The International Chess Federation – also known as FIDE – says players who have transitioned from male to female have “no right to participate” in women’s events until the federation conducts “further analysis” and renders a final decision.
In a meeting earlier this month, FIDE’s council approved the updated policy which will come into effect on August 21.
The policy says that once a player informs FIDE they are changing their gender from male to female, they will be banned from competing in official women’s events.
Players then have to provide what FIDE describes as “sufficient proof or a gender change that complies with their national laws and regulations.”
At that point, according to the updated policy, FIDE will carry out analysis and make a decision on the player’s participation “at the earliest possible time, but not longer than within 2 (two) years period.”
However, the updated policy says: “There are no restrictions to play in the open section for a person who has changed [their] gender.”
The vast majority of chess tournaments are considered open categories with a select few – including the Women’s World Chess Championship – dedicated to just women.
The new regulations also state that if a player holds a women’s title, but changes their gender to male, their women’s title will be “abolished.”
However, if the gender change is from male to female, all previous titles will remain “eligible.”
It is unclear how the new policy will impact transgender women currently playing in FIDE tournaments, given the new rules focus on people who transition in the future.
“The absence of such regulations caused ambiguity and therefore an established order was needed to provide the right of the transgender players being properly represented on the official register of FIDE,” the statement said.
In its handbook, FIDE also added that while it won’t discuss a player’s gender change publicly, it holds the right to “inform the organizers and other relevant parties on the gender change.”
“FIDE recognizes that this is an evolving issue for chess and that besides technical regulations on transgender regulations further policy may need to be evolved in the future in line with research evidence,” the governing body wrote in its handbook.
Criticism of the changes
The National Center for Transgender Equality, an advocacy group based in the US, criticized the decision.
“Really? Chess? This is so insulting to cis women, to trans women, and to the game itself,” it wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“It assumes that cis women couldn’t be competitive against cis men – and relies on ignorant anti-trans ideas.”
The group was responding to a post from FIDE master Yosha Iglesias, who is a trans woman and who has questioned the new regulations.
“So FIDE just published (yesterday) a list of anti-trans regulations, like it was ‘the biggest threat of women in chess’. Can someone tell me what qualifies as an official FIDE event? Will I be allowed to play the French Championship in 3 days? The European Club Cup in September?” Iglesias wrote on X on Tuesday.
FIDE’s decision comes as multiple sports governing bodies have introduced policies to address trans athletes in recent years.
World Aquatics, for example, has recently launched a new open category which will welcome “swimmers of all sex and gender identities.”
The launch comes after World Aquatics – formerly known as FINA – voted to restrict most transgender athletes from competing in elite women’s aquatics competitions last year.
Earlier this year, World Athletics (WA) prohibited athletes who have gone through what WA called “male puberty” from participating in female world rankings competitions. WA said the exclusion would apply to “male-to-female transgender athletes.”
Advocates of banning transgender women from women’s sport have argued that transgender women have a physical advantage over cisgender women in sports.
But the mainstream science does not support that conclusion. A 2017 report in the journal Sports Medicine that reviewed several related studies found “no direct or consistent research” on trans people having an athletic advantage over their cisgender peers, and critics say the bans add to the discrimination trans people face.