improve on.

- -(on the men's side)

A GM title for men used to mean that this player is a legitimate contender to beat the world champion (or at least to give the reigning world champion a very strong challenge) I don't think you can say this about 75% of the top GM list.
There should be only a handful of GMs to begin with.
(but instead of scaling down everyone else - the federations keep building level up - like Super GM....etc..).

Here's an idea - Take the top 10 rated GMs in the world - and have them play a 10 game match against Anand. who ever can't get at least 3 points - should be dropped off the top GM list - they are simply not good enough to be the company of the world champion.

Life Titles are even a more rediculous idea.
Imagine if I were to gain a GM title, and then get into an accident and due to brain damge not even know how the pieces move...or what my name is (a complete vegetable)....That GM title is mine forever regardelss...... and can never be taken away. Does that seem right to anyone?

redpawn's picture

@EJ Wagenmakers - I agree with you 100%

redpawn's picture

@Neanderthalis - I totaly agree with you.

Arne Moll's picture

Very interesting comments so far! Redpawn's remark that a 'title should mean something' seems to be at the heart of many of the discussions going on here. The question is: who decides this 'meaning'? In my opinion, there is no inherent value to any title - they just mean whatever value we are willing to attach to them. And as is clear from Arlette van Weersel's comments, I think we can safely say that WIM and WGM titles definitely mean something to many chess playing women. So why oppose them? People who suggest this may as well, as HJVFan suggests, ditch the title 'Olympic champion 100m running' because a cheetah outruns any human. The Olympic title would therefore be 'meaningless' at some (admittedly pretty abstract) level. Still, I'm sure they would agree that this title, too, somehow has real meaning to many people, And that's why we keep it.

CAL|Daniel's picture

absolutely life titles make since.

redpawn's picture

The psychological advantage woman have over men is this:

Basically, since men are brought up with the notion of being "gentelman" towards women;

If a man beats a woman - he is NOT gentelman ! (His mother would not be proud of him......)
And if he loses - (it's worse) He is not a man (not a real one anyway...right?) - He can rest assured that other men will taunt him i.e "How could you lose to this "girl"? what kind of "man" are you?

SO there it is.
(Psychologically) it's a loosing proposition for a men to play against a women.
The only satisfactory outcome I guess is .... a draw. :-(

T. Goto's picture

Thanks Arne, for yet another thought provoking article. We usually hear from people who represents the game, like Polgers and Kosteniuk, so this article gave us another element to take into account. While I admire the aspirations of strong female players who can challenge most players on a per, we also know that male and female are, in general, different (even Kosteniuk wouldn't dispute that, I think, given her web project "Chess is Cool".) Then I have to agree that keeping an option for female players is valid and good for chess. While I would like to see more opportunities for already established female players in mixed environment, advancing the cause of promoting chess among women cannot be reduced to the issue of title. Personally, I am looking forward to read the follow-up of your article on gender in education.

redpawn's picture

@Arne Moll - I agree with you.
But you take your example to extreme... cheeta vs Human runner... ?
I'd say that's a valid argument when you compare Human Chess say with Computer chess.
(well we know computers have already surpassed menkind in chess. Kasparov vs Deep Blue and Kramnik vs Deep Fritz (lost 2 yrs ago...). [p.s When will we see Anand play the strongest computer?]

So, there's that lost battle for humanity..... :-(

But humans still play humans in chess!
The question now becomes - why the segregation / separation between the sexes?
What does having different genitelias have anything to do with a completely intellectual sport like chess?

Does a male GM player have an advantage because he has balls ?

What about gays ? are they going to host U.S Gay's Chess championship?
Or another U.S Championship for Transvestiles?
(you can take that argument to extremes... - and it's valid to the discussion at hand).

"To test the validity of an argument - you must stretch the extremes and you'll expose the false premises that underly it".

Chess is chess !
it's time to break and abolish the gender division.
Women have a psychological advantage anyway - so the rest they have to prove on their own at the board. With quality moves/plans, and a "will to win", results at top level tournaments etc....

I believe that one day a woman will be an undisputed world champion! and she will be a great beacon of hope for all other girls who love the game just as much, if not more then boys.

A SLAP IN THE FACE of all male chauvinists :-)

Arne Moll's picture

redpawn, the comparison with a cheetah (not mine, by the way) is interesting because there the difference is immediately obvious (as with humans and computers). To have separate 'titles' for humans and cheetahs seems beyond discussion because anyone immediately sees the differences. But for men and women the discussion is very much alive - despite the sometimes considerable differences between the sexes. (Note that I am not talking about genetic or physical differences only! The focus some people put on genes and heritable traits is very annoying sometimes.)
I agree the difference between women and men is smaller than humans and cheetahs, but it doesn't matter for the argument, I hope you see that.

And yes, in fact there are separate chess championships for gay people too. I'd say the differences here are even smaller, and thus also the need for separate titles and championships, but there you are.

nn's picture

but the elo of women and men is the same and we can see the real strength. Judit Polger and others show us that women can be strong at chess like men.
i would be better when women will play more often against men.
maybe some men dont like to lose against a woman:)

Alez's picture

Arne, if W titles are keep so that women have something to fight for, they will never be as strong as men. They're simply fighting for different things, however related and with one far harder than the other. Let's try another amusing example: almost every federation has or had national master titles. They were official, but they meant almost nothing. Those really strong almost invariably bypassed them. Nowadays nobody willing to be really strong would come up saying, "hey, you know, i'm national master". They would show a nice elo or even better, a couple of IM norms. If women are to be as strong as men (and I believe they can be) they shouldn't fight separately, working for weaker titles in separate competitions. To add more to this, it has to be said that the strongest female ever plays only in regular competitions, and most importantly, built her strength in regular events.
@redpawn: What's that psychological advantage? I'm curious, since every women that played for any club i ever did, showed nothing about psychological advantage. Rather the opposite.

redpawn's picture

Really ? there is a separate chess championships for gay people ?
that's very sad. :-( Humanity is progressing backwards, not forwards.

Arne Moll's picture

But Alez, the whole point of my article was to show that women don't necessarily have to become as strong as men. There are other reasons to play chess! Some women (like Arlette) prefer to just play chess and have some goals simply because they like competing in chess! And if the titles help them having fun and achieving successes in their lives, why abolish them? But apparently, that's quite hard to grasp for some people.

Marcos Sander's picture

I don't think that women with WFM,WIM or WGM titles should feel inferior to men at all.It takes less points to achieve it?Yes,but why women will think they are less smart than men?I see no reason to think that way.Men only can make women inferior if women let them do that.Do you folks really believe that in these 3 cases of a game:WFMxFM,WIMxIM and WGMxGM the women think themselves as dumber than their opponents?As men do or should do,women go to game for the win,no matter what.If these titles help the women to find sponsors and create tournaments why not have them?I would like to cangrats the Chess Vibes for such fair article,putting the two points of views about the matter.As more we think about the women chess more our game will spread around the world.There a huge potential that lays above women in chess that will help promote our game.The larger view of women can help the game the organizers of it.I think a tourneys would need a female touch of organization don't you think?A female arbiter?Why not?There's still a lot to do.There are differences but nothing that can't be overcome.

Thomas's picture

"if things change and women are allowed to compete with men ..."
Can you please point out any rule which says that women aren't allowed to compete with men?

redpawn's picture

@nn Yes - that's exactly my point.
I'm saying that woman have a tremendous psychological advantage playing against men.....

"There is nothing that disgusts a man like getting beaten at chess by a woman”.
"It is a loosing proposition for men to play chess with a woman. They always have the advantage!
If you win, you're not a gentelman.
And if you lose, you're not a man! "

But unfortunately they are not motivated enough to complete at these high category level with top GMs (there is only Polgar - and she is not very active lately....) Do we see a whole group of women like Polgar out there? or are they just raising the white flag of surrender ??

Ianis's picture

I'm not sexist , but if you scrape the women events and allow women to compete with men , less and less woman will play chess professionnally , simply because it will not only be almost impossible for 99.9% of them except J.Polgar (or some exceptions)to get invitations to high profile international events against the best players in the world (which is already the case ) , but also for most of the WGM to be invited even in smaller profile events .

This can have a negative effect on woman playing chess professionally IMHO

I think , that like said Jean Michel , if the WGM title is reviewed to be more prestigious than the IM title , it will be a good start because the title of WGM would be more prestigious , and women GM who are not supercrack like Judith , for example , the US champion Zatonskih rated 2400ish , would still get opportunities to play tournaments , get some money and thus continue on the path of professional chess whilst improving . and keeping the confidence and "hunger" for titles

If you scrape WGM title and women chess , all these 2300-2400ish women GM would get less chances to play (less invitations ) and thus earn money , and it's likely they would never win anything thus losing confidence and heart for pursueing their professional career IMHO . Except if there is a rule that obliges tournament organizers to invite as many women as men , but i'm no fan of this idea

Ianis's picture

jeez sry for my bad English , and i made a repetition with prestigious:

redpawn's picture


HAVE ALL PLAYERS WEAR a Burkha (burka or burqua)
either that or full uni-sex gowns and Venician Masks.

Then the players would not know the gender of the person they are playing. And
have to rely only on making the best moves on the board.

This way Women would not be intimidated by playing men, and vice versa.....

The recent super tournament in china had all male GMs wear traditional chinese shirts - so this goes along the same lines - except to hide the gender and identity of the opposition.

What ya'll think ?
(and yes, I know, I've seen Stanley Kubric's "Eyes wide shut" one too many times....)

redpawn's picture

@Alez I agree with you on all the points you mentioned.
The Psychological advantage I was talking about - I explined in my comments befor you posed your question.
I knew someone is bound to ask me that (and I was right)
Just like a good chess player should - I anticipated your question (move) in advance... :-)

Read the part about:
"If you win, you're not a gentelman - And if you lose, you're not a man!"

Luzin's picture

i cannot explain why, but the fact we all know is this:
women don't like chess. even titled female players will never put chess high on their priorities. the really really few that will do this are just exceptions.
this is not criticism, it is just a fact that everyone playing chess for some time can confirm.

so, why bother with female chess players at all? maybe because it is boring to be in a tournament full of men? yes, i guess so!
so, i know it will sound like blatant sexism, but we can safely conclude that chess females are only of aesthetic interest for the chess world :)

Ianis's picture

"Read the part about:
“If you win, you’re not a gentelman – And if you lose, you’re not a man!”

Well , i played against many women , i play the position , not the person in front of me , but i understand it can happen that some men have problems to play against women , i dont think it is the majority of men though .

Alez's picture

Sorry, i was out and couldn' answer you, Arne (and everyone). It's not that i have a problem with W titles. I just think they aren't helping women chess at all, rather the opposite. If women want objectives, they should use the same as men. I take it can be a motivation to get a W title, but so could be if tomorrow Spanish Federation implemented a "Regional Master" one, to boost our little dear players. Still, no problem at all for me to have W titles, but if i'm asked the reason there aren't women at top chess i will have to say "because there are W titles and W championship" (of course not the only reason, but to my view one of the most important ones)

EJ Wagenmakers's picture

Some people here have compared the competition between male vs female chess players to a running match between humans and cheetas. I hope you realize this comparison is extremely sexist and discriminating against women (I assume the men are taken to be the cheetas). There is simply no evidence that women are intellectually inferior. There is also no evidence that -- once you correct for the fact that so few women play chess -- women are worse in chess than men.

Awarding women separate titles because of the assumption that they have some kind of inborn disability is patronizing (and a couple of other things as well, but I'll stick to patronizing for the moment).


Ben's picture

If a woman earns the WGM or WIM title, it's not like she has to accept it (pay the fee, etc.) if she feels it is inhibiting her progress. If she thinks it will help her finanicially or chess-wise, she can take it; if not, pass. Given that, it's tempting to conclude that men are the ones being discriminated against here :) I'm not going that far, of course, and I'm glad women have the option to decide individually for themselves if it's a good idea or not. I kind of like the idea of the condensed women's title at a rating slightly above the WIM, but I think a super-majority of the WGM/WIM titleholders (or those eligibile for those titles, but not those women with the separate GM/IM title) need to decide to abolish the titles before they are abolished.

Castro's picture

Woman title(s) could have just one advantage, as someone said before, namely atracting (more) woman to the game of chess.
Indeed, Arne, "creating equal chances" is something that discrimination (as "positive" as we could call it) doesn't do, beyond the surface.
Whatever reasons (fisical, fisiological, intellectual, social, historical,...), woman realy is less interested and less sucessful than man, in chess.
But the only accions that could work in the long run is NOT acting artificialy over chess nor woman themselves, manipulating the significance of their achievements! (Or else do it with every group of non-top chess players!)
The ones which are to "atract" to this kind of "problem" are educators, polititians, society in general.
Like charity, "positive discriminations" can aliviate and fake things on the moment, but asures that the solution gets way harder to come.

Arne Moll's picture

@EJ and others: it's interesting how people in this discussion always seem to focus on genetical differences and intellectual inferiority. However, both Arlette and me (in the comments) have stressed that these are not the issues at stake here: we're talking about differences, yes, but these differences have absolutely nothing to do with genetics, inborn disability or patronizing women. Those are all strawmen arguments. Instead, the article is about creating equal chances for men and women, and stimulating chess in certain groups. And in this respect, I think titles are not so useless or unfair as some on this forum may think.

Jan's picture

Wagenmakers - you sound like a relic from the 70-ies. Everyone knows that men play infinitely better chess than women. But who cares.

Castro's picture

The point is fully hit by (other than myself's :-) ) EJ Wagenmakers' post.
Imediatetly create DIM and DGM dumb titles (and any other categories of nowadays non-top chess people), or else ban the stupid woman titles right away!

Muadhib's picture

EJ Wagenmakers,

Women DO have the "inborn disability" of being a woman and because of that can't do some things as well as men do! Chess seems to be one of those things.

We (men) also have "inborn disability" of being a man and because of that can't do some things as well as women do!

Men and women think and act differently (I don't know why we even have to discuss this when it is so obvious) and I'm sick and tired of this "we are the same" stuff. We are not the same and will never be the same! It doesn't mean one is better than the other, but we are not the same! We are completely different.

Daan's picture

Saying that there is no scientific evidence that men play better chess than women is not the same as saying that "we are the same".

Fact is, there is no scientific evidence that men play better chess, so suggesting that women have an "inborn disability" to play chess makes absolutely no sense.
Comparing chess with humans vs cheetas running is an analogy that is indeed sexist and patronizing and does not make any sense. There is enough proof that men can run faster than women, but again, there is no proof they can play better chess.

However, there is evidence that women are less ATTRACTED to the game. If titles attract more women to the game it can be a good thing, but don't say that women have an inborn disability to play chess, that is just some prejudiced people's gut feeling.

Jan's picture

Come on guys, political correctness is from the 90-ies. Women can't play at the very highest level. Judith was the exception but she wasnt Worldchampion level.

Daaim Shabazz's picture

When they combined women with men in the U.S. Championship, it was a disaster for the women. Almost all of the women ended up at the bottom of the charts. They had to play top American GMs and did poorly, but there were breakout performances by players like Jennifer Shahade, Irina Krush, Anna Zatonskih and a few upsets by lower-rated women. However, the women clearly took a beating. So they went back to the separate championship. I believe they should play with the men, but should consist of the strongest women players. Otherwise, we'll end up having 0-9 disasters that have happened a couple times. Someone even compared Hana Itkis to Fischer by saying she was the youngest to ever compete in a U.S. Championship. What pressure! It was unfair comparison. I think she scored 1/2-point from nine. Not her fault, but they need to find a better system to prevent what could have crushed her confidence. Fortunately, Itkis is still playing... at 2100-level.


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