SI Vault
Felicia Lamport
December 08, 1980
At 2:18 this morning, I scrawled "49. P-QB4" on a postcard and rushed it to a mailbox before I could reconsider my move. This unorthodox conduct would appear entirely reasonable to the 15,000 other people in the U.S. who are postal chess players. They include a good sampling of every age bracket, every profession, every group one can name—except women. The United States Chess Federation, largest of the correspondence leagues, has 12,000 postal players, of whom only 226 are women.
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December 08, 1980

These Chess Games Last A Decade And All The Moves Are In The Cards

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But not many of the 10,000 players are women. Hanon Russell, lawyer, topflight player and author of a recent book on postal chess, is convinced that the paucity of women in chess has nothing to do with females lacking aptitude for the game but can be explained by the fact that "girls at the crucial 8-12 age are discouraged from competing." Chess, like ballet, almost invariably must be started early if the player is to have any chance of reaching the top rank.

Nickerson, the Montreal physicist, has quite another view. "Women don't have the inclination, patience or intelligence to play good chess." he says. Most correspondents make a more generous estimate of the female chess potential; they believe that women have been held back by cultural barriers.

Well, there are no barriers holding back this woman. The postman has just delivered the latest round of cards from my semifinal opponents. For the next three days I'm going to be confined by Post-A-Log-Cabin Fever.

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