Chess

The politics of women's chess has had an interesting history. For hundreds of years everyone knew that women couldn't play chess, and there were no real problems. There had been Vera Menchik, of course, who beat several of the world's top players in the 1930s, but without support from other women players she could easily be dismissed as an aberration. Anyway, she only ever beat good players when they tried too hard to win level positions.

Then, from the 1960s to the 1980s, the top Soviet women began playing in men's tournaments and were at least beginning to look like grandmasters if not quite world champions. But then the Polgars arrived.

Trained from infancy by their educational psychologist parents, Zsuzsa, Zsofia and Judit Polgar re-wrote all the records for chess precocity, boy or girl. And they never competed in girls-only events.

When the 16-year-old Zsuzsa, the eldest of the trio, shot to the top of the women's rating list, it enraged the Soviet chess establishment. Their world champion, Maya Chiburdanidze, could not be seen to have dropped to number two. So, with the aid of some selective samples of results, they "proved" statistically that the rating system was unfair to women who only played against other women.

In one of its most bizarre and shameful decisions, the Fide ratings commission as a consequence decided to give 100 extra rating points to every woman on earth except Zsuzsa Polgar.

It made little difference apart from fuelling inflation in world ratings and shooting the pre-teen Judit Polgar high up the ranking list. Chiburdanidze was back on top, though she lost her world title a few years later to Xie Jun of China. After a few years, when the 100-point bonus became eroded by subsequent results, Zsuzsa Polgar regained her number one place, only to be quickly supplanted by her little sister Judit.

Hungary, by now generally known as Polgaria, won the Women's Chess Olympics twice, ahead of the Soviet Union, and would have won it last time too had Judit not been playing for the men's team. Ranked 20th in the world, she is now playing with the big boys.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world's women players, inspired by the Polgars, have become strong enough for Zsuzsa to consider the Women's world title at last worth pursuing. Last month, in a final eliminator, she scored a convincing victory over Maya Chiburdanidze and now goes on to challenge Xie Jun for the championship.

According to a report in Der Spiegel, Chiburdanidze has given her prize money to the poor and decided to hang up her pawns and retire to a convent. Funny chaps, women.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Recruitment Genius: HR Advisor

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our Client has been the leader ...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine