In Other News: Do Women Play Better Than Their Rating Against Men?
The annual "Battle of the Sexes" in Gibraltar. | Photo: Mike Klein/

In Other News: Do Women Play Better Than Their Rating Against Men?

| 48 | Misc

Whew. Candidates' took almost a month but is now done. Ditto Shamkir and the U.S. Championships. The Women's World Championship is only one game a day, so how can we quench your insatiable thirst for chess news this next week?

Here's 10 chess-themed news stories that slipped through the cracks. Click on the ones that interest you and pretend we never mentioned the rest!

1) Chess school becomes basketball school overnight -- Plenty of grandmasters have lost to lower-rated chess players, but until recently, no top-seed in the men's college basketball tournament had ever lost to a bottom seed.

Which school pulled off the monumental "16 vs. 1" upset? That would be the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), who beat the University of Virginia handily in March Madness. UMBC was one of the first colleges in the U.S. to offer chess scholarships, and that has helped them win a record-tying 10 Pan-American Intercollegiate Championships.

Luckily the basketball-playing Retrievers didn't forget their chess-playing predecessors in their celebration: "They paved the way. We looked up to them."

Another great nod to chess and the school's history: "Jairus Lyles looked like Alexander Onischuk out there!"

2) Name change for famous chess club -- Onischuk just played in the U.S. Championship, which celebrated its 10th year being hosted by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. Well, that's the last time that name will appear in a news article, since the center is now known simply as the "Saint Louis Chess Club."


The older logo on the left and the rebrand on the right. Image courtesy Saint Louis Chess Club.

"The simpler, straightforward moniker clarifies the brand and focuses its emphasis on the Saint Louis community," the club said in a press release.

3) Blind Tiger -- The Norwegian player Stein Bjørnsen, who is blind, was formerly suspended by the Norwegian Chess Federation for having an electronic device on him while playing. Since the ban was lifted, he came back to chess tournaments, winning five games, then getting caught again. 

According to this article from Tarjei Svensen, this time he was found with a "Bluetooth earplug, glued to the palm of the hand." Bjørnsen was temporarily suspended, again.

4) Chess-playing rescuer of Jews dies -- Politician and professor Johan van Hulst died earlier this year at the age of 107. Hulst saved "hundreds of Jewish babies" during World War II with some clever accounting.

His chess accomplishments obviously pale in comparison to that heroic act, but nonetheless he was quite accomplished. In 2010, at the age of 99, he won the Corus tournament for former parliamentarians in Wijk aan Zee. He was also once asked to play on the Dutch Olympiad Team, but declined due to work obligations. Long before that, in 1935, he even chatted with Max Euwe and Emanuel Lasker. Not many people alive today can say that.


Johan van Hulst in 2010 at the Corus Tournament (now Tata Steel). | Photo: Fred Lucas. Director of Content Peter Doggers got to play Van Hulst that year and wrote this touching vignette. Despite being about 600 points lower rated, Van Hulst held his own with a draw.

5) Research on women and chess ratings -- We're pretty sure this next statement will draw the most comments: New research suggests that women players perform better than statistical rating models when playing against men.


"Look at that research!"  | Photo: Mike Klein/


"Do you believe it?" | Photo: Mike Klein/

More simply: If two male players, with a certain rating difference, gives one player X percent expectation of winning a game, then a woman versus a man with the same rating difference will actually give the woman a slightly higher expected percentage.


6) Final Four of College Chess -- The University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley won the 2018 President's Cup, also known as the Final Four of College Chess. The win breaks the hegemony of Webster University, which had won five consecutive years prior.


UT-RGV's team edged Webster by one half point (7.5-7.0) in the game points. Winning team members were: GMs Vladimir Belous, Kamil Dragun, Andrew Stukopin, Havhannes Gabuzyan, and Carlos Alejano. Even more great coverage can be found at

7) Nigel Short endorses supplement -- "To be able to concentrate intensely for long period of time is very difficult, and it does diminish with age," GM Nigel Short says in his endorsement of Mind Lab Pro, a supplement meant to help cognition. "There's no question that Nigel Short as a 20 year old, 25 year old, was much better than me at this age. Anything you can do to arrest this is a great help."

He says he is "sharper" after taking it, but as always, consult your database, and your doctor!

8) World's "most impractical" chess set -- Maybe, but it's also the only one you can fit in your wallet. Too tiny for you? Just use the app instead.


9) What if Fischer had received mental treatment? -- This intriguing question is answered as part of a compilation called "Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs in Sports History." After reading the chapter examining "What If Mike Tyson Had Beaten Buster Douglas?" you can then read Dylan Loeb McClain's examination of what he thinks is the greatest hypothetical in chess history. was not given a review copy, so your guess is as good as ours as to McClain's conclusions, but the book goes on sale May 15.


10) Hiding drugs in chess pieces -- This sordid story involves an attempt to smuggle five kilos (11 pounds) of amphetamines into Iceland. Talk about triple-weighted pieces.


Are we sure that was gas that was released in 2010 by the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull? | Photo: Wikimedia Commons, user Boaworm.

Authorities even briefly implicated the president of the Icelandic Chess Federation when he received the contraband package, before realizing that he was not involved.

Gunnar Bjornsson explains what happened, a story not to be missed.

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