Transgender women will be banned from top-level female chess tournaments while the International Chess Federation (FIDE) governing body assesses whether or not they have an unfair advantage.
Last week, it said that a player who had transitioned “has no right to participate in official FIDE events for women” until a decision is made – which could take up to two years.
The new rules, which take effect on 21 August, will see trans women blocked from participating in female-only events.
There will be no restrictions on those wishing to take part in open tournaments and there are currently no tournaments that exist exclusively for male players.
Female-only events were formed to encourage more women into the game given that chess is a male-dominated field, though many have questioned what advantage a trans woman could have over her peers.
“There is no physical advantage in chess”
Angela Eagle, the Labour MP for Wallasey, said “there is no physical advantage in chess unless you believe men are inherently more able to play than women”.
“I spent my chess career being told women’s brains were smaller than men’s & we shouldn’t even be playing – This ban is ridiculous & offensive to women,” she wrote on Twitter.
Yosha Iglesias, a trans woman who is recognised as being female by FIDE, also affirmed that there is “no biological advantage whatsoever”.
“It’s not about biology, it’s about sociology, psychology and it’s about sexism, it’s about aggression [from FIDE],” she told The Times. “They say they are not against trans people, they are fighting to protect women’s sport, even though they don’t care at all about women’s sport.”
The governing body also said that trans men will have their titles stripped from them if they were won prior to transitioning.
“If a player holds any of the women titles, but the gender has been changed to a man, the women titles are to be abolished,” the policy confirmed. “Those can be renewed if the person changes the gender back to a woman and can prove the ownership of the respective FIDE ID that holds the title. The abolished women title may be transferred into a general title of the same or lower level (e.g., WGM may be transferred into FM, WIM into CM, etc.).”
FIDE is facing accusations of announcing the change to “distract” from sexual violence allegations brought to light in an open letter from more than 100 female players last week, The Times reported.
Although it is yet to issue a statement on its new regulations in relation to trans people, FIDE has commented on the open letter.
“At FIDE, we are deeply moved by the letter signed by over 100 women chess players denouncing sexist and sexual violence in chess. This letter, initiated by 14 women of French chess, has reverberated throughout the chess world. We commend these women for their courage and solidarity,” the governing body said on 11 August.
“FIDE stands firmly against any behaviour and actions based on sexism including any form of abuse. We are proud that more women are playing chess than ever before, and they deserve a safe and respectful environment. We want to underline that we take any reports of sexism and abuse very seriously and are committed to improving the chess world.”