Israeli chess commentator fired for making sexist comments

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 Israeli chess commentator fired for sexist comments

Belarus-born Mr. Smirin, once ranked among the top 20 players in the world, made his debut as an English-speaking commentator in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Ilya Smirin on Tuesday hosted a live broadcast during the ninth round of the Women's Grand Prix.

The Israeli grandmaster said on air that chess “maybe not for women” and also praised one of the participants for being plays like a man.

He later told the BBC he didn't mean to offend anyone and loves and respects both chess and women.

Mr. Smirin's comments were taken up by several female chess players, including former women's world champion Susan Polgar, who called for a public apology and dismissal of him for “extremely offensive” comments.

"For reference: I have known GM Smirin for more than three decades, including our student years in Minsk. I always had a good relationship with him and respected his chess game. I hope it's just a bad day. I would be very sad and disappointed if he really thought so, ", — she added.

Meanwhile, women's grandmaster Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova tweeted, “Isn't this pure discrimination? How can such a man work in an official FIDE broadcast of such an important women's tournament?

U.S. Women's Chess Champion Jennifer Shahade added: “It's terrible to see such sexism in the broadcast of the women's tournament.”

In her FIDE statement — International Chess Federation — “unconditionally” apologized and called the comments “very embarrassing.”

“Although we have great respect for Grandmaster Ilya Smirin as a chess player, the views he expressed on live television are completely unacceptable, offensive and do not represent any of the values ​​that FIDE stands for. Smirin will not continue to work as a FIDE commentator with the immediate entry into force of this decision”, — said in a statement.

Mr Smirin, however, told the BBC he was “slightly taken aback” as he “didn't say anything really bad, didn't mean to offend anyone or offend.” He said that since then, people have called him “racist, sexist and nationalist.”

“But what I said during the broadcast may have been a little impolite, but not more than that”, — he said.— "And for the most part it was clearly a joke. If we continue in the same spirit, then the very words “man” and "woman" risk disappearing pretty soon. I want to emphasize that I did not mean to offend anyone, I love and respect chess and women. And I don't like hypocrisy.”

He added that he understands the decision to remove him as a commentator, but hopes that “common sense will prevail.”

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