Last September the Dutch Team Championship for Companies took place in Rotterdam. During the prize-giving all fifteen female participants were called forward and five of them were granted a luxurious beauty package, by courtesy of one of the sponsors. These five happen to be the ones with the highest ELO. (See Photograph by Frans Peeters) Quite remarkable, since I don’t believe a higher ELO doesn’t make one less pretty. 100 euros for each participant was too much work apparently, but even this would suggest that only women wear make-up nowadays. On the other hand, it’s not hard to be less consistent with one’s principles if you receive 300 euros worth of gifts.
Of course, women playing chess are an appealing image in the media, since they contrast sharply with the cut-and-dry picture of the ancient, mouldy chess player, although the same media are preserving this picture precisely by using these kind of formulations. One glance at the young men of today’s world top or gaining some more in-depth knowledge about colourful characters like Morphy, Fischer or the German hyperslot Robert Hübner will prove that the only thing ancient about chess is this false stereotype itself.
Nobody will deny women can be talented on an individual level – and those who have, have been humiliated severely by them – nor would parents ever deny (at least in The Netherlands) their daughters the game of chess with the only reason being that it’s a men’s sport. The argument of positive discrimination doesn’t look sustainable – after all, where are all efforts to stimulate chess among transgender and gay people? Diversity and inclusivity are only about the exterior.
I know that some parents of talented daughters don’t want them to play amongst other girls because they would encounter less stimulus and challenge. On the other hand, I’ve often experienced girls taking part in a group which was actually a size too big for them, in order to automatically rake in the money or trophy, just for being the only girl of her group.
The appointing of Corry Vreeken (former Dutch women’s champion who did a great deal for women’s chess) as an honorary member of the Dutch chess federation, also during the price-giving of the Championship for Companies, made a sharp with the junk of facial grease and chemical powders which the women received. It’s at the very least my intention to attack Vreeken’s efforts for women’s chess, but does that mean all female privileges should be taken for granted? If we take two random kids with the same ELO, why is only the one with two X-chromosomes allowed to play in a European of World Championship, while her male counterpart isn’t, even if he is just as talented and passionate for the game – or even more? Perhaps if I can’t come off with any norms, I should put on more make-up and aim for a title that starts with a W.
FM Zyon Kollen studies Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Leiden. He won the Amsterdam Science Park Tournament in 2018 and he hunts for a norm at the Chess Festival. The 24-year old Kollen speaks six languages fluently, e.g. Finnish, Swedish and Portuguese. He is also a chess trainer, chess set collector and builder, and he writes reviews on chess books. His columns will be published every day on the website around 12 o’clock.