The chess grandmaster was fired from his job as a commentator for the International Chess Federation (FIDE) for making s*xist comments at the Astana Women’s Grand Prix in Kazakhstan on Tuesday.
Ilya Smirin, the Belarus-born Israeli grandmaster, made his debut as an English-language commentator alongside Fiona Steil-Antoni from Luxembourg, who was awarded the title of Women International Master (WIM) in 2010.
Smirin, who was once one of the top 20 players in the world, said on a broadcast that chess was “maybe not for women”. He also appeared to be praising the woman for “playing like a man.”
Comments were made on Tuesday during the ninth round of the tournament, according to chess.com.
Early on Wednesday, FIDE released a statement condemning “some very embarrassing comments” made during the live broadcast.
“While we have great respect for Grandmaster Ilya Smirin as a chess player, the views he expressed on the air are completely unacceptable, offensive and do not represent any of the values that FIDE advocates,” the statement reads.
“We therefore apologize without reservation to those who have been offended,” the federation said, adding that Smirin “will not continue to work as a FIDE commentator with immediate effect.”
According to the BBC, 54-year-old Smirin was initially talking about the 19-year-old Chinese chess player Zhu Jinera, who received the title of FIDE Grandmaster (WGM) in 2020.
WGM is a separate title from the Grandmaster (GM) title. While both male and female players can become grandmasters if they are ranked 2500 or higher, the female grandmaster title requires a ranking of 2300 or higher.
Smirin later also praised GM Aleksandra Goryachkin, a 23-year-old Russian player, saying she “played like a man.”
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When Steil-Antoni asked him if only men could play well, he replied “no … but she plays in style, in positional style.”
He then added: “OK, I’m always curious why women can play for men and men can’t play with women in women’s tournaments? Interesting question. “
The comments sparked immediate opposition on social media.
“Disgusting to see such s*xism on a women’s event broadcast,” US chess champion Jennifer Shahade tweeted, while WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova wondered if the comments were “pure form of discrimination.”
“How can such a man work on the official @FIDE_chess broadcast of such an important women’s event?” she wrote on Twitter.
“FIDE is aiming not only to increase the representation of women in professional sports and in official positions, but also to change the perception of chess as a purely male world,” the federation said in its apology.
“Our community must be a place where women feel safe and respected. Therefore, any activity that involves disrespect, s*xism, or physical, verbal or emotional assault is unacceptable, “added FIDE.
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