OFF DA ROO Interview with Simone Sobel


How long have you been playing chess?

For about 15 years. I became inspired after seeing the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer”.

What is your highest rating?

My highest USCF rating occurred recently in November 2013 after winning the U2100 section in Southern California Cross Championship, it was bumped up to 2060 USCF, after that it has taken a dive again unfortunately, but going back up slowly. My highest FIDE rating was 2020.

Is your goal to make Master?

This has always been goal #1 in my book, and it has been incredibly frustrating to me that I haven't reached it yet. I would also like to get my women's titles, first WFM which is 2100 FIDE rating, and then I would like WIM and maybe WGM eventually.

Have you ever had a chess coach? Why or why not?

I've always had a coach since I began, I was lucky enough for my parents to pay for coaching for a long time. It's very difficult to figure out chess 100% on your own, receiving guidance from an experienced player to help figure out your strengths/weaknesses/ playing style/what your opening repertoire should be, how you should be studying chess, and going over your games to see the mistakes and level of understanding positions that you lack.

Do you think men and women play chess differently?

I honestly do not feel that we play differently! Men and women are chess players with their own unique styles/strengths/ and weaknesses. The truly fascinating thing about chess is that no game is exactly the same, the possibilities are endless, and therefore we all to a certain extent play and similar and differently because some ideas, themes, tactics, and openings repeat but at some point it veers off course and this is because of our choices.

I've heard men make the opposite argument, but I don't believe in it. They tend to characterize women as "weaker players who play calmly and positional with no real attacking instincts, and there we are making moves that are clearly different from how men would naturally think". While my own personal style has always lent to more of a positional player, there are many positions where I suddenly create an attack, or look for crazy tactical continuations, or sometimes I completely change my repertoire for certain opponents and play completely different openings which are not my typical style. You have to be strong in all aspects of chess, because you will handle all situations eventually. I study women's games who have a completely differently style them myself, they would not be interested in my openings at all, and I would find it difficult to play theirs, just the same as men. There are many men who play calm and positional, and many men who are just crazy attacking tactical players.

For those men who say women are weak players because there are very few in the top, I would say pay attention to the ratios of male to female. I always look to see how many women typically playing in the big tournaments, and then see how many of them did well. It's amazing that sometimes out of 10 women, 7 of them will get prizes and the other three will get good scores.

I once participated in an women's promotional tournament, women were to get free entry fee, and being paid money towards travel and hotel. It was a truly amazing tournament, because for the first time I was in a room where it was 50-50 men and women ratio. Among the womens players included Irina Krush, WGM Baginskaite , and about 3 titled women masters, and 5 women experts. Women were dominating this tournament, even beating the men's titled players on the top board.

Do you like playing in a male dominated sport?

At the beginning I felt truly unique and loved being one of the girls, and just wanted to crush all my male opponents every chance I got. But over time the social aspect of chess started to come into play. I am naturally shy with guys, I was never really a tomboy, and the majority of my close friends have been girls, so sometimes I feel awkward and a little lonely, not to mention that I've learned to keep my distance because if I pursue a friendship with a guy in chess they will look at it as a potential dating opportunity and I’m not interested in most. If there were more women, it would be nice to have more friends and people to talk to with ease. I do have some guy friends in chess though, tons of acquaintances, and have made friends with some female chess players and chessmoms.