Chess commentator sacked for saying game is 'maybe not for women'

Chess commentator sacked for saying game is 'maybe not for women'
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Ben Chapman

By Ben Chapman

Published: 28/09/2022

- 16:40

Updated: 14/02/2023

- 10:37

Ilya Smirin made the remark while commentating on the ninth round of the Women's Grand Prix

A chess commentator has been sacked by the International Chess Federation for making a sexist comment during a competition.

Ilya Smirin made the remark while speaking during the ninth round of the Women's Grand Prix on Tuesday.

The Israeli admitted on air that he had said "maybe chess is not for women" while appearing to praise a woman for playing like a man.

The comments prompted the federation to apologise for Mr Smirin's comments, saying they were offensive and embarrassing.

Belarusian-born Mr Smirin was once ranked in the top 20 of the world's chess players, and was making his debut as an English-language commentator in Astana, Kazakhstan.

He was initially discussing Chinese player Zhu Jiner, who is a woman grandmaster, a lower, separate title to that of grandmaster.

The woman grandmaster status requires a lower rating of 2,300, and is only available for women.

Ilya Smirin was formerly a world top 20 chess player.
Ilya Smirin was formerly a world top 20 chess player.
Anthony Devlin

While the commentators were discussing whether Jiner could attain this status, Mr Smirin said: "She's a woman grandmaster or what?...Why she wants to be like men grandmaster in this case?"

Mr Smirin went on to appear to admit that he had privately commented that "maybe chess isn't for women".

Fellow commentator Fiona Steil-Antoni said to him: "You're saying, you know, 'chess is maybe not for women'," and Mr Smirin replied: "I didn't say it openly... in private, private conversation."

The commentator in question also appeared to make a disparaging remark about another woman, Grandmaster Aleksandra Goryachkin, who he said had been "playing like a man".

Mr Smirin defended his statement, saying: "She's playing in style, positional style... But OK, I'm always curious, why can women play among men but men cannot play with women in women tournaments? Interesting question."

In a statement, FIDE, the International Chess Federation, said the comments were "very embarrassing".

"Although we have great respect for Grandmaster Ilya Smirin as a chess player, the views he expressed on air are completely unacceptable, offensive, and do not represent any of the values that FIDE stands for.

"Therefore, we unreservedly apologise to all those who were offended. Additionally, GM Smirin will not continue as a FIDE commentator with immediate effect.

"FIDE not only strives to increase women's representation in professional sports and official positions but also to change the perception of chess as purely a men's world.

"Our community has to be a place where women feel safe and respected. Therefore, any action that carries disrespect, sexism or physical, verbal or emotional assault is unacceptable."

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