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Women in Chess

Although I'd  written about Diane Savereide on several occasions  (here, here and here),  I had reason to do some further research.  I wasn't able to uncover what I was seeking, but serendipitously, as is the usual way of things, I discovered other things that found their own connections and inspired me to share the information.

First I found this release from the USCF published in Bulletin no. 9, vol. no. XX  of the Chicago Industrial Chess League that contains some bio material:

        June 18, 1977
       
TWO AMERICAN WOMEN ACHIEVE INTERNATIONAL TITLES
     In a pursuit usually dominated by men,  two women chess players have achieved the distinction of an international title.  The Office of the President of the  World Chess Federation has announced that Diane Savereide, of Santa Monica, California, and Ruth I. Orton,  of Fayetteville, Arkansas, both 22, have  been selected to join a group of only 110 International Women Masters in the world and only five others in the United States.
     Savereide and Orton both acquired their titles as a result of their results in the Ladies' Zonal Tournament held in Milwaukee in July 1975.  Both  women obtained results in the Zonal Tournament entitling them to participate in the Ladies' Interzonal Tournament in 1976.
     Diane Savereide won the US Women;s Championship in 1975 and successfully defended her title in 1976.  A literature major at UCLA, Miss  Savereide began playing chess at age 17.  She and her brother had been playing chess for about a month when they read about a local chess  tournament near their home in California.  She entered and has been playing her way to the top f the women's chess world ever since.
     Mrs. Orton placed second in the 1975 US Women's Championship.  She has been a student at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where her  father, Dr. Robert C. Haring, holds a professorial post.  Her husband, William R. Orton, III, is an expert chess player, whose rating has now been  exceeded by that of his wife.

Next, I came across this tidbit on Ms. Savereide in Sports Illustrated:

        Sports Illustrated   August 28, 1978
        Faces In The Crowd

        RACHEL CROTTO
            NEW YORK, N.Y.
        DIANE SAVEREIDE
            SANTA MONICA, CALIF.
        Rachel, a 19-year-old freshman at Hunter College, and Diane,
        a 23-year-old senior at UCLA, are the co-champions of the
        U.S. Women's Chess tournament held at Rochester, N.Y. Each
        finished with a 7-2-1 record and scored 7.5 points in the 16-day
        competition. Crotto tied Savereide for the title in the final round,
        defeating Pam Ford of San Francisco, while Savereide was being
        held to a draw by nine-time champion Gisela Gresser of New York City.

This led me to searching Sports Illustrated where I found another SI article mentioning Savereide, but in a different context:

        Sports Illustrated
        April 08, 1985
        In The World Of Chess, Man Thinks Of Himself As King, Woman As Pawn
        by Jim0Kaplan

      Why have I yet to meet a woman who plays decent social chess? There's no known biological reason why women shouldn't be able to play the game.  They have minds to ponder with, eyes to perceive with and fingers to push pawns with. Women are unquestionably imaginative, and there are surely as  many imaginable moves in a chess game as there are stars in the sky. Yet only 4% of all U.S. Chess Federation members are female. Queen's gambit?  Declined.
     In an age when women are invading male bastions from Wall Street to the Congress, society still doesn't encourage them to play chess. By and large,  fathers don't teach daughters, boyfriends won't play girl friends; in general, men avoid playing games with women. Their excuses are as feeble as those  once used to discourage women from becoming scientists and mathematicians: Chess isn't ladylike or sexy, women don't have the patience or  logic—what's a nice girl like you doing in a seedy chess club like this? King's gambit.
     The few girls who learn the game as children tend to drop it as teenagers, when they discover it's more fun to date than checkmate. Typically, they have  no one to play with—other girls don't, and boys won't. Women occasionally get games with men but then wish they hadn't. There's a celebrated story— one that many people say is true—about a man who suffered a heart attack and died while playing chess with a woman. She was convinced he had  dropped dead on purpose rather than lose to her.
     But that's going to extremes. Most men can't imagine losing to a woman. When they do, instead of asking for rematches, they suddenly have trains to  catch. Knight's Tour.
     "Men have kicked me under the table and blown smoke in my face," says Mary Lasher, a Seattle player who has written extensively on the scarcity of  women in chess. At the 1984 Chess Olympiad in Thessaloniki, Greece, each American male player received a $1,500 honorarium, plus additional  payment for doing well. The women were paid only $1,150 apiece, with the promise of a "nice surprise" for a good performance. Fourth-ranked Rachel  Crotto of Venice, Calif. finished second. She's still waiting for her surprise. U.S. women's champion Diane Savereide of Santa Monica, Calif. knows  how Crotto felt. "I was once invited to a Connecticut event," she says, "but all they wanted me to do was play five-minute exhibition games before the  actual tournament began. They couldn't believe a strong woman player existed." Queen trapped.
     Still, there are more reasons for the dearth of women in chess than a mere overabundance of male chauvinists. The emerging, ambitious yuppie women  see no career in chess; in fact, not a single American woman earns her living playing the game. Inna Izrailov, the third-ranked woman in the U.S. and a  computer-science major at Yale, says, "I don't know any woman who wants to be a professional, because it's hard to survive in the real world. I want a  career and a life." A professional chess life for a woman is possible in only a few places. Sweden, for one, where females are trained as intensively as  male tennis players; one prodigy, Pia Cramling, has beaten Viktor Korchnoi. Soviet Georgia, for another, where talented women are given coaching and  held up as role models; Nona Gaprindashvili was honored by having a chess school named after her. According to Georgian folklore, every bride's  dowry should include a book of poems and a chess set. No wonder the only two women who have been awarded the title of Men's International  Grandmaster—Gaprindashvili, 43, and current world women's champion Maya Chiburdanidze, 24—are Georgians. Chiburdanidze, who has been  called " Bobby Fischer in a dress," has held the women's title for seven years and has won international men's tournaments in Spain, Germany and  India; meanwhile, she's studying full time to be a cardiologist. Queen's side attack.
     Granted, the U.S. has a handful of women who, like Izrailov, take the time to play in tournaments, but few understand the game's creative possibilities,  and as a result most women never get started at all. "Chess is a snore and a bore," says one otherwise intelligent and enlightened woman. The problem  is that chess is usually perceived as war, and men have long been considered more warlike than women. The more harmonious side of chess—a duet  for two musicians—is frequently ignored in the heat of combat. Says Manhattan's Diana Lanni, the 13th-ranked U.S. woman, "Chess is pretty, creative,  aesthetic and artistic—all things women are supposed to be interested in." Alas, few women are exposed to such beauty. Queen rooked.
    Many chess masters find it hard to attract girls to their classes in schools. Recently, at Brooklyn's Poly Prep Country Day School, visiting master Les  Braun was demonstrating how to play the game. On the fringe of the crowd two girls watched. But when chessboards were set up and Braun began  playing volunteers, the girls were off to talk with their friends. "I play," one of them said later, "but I'd rather socialize." This in a game in which the queen  is the most powerful piece. Queen sacrifice.

The second, related, article was a reprint from the Chicago Tribune, published in the St. Petersburg Independent:

        St. Petersburg Independent
        Nov. 2, 1978

        CHESS CHAMP
        Helen Warren:  As a Woman She's a Rare Sight in Championship Chess
        by Joan Zyda
        Chicago Tribune

        Chicago - Far from the fury of the Soviet Union women's world chess championship, Helen Warren, an  Illinois chess pro, was quietly squaring off in a  tense game with a male player at the Chicago Chess Club.
     But Warren didn't go unnoticed among the clique of men there.  She always gets attention.  That's because women are a rare sight in the upper  echelons of American chessdom.
     "It has a lot to do with socialization of the sex roles,"  says Warren, 45, after leaving her checkmate opponent with only a rook and his beleaguered  helpless king.
     "Chess is an extremely aggressive and combative game in that players are like two opposing generals on a battlefield,"  she said.  "And, of course,  most women have been taught to be delicate and passive and to be service people and baby factories, not problem-solvers."
     As a women who has been an avid chess player for the last 20 years, and three times the state women's chess champ, Warren,  who lives in  suburban Western Springs,  has had an inside look at why the so-called "royal game" isn't popular among American women.
     She reasoned that because the membership of chess clubs and tournaments is almost all men,  most female chess players are "scared off" - afraid  that they might be stared at because they are so grossly outnumbered.
    Indeed, women make up less than 2 percent of the 40,000 members of the U.S. Chess Federation, according to a spokesman,  In the Soviet Union,   on the other hand, where chess is as popular as baseball is here,  women make u over one-third of the country's top chess players; they learn the game  in school along with boys at an early age.
     "The same question - why American women don't participate in larger numbers - has bothered us for a long time," said Frank Skoff, a Chicago chess  historian and former federation president.
    "This is one game where women really haven't been discriminated against - not in the clubs nor in the tournaments.  We've even tried tricks to interest  them in the game but nothing works."
     The federation has been sponsoring chess tournaments exclusively for women since 1937 with the goal of producing a national women's chess  champion.  Such events usually attract only a dozen women and the prizes are trophies.  In contrast, "open" tournaments attract nearly 700 players,  mostly male, and the stakes are up to $2000 and trophies.
     There are no women grand masters and only two candidate masters, the next rating.  They are Diane Savereide of Santa Monica, Calif., and
Rachel Crotto of Jamaica, N.Y.
     "The quality of the female players has tended to be lower than that of the male players," said Peter Prochaska, the federation's assistant staff  director.
     He beoeives women generally lack the physical and mental stamina to spend hours over a chessboard developing and executing complicated  strategy - a reason, he believes, why American women haven't taken up chess.
     Helen Warren,  the highest rated women's champion Illinois,  who taught herself chess after reading a chess magazine years ago, thrives  on the hours-long concentration of the game.  "It helps me to relax,: she said.
     She described herself as a "chess addict."  Dozens of chess sets are scattered around her house,  and she plays the game almost every day - either  at some local chess club or with her husband.  For a living, she is editor of the Illinois Chess Association publication,  and manages a play-chess-by-mail service from her home with some 1000 subscribers.
     If she loses, she has been known to gather up the chess pieces in an abrupt manner,  or she will slam her chair into the chess table.  But if she wins,  she feels euphoric.
     "I'll get myself the best beer in the house and think that life can't possibly get better than this,"  Warren said, adding "It's too bad more women don't  realize the joys of this game."

Comments


  • 4 years ago

    jemptymethod

    One Sat. evening in Brooklyn nearly 30 years ago, after returning home by subway from the first day of a chess tournament in Manhattan, I was reading an article in Chess Life about "women in chess" or some such.  Part of that article was dedicated to Inna Izrailov, mentioned above by batgirl, who had previously been the best girl player in Baku, Azerbaijan when Garri Kasparov was the best boy player in the same city.

    To my surprise who should I share a subway car with the next morning on my way back to the tourney other than Inna!  Interestingly, this association now makes me only 2 or 3 degrees removed from US President Obama and other world leaders:

    I. Izrailov >> G. Kasparov >> V. Putin >> B. Obama, et. al.

  • 5 years ago

    pulsar8472

    Great, keep it up

  • 5 years ago

    batgirl

    Dozy:
    And there have been some very strong girl-child players.  There are so many reasons, obvious to me, why women as a group haven't risen as high as men in chess, or why individual women don't equal indivdual men, even in proportion, but none of thse reasons involve inherent inferiority. So no man should feel belittled by losing to any woman, unless she is a far weaker player, anymore than he sould fell belittle by losing to a man, unless he is a far weaker player.

    LisaV:
    It's nice to see you sober :-D.  I'm always afraid someone will get sick and thow up on my homepage.  I'm just joking, of course.  In response to your concern, hopefully in the next reincarnation you will be a man and all these things will be revealed to you.


    Raven:
    Sometimes people are blinded by the light of their own brilliance.


    Gere:
    Nice to see an Italian player here. Italy won the first international chess tournament in history. 

  • 5 years ago

    Gere

    one woman more than other: Judith Polgar. I remember in '90 she can defending every position, it was incredible!

    And now, madame PogoninaWink

  • 5 years ago

    Raven

    You would think that men who believe they have some insight into the human intellect would have insight into the human intellect. As always appreciating the information. Truth is stranger than fiction.

  • 5 years ago

    Dozy

    It's a little hard to believe that we were still thinking in those tired old stereotypes as late as the 1980s.

    I remember about 1981 there was a media scramble when, well into the cycle leg, it was learned that a woman was leading the Hawaii Ironman. Sorry, I don't recall her name and I'm not sure where she finished, but it was up at the sharp end somewhere.  She did a lot to change the perception of what women could do; and, for that matter, do it without looking as though they'd breakfasted on steroids for the best part of their lives.

    That was an extreme physical sport and in triathlon, as with chess, there are lots of women who can beat lots of men; and I've known more than a few guys who didn't like it. (I remember the only time my wife ever beat me in a triathlon -- long swim, short run, and I couldn't catch her -- she lined all her friends on either side of the road at the finish to jeer at me when I arrived.  She loved it.  So did I!)

    So if women can beat men in the physical realm, why on earth not on the chess board?

    Things have improved since the eighties, of course, but there's still too much bias.

    And even worse, if your female opponent is a child, and if she beats you ...

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