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I've been watching the Champions Chess Tour and find it strange that Jovanka Houska is always (at least whenever I am watching) introduced as a woman grandmaster. Now I have absolutely no problem with her holding that title, but she also holds the more prestigious international master (IM) title (in addition to being the highest-rated active British womans player and even 9-time and current British women's chess champion).

Why do they not introduce her by instead or also mentioning her higher title?

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  • @firtydank At the risk of questioning someone who may have really looked into it - is there real sustained evidence that Houska prefers to be identified as a WGM? I watched the FTX Crypto Cup 3 broadcast's beginning and saw she was introduced as WGM there, but has the same happened on any other day? (For example I didn't find any introduction on Day 2. It's possible technical organizers may have just slipped.) If so I find it very surprising and an interesting spot. But I'd like to see this evidence. May 25 at 23:49
  • 1
    @Mobeus No I have not looked into it in detail, but it's been the case during all the Champions Chess Tour events I saw, which is roughly half a dozen times to date. I have not seen it happening outside of this context. I don't know if it's a general preference or just something for this event (see my answer on my take of it)
    – firtydank
    May 26 at 4:27
  • Additional: 1 - David Howell isn't introduced as SGM afaik. 2 - Here and here, Wesley So is not described as current (and inaugural) world fischer random champion / world chess960 champion or 2-time (and current) US chess champion
    – BCLC
    Sep 1 at 4:19
  • @firtydank why did you say 'higher achievements' instead of 'higher title' ? Edit: btw i linked to your question in my answer here
    – BCLC
    Sep 1 at 5:16
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The current and 9-time British women's champion hself (or perhaps I should really say 'herself' to emphasise the women's championship) says on twitter:

The short answer is I’m proud of both titles and I don’t mind which one is used. I always refer to myself as an IM..but there are situations where saying (or writing) WGM just fits better (because it sounds grander!) and I am happy with that.

enter image description here


Personally, I of course find it weird that Houska doesn't mind because one title is necessarily higher than another, but I think it's just either-(humility)-or-(not minding the less-informed in chess terms) on h part.

Then again

  1. it's not really like IM 'succeeds' WGM (for females of course) the way GM 'succeeds' IM (afaik: GM de facto 'succeeds' IM, but one de jure needn't be IM before GM).

  2. WGM does sound grander than IM. Kinda wish they were about the same instead in rating requirement like say 2350+ each just for the sake of being able to call a dual WGM-IM as just WGM or even that it would make sense to mention both titles. (I notice people will usually refer to dual WGM-IMs as 'both WGM and IM'. But then again, we don't call Hou Yifan like 'WGM and GM'.)

But who knows? Maybe someday WGM will be increased to 2400+ (same as IM) from 2300+ if the men-women rating gap decreases from 170 to 149 (if you round to nearest hundred like in this answer, then 149 rounds to 100)

  • 2.1. I'm a dumbass. WGM is grander because it has the word 'grand' in it. I really suck.
  1. The gap between IM and WGM can be seen in a WGM is about equivalent to a blindfolded IM eg this and this

  2. Or we refer to people with both IM and WGM as really IM-WGM eg IM-WGM Houska, IM-WGM Sachdev, IM-WGM Rudolf, etc


Bonus: Fun fact/s/Trivium/Trivia/TIL re Champions Chess Tour, see Wiki: British Chess Championship:

  1. SGM David Howell and IM-WGM Jovanka Houska were the british chess and women's chess champions in 2009

  2. For the only 3 times Houska wasn't british women's chess champion since 2009 (or 2008), 2 of those 3 times were the only other times that Howell has won british chess championship.

  3. firtydank actually said something like 'can't argue with a direct quote from twitter. good job sir/madame.' but then the comment was deleted...

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I think an important aspect to consider is the audience of the show. For the Champions Chess Tour, chess24 has two English language shows; one with Houska and David Howell targeted to a more casual audience, the other with Tania Sachdev and Peter Leko that is aimed towards an audience that is more familiar with chess terminology and concepts.

I think a decision was made that the title of "international master" is too unfamiliar to a casual audience. Everybody knows a grandmaster is "someone who is great at chess", but only people who know chess lingo know what an IM is. I think either the producers of the show or Houska herself decided to go with the easier to understand "Woman Grandmaster" title because the viewers would better understand it to mean "a lady who is great at chess".

It is interesting to note that Tania Sachdev, herself also both an IM and WGM, is introduced as an IM on the show targeted to the more technical audience.

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  • 2
    Is there really anyone who would watch a chess tournament and not be familiar with the term IM? It isn't exactly a popular spectator sport, it seems like a safe assumption that anyone who cares enough to be in the audience would at least be familiar with something as basic as what an IM is. Even a casual audience would by definition consist of people who have an interest in chess so would know the terminology.
    – terdon
    May 26 at 8:57
  • @terdon I'm repeating a previous answer that was mysteriously moved to chat when your question wasn't. The show is aimed at an audience that has no chess knowledge as can be seen in how they won't even name the squares when describing the positions on the board.
    – firtydank
    Sep 1 at 5:14
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according to Wikipedia she also holds the more prestigious international master title

It's perhaps worth starting by identifying the difference between an IM and WGM title. According to the latest FIDE regulations - FIDE Title Regulations effective from 1 July 2017:

1.48 Performance Rating (Rp)

In order to achieve a norm, a player must perform at a level at least of that shown below:

Title - Minimum level prior to rounding - Minimum level after rounding
GM - 2599.5 - 2600
IM - 2449.5 - 2450
WGM - 2399.5 - 2400
WIM - 2249.5 - 2250

and

1.53 To have achieved at some time or other a rating as follows:
GM ≥ 2500
IM ≥ 2400
WGM ≥ 2300
WIM ≥ 2200

So, an IM title requires 3 norms of a 2450 performance plus a live rating at some time of 2400 while a WGM title requires 3 norms of a 2400 performance plus a live rating at some time of 2300. That means the rating difference between the two titles is just 50(norm)/100(rating) points. That isn't such a large gap.

Why do they not introduce her by also mentioning her higher achievements?

There is no rule requiring them to introduce her in any particular way. Generally speaking on these shows the presenters are introduced the way they want to be introduced provided it is truthful.

Famously, Judit Polgar refused to take any women's titles and only ever applied for open titles. That was her way of fighting for women's recognition in the chess world. I suspect that Houska is taking a different route by asking to be identified by her women's title. That is also a subtle way of making the point. She is a top class international player and a woman.

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    100 rating points is a really big difference at this level. Sep 15 at 10:45
  • Brian Towers♦, i agree with @QEDemonstrandum are you seriously saying that 100 points 'isn't such a large gap'?
    – BCLC
    7 hours ago

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