Chess contest offers free tickets to women, amid 'long hard struggle' to address gender gap

Helena Horton
Jovanka Houska, Britain's number one female chess player, said more needs to be done to encourage women to play chess

A London chess competition is offering free tickets to women players, in a "long hard struggle" to close the gender gap.

While men pay £60 to be allowed to compete in the London Chess Classic, women and under-25s are granted free admission. 

Malcolm Pein, the organiser of the competition and Telegraph chess columnist, said he was "looking forward" to when he no longer had to offer women free admission, but that "it will be a long and hard struggle."

He added: "We had a record attendance for the women's championship in August. We made the competition more female friendly in a variety of ways.

"You  have women organising the event, you increase the prize money

"One of the other things we do in the London Chess Classic is encourage women to be chess referees as well as players. We have far more women arbeiters, that helps."

Jovanka Houska, Britain's number one female chess player, told The Telegraph: "I think it's a great thing to get more women involved in chess tournaments, we have a big problem with women playing so anything that's done to get the numbers to increase gets my vote.

"I would encourage more investment from clubs, clubs are not necessarily making it fun for women to play - there's too much focus on competition but not enough on social life.

"Some of the best nights I had when in a club was almost a party setting. I've seen it done in America, they should have ladies only nights."

She said that the gap is "particularly bad" in England, arguing: "there's a lot of institutionalised sexism going on. Sexism is so ingrained people don't know there's something going on. The standard in the UK of the women is a lot worse than of the boys and the men."

Mr Pein agreed, adding: "The general participation rate in chess tournaments is extremely low, it's just dreadful in this country and something needs to be done about it.

"There isn't enough data to say but in other countries in the world where I go to chess tournaments, in France the rates are way beter for example, we are much worse."