World chess champion Magnus Carlsen says sport must close gender gap

The Norwegian, who will visit Expo this year, has been a grandmaster since the age of 13

epa07195973 Norway's World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen poses with the thropy after winning the World Chess Championships 2018 against US challenger Fabiano Caruana (not seen)  in London, Britain, 28 November 2018.  EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

World No 1 chess champion Magnus Carlsen said more needed to be done to close the gender gap in the sport's competitive scene.

Mr Carlsen, 30, a chess grandmaster, said more women than men dropped out of the game because of the patriarchy.

Chess has one of the largest gender gaps in the world, with only 37 women with a grandmaster title as of 2019, as compared to the 1,643 men.

Mr Carlsen was speaking to The National ahead of his participation at the FIDE World Chess Championship, which is being hosted by the Expo 2020 Dubai from November 24 to December 16.

“What I know from travelling around the world is that girls and boys are equal in enthusiasm about the game of chess at an early age,” he said.

“So, I think the gender gap happens later and, I think, that’s where chess has a lot to work on because more women than men drop out.

“More work needs to be done because you’re losing a lot of talented female players.”

Mr Carlsen, who became a grandmaster in 2014 at the age of 13, said boys and girls were often at the same level to a certain age, but then only males were motivated to pursue the game further.

“Females get discouraged or they quit while the boys get more motivation. That leads partly to the huge disparity between the sexes,” he said.

Mr Carlsen said the game was beneficial in helping develop skills such as analytical thinking, and that schools should encourage it among children.

“I think it’s a very useful for kids to play chess because the game teaches you about strategy, analytical thinking and decision-making,” he said.

“I really hope that kids in this country can be inspired to play chess from the world championship that will take place here.”

But he insisted “there is no magical advice” that would help someone become a grandmaster.

When asked about his practice schedule, he said he kept thinking about the game “all the time” and played hundreds of games every single day.

“I spend a lot of time on it, but I'm not somebody who sits down in the morning and is thinking that ‘I'm going to dedicate this much time to this particular subject’ and so on,” he said.

“I'm somebody who's just very passionate about chess and I love it. So, I spend time on it because I want to, not necessarily to practice.”

Updated: August 28th 2021, 6:10 AM
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