Chess commentator sacked for making sexist remarks

The International Chess Federation has removed Ilya Smirin as general commentator from the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix in Astana, Kazakhstan, for making sexist comments during a live broadcast. FIDE called the Israeli grandmaster’s remarks “completely unacceptable” and “offensive”.

The remarks were made during the round nine live stream of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix in Astana where Smirin, an Israeli grandmaster of Belarusian origin, made her debut as an English-speaking commentator alongside Luxembourg’s WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni.

When one of the viewers asked if it was possible for one of the participants (WGM Zhu Jiner, 5/9 with two laps to go) to do a GM standard in this women-only event, Smirin asked: “Is she a female grandmaster or what? Why does she want to be like the grandmaster of men in this case? After laughing a bit, Smirin asked, “It’s possible to make a man be the norm in a women’s tournament?

Since scoring a grandmaster standard has nothing to do with gender but only with achieving a certain performance in a tournament against strong opposition which must include a number of other grandmasters (of any sex), Steil-Antoni replied, “Of course, why not?”

Smirin: “I don’t know. For example, why can women play with men and men can’t play with women? Today it would be like everyone else for parity!”

After laughing a little more, Smirin attempted a joke: “I didn’t say it openly, sorry. Private conversation.”

Steil-Antoni then reminded Smirin of an earlier remark: “You said that [GM Aleksandra] Goryachkina plays like a man, yeah? Nor is it…”

Smirin didn’t take that up, but instead said, “Yeah, that’s right. She played in the Russian Championship Superfinal. A little less than she did, but it was a very strong tournament. Plus, she had a 2600+ rating recently.”

Steil-Antoni: “Yes, but what does that have to do with playing like a man? Only men can play well?” Smirin: “No, but she plays in a positional style, a very strong endgame…”

Smirin’s remarks sparked a storm of protest on Twitter, with former women’s world champion Susan Polgar joining the conversation.

FIDE Director General Israeli Grandmaster Emil Sutovsky first tweeted that Smirin was going to apologize in the 10th round, suggesting he could keep his post as commentator.

However, the next morning, Wednesday, FIDE announcement that Smirin was sacked. Here is their full statement:

During yesterday’s Women’s Grand Prix live stream, one of the presenters 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 totally unacceptable, offensive and do not represent any of the values ​​that FIDE stands for. Therefore, we unreservedly apologize to anyone who was offended. Additionally, GM Smirin will not continue as a FIDE commentator with immediate effect.

FIDE not only strives to increase the representation of women in professional sports and official positions, but also to change the perception of chess as a purely male world. Our community should be a place where women feel safe and respected. Therefore, any action that conveys disrespect, sexism or physical, verbal or emotional aggression is unacceptable.

During the 10th roundSteil-Antoni was joined by GM Pavel Tregubov, husband of GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, who is starring in the event.

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