The lower pick-up-rate of chess by women and the male dominance in competitions have been a matter of discussion since ages. Many commentators treat the topic with galantry as has Savielly Tartakower in the above quote. It is taken from an impressive collection of statements, arguments and clippings that were excerpted by Edward Winter, the eminent chess historian, and span from the 19th century to the present day.
Apart from the male dominance among the commentators one can also observe that the disregard of chess by women is rationalized. Places and social circles where chess is played are not welcoming for women. On the other hand “Lasker´s Chess Magazine” warns in 1906 that the creation “of ladies’ chess clubs is a means of perpetuating mediocrity among its members.”
It has often been asserted that women lack the recklessness and ambition required to succeed on the board. Hermann von Gottschall, the Deutsche Schachzeitung´s editor, argued in 1893 that the typical female tendency for intrigues should empower their play. In the same light hearted fashion he went on to claim that their preference for light chatter should not at all hinder women, because in the usual café or club game talking takes precedence over the actual moves.
Von Gottschall wrote for a nearly exclusively male audience, as did so many after him. More recently, explaining the male dominance in chess has become a minefield, and that can also be established from Winter´s collection (which also contains the above photo from a book on the German Chess Congress 1905 showing an actress performing Caissa in the opera “The Royal Middy”, which features a notorious checkmating trick).
We have been asked about the structure of our conference. We have parallel streams throughout both conference days on our title theme “Chess and Female Empowerment” as well as on Chess in Education with a bit of overlap. Here is our planned schedule:
Saturday 30 November
Opening Plenary: Female Perspectives
Lunch Book Presentation
World Café Debates
Round Table Inclusion and Equal Opportunity in Chess
Games on 8×8 Evening
Sunday 1 December
Keynotes World Café Debates
Round Table The Woman Question in Chess Parallel Workshops
This doesn´t mention the numerous side meetings that are informal or by invitation only nor the planned film screenings.
The world class action in the Grand Chess Tour final will start on the day after the conference on Monday, 2 December. If you participate yourself in the London Chess Classic, your playing schedule will allow you to attend a part of the conference on Saturday, 30 November, and most of it on Sunday, 1 December. Several bus lines run between the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith and the Olympia Kensington. It is just under a mile or twenty minutes to walk. Considering that you won´t be able to attend the conference at full length, as a registered participant of the FIDE Open or Weekender you are eligible to attend the conference on both days with the purchase of one day ticket.
The London Chess Conference (30 November and 1 December 2019) is looking for your contributions related to the theme of “Chess and Female Empowerment”. Don’t be shy to present or debate. You may contribute an article, a poster about your project, research or experience. We want to have a lively informed debate which give people the opportunity to embrace new ideas, make new contacts and develop new projects.
Workshops typically comprise 10-20 participants exploring a topic in detail. You may wish to contribute as a workshop chair or presenter. Potential workshops titles are:
Making clubs and competitions more welcoming (not only) for women and girls
Increasing the role of women in chess organisations
Another cherished format of the London Chess Conference is the “World Café Debate”. All debates take place simultaneously in the main hall. Each debate is moderated by the same person. The participants will be invited at (30 minute) intervals to move along to another debate. Possible debate topics include:
Should girls have separate competitions?
Should women-only titles (WFM, WIM, WGM) be abandoned?
Policy focus: decrease the performance gap or the participation gap?
Equal pay for woman players?
We are also planning two round tables with discussants and questions from the audience. Are you up to debate this:
One century of promoting females in chess: what have we learned?
Inclusion and equal opportunity in competitive chess
7th Annual London Chess and Education Conference on 30 Nov – 1 Dec, Irish Cultural Centre, Hammersmith
The theme of the 7th Annual London Chess and Education Conference on 30 Nov – 1 Dec is “Chess and Female Empowerment”. The conference examines the involvement of women and girls in chess and presents insights into how to improve the gender balance. The conference will be of interest to women chess players, organisers and educators. Primary and secondary school teachers will learn how to make chess a more engaging activity through its social and collaborative modes. The conference will also provide ideas and initiatives for those striving to improve the engagement of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The Conference will present new findings from two major surveys on women and girls in chess. A large study conducted by the European Chess Union presents statistics on women and girls in national federations throughout Europe. A study conducted through the US Chess Federation will provide qualitative insights into chess and gender issues. An analysis of online play in the Netherlands will provide details of how boys and girls compare.
The conference comprises plenary sessions interspersed with parallel streams comprising presentations, workshops, discussions, debates and demonstrations. Several speakers will relate their own personal experiences as a woman in a male environment whether playing, arbiting or organising.
A wide range of issues will be covered including:
creating a safe and welcome environment for women
successful women who played chess
why do girls give up chess?
how to make chess more accessible to women
challenges for women officials
lessons from other sports
Those expected to attend include:
Janton van Apeldoorn (NED)
Rita Atkins (HUN)
Lorin d’Costa (ENG)
José Antonio Coleto Calderón (ESP)
James Conlon (ENG)
Julie Denning (ENG)
Alessandro Dominici (ITA)
Dr. Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni (ENG)
Chris Fegan (ENG)
John Foley (ENG)
Tania Folie (BEL)
Fernand Gobet (SUI)
Ljubica Lazarevic (SRB)
Alice O’Gorman (IRL)
Maureen Grimaud (USA)
José Manuel González Guillorme (ESP)
Jesper Hall (SWE)
Alexis Harakis (ENG)
Jovanka Houska (ENG)
Sarah Hurst (ENG)
Jo Hutchinson (ENG)
Mads Jacobsen (DEN)
Ilaha Kadimova (AZE)
Stefan Löffler (GER)
Smbat Lputyan (ARM)
Sean Marsh (ENG)
Carol Meyer (USA)
Etienne Mensch (FRA)
Jerry Nash (USA)
Vince Negri (ENG)
Mikkel Norgaard (DEN)
Brigitta Peszleg (HUN)
Marcel Pruijt (NED)
Sophia Rohde (USA)
Jonathan Rowson (SCO)
Agnieska Sapkowska (POL)
Vahan Sargsyan (ARM)
Pep Suarez (ESP)
Mark Szavin (HUN)
Malcolm Pein (ENG)
Mike Truran (ENG)
We will also continue our focus on chess in education with parallel sessions.
In the week which follows, 2nd-6th December, there will be professional teacher training courses at the venue certificated by the European Chess Union. The courses cover Teaching Chess in Primary School (ECU101) and Learning Mathematics through Chess (ECU102). Further details can be found here.
The conference fee is £65 for one day and £95 for both days. Participants of the London Chess Classic Open or Week-ender can take part on both days with a one-day-ticket. Female members of the English Chess Federation are eligible for free entry by sending an email in advance to email@example.com with your membership number.
Cities provide a fertile ground for innovative formats to promote chess. “Chess Unlimited” started out in 2015 as a welcome initiative when tens of thousands refugees reached Vienna every month. Kineke Mulder, a Vienna based web designer, understood the integrative potential of chess as a game that transcends language, culture and religion. Hundreds of refugees met with local players, made friends or joined existing chess clubs. She installed chess meetings in several locations of the Austrian capital, including the main branch of the public library and the Platz der Menschenrechte, where up to fifty chess lovers meet every friday in the open air from five in the afternoon until midnight.
Giant chess boards and chess tables in public spaces can give chess great exposure but they require maintenance. At the popular chess meeting point on Max Euwe Square in Amsterdam urban guards are taking care of the giant pieces every morning and evening. Otherwise they will be neglected or even abandoned. Jesus Medina Molina, a Dutch IT consultant specializing in the travel industry, is initiating “chess courts” consisting of at least three chess tables in public parks throughout the Netherlands. He always starts by creating a network of chess lovers that will feel responsible and organise activities at the chess court several times a year. Making sure that pieces can be picked up in a nearby place is the easier part. Since the first chess court has opened in the Maxima Park in Utrecht in spring 2018, more than a dozen cities and communities have become interested to invest in chess tables.
Chess initiatives that especially welcome women often start outside of traditional clubs. “Frau Schach” is an Austrian initiative that connects women with an interest in chess. They come together once a month in a traditional Vienna coffee house, Café Schopenhauer. The “Schachbretttulpen” in Hamburg also meet every month, and they do so in different, friendly locations. London´s Casual Chess Club is open to all genders several times a week. Learn more about these and other initiatives at our conference in a workshop on “Urban Chess”.