Patrice Dougan is the Herald's education reporter.

Chess star's gambit hits hot defence

Grandmaster’s claims about female players adds edge to simul games
British chess grandmaster Nigel Short says women should accept they are "hard-wired very differently" to men.
British chess grandmaster Nigel Short says women should accept they are "hard-wired very differently" to men.

Controversial chess grandmaster Nigel Short is set to take on 20 women in a challenge to test his theory that women are not "hardwired" to play at the top level of the game.

Short, 50, will take part in a chess simul in central Auckland today, in which all 20 of his opponents will be women.

Dubbed "Beauty v The Beast" by organisers, the British grandmaster will take on the volunteers at Aotea Square from 11am today.

The challenge appears designed to confront Short's controversial statements about women in chess.

Last year, Short made headlines after he told New In Chess magazine that men and women should accept they are "hardwired very differently".

Asked about a lack of women in the game, Short said: "Why should they [men and women] function in the same way? I don't have the slightest problem in acknowledging that my wife [Rea] possesses a much higher degree of emotional intelligence than I do.

"Likewise, she doesn't feel embarrassed in asking me to manoeuvre the car out of our narrow garage.

"One is not better than the other, we just have different skills. It would be wonderful to see more girls playing chess, and at a higher level, but rather than fretting about inequality, perhaps we should just gracefully accept it as a fact."

The former British champion's comments provoked an angry reaction from female chess players, with the Casual Chess Cafe's Amanda Ross reminding him that former top female player Hungary's Judit Polgar beat Short eight classical games to three.

"She must have brought her man brain. Let's just hope Nigel didn't crash his car on those days, trying to park it. At least this resolves the age-old debate as to whether there's a direct link between chess-playing ability and intelligence. Clearly not," Ms Ross said at the time.

Chess website Chess Club Live tweeted at the time: "Most people in the chess world respect Nigel Short as much as he respects women."

Short wowed the chess world at the age of 10, when he defeated Viktor Korchnoi in a simultaneous exhibition. He earned his grandmaster title at the age of 19.

Short was ranked third in the world by FIDE, the international chess governing body, from January 1988 to July 1989.

In 1993 he became the first English player to play a World Chess Championship match, when he qualified to play Russian grandmaster and former world champion Garry Kasparov in the World Chess Championship 1993 in London, but lost.

He is currently ranked 41st in the world.

Short lives in Athens with his Greek-born wife, Rea, and their son and daughter.


What: Beauty v The Beast Chess Simul.

Where: Aotea Square, Auckland.

When: 11am-2pm, Wednesday, January 13.

- NZ Herald

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