Putting Balls in Squares Holes

Photo by Sebb

Can women play chess? Can women play chess as good as men do?

I have recently read an interview with a super GM Levon Aronian where he bluntly states: “Women cannot play chess”. He was taken to the task by the readers of chessbase.com. Some of them went as far as calling him a chauvinist and sexist.

While, as a proponent of women’s rights, I may not agree with Mr. Aronian’s opinion, I would vehemently defend his right to say what he believes is true. Don’t we all go too far when starting an argument, we slap a label on our opponents? How can we have a sincere dialog when neither side wants to hear out another? And this is an excellent example how creation of stereotype or generalization of a very specific issue evokes other stereotypes.

What Levon does, he takes too broad of a brush: “women are generally much too emotional for chess”. Thus, he creates, or rather recreates an old stereotype. And who lives by stereotype, dies by stereotype. One could easily use an old myth and say: “Armenians are generally much too emotional for chess”. After all, Mr. Aronian admits: “Sometimes I have too much blood in my brain”. But would that mean that Armenians cannot play chess? Most definitely, not! And the level of play displayed by Mr. Aronian is a testament to that.

In the last about hundred years we have had world chess champions with such opposite personalities as Botvinnik and Tal, as Karpov and Kasparov; and more hot-headed player would often succeed the more cold-blooded one and then vice versa. And, although it is common knowledge that women on average do not perform in chess as well as men on average, it does not mean that it is because they are too emotional. And it definitely does not mean that a woman cannot outperform a man in chess.

I conclude my article on the proud note that I did not bring up name Polgar (or did I just do that?)


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