The History of Women Chess Titles – The Definitive Guide
Gender is a much-discussed topic in almost all existing sports. It is quite common that men and women participate in sports separately, such as in football. The game of chess is a little exception to the rule. Although gendered tournaments are quite common in many other sports, every woman who plays chess also has the right to participate in the open chess tournaments and to play against men as well.
As a woman, you can choose which tournament you prefer to participate in. Additionally, a chess player has the chance to gain a FIDE chess title. These titles are the Grandmaster (GM), the International Master (IM), the FIDE Master (FM) and the Candidate Master (CM). There are four additional, similar titles in women’s chess – the Woman Grandmaster (WGM), the Woman International Master (WIM), Woman FIDE Master (WFM) and the Woman Candidate Master (WCM).
The requirements to achieve the women’s chess titles are a little lower than for the open titles, by about 200 Elo points. However, a woman isn’t forced to accept a woman’s chess title. Players can also work towards the open chess titles without any additional boundaries.
A famous example of a woman who rejected taking a woman’s title is the Hungarian Grandmaster Judit Polgar, who is considered to be the strongest woman in chess history, making it into the overall top 10. Judit Polgar always played open tournaments and aimed to compete with anybody – not only women.
Her older sister, Susan Polgar, also doesn’t hold a WGM title. In 1991, Susan Polgar became the first women to earn the open Grandmaster title in the conventional way of achieving three GM norms and a rating of over 2500 Elo. Besides, there is also the possibility to hold both titles – an open and a women’s chess title. In this article, we will discuss the history of women’s chess titles and illustrate some reasons why they are so valuable.
The History of Women’s Chess Titles
Besides the already mentioned four Woman FIDE titles, there is also the title of the Women’s World Champion. The first Women’s World Chess Championship was organized in 1927 by FIDE. Vera Menchik became the first Women’s World Chess Champion and kept that title for 17 years until her death in 1944.
From that time, right up until the beginning of the 1990’s, all the Women World Champions came from the former Soviet Union. From the early 90’s, Chinese women proved to be worthy competitors. Since 2010 the Women’s World Championship is held every year. The current Women’s World Chess Champion is the Chinese chess player Ju Wenjun.
The highest women’s chess title is the Woman Grandmaster (WGM). This title was introduced in 1976 as a supplement to the other women’s chess titles. The requirements for this title are lower than for the open Grandmaster and the International Master. The World Girl’s Junior Champion automatically gets the WGM title.
To become a WGM you need an Elo rating of 2300, whereas to become a GM you need an Elo of 2500. Further norms to become a Grandmaster are equal to the norms for the open Grandmaster title. Currently, the strongest woman in the world is the Grandmaster Hou Yifan with an Elo rating of almost 2700. She challenges the world’s best chess players frequently. In 2018, there are 298 women with the WGM title and only 36 of them also hold the open GM title.
In 1950 FIDE first awarded the women’s chess title Woman International Master. A woman can achieve this title with a FIDE rating of 2200. There are 791 women holding the WIM title as of June 2018. The runner-up of the World Girl’s Junior Championship receives the WIM title instantly.
The first Woman FIDE Master title was awarded in 1980. To get this title, a woman needs an Elo rating of 2100. In 2018 the rating lists showed 1640 women held the WFM title.
The lowest-ranking title is the Woman Candidate Master. This title was established by FIDE in 2002 along with the open Candidate Master title. A woman needs an Elo rating of 2000 to get this title.
All titles, open chess titles or women chess titles, have to be applied for. Besides reaching the required Elo rating and the other norms, a fee has to be paid to obtain a chess title. The application for the WCM and WFM titles cost 100 euros each, the WIM costs 200 euros and the WGM 400 euros. The prices for women’s and men’s titles are the same.
Reasons for Women Chess Titles
Maybe you recognized while reading this article that there are really very few women playing chess. Chess is a male-dominated sport. So, to make women engage in chess it is important to make the game more attractive to them. By setting some lower requirements that are easier to achieve, women get motivated to participate more actively in chess.
Furthermore, people carrying open chess titles often enjoy financial perks at tournaments. Women’s chess titles are usually never excluded. Hence, women can play in a tournament without paying an entry fee or even without paying for the housing during longer competitions. This increases the likeliness that strong women players will participate in competitions.
Additionally, women’s chess titles can be gained in tournaments that are hosted only for women. Some women may feel more comfortable when they have the chance to stay with other women without men being present.
For sure, an additional incentive to participate in chess tournaments for women is that almost every tournament offers women’s awards. Often the best three women get cash prizes in chess.
In the interests of fairness, we should mention at this point that there are also plenty of critics of women chess titles. Critics claim that men and women must be treated equally for several reasons:
- Firstly, they claim that if one expects less from a woman or a person in general, this person will achieve less. So, for them, it is primarily about motivation and the will to achieve success and not focus on gender. They even claim that lower expectations for women could be the reason why fewer women play competitive chess.
- Secondly, they claim that chess is an intellectual sport. Supporters of women’s chess titles who say that physical strength is a key factor for playing strength are wrong.
In general, this topic is highly debatable and there are as many opinions on this as there are chess players in the world.
We hope we could teach you about the history of women chess titles. An outstanding example showing that chess training with women can be highly entertaining and effective at the same time is GM Susan Polgar’s chess course “The Polgar Method”. Click here to get instant access with 33% off.
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