Chess is returning little by little to face-to-face tournaments after a year and a half of the internet at full throttle due to the pandemic. The International Federation (FIDE) went to great lengths to find the venue for the first elite women’s competition since the individual title duel in January 2020, reflecting the boom after the enormous success of the series. Lady’s Gambit. And he found it in Sitges, 25 minutes from Barcelona airport, where the tradition of major tournaments dates back to 1934. Sixty players on twelve teams from Europe, Asia and America will compete until Saturday.
The Minister of Culture and Sports, Miquel Iceta, was surprised on Sunday during the opening ceremony because the proportion of Spanish chess players is one woman for every ten men (lower among young people, but many girls stop playing in adolescence). And that Spain is among the countries with the most players. Of the hundred best in the world, only one is a woman.
The issue is as surprising (physical strength does not influence chess at all) as it is difficult to solve in the short or medium term because the mental sport par excellence continues to have a social label of masculinity in most countries. The ideal would be to introduce it en masse in the classroom as an educational tool for boys and girls from 3 to 6 years old, but that will take time. Meanwhile, it is discussed -on Saturday there will be a round table in Sitges on this- whether it is better to eliminate exclusively female tournaments, as Spain has done with the national championships of all categories, or to keep them so that the girls do not lose the stimulus of being champions after winning women’s competitions.
In his morning press conference today, Russian FIDE President Arkady Dvorkóvich has been in favor of encouraging the maintenance of women’s tournaments. He is even thinking about making financial aid to federations in developing countries conditional on having a women’s national championship every year. Although later he clarified: “It is clear that we respect what each country wants to do. And that chess is very advanced specifically in Spain, and therefore it is normal that its vision is different from that of the majority ”.
The eighth champion of Spain Sabrina Vega prefers to find a balance point: “Chess is one, but you have to respect the times, and there is still a long way to go. For now, it makes perfect sense that there are still World and European Women’s Championships, and also that the national championships of many countries are separated ”. His short-term goal is more pragmatic: “Women’s chess must be made visible.”
Dvorkóvich announced at that meeting with the press that FIDE has decided to give a direct invitation – which is usually reserved for players with very special merits – in the Grand Swiss (qualifying for the Candidates Tournament) to be played at the end of October in Riga ( Latvia). And that wild card will go to María Eizaguerri, who a month ago won the Mixed Spanish Under 18 Championship in Salobreña (Granada) and became the first woman to achieve it, in any category. The Aragonese agrees with Vega: “At the moment, and in accordance with my own experience, I think it would be better to maintain the separation of the sexes in the Spanish Championships of all ages. I understand that if I say that precisely, I am striking. But I am convinced that it is the best, so that the Spanish champion is the one who has surpassed the other girls, not the best woman in a tournament with men ”.
Two days after a shopping center in Vigo (Travesía, managed by Carrefour) sponsored the exhibition game in a public square between Anatoli Kárpov and the mayor, Abel Caballero, the Women’s World Cup for Nations in Sitges is sponsored by Motiva, a company of breast implants. Both things were unthinkable a couple of years ago. David Llada, Head of Communication and Marketing at FIDE, highlights it: “It is the largest sponsorship in the history of women’s chess. Includes the Candidates Tournament and the individual World Cup. And we will invest a large part of that income in activities that specifically promote women’s chess ”.
The Spanish team (Matnadze, Vega, Marta García, Calzetta and Eizaguerri) debuted on the first day with defeats against two of the favorites, Russia (0-4) and India (1.5-2.5). The twelve teams are evenly distributed (according to their initial ranking) in Groups A (Russian Federation, Armenia, Azerbaijan, India, Spain and France) and B (Georgia, Kazakhstan, FIDE America, Ukraine, Poland and Germany). The top four of each group will meet in the quarterfinals. It is played for 45 minutes per side and an additional ten seconds after each move. All players passed an antigen test before the first round.
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