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Chess described as racist and sexist

  • #1

    I rarely read forewords and acknowledgements; usually I skip to the body matter. Yesterday, "The Even More Complete Chess Addict" by Mike Fox and Richard James seemed to open itself on the foreword by Dr Patric Moore, and I glanced the following passage:

    "I once heard it said that chess was racist ('It sets White against Black'), and sexist ('The King, not the Queen, is the pivotal figure')."

    In my own experience, the negative comments about chess were that "it is boring", "too difficult", "no fun", "a dangerous distraction", "forbidden by religion", etc., but the 'racist' and 'sexist' label was never something I came across. Isn't Dr Moore exaggerating here a bit?

  • #2

    yaa.. i agree..

  • #3

    I would agree also that he is exaggerating.  Honestly, the only complaint I have heard is that is too difficlut.

  • #4

    Not in the literal sence;

    It describes the lack of exposure to chess certain minorities will have and perhaps the people that would like to keep it that way.

    And of course I could comment on sexism but I think we've all seen those "are men superior" threads around here to see how obvious that is...

  • #5
    AnthonyCG wrote:

    Not in the literal sence;

    It describes the lack of exposure to chess certain minorities will have and perhaps the people that would like to keep it that way.

    And of course I could comment on sexism but I think we've all seen those "are men superior" threads around here to see how obvious that is...


     Still the "chess community" should not be labeled "racist" on the basis of a few comments now and then...

  • #6

    Utter rubbish!

    The two sides in chess are different colors so you can tell them apart.  Early on in history, any two different colors sufficed.  It merely became convention to call the lighter colored pieces "White" and the darker "Black."  It was not until the early 19th century that the custom of White having the first move became established.  Up through then, players would sit for a series of games with either White or Black.  They kept the same pieces for all the games, and simply alternated which side moved first. 

    To find racism in this, one would have to be a paranoid, an idiot, or both.

    Similarly, the supremacy of the King is only reflective of history:  the King was the most important person in the kingdom.  Since the Queen is actually the most powerful piece on the board, the sexism charge also dies without a credible second.

    Some people are just grievances looking for a place to happen.

  • #7

    I think it is more likely that instead of 'racist'; it is more likely 'just' coincidental that the colors are black and white. Please remember the origin of this game is in India and the Middle East. This is hardly a case for racism on the white majority. If any 'racism' were involved, it would have come from one of those two cultures and they are hardly 'white vs. black' type countries.

    About the sexism, well, that is a probability when you once again consider the origin if the game. The cultures that originated the game were hardly based on sexual equality back in those days. So, it could probably be concluded that women were not even intended to play the game. If they were allowed, it probably would have only been against other women, as no man in those days would condescend to test his military superiority against a woman. It would have been embarrassing to even consider they could be their equal at war. (Although to be fair, India and Asia in general did have women warriors. The power of the queen is probably a nod to this fact.) So, yah, it probably is sexist in that respect.

    Kinda sad, huh? But consider this, in the past, the queen was not as strong as she is now. Maybe this was an attempt to give respect to women, but in any case, while the game does not revolve around the queen, she is undoubtedly the most useful piece on the board! (beside the understanding that the game is over if the king dies, duh) Try playing without one and see!

  • #8

    I don't think this statement is worth discussing too much. It's clearly a very minor opinion, which might even have made up by the author to spice up his article.

  • #9

    i think the racist comment is absurd.

    there well may be some sexism, but it is not inherent in the game.

    i think more women should play the game, and demonstrate their ability.

    but as i've said before they may find it a silly, useless game.

  • #10

    People that find things like racism and sexism in a game like chess are nothing but sad, trouble making individuals. They should be simply ignored.

  • #11

    actually there are so many "minorities" now a days that u wonder who belongs to the "majority" and wheter ther is actually such a thing left.  "politically correct" labels are absurd - i care 2 hoots whether i am called "brown skin" , or  "indian" or any such thing - so what, it is correct description of skin color right? Of course i would object to being called a "paki" or "pakistani" as that is a different country altogether :-). This sekist / etc stuff is being taken too far

  • #12

    sorry - sexist, etc

  • #13

    cmon, at least spare games

  • #14

    There is only what you bring with you. The pieces are light and dark to tell them apart. If we are going to persue the importance of the King, then you could also argue that a piece that needs an entire army to guard it is not very powerful at all. I think that author is just trying to read into things a little too deep, maybe he's trying to make a name for himself by hyping up drama.

  • #15

    i just had a brilliant idea - BAN all "politically correct" words

  • #16

    Patrick Moore is a known eccentric (albeit a brilliant one).

    One could make a case for saying that chess is to some extent passively racist and sexist, in that the great majority of players seem to be white and male.

  • #17
    chessoholicalien wrote:

    Patrick Moore is a known eccentric (albeit a brilliant one).

    One could make a case for saying that chess is to some extent passively racist and sexist, in that the great majority of players seem to be white and male.


     I suppose this also might have been said of golf, in the pre-Tiger days... Or of tennis, before Ashe...

  • #18

    I suppose one could make a late night comic joke out of some of this, but the evolution was largely to make the game more interesting for the games sake.  The queen used to be the weakest piece, and then (around the late 15th century-I think???) she became the most powerful, pawns could move 2 squares on their 1st move, castling was permitted, etc.  Really not much in the way of social commentary.

  • #19
    Estragon wrote:

    Utter rubbish!

    The two sides in chess are different colors so you can tell them apart.  Early on in history, any two different colors sufficed.  It merely became convention to call the lighter colored pieces "White" and the darker "Black."  It was not until the early 19th century that the custom of White having the first move became established.  Up through then, players would sit for a series of games with either White or Black.  They kept the same pieces for all the games, and simply alternated which side moved first. 

    To find racism in this, one would have to be a paranoid, an idiot, or both.

    Similarly, the supremacy of the King is only reflective of history:  the King was the most important person in the kingdom.  Since the Queen is actually the most powerful piece on the board, the sexism charge also dies without a credible second.

    Some people are just grievances looking for a place to happen.


     To answer the original question I would say he's exaggerating by a long way. Interesting Estragon I like how they used to alternated which side goes first, actually sounds better to me to alternate it. So why did they invent the rule black must go on the second move for ?

  • #20
    Crazychessplaya wrote:
    chessoholicalien wrote:

    Patrick Moore is a known eccentric (albeit a brilliant one).

    One could make a case for saying that chess is to some extent passively racist and sexist, in that the great majority of players seem to be white and male.


     I suppose this also might have been said of golf, in the pre-Tiger days... Or of tennis, before Ashe...


    By your logic God is racist because there are more white people on the planet. An idea that Hitler agreed with.  Yes I just compared you to Hitler

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