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Divya Deshmukh calls out sexism and misogyny in chess

International Master Divya Deshmukh took to social media to call out sexism in women's chess. It sparked reactions from chess's active online community.

Divya Deshmukh calls out sexism and misogyny in chess

Divya Deshmukh is an International Masters.


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 30 Jan 2024 6:29 AM GMT

International master and young Indian chess player Divya Deshmukh took to social media to call out rampant sexism in chess on Sunday after the conclusion of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands.

The 18-year-old chess player from Nagpur narrated her unpleasant experience of playing in the past few tournaments.

“I have been wanting to address this for a while but was waiting for my tournament to be over. I got told and also noticed how women in chess are often just taken for granted by spectators. The most recent example of this on a personal level would be in this tournament, I played a few games which I felt were quite good and I was proud of them,” the 18-year-old wrote in an Instagram post on Sunday.

The International Master with a rating of 2420 finished 12th in the Tata Steel Masters with a score of 4.5 out of 13 while competing in a field that had players like Hans Niemann and Harika Dronavalli.

She noticed a trend.

“I got told by people how the audience was not even bothered with the game but instead focused on every single possible thing in the world: my clothes, hair, accent, and every other irrelevant thing. I was quite upset to hear this and I think is the sad truth that people when women play chess they often overlook how good they are, the games they play, and their strength. I was quite disappointed to see how everything was discussed in my interviews (by the audience) except my games, very few people paid attention to it and it is quite a sad thing," the post added further.

A rising star in Indian chess, Divya had a great season last year when she won the Asian Women's Chess Championships, topped the rapid section of the Tata Steel India Chess tournament, and defeated multiple higher-ranked players.

“I felt it was unfair in a way because if I go to any guy’s interview there would be way less judgment on a personal level, actual compliments about the game and the player. I feel women are underappreciated and every irrelevant thing is focused on and hated on while guys would probably get away with the same things. I think women face this daily and I’m barely 18. I have faced so much judgment including hatred over the years for things that don’t even matter. I think women should start getting equal respect,” she concluded.

Divya's post has sparked strong reactions from chess's active online community with popular creators such as GothamChess coming in her support. Former world champion Susan Polgar also took X (formerly Twitter) to express her solidarity with Divya and opened up about her time in chess.

Susan, in fact, opened up about male chess players sexually harassing her during tournaments, FIDE punishing her for choosing to play only male players, and the rampant misogyny in the sport.

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