The organisation asked every participant of the Euwe Stimulus tournament to write a sort of column for the ´Players´ Corner´. My first reaction was: nice, an original initiative! But, the tournament seemed far away, and I was very busy, so I pushed it forward. But then you look on the site and you see that more and more players have done their work. And also the countdown on top of the website that tells you that the tournament is only 3 days, 1 hour, 34 minutes and 2 seconds away. So I had to sit down to really write my piece.
Now I have started I wonder what to write so that visitors of this site find it interesting! A possibility is to analyse a game, but there are games already of some of the other players, and I like it better to tell a small story.
Very often I am asked, as well by chess players as by non chess players, why on earth there are so few women that play chess, and if they play they do it so much worse than men - although people don´t dare to say it in those words, they do mean it. Of course, I have thought about it, but I have never a real straightforward answer.
First of all you have the old role model. Chess was a real men´s sport, women were supposed to be to stupid, or it just was not done for women to play chess. Donner once even said that a dog would be World Champion sooner than a woman – he admitted later that this was a joke, but part of his may have meant it. Together with the waves of emancipation some things changed in the lifes of women as such, and so in the chess world also. But from a historical perspective, many more men play chess than women and I don´t see that to change rapidly. And naturally, when less women play chess, there are less women who play chess on a high level. But this does not explain everything.
In chess, women are more peaceable than man. They put their pieces a bit more cautious and don´t fly at their opponents throat so quickly – with some exceptions. Also, they are very busy with the social aspects of chess. They prefer gossips in the chess world above the question who found an interesting novelty on the 23rd move of the Najdorf.
I have a nice anecdote about this social side. When I was eleven years old, I was asked to be master of ceremonies at the opening of the Fontys tournament in Tilburg – formerly Interpolis. Judit Polgár was one of the players, and I told in public that I would like it very much if she would win the tournament, because she was an idol for me. Later we talked a bit which I found fantastic, of course. A few years later I came to watch in Wijk aan Zee and there she recognised me and approached me again. Which male world top player would do such a thing? She is the ultimate proof that a social woman can also become a world top player between men!
A big problem in the progress of women chess – and specially girls chess – is that we have separate girls and junior categories. In this way girls only play eachother and they can not raise themselves to the level of boys of their age. But fortunately, this is changing. I played from a very young age together with the boys, also in Dutch Championships. True enough, this resulted in the fact that my name is not on too many prizelists, but it has been very good for my chess development. Nowadays we see more girls who play in the boy´s competitions. For the first time, last year a girl was Dutch Junior Champion!
I hope the ladies in this tournament show their best. In any case, I will do my utmost!