John Saunders reports: Hopefully the title line will attract your attention. The answer is… nobody knows. It’s a question that has been raised frequently, never more so than in 2020 when the Netflix TV show The Queen’s Gambit became the most watched drama mini-series in the streaming channel’s history and brought the game of chess more publicity than anything since the Fischer-Spassky match in 1972.
Now in 2022, Gibraltar is proud to present the #GibChess Battle of the Sexes, with two teams of ten men and ten women, of similar average rating and age, playing a Scheveningen format classical chess match-tournament, with a £100,000 prize fund at stake. The match-tournament runs from 24 January to 3 February at Gibraltar’s historic Garrison Library. Live games and commentary will be available via the official website www.gibchess.com.
The question of whether fact can emulate fiction and women reach the pinnacle of the chess world remains unanswered, but no chess tournament in the world has done more to level the playing field of chess than the Gibraltar International Chess Festival over the course of its 19-year history. During this time nearly all the top women players in the world, including Judit Polgar and Hou Yifan, have taken part. As a result, the first women’s prize in the Gibraltar Masters now rivals the Women’s World Championship title in prestige.
As with so many worldwide group activities, let alone chess, the pandemic has severely constrained chess activity on the Rock. We’re desperately sorry we’ve not been able to hold our award-winning open-to-all events in 2021 and 2022 but you will understand the reasons why. But our commitment to chess, and women’s chess in particular, remains as strong as ever and we’ve maintained the continuity of the chess festival with the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix tournament in 2021, and now the #GibChess Battle of the Sexes match-tournament in 2022.
The concept of the 2022 #GibChess Battle of the Sexes match-tournament is the brainchild of tournament organiser Brian Callaghan and builds on one of the most popular sideshows of the chess festival’s social activity events. For the past decade the Battle of the Sexes has been the name of a light-hearted novelty blitz event on the Saturday night of the festival in which six top male players play as a team against six top female players, each taking turns to move on a giant chess set in front of invited guests and spectators as well as a worldwide internet audience. That is a lot of fun, with top GMs and world champions letting their hair down and showing the playful side of their personalities - but why not transform it into a serious competition? That was Brian Callaghan’s idea in dreaming up the 2022 concept. Like every chess fan, he is fascinated by the conundrum of women’s performance at chess and that’s the reasoning behind making the two teams as close in rating and average age as possible.