Grandmaster Nigel Short: 'Girls don't have the brains to play chess'

British chess grandmaster Nigel Short says women don't have the brains for the game.
Fairfax NZ

British chess grandmaster Nigel Short says women don't have the brains for the game.

Chess grandmaster Nigel Short has angered female players by claiming they are not "hard-wired" for the game.

When Nigel Short, one of UK's greatest ever chess players, challenged Garry Kasparov for the world title in 1993 the pair met as bitter rivals.

But it appears the British grandmaster has finally found common ground with his Russian opponent - they both believe women are not suited to the game.

Short, who lost to Kasparov in the championships, has claimed men and women should just accept they are "hard-wired very differently".

Speaking in the magazine New in Chess about the lack of women playing the game, Short said the sexes were just different.

"Why should they [men and women] 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," Short said.

"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."

His words echo the controversial statement from Kasparov that "women, by their nature, are not exceptional chess players; they are not great fighters".

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The former British champion's comments provoked an angry reaction from female players.

Amanda Ross, who runs the Casual Chess club in London, said it was "incredibly damaging when someone so respected basically endorses sexism".

She added: "Judit Polgar, the former women's world champion, beat Nigel Short eight classical games to three in total with five draws.

"She must have brought her man-brain. Let's just hope Nigel didn't crash his car on those days, trying to park it.

"At least this resolves the age-old debate as to whether there's a direct link between chess-playing ability and intelligence. Clearly not."

Short responded on Twitter.

"You seem to suffer from incomprehension. Men and women do have different brains. This is a biological fact. Furthermore, I never said women have inferior brains. That is your crude and false attempt to caricature me," he wrote.

Chess at all levels has traditionally been dominated by men, with barely two per cent of grandmasters on the world stage being female.

Sabrina Chevannes, a British women's international master, the grade below a women's grandmaster said sexism was enduring in chess.

"Chess definitely has a problem with sexism, I have faced it all my career," Chevannes said.

She said women who play in tournaments face a constant barrage of sexist jokes and put-downs and as a result the drop-out rate among female players is huge.

"I've heard [female] players say they never want to take part again. It's appalling and it puts women off.

"I've been asked if I want to play in the junior section; I've even had men refuse to believe I'm there to play."

There has never been a female World Open chess champion, nor a female British Open champion.

However, the game's greatest female player, Polgar, from Hungary, did mount a successful challenge to male dominance.

She became the youngest player of either sex to be awarded the title of grandmaster at the age of 15 and went on to reach No 8 in the world rankings.

Polgar was the world's best female player for 26 years; she was, and is still the only woman to qualify for a World Chess Championship tournament, having done so in 2005.

Now retired, Polgar was finally overtaken in the women's rankings last month by Hou Yifan of China and her Women's World Chess Champion title was won earlier this month by Mariya Muzychuk, of Ukraine.

Short, who was born in Wigan, also became one of the youngest grandmasters in the world at the age of 19. In 1993 he challenged Kasparov, the Russian grandmaster, for the world title.

The match provoked a surge in interest in the game and was broadcast live on Britain's Channel 4. Around one million people were believed to have tuned in.

Before it started, Short received a visit from Diana, Princess of Wales, to wish him good luck. Famously, he answered the door to the princess wearing his dressing gown.

Since the world title match Kasparov, now 51, has retired, but Short has continued to compete. At 49 he is one of the oldest active elite grandmasters in the world game.

He lives in Athens with his Greek-born wife, Rea, and their son and daughter.

His world ranking is 64. In October he won the PokerStars Isle of Man Chess International.

 - The Telegraph, London

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