International Chess Federation Suggests Trans Women Are a Threat to the Game

The argument that trans women pose a threat to women's sports holds even less water in the realm of chess, where physicality is irrelevant.

International Chess Federation Suggests Trans Women Are a Threat to the Game
Photo:Caroline Pankert (AP)

Clap if you thought you’d be asked to care about an International Chess Federation decree when you woke up today! Just as I suspected: crickets.

Well, onward we go. A set of guidelines published this week (according to Yosha Iglesias, whose Twitter bio reads “FIDE Master, chess coach, chess composer, YouTuber”) by the FIDE (that’s short for Fédération Internationale des Échecs, as the organization was established in Paris) takes a seemingly trans-exclusionary stance and selective approach to the retainment of gendered titles, post-transition. The way it reads is massively shitty and bigoted.

After going through the red tape of getting the FIDE to recognize one’s gender identity in the event of a transition, the group’s “Regulations on Transgender Chess Players’ Registration” lands here:

In the event that the gender was changed from a male to a female the player has no right to participate in official FIDE events for women until further FIDE’s decision is made. Such decision should be based on further analysis and shall be taken by the FIDE Council at the earliest possible time, but not longer than within 2 (two) years period. There are no restrictions to play in the open section for a person who has changed the gender.

This is a familiar line of thinking, one that seeks to bar trans women athletes from competing in women’s categories. Those bans often come with the stated rationale of a disparity in physicality—that biology being what it is, trans women have an unfair advantage over cis women in terms of strength and speed. This argument, of course, often amounts to transphobic dog-whistling. It holds even less water in the realm of chess, however, where physicality has no place. It’s a game of strategy. The FIDE’s implication seems to be that trans women pose an unfair advantage over cis women intellectually, as if being assigned male at birth makes one innately smarter.

Next, compare and contrast the following guidelines:

If a player holds any of the women titles, but the gender has been changed to a man, the women titles are to be abolished. Those can be renewed if the person changes the gender back to a woman and can prove the ownership of the respective FIDE ID that holds the title. The abolished women title may be transferred into a general title of the same or lower level (e.g., WGM may be transferred into FM, WIM into CM, etc.).


If a player has changed the gender from a man into a woman, all the previous titles remain eligible. The player may use only the published rating at the time the registration was changed, and all subsequent ratings when applying for women titles. No peak ratings or results that have been reached before the official gender change may be used to qualify for women titles after the legal gender change.

It would be one thing for the FIDE to take the stance that everyone can only hold onto titles commensurate with their gender identity. That, of course, wouldn’t acknowledge the trans experience, but it would at least be consistent. Here, the rules differ based on the type of transition that has taken place. It doesn’t even make sense.

To help understand the incomprehensible, I have reached out to FIDE to ask about the rationale behind these policies. I will update this post if and when I hear back.

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