Every morning I scan the news of the world, and the news from the Chess world, while drinking my first cuppa Joe. I surf the usual Chess websites every morning, making a mental note to return to some articles. This morning I read about Hijab Head at Chess.com in an article by Peter Doggers. Although I wanted to immediately surf over to The Chess Drum, knowing Daaim would have it covered, but spring has sprung and there were other, more important, things to do. The article, Kenyan Chess Player banned for impersonating woman (https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2023/04/11/chess-player-expelled-for-impersonating-a-woman/), is excellent. It is superior to the Chess.com article because Daaim expounds on the situation while answering questions that need answering and offering other questions, which will be addressed momentarily.
The headline at Chess.com, “Kenyan Player Expelled After Pretending To Be A Woman To Win Lucrative Prize,” caused this writer to laugh out loud. The Chess.com article begins, “A mysterious participant in the women’s section of the Kenya Open Chess Championship in Nairobi, Kenya was exposed as a male impostor and removed from the tournament. The player, whose identity was not made public, admitted to the cheating and said it was motivated by financial problems.” (https://www.chess.com/news/view/cheating-kenya-open-women-championship-impostor)
The Chess Drum answers the question:
“At the Kenya Open, something unique happened when a man was caught impersonating a woman in the women’s section. Registered as unrated Millicent Awuor, he was wearing a hijab (head & shoulder covering) typical of a Muslim woman with a niqaab (face covering). After beating a former Kenyan champion (Gloria Jumba) and Uganda’s top player (Shakira Ampaire), many initially wondered why they had never heard of her in important national events. Who was this Muslim woman? Was she a long-retired chess veteran?”
“It turns out that the player was Stanley Omondi a male university student with a 1499 FIDE rating. Other players and tournament officials started to draw suspicions when he never spoke to anyone or interacted with the other players. They also noticed some peculiar mannerisms and a strange gait for a woman.”
Stanley, my Man!
You can click on the link above and read the whole article, and I hope you do, because I am going to get to the pertinent questions posed by Mr. Shabazz, who writes: “It is interesting that while he was not the top woman player there was no “stereotype threat” since they thought he was a woman. Stereotype threat in chess is the idea that women may approach the game differently when facing a man. This incident brings about all types of discussions. One basic question is whether a man should be able to play in the women’s section. Right now the answer is “no” unless the man is technically a transgender woman.”
One can click onto “Stereotype threat” above in the original article to learn what is a “Stereotype threat”. After reading I could not help but wonder if a man “may approach the game differently when facing a” woman. I ask this because I am man enough to admit I lost to the only woman ever faced in a USCF rated tournament. Her name was Alison Burt, and I had given her lessons. The look on her face looked more like she had lost the game. She was shocked to the point of saying, “I’m sorry,” so I immediately said, “You played very well, Alison. I must have taught you something.” She smiled. Alison could have been an excellent Chess player. Not “woman” Chess player, but “Chess Player.” I have always wondered how things might have turned out for her if conditions for women in the Chess world had been better ‘back in the day’. (See: https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2021/09/22/upsetting-time-at-the-1980-us-chess-open-in-hot-atlanta-georgia/)
The “basic question” above made me wonder why there are separate Chess tournaments for men and women? Women compete equally with men at other board games, with Backgammon, Bridge and Poker being prime examples. Daaim addresses this next under the heading, Brief Discussion on Gender:
“While this case wasn’t a matter of a man genuinely claiming to be a woman, it is an issue that is being discussed in different sports. Transgender women (born male) competing with women is clearly questionable when physical strength plays a factor in competition. What about chess? Most will say that gender doesn’t matter in chess because it isn’t a physical sport. However, one can make the argument that testosterone makes men more aggressive in general, and this could also be true in how they approach chess.”
“The gender gap between men and women chess players remains constant, but girls and women have shown increased activity. Yet there is still a precipitous dropout rate of girls. Do men have an inherent advantage in games given their fighting instinct? Men play at higher levels (on average) in chess, shogi, xiangqi, go, draughts, and even bridge. Why? The “participation approach” (more men play) has been critiqued as dubious. (https://en.chessbase.com/post/why-are-men-better-chess-players-than-women) Is there any validity to the “Fighting Chess Index” seen in Dr. David Smerdon’s report?” (https://www.fide.com/docs/presentations/2022%20FIDE%20Exchange%20Forum%20-%20Smerdon.pdf)
I have not read the two above articles mentioned by Daaim, but promise you I will be on them like the plague…tomorrow, because it’s been a busy day today, tiny dancer.
I will, though, answer the above question “Why?” Maybe this was synchronicity because I have considered it since reading the article about the female golfer who stunned a reporter when she said, “It’s that time of the month.” (https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2022/may/03/that-time-of-the-month-golfer-lydia-ko-stuns-reporter-after-talking-about-period)
Unless things have changed, the vast majority of girls stop playing Chess upon reaching puberty. There is a reason.
Daaim writes, “Most will say that gender doesn’t matter in chess because it isn’t a physical sport. However, one can make the argument that testosterone makes men more aggressive in general, and this could also be true in how they approach chess.”
Testosterone is a hormone. As a girl becomes a woman her body is flooded with hormones. From then on her body is flooded with hormones each month, which is called their “period.” It has been my experience with females, including a Mother, and two sisters, and “partners”, that they are different during their period. When asked what it was like to have a period one responded succinctly with, “Like HELL!” Another said it made her feel like she was “going every which a way.” Then there was the one who said, “Like I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.” I stopped asking…
It should be obvious to anyone after reading the above that any objective study of why women are not as strong as men when it comes to Chess must begin with the question of the Menstrual cycle. Good luck with that!