Dear fellow supporters of Women's Chess!
Since being appointed Co-Chair of the FIDE Commission for Women's Chess at the recent FIDE Presidential Board in Istanbul, I have studied in detail the current situation of women's chess around the world.
While there has undoubtedly been great progress in women's chess in the past few years, evidenced by the larger number of women participating in chess tournaments, as well as the general increase of women's ratings, I believe there is much we can do to improve the situation further. We have to work on all levels, so that chess is perceived as a game equally suited to girls as to boys, beneficial to their development, in school and later on in life. This will lead to more girls starting to play chess, becoming members of their national chess federations and consequently more girls and women taking part in chess tournaments. With time, this will further raise the overall level of women chess players. With further work to make our women champions better known, girls and women will have role models to follow and that will help them become better chess players, too.
Besides that, developing Women's Chess also can help attract more press to chess, thereby pulling in potential sponsors, raising its profile and helping the game of chess as a whole.
My belief is that, with some good ideas, coupled with sound policies and precise targets for improvements in Women's Chess, we can reach significant improvements.
In this letter, I raise some important issues and give some proposals to improve women's chess over time.
Improvements won't come all at once, we will need everyone's input and active involvement. I am firmly committed to helping to develop Women's Chess in the world, and so I propose to take upon me the role of centralizing all the ideas, improving on them with everyone's help, and try to push them around until they become a reality.
I need and welcome all of your comments and suggestions to any of these points. Feel free to respond to the committee members as a whole so we can all be informed of how our issues advance. You can also add issues that are close to you and we can try to improve the situation in those too. I will follow up on all issues until we either succeed or decide it is an avenue not worth being followed.
Specially for the goal the Improving Women's Chess, and to have a central depot for the ideas generated and comments to them, I have set up a Women's Chess Blog, where you will be able to post messages with your ideas and comments to any other ideas. The address is www.chessblog.com and I will make sure that it meets its goal of positively promoting Women's Chess in the world.
Today I have posted on www.chessblog.com this letter in its entirety, and in the days ahead, each point raised below will have its own post, so you will have a chance to comment on any and all of the issues at hand. If you have a new issue you'd like to raise, simply send me an email to [email protected] and I will post the issue as a new post on www.chessblog.com .
The goal of the WOMEN'S CHESS BLOG is exclusively to improve Women's Chess in the world, in a positive way, with new ideas and constructive criticism only. Women's Chess will be shown to be the kinder and more attractive side of chess.
Open issues and Proposals:
1. Predictable Tournaments Calendar.
It is important to make the calendar for professional women's players as predictable as possible. For that we need to set up a reliable system where tournaments are announced as far as possible in advance and dates are recorded in a central FIDE database (for example at calendarwomen.fide.com). Official FIDE tournaments and Grand Prix events should have dates fixed at least 6 months in advance and cannot be changed after the bidding host has been accepted.
2. Making our Women Stars better known and turn them into Role Models.
When the press talks about chess, they sometimes don't have any ideas about the fact that women play chess too or they think it's not interesting. We propose FIDE make women's presence on their site closer to 50% of coverage. I looked today and there is practically not a word about any women's chess champion nor any women's event on the FIDE home page. At the minimum, FIDE should have a well placed button or banner on their home page called "Women's Chess Stars", for example at women.fide.com, where we could find the history of Women's Chess, previous World Champions, as well as the current women's champions in all sections (World, Continents, all Countries, all age groups). Any women on that page become FIDE WOMEN STARS and FIDE should promote them as such. Any girl from any country, whatever small it is, should be able to go to that page, and find her country "star", which will be her role model for the time, before she gets better and becomes a "star" herself, then trying to become a bigger "star". I think that this idea, while very easy to implement and which does not cost anything really, will help more girls think of chess being cool, and will bring them to chess. And it will be useful for the press, who at a glance, will be able to see all of the worlds past and present stars, on a global scale going down to each country. That's much better than having to search on dozens of Wikipedia pages and FIDE top lists.
3. Women's World Blitz and Rapid Championships.
Those tournaments, which could be a hit with sponsors and especially with TV, unfortunately don't exist. FIDE should develop tournament regulations for them and put them up for bidding. FIDE could make official the titles of Women's Blitz and Rapid Champions, which would make these events very attractive to all the top players, as well as to sponsors and the press. Further, organizers of continental championships should be encouraged to add 2-3-4 days to their schedules to hold continental Blitz and Rapid Championships, and give out additional titles of Blitz and Rapid Champions. I am sure many players would gladly participate in the extra competitions and this has a great potential to bring in the press and even additional sponsors. Also, playing a continental championship will then offer 3 chances to become the champion, which is better for the players. This can be also extended to the Women's Grand Prix.
4. Creating the CAISSA Award.
This award could be given to the best woman player of the previous year, based on some criteria to be determined (highest ELO improvement from 2400 up, highest performance in a top tournament, most titles won, etc.). FIDE could put this also up for bidding with sponsors and the title could come with the sponsor name, for example the "Microsoft Caissa award", with a part of the sponsor's money going to the budget for women's chess.
5. Creating a GOLD ORGANIZER award.
Our FIDE Commission for Women's Chess can make a list of positive qualities women's chess tournaments should have and evaluate each major tournament based on these factors. For example, level of prizes, web presence, satisfaction of players, etc. The tournaments and organizers who make the mark should be given a GOLD ORGANIZER award. The award is honorific in nature, but could carry some advantages in the future for example in scheduling tournaments. Also, FIDE could post on their web site information on all chess organizers , with a particular mention for those achieving the GOLD status.
6. Increasing Women's Prizes in Open Tournaments.
At the moment the difference between the top prize and the top women who play in the same strong open tournament is significant, making it not at all interesting for the strongest women to play in large open tournaments. For example top men's prize in an open could be $4000, but top woman in the open $200, which is not reasonable if there are several men GM playing, it becomes totally uninteresting for women to play or even costly since they often have to pay for they travel, hotel and sometimes trainer. This is detrimental to the progress of women's chess as women miss out on opportunities to play strong opens with men. FIDE could require for all FIDE rated tournaments to have a prize for the first woman to be no less than 30% (for example) of the top prize, this way with time it is sure that more women would participate in open tournaments, which would increase their levels.
7. Supporting women's events with its Budget.
FIDE is a little too silent on the way it uses its budget, as they don't have a transparent reporting of their incomes and expenses. For example, while I am Co-Chair of the Commission, it is not clear what the budget, if any, the Women's Commission has. It is also not clear how the budget is funded, from where. Recently I received an email asking about having the Women's Commission support financially the Central American and Carribean Women's Championship and we don't know if there is a budget for this and what are the procedures to follow.
I think this Commission for Women's Chess should have a budget in accordance with its duties, and the right to spend it to further Women's Chess, in a totally open and transparent way, and taking everybody's votes into consideration. It should be clear how the budget is funded, for example, a part of the 20% paid to FIDE from prizes of all major tournaments should go to the Commission for Women's Chess (at least from the Women's tournaments).
By this letter I ask the FIDE Secretary Mr. Ignatius Leong to inform us about the current budget for this year, as well as the correct procedure for spending it. This way we will be able to monitor the progress we make and support causes that deserve it.
I look forward to seeing you all on www.chessblog.com where I will inform everybody on the progress we make in all areas and you are welcome to add your comments. If you wish to contact me personally, for any reason and to add issues or suggested improvements for Women's Chess to my list my email is [email protected] .
Best chess wishes to all!
Women's World Chess Champion