Israeli Chess Commentator Fired, Accused of Sexism

An Israeli chess commentator has been fired and accused of sexism after saying the game is “maybe not for women”.

Ilya Smirin was live on air with Fiona Steil-Antoni at round nine of the Women’s Grand Prix in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Tuesday when he appeared to admit he had made the comment in private.

Speaking about the competition, Mr. Smirin, an Israeli grandmaster, initially mentioned Chinese chess player Zhu Jiner, a grandmaster, and talked about whether she could be a grandmaster.

He said, ‘Is she a female grandmaster or what?… Why do you want to be like a male grandmaster in this case?’

Mrs. Steil-Antoni replied: ‘You’re saying, you know, ‘chess maybe isn’t for women’.

But Smirin said he “didn’t say it outright” and said it in a “private conversation.”

The title is a lower title than grandmaster and requires a lower rating of 2300.

In the game, all chess players can be grandmasters with a rating of 2500 or higher and it is an award given to elite female chess players.

Ilya Smirin was live on air with Fiona Steil-Antoni at round nine of the Women's Grand Prix in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Tuesday when she appeared to admit she had previously made the comment in private.

Ilya Smirin was live on air with Fiona Steil-Antoni at round nine of the Women’s Grand Prix in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Tuesday when she appeared to admit she had previously made the comment in private.

The Belarusian chess ace also appeared to confess that grandmaster Aleksandra Goryachkin had been “playing like a man”.

The Belarusian chess ace also appeared to confess that grandmaster Aleksandra Goryachkin had been “playing like a man”.

He said: ‘That’s true. He played in the Russian super final. Little less than he did, but it was a very strong tournament.

“She also had a rating of over 2600.”

His fellow commentator then asked him: ‘What does that have to do with playing like a man, only men can play well?’

But Mr. Smirin said: ‘No, no. But she is playing with style, positional style.

She then asked why women can play tournaments with women but men can’t play women in women’s tournaments.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Smirin, pictured, later said that he does not want to hurt anyone and that he loves and respects chess and women.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Smirin, pictured, later said that he does not want to hurt anyone and that he loves and respects chess and women.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Smirin, pictured, later said that he does not want to hurt anyone and that he loves and respects chess and women.

Talking with him BBCthen he said he doesn’t want to hurt anyone and loves and respects chess and women.

But he added that the incident had left him a little taken aback as he didn’t think he had said anything “really mean, I didn’t mean to insult or hurt anyone.”

Smirin said that since the clip was broadcast live, he had been called “racist, sexist and nationalist.”

He added that he thought what he had said on the broadcasts was a little rude, but nothing more.

The grandmaster said that most of what he said was a joke. He added that ‘if we continue like this’ the words man and woman will soon disappear.

But he said that it was not his intention to hurt anyone, he loves and respects chess and women and does not like hypocrisy.

Smirin, pictured, said that since the clip was broadcast live, he had been called “racist, sexist and nationalist.”

The grandmaster, pictured, said that most of what he said was a joke.  He added that 'if we continue like this' the words man and woman will soon disappear.

The grandmaster, pictured, said that most of what he said was a joke.  He added that 'if we continue like this' the words man and woman will soon disappear.

The grandmaster, pictured, said that most of what he said was a joke. He added that ‘if we continue like this’ the words man and woman will soon disappear.

While he understands the decision to fire him as a commentator, he hopes “common sense will prevail.”

But her comments caused a storm in the chess world, with former women’s world champion Susan Polgar calling for a public apology.

The chess ace also asked to be fired for the comments, which he called “highly insulting.”

She said: “For the record, I have known GM Smirin for over three decades, including our university days in Minsk.”

‘I always had a good relationship with him and respected his chess. I hope this is just a bad day. I would be very sad and disappointed if he really feels that way.

His comments caused a storm in the chess world, with former women's world champion Susan Polgar calling for a public apology.

His comments caused a storm in the chess world, with former women's world champion Susan Polgar calling for a public apology.

His comments caused a storm in the chess world, with former women’s world champion Susan Polgar calling for a public apology.

More outrage erupted online, with Woman Grandmaster Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova tweeting the clip, writing: ‘Isn’t this a pure form of discrimination? How can a man like that work on the official @FIDE_chess broadcast of such an important women’s event?’

A third person, US chess champion Jennifer Shahade, said: “It’s disgusting to see such sexism on the broadcast of a women’s event… Fiona did a great job in an awkward conversation she never should have been in.”

A third person, US chess champion Jennifer Shahade, said: “It’s disgusting to see such sexism on the broadcast of a women’s event… Fiona did a great job in an awkward conversation she never should have been in.”

In a statement, the International Chess Federation said: “During yesterday’s live broadcast of the Women’s Grand Prix, one of the announcers made some very embarrassing comments.

“Although we have great respect for Grandmaster Ilya Smirin as a chess player, the opinions he expressed on air are completely unacceptable, offensive and do not represent any of the values ​​that FIDE stands for.

‘Therefore, we apologize unreservedly to all those who were offended. Also, GM Smirin will not continue as a FIDE commentator effective immediately.

“FIDE is striving not only to increase the representation of women in professional sports and official positions, but also to change the perception of chess as a purely men’s world.

‘Our community has to be a place where women feel safe and respected. Therefore, any action that involves disrespect, sexism, or physical, verbal, or emotional aggression is unacceptable.”

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