Women and men in chess – crushing the stereotypes

Women and men in chess – crushing the stereotypes

| 25 | Chess Players

WGM Pogonina, a top women grandmaster rated 2501 FIDE, shares her views on the evergreen topic “why do women play chess worse than men” and takes a look at the future of women’s chess.


Kasparov - Retired, but still the greatest

Chess is often divided into men’s chess and women’s chess. The classification is quite relative, since women can participate in tournaments for men, while men can’t take part in women’s events. This discrimination has always been a subject of heated discussions. Anyway, chess is an intellectual sport, physical strength is by far not the key factor there. So, are women just less intelligent than men? No. Then what’s the problem? Many people will tell you that men are just historically better at chess than women (due to various reasons), and there’s nothing you can do about it. Look at the top-300 list of chess players and count the number of women there. If you don’t miss anyone, you’ll find only 3 of them. One to a hundred, great ratio, isn’t it? Ok, then probably we should support women chess players and hold “women only” events? Let women chess exist as a separate sport along with women tennis, athletics etc. So, if we think that way, then the issue is closed, and we should just face the fact that men are dominant in chess? No way.

Judit Polgar - indeed a chess classic

If chess is a mind game, then why are women B-movie actors in it? I have the following view of the situation:

Women have started playing chess professionally long after men. Nowadays the number of professional women chess players is growing, but the proportion is still incomparable. There are very few women in chess, so they have few chances to enter the world chess elite. It’s also important to note that women have to dedicate a lot of time to their family: e.g. when a child is born they don’t have enough time to study chess or participate in multiple chess tournaments.

The last factor seems to be the most important to me – it’s psychology. A stereotype exists in chess that women are no match for men. It is based on statistical data. That’s why many female chess players are taught from the early childhood that they’ll never make it to men’s level. TV and books also try to convince them that it’s unreal. But all this is a myth! The first woman to break it was the incredible Judit Polgar, the greatest women chess player of all times.

Natalia Pogonina - a smile before  the game is worth 100 rating points

Final question – what should a girl do to compete with the best male players? She should keep telling herself that she is equal to men, play in men’s tournaments, study hard and believe in herself. If most women start acting that way, then one day quantity will lead to quality, and the world chess elite will be enjoying more female players.

It’s essential to remember that the sky is the limit and all the obstacles are in our heads.

© Natalia Pogonina, article courtesy of - exclusively published at before the official release


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