The world has become accustomed to brilliant results by the Hungarian prodigy Judil: Polgar. But although an increasing number of female players are pushing to the fore, male chess players still form the great majority in top-level international competitions. Why should this be the case?
In Arabic times around a.d. 1000 many stories circulated concerning powerful female chess players. During the Renaissance in Europe, the playing of chess by women was a common theme in contemporary art, Even as late as the eighteenth century, the English artist Angelica Kaufmarm, whose tondos adorn I he foyer of London's Royal Academy, could depict herself playing chess as a symbol of the abstract notion of Composition. It was only during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when chess became accepted as a possible profession, that the role of female players receded into the background. Indeed, for most of the twentieth century, male and female players have been segregated into separate championships.
This is all now clue to change, and probably quite swiftly. Unlike physical activities, mental sports such as chess present absolutely no barriers to competition of gender or physical strength. The time will doubtless —and soon—come when Judit or one of fier followers will be competing in her own right for the absolute championship of the world.
Nigel Short has freely admitted that his greatest embarrassment came when he lost to the Georgian Maya Chiburdanidze. One of Argentina's top chess players is Claudia Amura. Two of Britain's champion players, John Nunn and james Plaskett, have both recently been beaten not just by teenagers, but by teenage girls. Nobody likes to be beaten. Men especially do not like to be beaten by women. But they will have to get used to it, for although there have been a number of good, women players this century, in the I t>90s there has been a rush of talent around the world. Among those at the top of the ratings are Alisa Marie from Yugoslavia, Nana loseliani from Georgia, Pia Crarnling from Sweden, teenager Hoarmg Trang from Vietnam, and Xie fun, the former Women's World Champion, from China.
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