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As things go in the chess world, the skirt doesn't have much of an advantage. The majority of people you'll play are men that have been playing since they were kids. Of that majority, about 50-60% will actually take you serious. It's no fun to talk about the ones who will take you seriously as a chess player. So let's talk about the other 40%. This is where a skirt's chess world gets very interesting.

Like it or not, the majority of chess men are idiots when it comes to women. I don't mean to sound brutal, but take a look at the majority of men at your local chess club. How many do you actually think have ever had a successful relationship with a woman? I don't mean all the guys who are divorced. At least they HAD a healthy relationship. Most of the guys that play chess know more about the game than the average human, but they know less about women than the average turnip. Because of this sad fact, the way a skirt gets treated is decidedly different than the way a man would treat another man. Chess is a great sport because, ideally, nothing but your skill should be judged. But then again, we don't live in an ideal world, now do we?

The Gender Issue

When a skirt sits down in front of a male opponent, one of five things runs through his head whether he likes it or not. And you'll notice that only one of those five things are thoughts he'd have if a man sat down in front of him.

1. This will be an easy game.

This is one of the most common misconceptions. And what makes it so fun is the fact that underestimation has won me a whole lot of games. One of the first significant games I won was against a 1600 player. I was still provisional and a pretty bad player (not that I'm any genius now). "Underestimation Guy" sat down in front of me and proceeded to play as if the game would win itself. He sacked a bishop for a pawn (he didn't need that piece to beat a skirt) with the intention of preventing me from castling. Big whoop. It only took two moves and I castled manually. He eventually got the piece back but went on to lose a knight. Then, the creme de la creme...I've got two rooks on his 6th and 7th rank (and he's got no luft) and he's carelessly munching pawns on my queenside. Won game. Double rook mate. You know, that guy didn't come back to the club for over a year after that. When he finally came back, he said he was out of the country for the year. Sure he was. I casually checked his rating a few times on the USCF site and, sure enough, it was moving up and down. That meant he was playing somewhere else. His machismo got in the way and his machismo wouldn't let him show his face again for a loooong time. He got beaten by a little girl because he underestimated her.

2. Whoa, look at those melons!

This is one of my favorite ones. I'm no femi-nazi, so I think the average occasional gender jokes are cool. Sometimes, however, chess guys step over the line. At the 2001 Amateur Team East in Parsippany New Jersey I was 4th board alternate on my husband's team. I played round one and two until our regular 4th board came to take over the rest. When our 4th board came, I was free to wander around, watch, and listen. There were many cool chess skirts there and I had a blast watching them play. On more than one occasion, I overheard the average comments on these women. I came to learn that it was not Jennifer Shahade, but Jennifer I'm-A-Hottie. And this coming from schleps that she could beat with one melon tied behind her back. A dear friend of mine let me in on some of the other things said about the skirts. I found his stories hilarious because of how simply ignorant they were. It certainly doesn't offend me (and neither does he for sharing them with me...he's probably one of the most "in tuned with women" guys around). It just makes me feel sad that the average human male has evolved so little over the past 2001 years. Here's one example:

(teenage male chessplayer) "I don't know what you see in her (re: a scholastic femaleplayer - now in college). I mean, she does have the best ass in chess - but otherwise..."

Another incident that opened my eyes to the "Cleavage Gambit" was when I played on a team with my girlfriend, her boyfriend, and my husband. Both of us skirts were pretty low rated in relation to our men. I was playing 3rd board. That's sad! Anyway, we were chatting about our strategies and the 1st board says, quite innocently to me and his girlfriend, "You could always bend over the board. A little cleavage never hurt anyone and it might give you an advantage". I laughed. Not because I thought it was terribly funny, but because it was terribly accurate in regard to the way men view women chess players. Not, "Play for a draw" or "Do your best not to drop any pieces" but "If you show him a little T&A, you might get an advantage". Once again, I'm a pretty open minded skirt, so I wasn't offended in the least. In fact, since skirts have such a terribly hard time moving up in the chess world, the thought did cross my mind to do some deeeeeeeeeep analysis when I was playing.

Now, do women look? Of course they do. Definatly enjoyed going to the World Open in 2000 (Julian Hodgson...cough, cough). But we aren't boarish about it. We certainly don't judge our opponents on whether or not they have tight buns.

So that brings me to my final point in this section. It's clear that skirts are in a no win situation. Women, in general, like to look good. They take great pride in what physical assets they have. In the chess world, if you wear a v-neck shirt during a game, nine chances out of ten some boar will make a comment about the "Cleavage Gambit". If that boar isn't accusing a skirt of trying to get the advantage by distraction, she'll be called all sorts of names. If we dress like slobs, we feel bad. So, in my opinion, women should dress nice; sexy if they feel like it (please see The Grandmaster's Guide to Fashion). The men could take a lesson. If you've ever been in an enclosed room with a bunch of dirty, smelly, greasy male chess players, you definatly understand.

3. Females shouldn't be playing this game.

No kidding. This is a real thought. About six or seven months ago my husband was online chatting with a younger chess player at our club. Somehow the subject turned to children. This younger player said that when he had a son, the first thing he was going to buy was a chess set and put it in his crib. Quite innocently, my husband said "Well, what if you have a girl?" The response floored me! (Yes, I was shoulder surfing). "No, she will not have a chess set. Females should not play chess." Now, first I should explain our young friend. These few excuses saved him from a black eye. First, he's young; 17 or 18. Young men are simply stupid. You can't deny that. Now, I don't mean stupid as in "unintelligent". I mean stupid as in they believe the world reaaly exists the way it does in their minds. Fast cars, fast women, and male dominance. Second, this young man is not from America; the land of the Uppity Woman. Where he comes from, men rule; especially over the chessboard. So, while controlling me desire to inflict physical harm on the poor, uninformed boy, I decided, instead, to whoop his butt over the board. I haven't achieved this goal yet, but when I did play him the first time, I gave him a run for his money.

I'm sure you're asking why men think this way about women chess players? The answer is pretty simple. Chess has been a male dominated sport since its inception. Because of this reason, male chess players don't often accept skirts. There are also a serious lack of serious female players in the world. The numbers are increasing steadily, but for the most part, I think women stay away from chess because they themselves perceive it to be a "man's game" much like Pro-Football and Pro-Wrestling. Overcoming hundreds upon hundreds of years of sexism isn't that easy!

Of all the female chess players, I respect the Polgar sisters the most. All three refused to settle for the "women's" titles. No Woman's Grandmaster or Woman's International Master title for them...thank you very much. They wanted the whole kit and kaboodle. Judit Polgar is not known as WGM Judit Polgar, but GM Polgar. The first way to break down the walls of sexism is to refuse to settle for less. Women have to work twice as hard to be considered half as good as a man. The Polgar Goddesses (I mean sisters...) have proved that skirts have what it takes to play hardball with the boys. If I'm ever in the position to accept a FIDE title, you can be damned sure there won't be any sexist/seperatist "W" before it!

As a closing thought on this subject, I would pay BIG money to watch any one of the Polgar sisters (or Jennifer Shahade or Irina Krush) play my poor, misguided young gentleman friend. I would delight in watching someone who has "no business playing chess" stomp all over him.

4. I wonder if she's married.

Chances are, yes. Or at least engaged. As I mentioned earlier, most women chess players began because of a boyfriend or husband. A small number started playing with dad. Don't insult the woman you are playing (or make an ass out of yourself) by hitting on her; even if you don't see a ring. Chess tournaments aren't dating clubs.

Now, there's nothing wrong with dating a female chess player if things work out right, but saying "Hey, you want to go out" right after "checkmate" is probably bad form.

5. Hmmm, I wonder what her rating is?

Finally we get to a real chess thought! Yes, it does happen. Sometimes a guy will sit in front of a skirt and the first thing he asks himself is "Hmmm, I wonder what her rating is?" This is the only thought that is used equally for both men and women. On the smaller club level, this is generally what goes on inside a guys head. After all, he sees the skirt he's playing every week (or very often) and the only thing he's caculating in his head is "What will happen to my rating if I win/lose to her". This is what all skirts strive for. To be treated and thought about equally. On the club level it happens more often than at bigger tournaments. Club players tend to see other players (men or women) as simply chess players. Maybe because they see them and know them. They aren't faceless melons sitting in front of them. Maybe because most club level players are friends and that skirt KNOWS where you live! If you insult her, she could come after you! Maybe it's because you KNOW that skirt's husband/boyfriend and HE knows where you live if you insult her. Whatever the reason, the attitudes that exist at club level should exist at big tournament level. Should I say. Doesn't mean they will, but in this imperfect world, we can all hope.