Are chess competitions in 2022 a safe environment for women and girls? It would seem so, if the most reported instances of harassment were indeed the most significant. When Tallulah Roberts, a streamer known for suggestive memes and relative novice to chess, played her first international tournament she heard disrespectful remarks from a few men and was pinched in the waist. A widely reported harassment of last year was also connected with a streamer who knows how to turn provocation into publicity: Andrea Botez, the younger sister of Alexandra, ran into a stubborn admirer in a New York restaurant while she was live on Twitch.
Whereas Roberts and Botez managed not to stay the victim, this was not the case for at least a dozen Russian girl and women players who had received anonymous letters with pornographic pictures over years from a FIDE Master, who was outed in a lengthy exposé by an investigative site. Stories like these and the seminal, anonymous essay “Invisible Pieces” on Lichess may well have made some male chess players to overthink their behaviour and take an example from the fairy-tale-like treatment of Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit.
However, there are more troubling harassment cases in chess: A girl was serially raped from childhood well into her teens by a coach of the regional federation that had continuously ignored warning signals (the coach was sentenced to twenty years prison). A young woman was raped at the end of a tournament, yet kept her mouth shut in order not to risk her place on the national team. A streamer was stalked for a whole year. A high FIDE official promoted women on paid assignments in exchange for sex. None of these cases seems to have been picked up by chess media, with the exception of a French blog, even though they were put on the record (by this author, behind a paywall and in German) in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a German quality newspaper.