World Chess Bans Transgender Players From Women’s Events—Joining Sports Like Swimming


The International Chess Federation—the international governing body for chess—unveiled new policies that prohibit transgender women from competing in women’s events, as sports like swimming and cycling move forward with similar regulations restricting transgender athletes.

Key Facts

The FIDE said any player who has transitioned from male to female “has no right” to participate in official events for women until “further analysis” by the federation, which noted a process to analyze individual cases could take up to two years.

The policies—which take effect next week—require transgender players to provide “sufficient proof of a gender change that complies with their national laws and regulations.”

Any player holding either a women’s or men’s tournament title who subsequently transitioned will have their titles “abolished,” the federation said, though it would consider reinstatement “if the person changes the gender back to a woman.”

While the FIDE indicated it would not publicly discuss the player’s gender change, it said it “has the right” to inform competition organizers “and other relevant parties” about the player being transgender in an effort to “prevent them from possible illegitimate enrollments in tournaments.”

Questions about transgender players were “an evolving issue for chess,” the federation said, and that “further policy may need to be evolved in the future in line with research evidence.”

The FIDE did not explain its reasoning behind the policy, though it noted it and other chess organizations “often receive recognition requests” from transgender players.

It is not immediately clear whether the policy requires trans women who are already registered with the federation to provide proof of a gender change (the FIDE did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes).

Chief Critic

Yosha Isgeslias, a trans woman and chess master, condemned the policies as “anti-trans regulations” that suggest transgender players are “the biggest threat” to women in chess. The Center for Trans Equality said the policy “relies on ignorant anti-trans ideas” and “is so insulting to cis women, to trans women and to the game itself.” Richard Pringle, a professor of sociology and education at Monash University in Australia, told the Washington Post that the policies suggest “that males are somehow strategically better,” adding, “It’s not just transphobic, it’s anti-feminist too.”

Surprising Fact

About 14.6% of U.S. chess players are women, according to 2019 data from, which noted the percentage was at an all-time high.

Key Background

The FIDE hosts several major chess tournaments each year, including the World Chess Championship, which allows both men and women players to compete. The body also hosts a separate Women’s World Championship, though there is no male equivalent. Alexey Root, who won the U.S. women’s championship in 1989, said the decision is because a “smaller base of females means fewer women than men at the top of the chess rating list.” Most chess organizations have not implemented policies for transgender athletes, though the U.S. Chess Federation said in 2018 it would allow “a person to identity as they choose.”


Governing bodies for other sports have issued restrictions for transgender women in recent years, including swimming, cycling and track and field, among others. Some sports have established “Open” categories, allowing competitors whose gender differs from their birth sex to participate. World Aquatics president Husain Al-Musallam said a decision to establish an “Open” category was because he wanted swimming “to be open to everybody,” adding, “It was very important that we protected fair competition for our female athletes.”

Further Reading

Swimming Announces ‘Open’ Category For Transgender Athletes—Here Are The Other Major Sports With Restrictions Or Bans (Forbes)

North Carolina Restricts Gender-Affirming Care After Overriding Veto—Here Are All The States With Similar Bans Or Restrictions (Forbes)

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