For a sport that has struggled to attract female players, the news that chess has just closed the largest ever sponsorship deal for the women’s sport would usually be universally welcomed.
But the decision of the chess federation Fide to work with the breast enlarger Motiva has been increasingly criticized by some players, who described the decision as “rough” and “misogynistic”.
The new deal was announced earlier this week, and Fide announced, “The deal will last until 2022, a year that has been dubbed ‘The Year of Women in Chess’.”
However, several players who speak to the popular Lichess website believe the move is a mistake. “Shouldn’t chess – a game that relies on brains rather than breasts – distance itself from this kind of reductive and misogynistic thinking?” Said an anonymous player. Another was even more blunt and called the deal “gross”.
Chess only has 39 out of about 1,300 female grandmasters, but in recent years it has done a lot more to promote women’s sports. The success of the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit has helped several top players, presenters, and streamers – including Judit Polgar, Jovanka Houska, Jennifer Shahade, and Alexandra Botez – also help increase the game’s popularity.
Some players believe that Fide’s decision is too far a sacrifice. “I’ve seen comments online from people saying they hope the prizes for women’s events now include breast augmentation,” said another anonymous gamer with the title. “I’ve seen jokes mentioning the names of certain top players as the ones that could be improved. Chess has struggled with sexism in the past and that has done nothing to prevent it. ”The players spoke on condition of anonymity, Lichess said, because they often rely on Fide for invites to tournaments.
However, Fide’s new deal was welcomed by others, including international women champion Sheila Barth Stanford. “We urgently need a sponsor,” said the Norwegian. “We play for less money than the men, which makes it harder to bet on chess. I hope that it makes it easier for women to play professionally. “
Fide told The Guardian that it was the largest corporate sponsorship ever signed specifically for chess women, and the contract had been discussed by both the board of directors and the Fide Council, “two bodies that give women broader representation have than in the chess community as a whole “.
It added, “Fide does not sponsor plastic surgery, but if an adult is free to make that choice, our organization supports Motiva, a company that has demonstrated its strong commitment to women.”