Indian chess Grandmaster and two time Asian Games gold medallist Koneru Humpy has voiced her idea for gender neutral events in chess, as she believes the separate gender events have been detrimental for the progress of women in the chess scene of India, and moreover the game in general.
India has seen many successful chess players in the past, and 66 of them have achieved the title of a Grandmaster. Unfortunately, only two of the GMs from India are women. One being the three time Women’s World Chess Championship bronze medallist Harika Dronavalli, and the other one being Koneru Humpy herself.
In a recent live session with GM Surya Sekhar Ganguly on his official YouTube show ‘Surya Chess Talk’, Humpy put forth her opinion about the tournament structure of the country being a factor behind the lack of women GMs emerging from India.
“Although most women players move away from the game due to varied situations like marriage and child birth, I feel holding separate gender events has contributed to this disparity,” Humpy said in the session.
Humpy herself went on a two year maternity hiatus in 2017. After her return to chess in 2019, she became the women’s World Rapid champion in Moscow.
The 33 year old next emphasised on the notion of having open and gender neutral events, which will help the women chess players of the country to progress further.
“If women start playing with men from the very beginning, there is more chance of bridging the gap,” Humpy continued, “But by playing separate events, women players get struck at a certain level.”
“There’s a possibility of a sense of satisfaction creeping in by winning a women’s event”, The 2007 Padma Shri awardee further stated, “but that, in a way, might kill their ambition and prevent them from aiming higher.”
Humpy also added that open tournaments and a more difficult platform will help the female players to develop further in their careers.
“Playing strong opponents always provides you the platform to grow,” she acknowledged.
In 2002, Humpy became the youngest Grandmaster ever in chess, achieving the title at the age of 15 years, 1 month, 27 days. At the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, she bagged two gold medal, in both Women’s Individual and Mixed Team categories.