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Mongolia Tops FIDE's New Gender Equality In Chess Index; Denmark Ranks Worst

Mongolia Tops FIDE's New Gender Equality In Chess Index; Denmark Ranks Worst

Leon_Watson
| 99 | Chess.com News

Mongolia is the nation ranking highest for promoting gender equality in chess but—perhaps surprisingly—the Nordic countries occupy three of the four worst spots, a new study has revealed.

Research commissioned by the World Chess Federation's (FIDE) Women in Chess Commission and published jointly with the University of Queensland ranked 105 of the world's national chess federations to create a new Gender Equality in Chess Index (GECI).

Findings from the 2023 FIDE Gender Equality in Chess Index (GECI). Image: Chess.com.

The study used three key indicators, "Participation," "Performance," and "Progress," to compare gender equality within the international chess community. Data was taken from the FIDE ratings list and the proportions of participants taking part in recent World Youth, World Cadet and selected Continental Youth Championships.

Top of the table was Mongolia with the highest GECI score of 86.53. According to the report, almost 40% of Mongolia’s active players on the September 2023 FIDE rating list are women.

The Mongolian federation’s president, Gurvanbaatar Erdenebaatar, said in the report: “Mongolians have been playing and developing chess since ancient times and nowadays people are paying a lot of attention in teaching chess to their kids because of the successful achievements of our youth and professional women players.”

Mr Gurvanbaatar highlighted two policies that have driven success: “Mongolian Chess Federation maintains a policy of equal prize money for men and women chess players at national level tournaments.

"In addition, consistent with the call of FIDE when announcing the year of women’s chess in 2022, we try to involve our women chess players in decision-making at the management level.”

IM Munguntuul Batkhuyag, Mongolia’s highest-rated female player, told FIDE she has received significant support to help her career progress.

"We have a government bonus when we become a grandmaster. Also since 2012 with a break for four years we have a national team that receives a salary from the state. Now there is a tendency to increase the support of the national team, and, for example, the national championships have the same prize fund for both women and men."

Mongolia was followed by Sri Lanka, Uganda, Vietnam, and Namibia. Smaller federations dominate the top places and it is not until Georgia (12) and Azerbaijan (15) that major chess nations crop up. India and Russia—traditionally two of the strongest nations at the elite level of women's chess—are placed 24th and 25th respectively.

The Nordic nations fare badly, with Denmark bottom of the table with a GECI score of 34.34, Iceland second-worst in 104th, Sweden ranked 102nd, Finland in 99th, and Norway 94th.

This is despite the organizers of Norway Chess announcing earlier this year their ground-breaking vision to host an all-female super tournament in 2024 with conditions equal to their annual top-level competition.

Chess.com has contacted the Danish Chess Federation for a response, but hasn't received one yet. On the platform X, GM Peter Heine Nielsen said the key question was why:

GM Pia Cramling, speaking on the subject last year, said the culture in Nordic countries is not to have women-only events, but that she believes more would be beneficial to encouraging participation.

Leading the research was Australian GM David Smerdon, a senior lecturer at the University of Queensland and author of several popular chess books. He was joined from FIDE's Commission for Women's Chess by Carol B. Meyer, WGM Dana Reizniece-Ozola, WFM Maria Rodrigo-Yanguas and, WIM Anastasia Sorokina.

FIDE has 199 countries as affiliate members, in the form of National Chess Federations, of which 76 were excluded due to missing data. One of the nations missing was China which currently dominates women's chess and has held the women's world title since 2016.

As China's top juniors were unable to travel to world and continental age championships during the COVID-19 pandemic the authors said there was not enough data for a Progress score at the time of publication.

When Ding Liren won the world championship for China this year he was following in the footsteps of the likes of Hou Yifan and Ju Wenjun. Photos: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The authors recognised the analysis was "imperfect", but said they hope the report "can foster positive and constructive discussions within federations and across the broader chess community."

They added: "It allows members of federations and other organisations to set quantifiable targets for women and girls’ chess within each country, and to track progress over time. It is our goal that the GECI might serve as a useful tool towards gender equality in the world of chess, fostering a more inclusive and equitable environment for everyone in the game."

FIDE has faced criticism in recent years for its failure to tackle the gender gap in chess. In 2022, GM Tan Zhongyi, the 2022 Women's Rapid Champion and finalist of the Women's Candidates, was the only female chess player to earn over $100,000 in prize money compared to 19 male competitors―11 of whom earned over $200,000.

In October, the Women In Chess Foundation—an organization outside FIDE—launched with the goal of increasing the participation rates of girls and women in the game at all levels while creating safer environments and helping improve the quality of women's chess events.

It follows a series of scandals that have rocked women's chess this year. Stories of sexual harassment have emerged, such as The Wall Street Journal's story of how eight women claimed GM Alejandro Ramirez used his status to make repeated unwanted sexual advances toward them.

Ellen Carlsen, the sister of the former world champion, is another to speak out. She said that Shahade's initial allegations had led her to report an incident of harassment to the Norwegian Chess Federation.

Another female chess player who has made headlines with recent allegations was the English WIM Sabrina Chevannes, who gave an emotional interview to Times Radio and detailed her harrowing experiences of sexual harassment and misogyny on the platform X. Chevannes said they caused her to quit playing the game professionally.

Also this year, 14 of France's most notable female players signed an open letter entitled “Nous, Joueuse d'échecs,” which denounced what they said was repeated sexist behavior and acts of violence in the chess world.

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