A real feminist

This is a post from the public Facebook page of Anna Muzychuk, a Ukrainian chess grandmaster who holds the women’s world titles in Rapid Chess and Blitz Chess. In November she announced she would give up her titles by refusing to attend this year’s championships in Saudi Arabia on grounds of women’s secondary status and the dress and “guardian” codes that still remain in a land that may be reforming:

As the Guardian reports:

A two-time world chess champion has said she will not defend her titles at a tournament held in Saudi Arabia because of the way the kingdom treats women as “secondary creatures”.

Anna Muzychuk, of Ukraine, turned down the chance to travel to the event despite modest signs of reform in the kingdom under the young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

“Exactly one year ago I won these two titles and was about the happiest person in the chess world but this time I feel really bad,” said Muzychuk. “I am ready to stand for my principles and skip the event, where in five days I was expected to earn more than I do in a dozen of events combined.”

The Saudis are believed to have paid $1.5m (£750,000) to host the championship for the first time. The sport’s governing body, Fide, had claimed a measure of success in persuading Saudi authorities to allow female competitors to compete in high-necked white blouses and blue or black trousers instead of full-body abayas.

FIDE claimed victory by not making women wear full body coverings? What kind of victory is that? Women playing rapid chess should be able to wear what is comfortable, and I don’t think a “high necked blouse is that comfortable”. But it’s execrable that there would be any such dress code for a chess championship. FIDE is reprehensible, and has been (see below).

However, for Muzychuk, it was not enough. “I am going to lose two world champion titles, one by one,” she wrote on Facebook. “Just because I decided not to go to Saudi Arabia. Not to play by someone’s rules, not to wear abaya, not to be accompanied getting outside and altogether not to feel myself a secondary creature.”

Oh, and one more issue about this Saudi tournament. Seven Israeli players who had requested visas to be allowed to participate in the speed chess championships had their visas denied. And that’s just fine with FIDE:

Seven Israeli players had requested visas for the tournament, taking place from 26-30 December. It would have been the first time Saudi Arabia had publicly hosted Israelis, as the Gulf state does not recognise Israel and there are no formal ties between them.

The Fide vice-president, Israel Gelfer, speaking in Athens where the body’s secretariat is based, said visas for the Israeli players “have not been issued and will not be issued”.

He said the tournament would go ahead as planned. It was not immediately clear whether other delegations had been excluded but players from Qatar had suggested they may have been rejected.

Well, screw FIDE, who didn’t defend the Israelis’ right to play with the world’s other chess champions. They should have ensured from the outset that no player would be barred because of their dress or their nationality. And if the Saudis didn’t comply, no tournament there. This isn’t rocket science, it’s simple civility and respect for other humans.

h/t: Ant


  1. Posted December 28, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Brava, Anna Muzychuk!

  2. sensorrhea
    Posted December 28, 2017 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Bliss Chess sounds pretty fun. What are the rules?

    Or did you mean “Blitz?”

    • thompjs
      Posted December 28, 2017 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      Yes Blitz

    • Posted December 30, 2017 at 12:02 am | Permalink

      I want to know the rules for Bliss Chess.

      • rickflick
        Posted December 30, 2017 at 1:05 am | Permalink

        A modicum of mutual respect. Then just about anything goes.

  3. Frank
    Posted December 28, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    This protest calls to mind the interview between Oriana Fallaci and the Ayatollah Khmomeini, shortly after the 1979 revolution. Fallaci was a bomb-thrower to be sure, but we could use more like her today:

    Fallaci: I still have to ask you a lot of things. About the “chador”, for example, which I was obliged to wear to come and interview you, and which you impose on Iranian women…. I am not only referring to the dress, but to what it represents, I mean the apartheid Iranian women have been forced into after the revolution. They cannot study at the university with men, they cannot work with men, they cannot swim in the sea or in a swimming-pool with men. They have to do everything separately, wearing their “chador”. By the way, how can you swim wearing a “chador”?

    Khomeini: None of this concerns you, our customs do not concern you. If you don’t like the Islamic dress, you are not obliged to wear it, since it is for young women and respectable ladies.

    Fallaci: This is very kind of you, Imam, since you tell me that, I’m going to immediately rid myself of this stupid medieval rag. There!

    • Merilee
      Posted December 28, 2017 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      Oriana knew how to throw shade! Take that, Ayatollah!

  4. Posted December 28, 2017 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    These problems in chess never occur with the blokes. One can’t help but feel so sorry for the chess women who want to attain the full measure of their dignity, that they have to do this while FIDE kowtows to the oil-men. I don’t think Kasparov has a good word to say about FIDE.

    • eric
      Posted December 28, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Well, the sexism problem doesn’t occur….I still have a problem with FIDE hosting an event in a country that is going to reject the visas of regular competitors for political reasons.

      Going forward, I think a question for prospective host countries should be: “we expect competitors from many countries [shows list]. Will they all be allowed to come and compete in your tournament?” If the answer is no, that country should not be allowed to host. And yes, this goes for the US too. If, in the future, our new travel bans are going to prevent any known high-level competitor from participating, FIDE should reject any future US applications to serve as a host country.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted December 28, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

        This isn’t the first time
        Jewish players have been rejected because of where the tournament is held. And it’s not the first time FIDE has chosen money over women either.

        I also think it’s time top male golf and tennis players, for example, stood up to the Gulf States. They’re paid obscene amounts of money to play there because the countries want good publicity, while women suffer.

        And the corruption re where the Soccer world cup is held is another example.

        Good on Ms Muzychuk (what a cool name!). It would be good to see her get more support.

        • eric
          Posted December 28, 2017 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

          I also think it’s time top male golf and tennis players, for example, stood up to the Gulf States.

          It would be good if they did. But it would be much better if the institutions implemented strong anti-bigotry rules, rather than the players being put in the ‘paycheck or social justice’ bind.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted December 28, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

            Well said and I agree. It is the organisations that should be taking a stand. FIDE isn’t even living up to its own rules, as someone else has pointed out.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 28, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

          Indeed, I remember Pakeha refusing to play rugby in South Africa during springbok because the South African government required Maori team memners to be excluded from playing with whites which meant many team members had to stay home. These stupid rules ere agreed to until people said enough was enough. Preposterous to think of now but this poor treatment of women is just as bad and often it requires support from a powerful group (then whites, here, men) to help change things.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted December 28, 2017 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

            When I was a teen (1970s/80s) that was a really big thing. Pakeha in NZ often knew more about people like Steve Biko than whites in South Africa. It was a national embarrassment to many of us that there was a time that the NZ rugby union left out Maori players because SA demanded it, and we were determined to make up for it.

            The history of apartheid in SA was part of our curriculum at high school. It’s still part of the curriculum now, but they learn about it much younger. About 8-10 I think, and they do Hitler, Nazism, anti-Semitism etc at the same time. About a month ago the local primary school took the kids to see ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted December 28, 2017 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

              I was in NZ in the 90s when the NZ rugby team had refused to play in South Africa because of them insisting Maori players stay home. I was glad they refused to participate and was shocked it was even suggested. It was especially shocking to me since Maori make up ⅓ of the NZ population. How that stupid rule was ever adhered to was just terrible but at least NZ told them to stuff it fairly early on.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted December 28, 2017 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

                Yeah, I think the last time NZ did it was the 1920s or 30s in a year when there was only one Maori player in the team. Still terrible of course. We never left Maori players out when SA cam here of course even though they suggested it.

            • Posted December 30, 2017 at 10:39 am | Permalink

              I wonder if anyone can hold back a tear or two watching “The Boy in the Striped Pyamas”. Accidentally, I leaned backward for the second time. Now, your recommendation makes me want to require some kind of final exam in which all fifth grade pupils should be able to tell at least one memorable scene of this movie.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted December 30, 2017 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

                I sure as hell cried! My sister, brother-in-law and I watched it with my nephew who was 12 at the time.

                I was talking about it with my home help not long ago and we wondered if maybe it was better if they saw it when they were younger because they would get the main message and remember the movie, but wouldn’t understand some of the deeper meaning which is the most distressing part. They would come to understand that as they got older in their own time. (I’m not sure that I’m explaining our reasoning very well, so I hope you get what I mean.)

    • KD33
      Posted December 28, 2017 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      Well, Boris Gelfand, Israeli grandmaster and challenge for the world title just a few years ago, was unable to attend because of the unconscionable exclusion of Israeli players.

      • Posted December 28, 2017 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

        Oh sorry, KD33, I was referring to the dress code. As far as I see, the World Chess tour must insist on those blazers for the men. No culture would really object to them. Besides, they take them off during the game.

  5. busterggi
    Posted December 28, 2017 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    The next women’s championship chess tournament will be held in the men’s bathroom off the Oval office. That way no women will be allowed to participate and the title of Women’s Chess Champion will go to a man as it biblically should.

  6. Posted December 28, 2017 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    “Bliss Chess”??? Did you mean Blitz Chess?

    • Posted December 28, 2017 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

      Yes, it was a typo, now fixed.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 29, 2017 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Nah, it’s a game played against the Maharishi. The goal’s to be first to get your king to achieve satori.

  7. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 28, 2017 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    You’d think that the arbiters of a game which, since the 15th century, has had the Queen be the most powerful piece on the board would allow women players to wear what they want.

  8. nicky
    Posted December 28, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Well, that is 1.5 M US$ less for Wahhabist madrassas, I’d say. I’m surprised FIDE gave in for such a paltry amount. They should not have gone for less than 500 M. /s
    Good Anna, You go girl!

  9. Liz
    Posted December 28, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Good for her.

  10. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 28, 2017 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Oh the women – we will take it all! Your chess, your Star Wars and your Doctor Who and we will not be covered in sacks as we do so! Muhahahahahaha!

    • Richard
      Posted December 29, 2017 at 2:15 am | Permalink

      You can have my Doctor Who when you take him from my cold dead hand!

      Oh, wait, you have taken him! Curses!

  11. Posted December 28, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  12. Larry Smith
    Posted December 28, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    First of all, thanks for the post and publicizing this situation. It doesn’t seem to have gotten as much press as the pure Women’s World Championship brouhaha from last year.

    It’s all about the money, again. The overall prize fund for the men and women is actually $2M, and incredible sum for chess. No other country could begin to put up that much money, and so the corrupt FIDE (which gets something like $400,000 from this bid) once again lines its pockets and ignores its own guidelines regarding suitable venues.

    Here is a good summary of the situation from ChessBase, a company based in Germany: https://en.chessbase.com/post/world-rapid-starts-in-riyadh

    Note that the only man who seems to have stood in solidarity with Muzychuk here is the American Hikaru Nakamura. On Nov 9, 2017 he tweeted: “To organize a chess tournament in a country where basic human rights aren’t valued is horrible. Chess is a game where all different sorts of people can come together, not a game in which people are divided because of their religion or country of origin.”

    Good for Hikaru, especially since he excels in rapid/blitz chess, where he consistently ranks in the top 10 in the world, and usually 2nd only to Magnus Carlsen (who just today lost in the last round to Grischuk). Nakamura would have almost certainly won a considerable amount of money for a few days worth of work.

    Note that the other top American players, Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana, also declined to play (as did a number of other top male players), but they only cited scheduling conflicts, and not on principle.

    Many of the other players, if they commented on this situation at all, either glossed over it (Carlsen adopts a pure apolitical stance, saying Norway has no official beef with Saudi Arabia), or said something to the effect that at least Saudi Arabia is trying to improve (cf letting women drive, the modified dress code). One annotator even said “I couldn’t care less what happens outside the playing venue.” OK, fine… a very disappointing comment that could easily be overlain to so many other situations in this world, present and past.

  13. Marina
    Posted December 28, 2017 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m not on Facebook and I could not find Anna on Twitter, but what I want to tell this young woman today is “you’re my hero”.
    And think what would happen if all people in sport or entertainment who disagree with humiliation of women refused to visit those medieval theocracies

  14. Posted December 28, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    The bishop is to replaced by an imam and the queen must be fully covered or represented by a block of vanished wood.
    All pieces other than the queen, must be moved by a male, no women touching or fondling ‘male’ pieces will be tolerated.
    The Queen is now worth minus 23.75 by the way, so do your best to leave her at home.

  15. rickflick
    Posted December 28, 2017 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    A true feminist is right!

    • Blue
      Posted December 28, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      I concur, a True One.

      But … …

      There are Very Many Others of Us who have not
      the supporting backing nor the other
      resources such as $ nor time to be able to
      carry out what Ms Muzychuk is able, (sadly
      for her losses, yes) nonetheless, to do.

      Yet … …

      We are also True Feminists. But … …
      not only are we utterly unheralded but also,
      as such, .not. by very many including several
      constant commenters here particularly upon
      matters of humans – female, even recognized
      as nesr – worthy.

      Apparently since We Other True Ones have not
      yet here been known to have suffered and to
      have lost — $, status, prestige, careers,
      fsmily members, renown — to .this. extent
      nor to .this. degree as she has, then We
      Ordinary & Daily Others are actually unable
      to be known as, ah wull, near – worthy of
      such an appellation. I guess.


      • rickflick
        Posted December 28, 2017 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

        That’s true Blue.

  16. Posted December 28, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    I hope Anna kicks ass next tournament!

  17. Taz
    Posted December 28, 2017 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    There are Very Many Others of Us who have not
    the supporting backing nor the other
    resources such as $ nor time to be able to
    carry out what Ms Muzychuk is able

    Ms Muzychuk is able to do it because of her incredible chess playing ability. Become a world champion and you can do it too.

    • Taz
      Posted December 28, 2017 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      This was a reply to Blue’s comment above.

  18. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 28, 2017 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    Nice to see a participant in any competitive endeavor have the courage of her convictions.

  19. Diane G.
    Posted December 28, 2017 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Imagine how much more rapidly totalitarian, misogynistic, racist societies would be pressured to change their bigoted ways if only the people unaffected by a specific proscription would nonetheless boycott in solidarity. But why miss out on a big check just for the sake of the women & Jews? “First they came for the Socialists…”

    • Merilee
      Posted December 28, 2017 at 11:49 pm | Permalink


    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 29, 2017 at 5:52 am | Permalink

      Whaddaya, some kinda social-justice proponent? 🙂

    • Blue
      Posted December 29, 2017 at 6:07 am | Permalink



    • Posted December 29, 2017 at 5:21 pm | Permalink


  20. Mark Joseph
    Posted December 28, 2017 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    This isn’t rocket science, it’s simple civility and respect for other humans.

    This really is the whole issue, isn’t it? On the one hand, you have the idea of half the world’s people being treated decently and as equal human beings. On the other hand, you have religious powerholders wielding their “holy” books (and, despite the protestations of a Garry Wills, the koran [like the bible] is explicitly misogynistic) to maintain their cultural power by means of oppression.

    Indeed, rocket science is exactly what it is not.

    Kudos to Ms. Muzychuk for taking a stand, and to Dr. Coyne for pointing it out (though both will undoubtedly be pilloried by the Control-Left). As Terry Pratchett wrote (in Feet of Clay): It needed doing but the community, whatever that was, didn’t always like the people who did what needed to be done or said what had to be said.

  21. Craw
    Posted December 28, 2017 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    I don’t agree with Coyne’s conclusion. Different cultures have different standards of civility, and some Muslims will argue the veil does in fact respect woman, and Muzychuk’s apparel does not. So the real issue IMO is *whose values are better*?

    You really cannot evade the fact that her protest and our applause for it here (and I for one do applaud her) is a straight up assertion of cultural superiority.

    • Posted December 28, 2017 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

      I agree, and that’s a good thing. Western values and culture *are* in fact superior, and there is nothing wrong to assert it.

      • Merilee
        Posted December 28, 2017 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

        It’s all about a woman’s choice as to what she will wear.

        • Craw
          Posted December 29, 2017 at 12:15 am | Permalink

          No it is not. It is about what choices she is allowed.

    • Posted December 28, 2017 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

      In the same way, I suppose, being against slavery is an assertion of cultural superiority.

      • Craw
        Posted December 29, 2017 at 12:14 am | Permalink

        You think you are making a point but are not. Of course it is, and nowadays slavery is openly defended only in that same culture.

        And of course the gradual rejection of slavery in western culture represented an improvement in that culture. Just as the gradual ongoing rejection of sexism does.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 29, 2017 at 6:04 am | Permalink

          I can think of at least one western society where the demise of slavery wasn’t so gradual. And it’s a sign of cultural inferiority that some people wish to celebrate the symbols of the former slave states erected over the course of a century to cow the former slaves from exercising their newly won rights of citizenship.

          • Craw
            Posted December 29, 2017 at 9:36 am | Permalink

            I didn’t say the end of slavery, I said the rejection. And even in the USA that rejection was gradual and drawn out.
            But I agree with your point about the statues.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted December 29, 2017 at 9:43 am | Permalink

              I knew we’d agree on something eventually. 🙂

  22. Bob
    Posted December 29, 2017 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    It appears the World Chess Federation isn’t.

  23. Ken Phelps
    Posted December 29, 2017 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Muzychuk is like a flashlight, illuminating the shadows under the slimy rock where the Sarsours of the world scuttle about.

  24. Merilee
    Posted December 29, 2017 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Mostly off-topic, but just ran into this in an 18-month-old New Yorker:

  25. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 5, 2018 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    A bit late but I wanted to mention-

    I never heard of blitz chess before – and it has crosse my mind a number of times by now – sounds exciting!

    And of course yes to the overt purpose of this post.

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