Global chess league imposes 'transphobic' rules

Grandmasters Ian Nepomniachtchi (L) from Russia and Ding Liren from China attend the first game of a 14-game match to decide who will be the new 17th World Chess Champion in Astana on April 9, 2023. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

Officials in the global chess world have found themselves in a bind after unveiling new guidelines for transgender players. 

Many said the new rules from the International Chess Federation are "transphobic" They were introduced on Aug. 15.

The new guidelines say players who've transitioned from female to male will have any titles earned in the women category abolished. However, players who've transitioned from male to female would be able to retain their titles, such as Grandmaster, International Master, and FIDE Master. 

FIDE says changing gender will significantly impact a player's status and future eligibility in chess tournaments. "Sufficient proof" of their gender change, such as an updated passport or birth certificate must be provided before the chess organization will recognize their gender. The organization also reserves the right to reject any gender change requests.

"What is wrong with the chess world?!," wrote Sabrina Chevannes, an internationally recognized chess player from England wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. "Anti-trans now???"

Chevannes, who earned a Woman International Master title in 2013, launched a GoFundMe on Friday that she said would help "all womxm," jading "that means trans women, FIDE."

Yosha Iglesias based in France tweeted disdain about the new guidelines announced, expressing concern if she would be able to continue to compete in upcoming events.  Iglesias is a trans woman with a FIDE Master title.

In a statement shared with Athlete Ally, an organization that aims to assist LGBTQI+ people in sports, two-time U.S. Women's Chess Champion Jennifer Shahade called the new policy "ridiculous and dangerous."

No restrictions are in place for any player who wishes to compete in the open section, which is open to players of any gender.

The changes come after multiple players with FIDE filed requests in having their new gender identity recognized and changed in FIDE's records, according to FIDE. FIDE said transgender players' inclusion in the sport is an "evolving issue" and future policy may change. 

This news comes amid a rising movement to limit the ability of trans women to compete. The world governing body for swimming banned trans women from its events in June while the International Cycling Union has imposed a longer waiting period on bike racers who have transitioned to female. 

FIDE said in their new guidelines former men players who identify as women cannot participate in official FIDE events for women until a decision with FIDE has been made. 

Regardless of a player's gender, their previous rating will remain attributed to them, FIDE said. However, any high scores or rankings players may have achieved before changing from male to female can be used to qualify for women's titles.

Transgender male players with women titles can have their titles transferred into a general title of the same or lower level, according to the new FIDE guidelines.

The Mechanics' Institute in Downtown San Francisco is the longest-running chess club in the U.S. One of their officials said they will continue to foster an inclusive atmosphere for chess players. 

"We're providing a safe, welcoming, and accessible environment for all who want to play chess in a supportive place," said Alyssa Stone, senior director of programs and community engagement. "We hope that people will be able to continue playing and representing themselves in their most authentic way and their authentic self through chess."

Stone said the institute offers tournaments and classes for women, girls, and "gender expansive" individuals.

"There can be historically excluded people and constituents in our own community who don't feel as comfortable or welcome in the game of chess," Stone said. "We want to make sure that we're providing an environment and opportunities for anyone who wants to come and play to have that chance in a supportive environment."

They said at this time the new rulings will not impact their chess tournaments, and they will all proceed as usual. Mechanics' Institute is not part of the Member Federation of FIDE.

FIDE has not responded to KTVU's inquiries.