An Israeli chess commentator was fired and accused of sexism after saying the game “might not be for women.”
Ilya Smirin was live on air with Fiona Steil-Antoni in the ninth round of the women’s Grand Prix in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Tuesday when he appeared to admit that he has previously made the remark privately.
In the context of the competition, Mr. Smirin, an Israeli grandmaster, first mentioned Chinese chess player Zhu Jiner, a female grandmaster, and talked about whether she could become a grandmaster.
He said, ‘She’s a female Grandmaster or what?… Why does she want to be like a male Grandmaster in this case?’
Ms Steil-Antoni replied: ‘You say, you know, ‘chess might not be for women.’
But Mr Smirin said he ‘didn’t say it openly’ and that it was said in ‘private conversation’.
The title is a lower title to grandmaster and requires a lower rating of 2,300.
In the game, all chess players can be grandmasters with a rating of 2,500 and above and is a recognition given to elite female chess players.
Ilya Smirin, was live on air with Fiona Steil-Antoni in the ninth round of the women’s Grand Prix in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Tuesday when he appeared to admit that he previously made the remark privately
The Belarusian chess ace also appeared to admit to saying grandmaster Aleksandra Goryachkin had ‘played like a man’
The Belarusian chess ace also appeared to admit to saying Grandmaster Aleksandra Goryachkin had ‘played like a man’.
He said, ‘It is true. She played in Russia’s super final. Small minus she made, but it was a very strong tournament.
‘She also had a 2,600 plus rating.’
His co-commentator then asked him: ‘What does it have to do with playing like a man, only men can play well?’
But Mr Smirin said: ‘No, no. But she plays with style, positional style.’
He then asked why women can play tournaments with women but men cannot play with women in women’s tournaments.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Smirin, pictured, later said he does not want to hurt anyone and loves and respects chess and women
Talking to BBChe later said he doesn’t want to hurt anyone and loves and respects chess and women.
But he added that the incident had left him a bit confused as he didn’t believe he had said anything “really bad, didn’t want to offend or hurt anyone.”
Sir. Smirin said that since the clip was broadcast live, he had been called a ‘racist, sexist and nationalist’.
He added that he thought what he had said in the broadcasts was a little rude, but no more.
The Grandmaster said that most of what he said was a joke. He added that “if we continue like this” the words male and female will soon disappear.
But he said that he did not intend to hurt anyone, he loves and respects chess and women and does not like hypocrisy.
Mr. Smirin, pictured, said since the clip went live he had been called a ‘racist, sexist and nationalist’
The Grandmaster in the picture said most of what he said was a joke. He added that “if we continue like this” the words male and female will soon disappear
While he understands the decision to fire him as a commentator, he hoped ‘common sense will prevail’.
But his remarks caused a storm in the chess world, with former women’s world champion Susan Polgar issuing a public apology.
The chess ace also called for him to be sacked over the comments, which she called ‘very insulting’.
She said: ‘For the record, I have known GM Smirin for more than three decades, including our school days in Minsk,’
‘I have always had a good relationship with him and respected his chess. I hope this is just a bad day. I would be very sad and disappointed if that is how he really feels.’
His remarks caused a storm among the chess world, with former women’s world champion Susan Polgar asking for a public apology
Further outrage erupted online, with female grandmaster Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova tweeting the clip, writing: ‘Isn’t this a pure form of discrimination? How can such a man work in the official @FIDE_chess broadcast of such an important women’s event?’
A third person, US women’s chess champion Jennifer Shahade said: ‘Disgusting to see such sexism on the broadcast for a women’s event… Fiona did a fantastic job in an uncomfortable convo she should never have been in.’
A third person, US women’s chess champion Jennifer Shahade, said: ‘It’s horrible to see such sexism on the broadcast for a women’s event… Fiona did a fantastic job in an uncomfortable convo she should never have been in’
In a statement, the International Chess Federation said: ‘During yesterday’s Women’s Grand Prix live broadcast, one of the announcers made some very embarrassing comments.
“While we have great respect for Grandmaster Ilya Smirin as a chess player, the views he expressed on air are completely unacceptable, offensive and do not represent any of the values that FIDE stands for.
‘We therefore apologize unreservedly to all those who were offended. In addition, GM Smirin will not continue as a FIDE commentator with immediate effect.
»FIDE strives not only to increase the representation of women in professional sports and official positions, but also to change the perception of chess as a purely man’s world.
“Our society must be a place where women feel safe and respected. Therefore, any action involving disrespect, sexism or physical, verbal or emotional abuse is unacceptable.’