The 2007 US Women's Chess Championship is starting tomorrow in Oklahoma and should provide some interesting chess games. However, I must admit to having mixed feelings about women-only events in chess.
Lots of sports have separate tournaments and competitions for women. Indeed, there are many contact sports where men and women would never compete with each other due to their physical nature e.g. American football, or rugby. Other sports are non-contact sports but still require a degree of physical strength which tends to give men an advantage that no woman, however talented, could overcome e.g. tennis or golf.
So where does that leave other sports that do not require physical strength? Sports like snooker, pool, poker, darts and chess?
There is no reason, in theory, why women should not be able to play these sports as well as men. So why should there be women-only events here as well?
Clearly, there are some short-term advantages in terms of publicity; but is this outweighed by the long-term disadvantage of settling for competition among women only, instead of playing - and beating - men?
I think Judit Polgar (pictured) has shown that in order for women to reach the top levels of chess, they should compete with men and not be sidetracked by the allure of big pay-days in better publicised women-only events.
Of course, that's easy for me to say. I'm not struggling to earn a living from chess; but isn't it ultimately the only way to succeed in a male dominated sport?