Chess, the Swimsuit Issue?

     Sports Illustrated is, of course, the mainstay American sports magazine. I mentioned Swimsuit in the title to allude to the fact that SI is also a mainstay of this article (and as a lurid attempt to lure and tempt readers). Actually I'm not writing about SI, not the Bobby Fischer issues or the Lisa Lane one, but about one tiny article nestled between huge ads for Gilbey's Gin,  Briggs and Stratton engines and Bic lighters on the adjoining pages 22 and 23 of April 08, 1985.  The writer was Jim Kaplan, an SI staff writer whose expertise was baseball (currently, he has written 18 books, two of them, ''Pine-Tarred and Feathered'' and ''Playing the Field,'' on baseball;  edited "The Baseball Research Journal;" has been a bridge editor - all with only being graduate of Milton Academy, Yale University and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, MA in Journalism.  Accoring to the NYTimes, His father was an associate justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts and a former Royall Professor of Law at the Harvard Law School. His mother, Felicia Kaplan, a poet known professionally as Felicia Lamport.). 


      Under the Category heading "Perspective," Kaplan wrote about men and women in chess, giving his article the title:
In The World Of Chess, Man Thinks Of Himself As King, Woman As Pawn.

     What surprises me is how some writers can write so well and incisively outside their field of expertise.  I had a good bit of contact with David Shenk when he was writing the "Immortal Game." Although he was starting from ground zero, he ended up writing one of the most enjoyable and intelligent books on the history of chess.
     Jim Kaplan is of the same cloth and his article delving into the predominance of men in chess was very well researched and equally well presented.

"There's no known biological reason why women shouldn't be able to play the game. They have minds to ponder with, eyes to perceive with and fingers to push pawns with."

What a nice way to put it!

"By and large, fathers don't teach daughters, boyfriends won't play girl friends; in general, men avoid playing games with women. Their excuses are as feeble as those once used to discourage women from becoming scientists and mathematicians: Chess isn't ladylike or sexy, women don't have the patience or logic—what's a nice girl like you doing in a seedy chess club like this?"

Kaplan laid the blame for the lack of women players squarely on men's shoulders.

Most importantly:
" The more harmonious side of chess—a duet for two musicians—is frequently ignored in the heat of combat. Says Manhattan's Diana Lanni, the 13th-ranked U.S. woman, "Chess is pretty, creative, esthetic and artistic—all things women are supposed to be interested in." Alas, few women are exposed to such beauty." 


The entire text can to Kaplan's 1985 article can be read here
If women and chess really interest you, please read his article.

Jim Kaplan, for the record, is definitely a chess lover who has written many chess articles for Sports Illustrated, though baseball seems to be his field of expertise.


  • 7 years ago


    naughty sarah
    you dont need such tactics to get folks to read your blogs


    Maybe I just like being naughty?

  • 7 years ago


      ohhhhh very hard to comment but what is really the issue? playing chess i think is both for men and women why i love to play chess is because of its uniqueness to all other mind sports as they say it, as we all know chess players are better person in terms of making some decission in life because they are always expose to problems how to solve it and the consequences of making your decissions to every diagrams over the board know matter what your level is i think the only problem why there are fewer women playing is the intimadation they feel for the majority of players among the field are men

  • 7 years ago


    The game itself is dominated by the only female piece on the board.  I know I love my queen more than any other piece.  I usually shed a tear when she is sacrificied and usually can not even continue if I lose her without just cause.  This is no answer to the question but women are different than men.- Thank God!!!!!!!

  • 7 years ago


    I am happy to be in USA, one of the few countries in the world where men and women are really treated equal. There is no job that is monopoly of men or women - even nursing, which is the exclusive profession of women in some countries.

    It is unfair to "blame" men or biological factors on why there are fewer women players in chess. I think this is not true in America. There are certain (primitive?) countries where men dominate women, and deprive or seclude women from certain things of life. But that is not true of most (civilised?) countries. It may also be due to inherent tendencies in some people. For example, women in general like more colorful dresses, are interested in cosmetics and fashion, are more concerned about their physical appearances than men. Is this somehow linked with chess? I dont know.

  • 7 years ago



  • 7 years ago


    "By and large, fathers don't teach daughters"

    I have two daughters and they both play chess. My oldest plays on a league and is the ONLY female on it. Until I recruited another one. In my club we have three regular female players. What I find distressing is that the women who do make it in Chess are asked to do things that men never would be asked to do. GM Alexandra Kosteniuk is dressed up in a costume because the head of FIDE asked her to. What do you think GM Kasparov or Yuri Shulman would tell him if asked to do this?

    On the cover of this Month's Chess Life Jennifer Shahade hula hoops while playing chess. I love her style and flair but is this something a man would be asked to do?

    This reminds me of the saying "Remember Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in High heels."

    So guys get out there and play against the women, teach the ones in your life chess, get them involved and I bet chess would be a whole lot more fun.

  • 7 years ago


    I have no reason to think of women as a pawn, I have been beaten by more females then males on this site

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