Women In Chess: Be Aggressive

Women In Chess: Be Aggressive

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The recent Women's World Championship was a fascinating event. You could find everything we love about chess competitions: neat combinations, unpredictable results (will we ever forget Natalia Pogonina's amazing comebacks in almost every single match?) and finally, the winner we could only hope for. The new world champion, Mariya Muzychuk, is the best possible advertisement for chess: brainy and beautiful! 

Photo by Liu Yungpeng, courtesy of FIDE.

World Champion Mariya Muzychuk. | Photo Liu Yupeng.

Long gone are the days when Bobby Fischer could claim that he would beat any female player while giving her knight odds. Even at that time Fischer would have trouble to prove his claim (as Mikhail Tal correctly pointed out, "Fischer is Fischer of course, but a knight is a knight!"). These days, when the top women grandmasters sport Elo ratings well north of 2500, they've definitely earned respect of their male colleagues.

Therefore the recent article by Nigel Short published in the "New in Chess" magazine created a media explosion. It was analyzed and overanalyzed in numerous publications all around the world and even became a subject of this cartoon.

I don't really want to add to the controversy here, but to me, GM Short's article was just a long-winded way to say, "hey, check out the top 100 list, there is only one woman there!"

And rather than charge Nigel Short with sexism, I'd prefer to find the explanation of this phenomenon. 

Since I have a number of female students, I tried to find the answer to this question myself. I do not claim that I have solved the mystery, but at least it looks like it helped my students. Just a couple of weeks ago, at the end of April, two of my students, Becca Lampman and Naomi Bashkansky, won All-Girls National Championship, Under-18 and Under-12, respectively.

I was comparing the world of chess and the business world and found some similarities there. Both are ultra-competitive, require utmost dedication to succeed and both dominated by men! Just check the list of top executives of Fortune 500 companies, and you'll see what I mean.

Now, let's exclude the loaded word "hardwired" that brought GM Short a storm of criticism. What if the explanation is that women are just much nicer than men? Remember the now obsolete expression "fair sex"? From the dawn of the human civilization, men were supposed to be aggressive and ruthless to hunt saber-tooth tigers. Meanwhile, women had to take care of wounded warriors and provide them a tasty meal. 

Now tell me, who is going to succeed in the cutthroat world of business and chess? Wasn't Bobby Fischer talking about "the killer instinct" you need to have in order to thrive in chess?

So girls, you want to beat the competition in chess (or business)? Listen carefully, it is very simple. Just be as aggressive as possible!

Photo Liu Yupeng.

This simple strategy worked very well for the great women's champions from the past. GM Short mentioned in his article that the level of the world's best women players in 1950s was pretty low. Unfortunately, I have to agree with him. I cannot say that I saw many games from that period, but those that I saw were pretty boring wait-and-see approach games, until, yay, the opponent blunders a bishop!

And then came Nona Gaprindashvili. She single-handedly revolutionized the women's chess. In every game she went for the kill from the very first moves. Try to conduct the attack the way she beat her male opponents!


The next women's world champion, Maia Chiburdanidze, played an even more aggressive kind of chess. This is how she beat one of the leading Soviet grandmasters of that time:


So, you can see that each new generation of female players was getting more aggressive than the previous one. And of course there is Judit Polgar who is in a league of her own. When she was in the top 20 in the wWorld, she was probably the most dangerous attacking player there!

Here is how Judit attacked when she was just 12 years old:


So, in my opinion, if our beautiful ladies manage to raise the level of their aggression to the maximum, they have a good chance to became new Hou Yifan or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company!

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