Life of a Female Chess Player Pt. II: Competition
To everyone that has reached out to me and has given me support, I really appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts and respond. To everyone that provide insightful commentary on my forum post, thank you. I don't have to agree with you to appreciate your throughts.
I want to take a moment to talk a little bit more about my personal experience. I've realized that perhaps it might be effective for me to talk about myself in a more general way so that people can identify with me not just as a woman who plays chess, but as a chess player in general.
I run into people a lot who seem to think that women aren't competitive, or at least that they aren't as competitive in chess. Frankly, I don't think I'm qualified to comment on the truth of such a statement without extensive research. I tend to think its probably a generalization without much merit, but of course, that's only based on my own experience.
The thrill of winning tantalizes me. It keeps me up at night and then follows me gleefully into my dreams. I live for the exact moment I see the correct position. My heart jumps in my chest as I realize my tactical plan. I get chills from seeing my opponent acknowledge my superiority on the board. In many ways I'm not different than any other player. I lack not for ambition.
There is one difference though. Every once in awhile, I run into what I like to call, a good ole' boy. I can spot a good ole' boy the minute he realizes that he's about to play me. His eyebrows raise for a second. Shock is his first reaction. Then smug self-assurance. He doesn't think I have a chance against him for a second. I inwardly groan every time.
What a ridiculous assumption to make about one's opponent? Intelligence isn't worn. You can't see it immediately. Yet instantly the good ole' boy is sure that I'm not going to be a good chess player.
A scurry of different things run through my mind. Of course I long desperately to beat this guy. I want his respect. I want to change how he thinks about people. I also just want to win. On the other hand, what happens if I lose? Do I fail all of womankind? Am I just reinforcing stereotypes? What if I win and he just says its because of my appearance? I weigh my options.
Part of me does want to run. Why dignify such an opponent by playing? He obvioulsy doesn't see me as a valid opponent so why should I see him as one?
The clock has started. Too late to back out now, and honestly at this point I don't want to. His gaze is embarassing. Why can't this scenario be different? Why do I have to be a girl? I always play extremely agressively in these games. I feel attacked, and the best way I know how to defend myself is to strike first.
What I long for, at the end of the day, is to be a chess player that wins. And so I try to beat him. Sometimes I win. Those are the moments I soar. He walks away muttering, and I smile just a little bit and record the win. Next opponent.
Sometimes I lose. Bitterness rots away at me. He coyly records the win, and walks away confident. I feel a crushing sense of failure. I've failed my ideals and my pride. Then I remember that I have more games to play. Next opponent.
More often than not, I want to crawl into the skin of someone else for chess tournaments. Feel what its like to be just another guy strolling aimlessly around the rows of black and white.
Then I remember that I am me, and I have a right to be here.