Fide, the global chess body, has been hit by controversy after it announced that its 2022 world women’s championship and other major female events would be sponsored by the breast enlargement company Motiva.  The announcement came as the top seeds Russia won a new world women’s team event in Spain while another prestige event, this month’s Grand Swiss in Riga, will include a 50-strong women’s section for the first time.

Fide has long found it difficult to find business partners for its events, due to the negative associations from its eccentric former president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who claimed to have been kidnapped by aliens and who visited Muammar Gaddafi in Libya shortly before the dictator was overthrown. 

The current president, Arkady Dvorkovich, has introduced many reforms, stated his intention of raising the profile of women’s chess, and appointed the former Latvian Finance Minister, Dana Reizniece-Ozola, as Fide’s managing director. Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit has brought many more women into the game.

The problem for Fide is that there is no real life equivalent of Beth Harman from The Queen’s Gambit among women players in the west. Unlike men’s chess, where the world champion Magnus Carlsen is Norwegian and several western countries have contenders, strength in the women’‘s game is lopsided and geared to the former USSR and its satellites, to China and to India.

Sponsors prefer the business model offered by Carlsen’s Play Magnus Group, with its regular and fast-moving tournaments. The just completed Meltwater Champions Tour, where Carlsen collected the $100,000 first prize, had numerous partners and its 2022 version will have backing from Mastercard.

Puzzle 2439

White to move and win.  There was a surprise twist to this tournament game where White is material down but both sides have dangerous-looking passed pawns. White’s winner looks routine but it concealed a winning tactic. Can you find it? 

Click here for solution

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Follow the topics in this article