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‘Girls just don’t have the brains to play chess ?’ An interview in riposte with Amanda Ross

UK chess grandmaster Nigel Short. Licence: Wikipedia Commons (by steenslag)

UK chess grandmaster Nigel Short. Licence: Wikipedia Commons (by steenslag)

An article in the ‘New In Chess’ magazine by English chess grandmaster Nigel Short has provoked anger and disbelief amongst the chess community after claiming that men are ‘hardwired’ to be better at the game than women.

In the article he wrote:

Why should they function in the same way? I don’t have the slightest problem in acknowledging that my wife [Rea] possesses a much higher degree of emotional intelligence than I do…Likewise, she doesn’t feel embarrassed in asking me to manoeuvre the car out of our narrow garage. One is not better than the other, we just have different skills.

It would be wonderful to see more girls playing chess and at a higher level, but rather than fretting about inequality, perhaps we should just gracefully accept it as a fact.

The comments were quickly challenged by various chess players, most notably by Amanda Ross of the Casual Chess Club who challenged Nigel Short on Twitter.

Amanda Ross (seated left) of the Casual Chess Club. Image: Tom Glasser

Amanda Ross (seated left) of the Casual Chess Club. Image: Tom Glasser

The Casual Chess Club reminded Nigel Short that his record against Judit Polgár, a Hungarian chess grandmaster and strongest female player in history, was skewed in Polgár’s favour.

LMMN went to Amanda Ross’ Casual Chess Club in London to quiz Amanda on her thoughts about Nigel Short’s article, over a game of chess.

Players at the Casual Chess Club, London. Image: Tom Glasser

Players at the Casual Chess Club, London. Image: Tom Glasser

The club, run by women, encourages chess players of all backgrounds, genders and abilities to play relaxed games of chess at the British Film Institute on Stephen Street.

It is not the first time that allegations of sexism have appeared in chess.

It comes after a comment once made by retired chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, who Nigel Short famously played in high-profile games in 1993, which stated:

Women, by their nature, are not exceptional chess players: they are not great fighters.

After appearing on Sky News, where Nigel Short defended his statement, he did acknowledge that sexism was a problem in chess but that his comments would not make the situation any worse.

I think probably sexism is an issue in chess and I wouldn’t try and escape from that.

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