I’m lucky enough to live in the Central West End where the St. Louis Chess club is currently hosting the Sinquefield Cup and recently former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov visited the studio and joined Yasser Seirawan and Jennifer Shahade. During his chat, he essentially completely ignored Shahade both in spoken words and body language.
It’s an interesting situation because I doubt Kasparov is misogynistic. The first reality we must take into account is that Seirawan is objectively a better chess player than Shahade. Therefore, when analyzing the various games, it was to be expected that Kasparov would rely more on the opinion of Seirawan.
The second thing we must take into account is that Kasparov is somewhat, or perhaps a great deal, a pompous jerk. Not to say he doesn’t deserve to think highly of himself, he was the best chess player in the world for a very long time and it can be argued he is the best to have ever played the game. He doesn’t suffer fools lightly, as the saying goes.
But, even taking all of that into account, Kasparov barely even gave indication that he knew Shahade was in the room, occasionally glancing at her with his eyes but never directly addressing her or asking her any questions. He leaned toward Seirawan the entire time he was in the studio. The mood was so obvious the camera crew focused in on the two men in a tight shot for the majority of the interview.
The obvious conclusion we can draw is that Kasparov is misogynistic, but I’ve already said I don’t think he is such. Chess is a sport that is dominated by men even today, but was even more so in the era when Kasparov was world champion. It’s most likely, although I am not certain, Kasparov never analyzed a single chess game in his long career with a woman.
Of particular note is his opinion of Judit Polgar who is largely considered the best woman chess player in history. Early in her career Kasparov was asked about her potential and gave what can only be called a misogynistic statement: She has fantastic chess talent, but she is, after all, a woman. It all comes down to the imperfections of the feminine psyche. No woman can sustain a prolonged battle. Later in life, however, after he had lost a rapid game against Polgar in 2002, Kasparov revised his opinion: The Polgars showed that there are no inherent limitations to their aptitude ….
I think it’s fair to say Kasparov maintains some dismissive attitudes towards women chess players and it came through, certainly unintentionally, during the interview.
I think the lesson here is that you don’t have to be overly sexist, racist, anti-Semitic, or any other sort of particular prejudice in order to behave like you are so. Be careful out there, people are watching!