Once upon a lifetime, I played chess.
I wasn't very good at it, not like those clever kids who can play, and win, multiple games simultaneously, but I once managed to register a stalemate vs. the most basic of chess computers (at the third-lowest level) in the 1970s, when I was no longer a kid.
That modest achievement failed to arrest the attention of world champion Bobby Fischer, and I took his indifference as a clear signal that I best not give up my day job, which was mostly a night job writing and editing sports copy at the Winnipeg Tribune. The pawns, the knights and the rooks would have to get along without me, and I without them.
Until this past week, I hadn't devoted much ponder to chess since then, the exception being in the 1990s when Garry Kasparov went mano-a-machine vs. Deep Blue, an IBM computer.
Kasparov, at that time world No. 1, whupped Deep Blue in their initial six-game test (4-2), but the computer exacted revenge in the rematch (3½-2½ ). Their two exchanges generated headlines globally, even in the sports sections of some newspapers, and the brainiacs of board games had their 15 minutes of fame.
Fast forward to another century, which is to say the here and now.
Chess is once again generating headlines because the International Chess Federation (FIDE) has ruled that transgender females have "no right" to join in the checkmate fun. At least not in FIDE-sanctioned women's competition. They can play vs. the dudes (or a computer, one supposes) but the damsels are off limits.
"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," is how FIDE worded it in the updated handbook.
The Lords of Checkmate provide no explanation for their puzzling posture, leaving us to conclude that they believe biological women are too daft to match strategy with their transgender foes or men. Can you say misogyny and transphobia, kids?
But wait. FIDE vows to gather deep "research evidence" on the matter, like mulling the benefits of a Sicilian or Scandinavian Defence, but in reality they'll give it no more thought than the breakfast menu at McDonald's.
After all, what's to learn? They've already joined the nasty and relentless anti-transgender lobby and pushed it into a new lane, from the physical to the cerebral. Instead of yelping that transgender females are bigger, faster and stronger, FIDE is now inferring that cis women are lacking a full load of hay in the loft.
How FIDE plans to prove that a great gap in grey matter exists is a mystery, but I'm guessing they'll cobble together a group of people with egg-shaped heads and their findings will be as hair-brained as the chess ban. Little wonder US Chess along with federations in England, Germany, France and Finland have given thumbs down to the FIDE policy and will continue to welcome transgender players.
"While we do take FIDE policies into consideration, we independently establish our own policies and procedures," US Chess Senior Director of Stategic Communication Daniel Lucas told The Messenger.
Here's the reality of the situation:
The Lords of Checkmate want transgender females included in their game like Donald Trump wants another sheriff with a subpoena knocking on his door.
FIDE doesn't actually believe transgender females have more smarts than cis women. That's pure rubbish and insulting in the extreme. And they know it. But they, like so many sports groups ahead of them in the monkey see-monkey do, anti-trans queue, want trans chess players to know their proper place, just as the lords of rowing and rugby and swimming and cycling and World Athletics, etc. have already done. And like more than 20 U.S. states that have enacted laws to have them exiled.
In the anti-trans lobbyist's perfect world, the Gender Police would gather all the female transgender athletes and ship them off to a remote locale, the way the British did with their dispensable nogoodniks in the 1700s/1800s. Or perhaps they'd rather create transgender colonies, where the sports lepers can run and jump and move their knights and rooks in anonymity.
Ridiculous? Of course. But no more illogical than the notion biological females were given partial portions when brains were passed out.
I now wonder what sports governing body will next join the anti-trans lobby, because there are people in positions of power and influence (politicians, media) who won't be satisfied until the female transgender athlete in women's competition is extinct. They want all trans females to make like cyclist Emily Bridges and disappear like summer wages.
Perhaps it will be the World Pool-Billiard Association. After all, there are striking similarities between chess and, say, 8-ball. Neither is physically demanding, since it takes only marginally more strength to push those 15 little balls around a patch of green cloth than it does to slide a Bishop diagonally across a chess board to capture the Queen. And a cue weighs what, 17-21 ounces? Why, that's barely bigger than the swizzle stick in a FIDE board member's cocktail glass.
But here's where the transgender female pool sharks might find themselves at risk: 8-ball is very much a matter of mind. There's decision-making. Tactics. Creativity. Problem-solving. Ruthless attitude. You know, the same as chess.
The Lords of 8-Ball might see that as a recipe for banishment.
Go ahead and say it won't happen—that it will never happen—but who would have thought that FIDE, with its immense, superior man brains (61 of 72 officials' positions are occupied by dudes), would be so dense as to be duped into doing the anti-trans lobby's dirty work.
Talk about pawns.