Kazakhstan Has Done A Lot to Promote Women’s Chess, Says American Grandmaster Irina Krush

ASTANA – Kazakhstan has become one of the absolute favorites at the World Olympiads thanks to prominent players like Bibisara Assaubayeva, Dinara Saduakassova and Zhansaya Abdumalik, who are setting an example for many new players. In an interview with Jibek Joly TV Channel, American female grandmaster Irina Krush shared her views on the role of women in a male-dominated sport. The eight-time U.S. Women’s Champion is in Astana as a commentator for  the World Chess Championship, where Ian Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren are competing for the title of a World Champion.

Ainur Imangali and Irina Krush during the interview in one of the studios at the Jibek Joly TV Channel.

“The match is going in the most exciting way,” Krush said, adding that chess followers are very enthusiastic about this match because most of the games have been decisive. 

Commenting on the development of chess in the U.S., Krush said that it has found popularity at a mass level and it is also considered a popular activity after school for children. 

She shared her thoughts on Kazakhstan’s initiative to introduce chess as an obligatory activity in schools.

“If the goal is to raise the intellectual level of your country, I think it makes sense to start with young children, to expose them to chess from a young age, and to teach them how to think, how to make better decisions, how to factor in the opponent’s ideas, and ultimately, it will lead to a rise in the level of professional chess in your country,” the American grandmaster said. 

According to the chess player, there are approximately 40 women in the world who have a grandmaster title and the gap between male and female professional chess players is still significant. To reduce it, Krush suggested, it is important to make chess popular among girls and to encourage them to become professional players. Role models can be helpful in this regard.

“When you see female players from your country achieving success, for example winning medals at the Olympiad, I think this would inspire a lot of young girls. The role of fathers is also important. Chess is often taught to young girls by their dads. So I think fathers have a very important role in this […]. If you have the ambition to raise a smart girl, then I think it is up to dads to teach their girls chess and to support them,” she suggested.

Krush said her father was her first teacher, who taught her to play chess and then supported her in all her further endeavors. She pointed to the importance of financial support for professional chess players and underlined that Kazakhstan has already done a lot to promote players who have put Kazakhstan on the world chess map. 

“Kazakhstan 20 years ago was not really prominent in the sphere of women’s chess. So this is definitely a recent development. Now, when you go to the World Chess Olympiad, Kazakhstan is one of the favorites to win, because you have got players like Abdumalik, Assaubayeva, and Saduakassova, who are definitely in the elite of women’s chess. I think it is very important to have some sort of incentive to play chess. And I know that the women players in Kazakhstan receive financial support from the government, which I think makes a big difference,” Krush said. 

Chess can be very helpful, she summarized, especially for young girls as it teaches skills of orienting themselves among the strongest and sometimes excelling opponents.

“I would like to think that chess has done a lot to shape my character, the way I see the world and how I think. It has given me extra confidence from being a minority in a male-dominated sport because once you have this experience you gain a lot of strength out of that. This is what you get used to and if you are not afraid of that it makes you less fearful to do other challenging things,” she said.

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