Should Women’s Titles Be Abolished?

There was an interesting argument made in a recent Wall Street Journal article titled, “Abolish Women’s Chess Titles”. This is a long-held argument that women’s titles encourage mediocrity since the standards are much lower than for overall titles.

Chinese star GM Hou Yifan
Photo by Fred Lucas.

For example, to earn the Grandmaster title, a player has to have three Grandmaster performances or norms. Each norm will require the player to have a performance rating of 2600 or above and reach an ELO rating of 2500. For the women’s equivalent, a player must earn three WGM norms, have a performance rating of over 2400 for norms and reach an ELO of 2300. Thus the requirements for the WGM are not as stiff as those of the International Master’s title (2450 TPR and 2400 ELO).

The argument is that gender should have no bearing on chess skill. Many use the example of Judit Polgar who is the youngest of the Polgar trio and the strongest female player in history. She has eclipsed 2700 and has many resounding victories over the strongest players in the world. However, the next female player after Polgar is 100 points lower in ELO.

There are different points of view in this question. The article states that women’s tournament provide more opportunities to strengthen their games and allows them to develop without shouldering the discomfort of an all-male environment. However, some female players feel ambivalent about their use. “I don’t see their benefit. Women’s titles are really a marker of lower expectations,” said IM Irina Krush.

There are some other arguments being made about making existing titles more meaningful. The idea of an elevated class of GM such as the “Super GM” has come up in discussion. There are nearly 40 GMs who are rated over 2700. Twenty-five years ago there was less than five. Younger players are breaking age records at blistering rates and a few female players have reached prominence notably 15-year old GM Hou Yifan (top). There are 18 females who have the title of Grandmaster. If the women’s titles are abolished, will this help or hinder the progress of women’s chess?

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  1. It appears as if this subject has picked up steam once again. If women’s titles are abolished, I would also suggest instant titles at zonals be abolished. Neither of these help promote excellence in chess. The idea for women’s titles may be to provide them with confidence, but they can have a counter effect. Knowing that a WGM title is on the level of an FM could not be comforting either.

    On the automatic IM and FM titles… it is high time that they be abolished as well. Automatic titles for zonal scores lower standards. There are far too many IMs and FMs far below the requisite 2400 and 2300 ELO. It does not help when a player becomes the subject of whispering at tournaments concerning their title and actual strength.

  2. Well, in chess we have swindles ,to me this idea,that somehow one has to be a male is and old European concept where they walk into a room and agree on their intellectual superiorority and then start making up inferior titles for women and others who dont think on their so-called “elite” level, as if they really know, ask the women about the titles and move accordingly seems simple enough.

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