The world chess body Fide’s plans for a grand prix tournament circuit were badly hit when its status as a world championship eliminator was downgraded, the world No1 Magnus Carlsen and other top Western players withdrew and all six events had to be played in the former USSR. Armenia’s world No5, Levon Aronian, won the series.
Fide’s women’s grand prix, in contrast, has been notably successful. Most leading women including Westerners are taking part, there is a wider range of venues and the series will directly qualify a world title challenger. China’s Hou Yifan and India’s Humpy Koneru were the favourites, but after the fourth event (of six) finished this week at Jermuk, Armenia, the race was still wide open.
The perception that women’s chess flourishes in China and the old USSR but languishes in the West is too simplistic. France and Spain have many female tournament entrants, the women’s Pride and Prejudice team has been one of the successes of the UK League, while in the US the best women are strong enough for the invitation US championship. Jen Shahade, who caused a stir with her book, is a regular online commentator at top online tournaments, while the former world No1 Susan Polgar’s daily blog is one of the most popular global chess websites.
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– GM Susan Polgar