24 October 2018

Charm of Intellect

Eteri Kublashvili talks about the upcoming Women’s World Championship and other matters

Ever since I discovered chess as a child, I has been always thrilled whenever my favourite game was included in books, films and TV shows. I remember there was a book on Soviet sport in our family and I was delighted to see an article about Anatoly Karpov on one of the pages.  

Surprisingly, I still feel a light sense of gratitude to authors whenever I see chess in places that aren’t strictly within our profile. For example, when I see that Frank Underwood- brilliantly played by Kevin Spacey - moves pieces around in House of Cards, I am touched by pleasant emotions. 

House of Cards, Season 1, Episode 10

Or the joy I feel when retweeting Trent Alexander Arnold’s photo which depicts him descending from the plane with a chess board in hand a couple of days after his match against Magnus Carlsen.

Photo: Trent Alexander Arnold’s Twitter @trentaa98

However, it’s well known that any activity is made beautiful by the presence of women. Christian Dior Couture’s collection Spring-Summer 2018 was directly related to the theme of chess. 

Photo: Gettyimages.ru

We owe out thanks to Dmitry Oleinikov, who published an article about the Hollywood star John Wayne’s love of chess in 64 alongside a photo of his match against Marlene Dietrich.

Photo: Pinterest.com

Here we see Brigitte Bardot playing chess, and I think that this photo is worthy of every attention.

Photo: Pinterest.com

Here we have wonderful Alexandra Kosteniuk and Almira Skripchenko. Salut, Brigitte!

Photo: Kosteniuk.com

So, women and chess. Since my sphere of professional activity is not connected with cinema or fashion, I shall move the conversation to more familiar territory. Our strategy of promoting chess has been adopted long ago, there have already been results in this direction and I am certain the future is bright. Mercifully, chess has lost its popular association with the image of Nabokov’s hero. But I think that in our age of triumphant feminism and total dependence on social media, it is just the time to pay attention specifically to women’s chess.  

The desire to achieve gender equality is voiced by almost any significant media personality- most of them being women, naturally. We often hear about equalising incomes and my female intuition tells me we may get there one day. Perhaps the prize funds of women’s tournaments will become more appealing with time, won’t they?

Photo: Ju Wenjun’s Facebook

With social media, the situation is clear: in the description of any popular individual, their number of Facebook/Instagram followers is inevitably mentioned. It’s easier to scroll through a feed than to read a book, right? This was the scenario prophesied by Ray Bradbury, who wrote about a similar phenomenon in Fahrenheit 451

But I’ve gotten distracted from chess once again. Of course, women are active in promoting our sport; once again the brilliant Judit Polgar will be the official commentator for the world championship match. The Hungarian grandmaster has proven that it is possible to fight men on equal terms at the chess board and to promote chess beyond it. Her sister Susan is another successful example of a player who dedicated her life to promoting the sport after the end of her professional player’s career. All in all, women are more socially active, so their presence on the web is usually very effective.   

And so, while London hosts the Carlsen-Caruana match, snowy Khanty-Mansiysk will welcome the women’s world championship. The timeline was agreed on long ago and there is no time to change anything now. But women’s chess is visually attractive, at the very least; as professionals say, it makes for a colourful “image”. There is so much more surprise and unpredictability than in men’s chess, so the viewer will never get bored. Furthermore, the knockout system guarantees an increase in tension every round, which will produce greater emotion and make a spectacular show. 

Photo: Ugra2018.fide.com

Furthermore, as FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich has promised, the cycle of the women’s world championship will undergo significant changes. The championship in Khanty-Mansiysk will determine not only the chess queen (that title belongs to Ju Wenjun right now) but also the three participants of the future women’s candidates tournament. These spots will go to the semi-finalists, except the winner of the knockout championship, who will win the crown. From a sporting point of view, this is very important. If we make the cycle of the men’s and women’s world championships identical, that will be a huge step forward. 

Of course, we also want to increase the media awareness of female chess players at a time when women in other sports are becoming brands in their own rights. I suggest that all female participants, their fans and any other interested parties should be more active on the Internet: make notes and comment on social media, state your opinions wherever you wish, share your thoughts about tournaments and retweet/repost whatever you think is important. In other words, just be more active following the event. We all know what the zeitgeist is, but let’s direct it to promote women’s chess.

Since this is a personal blog, I can admit that I have never been a fan of social media. It seems strange to put one’s lifestyle on full display. After writing this material, I am going to the gym, yet I won’t publish any photos from there. But then I will come back and check how many views and likes this post has got. 

Finally, I offer this song concerning “mutual understanding” of sexes to your attention.