International Chess Federation
Tuesday, 05 Mar 2024 14:55
Getting more women’s teams to the Chess Olympiad

Out of 188 countries and territories that took part in the previous (2022) Chess Olympiad, 30 did not have a team in the women's section. FIDE has set a goal to increase the number of women's teams for the upcoming Olympiad scheduled in Hungary this September. That is how the "Empowering Queens of the Chessboard" project was born

Launched in August 2023 by the Commission for Women's Chess, the initiative aims to help recruit, train and finance women's chess teams for the countries that did not have them in the previous Olympiad. More broadly, the goal is to take a step further in promoting chess among women and girls, which has been one of the key objectives of FIDE in the previous five years.

The initiative is spread across three stages. The first, running from August to December 2023, consisted of a thorough analysis of conditions surrounding women's chess in countries which have never sent female teams to the Olympiad. A survey found that lack of female players, training capacities and financing were the main reasons for these countries not sending women's teams to the Olympiad.

In November 2023, a seminar was organized to seek ways to overcome these challenges, including new strategies for attracting talent and securing funding.

One of the key findings was that the motivation to play chess differs between men and women. While male players were more motivated by competitiveness, women tended to emphasize the social aspect. Consequently, in some countries, chess tournaments were followed by social events, providing women with more time to connect and socialize.

Examples from countries that are more successful in engaging female players have shown that engaging schools is one of the key factors leading to an increased number of women chess players.

The second stage of the project started in January this year. It will run until June, with a focus on building women's teams in ten microstates/territories: Nauru, Guernsey, Cayman Island, Grenada, Mauritania, Saint Lucia, Liechtenstein, St. Kitts and Nevis, US Virgin Islands, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Trainers of women's national teams in those countries were already appointed. On weekends, they are having meetings with their teams to prepare for the Chess Olympiad 2024. Remarkably, 80% of the trainers are females too.

The third stage of the project will focus on providing logistical and organizational support to teams and getting them ready for their first-ever Chess Olympiad.

"Most of these countries which we have engaged have not only never had a female team at the Olympiad but also never had a female team at all, nor did they have any women in any level of chess – whether it is players, arbiters or organizers. The seminar we had, and the research conducted helped us gain a better understanding of the challenges for women's chess and which concrete steps to take to increase female participation," said Tris-Ann Richards, who is the president of the Saint Lucia Chess Federation and one of the instigators of the project.

Thus far, five countries have recruited their inaugural Olympic women's teams and are in the initial phase of their training program. The players from the Caribbean who are part of the draft Olympiad teams also participated in the Queens Gambit Challenge - Caribbean Edition, a comprehensive training program covering the fundamentals of chess, advanced strategies, and mental and psychological training. Each country has a professional coach assigned and will commence a three-month training program starting March 15 this year.

The "Empowering Queens of the Chessboard" project is headed by Anastasia Sorokina, Chair of the FIDE Commission for Women's Chess and Tris-Ann Richards (St. Lucia), Councillor in FIDE Commission for Women's Chess, along with team members Yilmas Kartal, Paris Klerides, Akua Kosife Esse, Monalisha Khamboo and Herborg Hansen. You can read more about the project here: Empowering queens of the chessboard: National Female Team Development Seminar – FIDE Commission for Women's Chess.