21 Feb Why Should Women Play Chess?
Long before we all got enamored with the red-headed Beth in The Queen’s Gambit, there was Queen of Katwe, an inspiring story of Phiona, a 10-year-old living in the slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda.
Based on a true story, the movie traces the life of Phiona, who was introduced to Chess, and her world changed. Balancing her life in the slums while taking on some of the country’s best players, Phiona plays her way on the chessboard to get a golden chance to escape her life of poverty- proving yet again, that it never matters where you come from, as long as you know how to play, and win- the game!
Today, Phiona is a well-known chess player and a Woman Candidate Master (2012). She is also working hard to complete her education with a scholarship grant.
Because she decided what she wanted for herself after all the early fame that Chess brought her was an education — the education her grandmother, mother, and sister had never had a chance to get.
Women and Chess? Why is that even a question?
If you are an ardent chess follower keeping track of ratings and everything chess, you would have noticed a gaping difference between the top men and women chess players.
- Is it conventional gender roles or unfair advantage?
- What is holding women back in the battle of minds?
Why are girls considered the underdog players?
For years, women were not considered competent enough to play against men. The draws were tough, and the hostility towards the seemingly weaker sex was evident. Open tournaments changed the perception, and women were allowed to participate not based on their gender but their rankings on par with their male counterparts.
The change is slow but assured and lasting.
Why are there fewer women in the battle of wits?
Despite some notable women chess players and historical precedents, women have been avoiding Chess for various reasons.
The statistics don’t lie, either.
Professional Chess is still an all men show. According to FIDE, only 15% of all the licensed chess players in the world are women. There have been only 37 women GMs compared to 1683 men so far. No woman has come close to winning World Chess Championship in its 134-year history if you exclude the women’s only event. The most revered woman player of all time, Judit Polgár, was world no 8 at her peak.
Sure, there is significantly less legroom on the top, but women are still shying away from proving that they are equal, if not better, than men in Chess.
Controversial statements like the one below by iconic GMs idolized by many, Indian Grand Master K Humpy, don’t help either.
“Men are just better players. It’s proven, You have to accept it.”
Statistics do back her claim.
There are only 37 women GMs in the world, compared to1,683 men. No woman has won the World Chess Championship in the tournament’s nearly 134-year history (not counting the women’s-only event).
Polgár, who retired in 2015 and remained the best of them all, was world No.8 at her peak. But she, too, never made it through the Candidates Tournament that decides the challenger for the world title.
Fewer participants at entry levels also mean fewer women chess players are vying for the top slot.
Then, why are we asking you to learn to play Chess?
First and foremost, learning Chess is like learning about your mind. Women have proven to be much better strategists than their male counterparts in various fields, from politics to science.
Women have also proven their worth in gold in athletics and various sports and erstwhile male bastions – armed forces, defense, and several other fields.
Being a woman chess player is not just a matter of proving a point. It is also about creating a new avenue, exploring your strengths, working on your weaknesses, and learning to be a better human being than you ever were.
Scientifically speaking, a man’s brain is nowhere superior to a woman’s.
Sure, men have genetically been pre-disposed to being the solutions provider. Still, women were the ones who executed all the plans to perfection, even when the roles were feverishly guarded and divided by gender.
Asking a woman to not play a cerebral game like Chess because of any reason is just like asking them not to vote or drive. However ridiculous this may sound, these “privileges” bestowed upon them by society in general, and men in particular, are not even a century old.
How Chess benefits you as a woman?
Chess is one game that allows you a free-wheel drive into different terrain. You are the master of your destiny on a chessboard. And the beauty is, everyone starts on equal footing on these 64 squares commanded by 16 pieces on each side.
Chess has a lot to offer to you. It teaches you discipline, resilience, a forward-thinking approach and demands you learn to rely on, and also respect, your intuition.
If there is one game that helps you methodically practice strategic thinking and teaches you practical ways to plan and think ahead in the future, it is Chess.
Chess could also be a full-time career. If you know how to play Chess or have already tasted success as a professional chess player, you know that there is no limit to your ability to play Chess.
You can be a coach, a partner or a mentor and start your own venture too!
You don’t need a maternity break from Chess, and neither your physical fitness plays many roles so long as you find yourself mentally fit and able to continue conquering the board.
Chess helps you fight your inner demons.
Self-Doubt clouding your judgment?
Remember how you came back with a vengeance over that weekend game of Chess? Lack of guidance hampering your chance at the next promotion? How about getting inspired from chess tactics like defending your key squares and working on your endgame that you learned in Chess and using them in real life?
Chess forces you to reduce the internal entropy and attain a state of mindfulness and calm. Women are often known for and celebrated as multi-taskers. Juggling with keeping too many balls in the air at all times also implies that they are always rushing to meet one deadline after the other. It is making them suffer from severe anxiety and bouts of restlessness.
A game of Chess is the perfect antidote to all the daily stress. The meditative nature of chess play ensures that only the calmness prevails, even if it is like an eye of a looming storm, for that period you are in front of a chessboard, the world comes to a standstill!
You may want to argue that you are not too ambitious or looking for a larger-than-life achievement like the real-life leading lady, Phiona. We can assure you that the game is here for you to give you the much-needed morale boost, and of course, a chance to prove to the world that women are equal, if not better, compared to men in everything, including Chess!
International Women’s Day
by learning a new skill.
Chess KLUB is launching chess classes specifically designed for WOMEN. Classes will happen every weekday for 10 Days, starting March 8th.
Coach: Hemant Sharma, International Master
(Hemant is an accomplished player and FIDE Trainer with over 20 years of playing & 8 years of coaching experience.)
Bulbul, a Finance professional-turned-content writer, is a content and digital marketing consultant. She is an avid follower of the game of chess, she has developed a life-long affinity towards the game because of its simplicity and uniqueness. In her free time, she loves to read, create graphics, and do Yoga.