When headscarf is more important than talent: Iranian chess player become a champion of a foreign country

Dorsa Derakhshani loves chess more than anything else. She has been playing since she was two. When she was only 18, she already managed to get the highest chess title and become a coach. Until 2017, the girl represented her country in tournaments, despite all the obstacles put on her.

Dorsa always followed all the rules, but the Federation was always unhappy with her. They were always more worried about the appearance of Dorsa rather than her victory. Once a chess player got tired of it… the rest become history.

Young talent

The girl’s parents have always encouraged her hobby. They approved of Dorsa’s love of reading and chess. It was thanks to them that she was able to achieve heights in life. Make your dream come true. Parents always paid for competitions, Iran did not spend a penny on the athlete, although she constantly won numerous tournaments.

Dorsa Derakhshani and her brother Born at a chess competition.
Dorsa Derakhshani and her brother Born at a chess competition.

When Derakhshani was only six years old, she was sent to a chess school. A year later, she won the Iranian National Youth Tournament. After that, she continued to study with her father, and at school, and from the books of famous professionals. The girl practiced playing on two boards at the same time or with friends. Often even without a board, voicing your moves out of your head.


In 2016, Dorsa lived in Spain and played under the auspices of various European clubs. However, she did not cover her head. When she competed for Iran, she always wore a hijab. The girl did not break the rules. In Europe, she found it less necessary to comply with this dress code. In February 2017, the Iranian Chess Federation announced that it was banning Derakhshani from playing in Iran for doing so. They also expelled Dorsa’s younger brother, who also played chess for the national team. The girl was expelled from the Iranian Chess Federation because she competed for a month without a headscarf.

This event simply stunned Dorsa and her family. The ban was unfair and humiliating. Moreover, at this time, the girl no longer played for the Iranian national team. The Federation has made it clear that independent thinkers are not welcome here.

The talented chess player was not left out of work. She soon joined the United States Chess Federation and went to St. Louis College. Dorse is tired of the fact that the scarf on her head interests her country more than the brain under it and her victories in tournaments. The girl does not feel a drop of guilt for her decision or regret. She believes that she did everything right. The parents stayed in Tehran.

When Dorsa played for Iran, she honestly followed all the rules
When Dorsa played for Iran, she honestly followed all the rules

Wardrobe is personal

Dorsa has never made any political statements. She just refused to cover her head. Neither she nor her family sees anything wrong with this. They never took money from the government, they always paid all the expenses themselves. Therefore, it is considered very unfair that someone would show such “care” about her wardrobe.

The chess player herself says that she had no intention of condemning anyone or showing disrespect. It’s just her personal business, her freedom of choice, and she believes that she has every right to do so.

Sexism isn’t just in chess

Dorsa says that very often, opponents thought they could easily defeat her. Once, it even happened that after the game, the partner refused to shake her hand. He was just incredibly disappointed that the girl managed to beat him.

Derakhshani often has to deal with gender discrimination. It is very difficult for many to believe that such a young and attractive girl is smart as well as beautiful. Many believe that she is not worthy of her scholarship and title of chess teacher. Dorse has to struggle with this every day.

Derakhshani dreams of becoming a doctor. Events in her life prompted the chess player to study the features of the brain’s structure and gender differences. She believes that there is no biological rationale that would confirm that men are more capable of playing chess than women. Moreover, the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning ability, is larger in women.

Dorsa dreams of eliminating such unfair inequality and disrespect for women in chess. She believes that for this, it is simply necessary to support female chess players more actively.

Derakhshani says: “Chess is a pure game. She doesn’t care about gender, ethnicity, nationality, status, or politics. But all too often, the countries, organizations, and people who enforce the rules in the world of chess are not like that at all.”

Dorsa is now actively pursuing her career in the United States. In November, she finished third in the women’s chess competition in America. The girl actively speaks at conferences. She encourages everyone to take responsibility for freedom of choice and talks about her professional path.

Dorsa believes in the American dream

In this regard, the United States is indeed a country of great opportunities. The girl believes that America reflects the value of chess better. More people out there agree that chess doesn’t care how old you are or what you wear. They don’t care what gender you are or how much money you have. They are blind to all this. In the States, everyone is concerned only with your merits. This is why Dorsa applied for American citizenship. She dreams of one day representing this country at the Olympic Games.

All this speaks only about how wrong it is to prohibit people from participating in competitions based on their ethnicity, religion, or clothing.

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