The Queen’s Gambit Does a Lot Well. Portraying Being a Woman in Chess Isn’t One of Them. – Ms. Magazine

Chess Tournament

When you are a female chess player, no man is going to kiss your hand after you beat him in a match, writes Priore. (Screenshot from Netflix)

As a competitive chess player and coach, I have received numerous questions about my thoughts on the recent Netflix hit, The Queens Gambit. Do I like it? Is it accurate? Is Beth Harmon real?

Lets be clear: As a viewer, I loved the show. From its choreography to its score to its keen accuracy on chess moves (Grandmaster Garry Kasparov consulted on the film, so it was destined to be accurate), it is a brilliant work of art. As a female chess player, however, it fell short.

Dont get me wrongIm glad that chess is on the rise. More people are buying chess setsthan ever before, and there is arise in participation across the country. The Queens Gambit is Netflixsmost-watched limited series only three months after its debut.

In fact, Im excited chess is getting the light it deserves. Chess is not used to being in the spotlight. Most chess players agree that any press is good press for chess.

The Queens Gambit is impacting the chess world in numerous waysbut not all positive. When you are a female chess player, no man is going to kiss your hand after you beat him in a match. He wont give you a big old hug likeVasily Borgov did to Beth Harmon in the final episode of the series. Speaking from my own experience as a female chess player, somemen are going to pick up the board, throw it in your face and call you a creative name that begins with a B.

How do I know this so well? Well, I experienced it: When I beat a friend of my brothers in a chess tournament, he didnt shake my hand. He lightly flipped the board over and walked away. No good game or kiss on the hand. I wasnt expecting what Beth got in the film, but I was expecting some sportsmanship.

There is no romanticizing it: Boys will call you names, tell you that youre too emotional to play because you are a girl, or that girls cant play chess at all.

Some female chess players disagreelike Jennifer Shahade, three-time U.S. Womens Champion and my mentor in chess education, who admitted to me she didnt mind how women were represented in the show.

The Queens Gambit was a brilliantly rendered fantasy of a chess world where a talented woman is universally respected and supported. Some critique it for that, and I agree its an important talking point, but I dont see it as a weakness! said Shahade. I enjoyed watching a model of how much better the world could be if we treated everyone, no matter where they came from or how they looked, with respect.

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I agree: Not everything has to be realist. Shahade has built her entire career in the chess world,inspiring young women to do the same. But I do not want the world to think that women experience perfect paradise in the chess world.

When I was seven years old, I was quoted in a local newspaper for winning first place in a chess tournament. The first question I got asked: Tell me, Ashley, what was it like beating the boys? They mustve not been too happy.

No, they werent too happy. In fact, people being shocked that a boy lost to a girl overshadowed my own victory that day.

Im not the only one who is upset about how the series portrayed women. In an interview with theSt. Louis Post-Dispatch,womens world champion and grandmaster SusanPolgar discussed her experiences playing in the male dominated sport.

According to theSt. Louis Post-Dispatch, Polgar shook her head while watching the support Beth received from male chess players in The Queens Gambit, as opposed to the sexist comments, hostility and sexual harassment she recalls as commonplace.

Some male program directors refuse to shake my hand or congratulate me, even though my team has won more than other teams combined, Polgar said. Or maybe because of it.

Polgar, often considered one of the best chess players in the world, faced sexual harassment and hostility.Thatis the real life of a female chess playernot the supportive brotherhood Beth experiences.

Beyond competitions, chess leadership continues to be male-dominated. White males lead chess clubs across the countryincluding the club in my backyard of Pennsylvania.

Are there females capable of taking over in that role in the community? Of course, but nothing changes because women are just tired of dealing with a group of old, white men thinking they know more about everything.

While chess has seen anincrease in female participation, Im worried people will get the wrong impression of what it is actually like to be a woman in chess.

Carina Chocano, author You Play The Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Princesses, Trainwrecks and Other Man-Made Women,says she wants to live in the world of The Queens Gambit. As a woman, I can assure you you dont.

Dont believe me? Even Polgar told Ms. Beth Harmons journey is fantasy.

I think the show created a big positive impact for chess. For that, I am very thankful, said Polgar. However, what Beth Harmon had to face (in terms of sexism) is like a Sunday picnic compared to what I had to face for decades.

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The Queen's Gambit Does a Lot Well. Portraying Being a Woman in Chess Isn't One of Them. - Ms. Magazine

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