S*xism in Chess: Indian player Divya Deshmukh sparks conversation after Tata Steel Masters experience

Her voice sparked discussions about building a more inclusive chess world for women. Organizers and the global federation must investigate and address this issue as it can have large-scale implications.

Sarah Andrew
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Steps must be taken to address the concerns raised by Deshmukh

Divya Deshmukh (Source - X)

Indian chess player Divya Deshmukh has ignited a crucial conversation after alleging sexist behaviour from spectators at the prestigious Tata Steel Masters tournament in Wijk Aan Zee, Netherlands. The young International Master took to Instagram to share her experience, highlighting how the focus during the tournament shifted from her chess skills to "irrelevant things like her hair, clothes, and accent."

Deshmukh's candid post resonated deeply with fellow players and chess enthusiasts worldwide. Her experience sheds light on the persistent undercurrent of sexism that continues to plague the chess world, despite strides towards gender equality.

"The audience was not even bothered with the game"

"I played a few games which I felt were quite good and I was proud of them but I got told by people how the audience was not even bothered with the game but instead focused on every single possible thing in the world: my clothes, hair, accent and every other irrelevant thing", Deshmukh wrote in her post, further detailing how some there was a difference in how her male counterparts were judged. "I felt it was unfair in a way because if I go to any guy's interview there would be way less judgement on a personal level, actual compliments about the game and the player," she added.

Deshmukh's courage to speak out has sparked widespread support and ignited important discussions about how to create a more inclusive and respectful environment for women in Chess. Her powerful message echoes similar concerns raised by other female players, both amateur and professional, who have spoken of facing gender-based biases and inappropriate behaviour. 

If talented players like Deshmukh are subjected to such treatment, that too at the tender age of 18, it sends a chilling message that chess is not a welcoming space for women. This can have a profound impact on participation rates and stifle the growth of female talent in the game. Hence, the organizers as well as the global federation should take steps to investigate the matter.

Divya Deshmukh