Sunday, August 31, 2008

Women champions boycott world chess tournament, in Russia, over Georgia

I have a love-hate relationship with chess: my father was a junior champion and we had beautiful chess sets and a handmade board, as well as chess books in Russian, inherited from my Lithuanian grandfather. (image credit) We also had chess books in English, which my brothers read, memorizing moves in the hopes of beating my father, who studied George Koltanowski's column in the newspaper and even took us all to a tournament in Sonoma to play against the master, who could beat two opponents playing simultaneously while blindfolded. I loved the pieces and the heritage, but couldn't get interested in the competitiveness and strategy. And there didn't seem to be any women chess champions out there to inspire me, or even any girlfriends playing chess.
Today, however, there are 64 women qualified to play in the world championship being held in Nalchik, a Russian city in the Caucuses. Among them are former (women's) world champion Maya Chiburdanidze of Georgia. She and 8 of her consoeurs (5 other Georgians, Marie Sebag of France, Irina Krush of the US and Tea Lanchava, born in Georgia but now living in the Netherlands) have been disqualified, however: on August 12, they wrote to the World Chess Federation to protest the location of the tournament because Georgia was in a "state of war" and did not show up.
Claiming logistical impossibility, the president of the Federation, who is also president of the Russian republic of Kalmykia, replied that the tournament could not be moved, and asked that players not mix sport and politics (just like the Olympics, n'est-ce pas?). But in turning it into a "sport," the Federation seems to have done just that: chess is a game of strategy, of brain not brawn, but the tournaments are apparently segregated and male players obtain the title of world champion, while female players become the "women's world champion." Looks like the 'Grrls will have to keep mixin' it up.


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boneman said...

I'm late to your party, but then, I'm a, nothing new, eh?
Judit Polgar is leaving a trail of losing men behind her at this writing.
Great player!
I have a friend from Germany who has played her.Just watching her play is a wonder to see. Even in a blitz game (five minutes?) she actually tales a moment to look up at her opponent to study his demeanor.
If the opponent looks up at her? She has this disarming smile, makes her move quickly without breaking eye contact, and dang if occasionally, when it's a fellow especially, they get transfixed at her tenacity, her charisma!

It is said she may achieve the position of first Woman to be a World Chess Champion.