The Chess Files: Female-Only Chess Tournaments?

Is there a place for Female-Only Chess Tournaments?

The Chess Files

The answers are out there.

By FM Jim Eade

It depends. We must start, as always, by defining our terms. Many of you are scratching your heads and wondering, “Isn’t it obvious what we mean by female?” Well, the top 800 female runner in the world has been barred from female competitions, because of her testosterone level. I follow this, because I set my high school record running the 800, and it is, by far, my favorite race to watch.

I use the same qualifications requirements, which I use for the participants in tournaments for players with disabilities. If you tell me you are disabled, you qualify. If you tell me you are female, you qualify.

Now that we have dispensed with the problem of definition, the question can be properly asked and addressed. I have asked for others to provide their insights into the answer, since this is outside of my area of expertise.

Dr. Alexey Root, 1989 U.S. Women’s Champion, emailed, As I wrote in my first book Children and Chess: A Guide for Educators, “Some, including me, have suggested that developing more female-only tournaments could provide social support for girls and women to stay in chess.” In 2019, 13 years after that book was published, I still think my statement is valid.

Elizabeth Shaunessy, founder of the Berkeley Chess School, responded:

“The bottom line is, women who are serious about getting better at chess should perhaps take lessons but should definitely play in tournaments that provide the biggest challenge irrespective of gender. BUT they should also solidly support women’s state, regional and national championships to increase the visibility of women in chess.”

Jen Shahade, who needs no introduction, wrote:

Hi! I think women’s tournaments are great fun for competitors of all ages and levels and can often provide extra opportunities for women chess players to earn money, prestige and attention for their hard work. I also love initiatives like “Mixed Double” Events and other incentives for women to play in Open events. As we see, many women have career achievements in both Open and women’s events, like Annie Wang, who won the Pan-American Under 20 Championship, and was also the 2018 US Women’s Champs runner-up.