Ellen Carlsen, Magnus Carlsen’s older sister, says Jennifer Shahade’s allegations against Alejandro Ramirez led to her report an incident where she says she was harassed by a chess player as a minor.
WGM’s Jennifer Shahade‘s shocking tweet alleging that GM Alejandro Ramirez assaulted her twice has rocked the chess world. This week the story grew even bigger as The Wall Street Journal published an explosive story on how eight women claim that Ramirez used his status to make repeated, unwanted sexual advances toward them, some of them minors at the time of the alleged incidents.
Ramirez resigned as a coach at the Saint Louis Chess Club this week. The club is investigating the allegations. So is the U.S. Chess Federation.
Ellen Carlsen, older sister of Magnus, tells NRK that she was “shocked and saddened” to read Shahade’s experiences. She says she has known Ramirez since she was 15-16 years old but did not have any negative incidents with him.
After reading Shahade’s story, she decided to share her own negative experience as a chess player.
“What I would’ve wanted someone to tell me when I as a youngster played in chess tournaments: 1) It’s not okay and normal for adults to contact minors through phone/text unless it’s clearly related to the tournament. 2) Who you contact if this happens,” she has written on Twitter.
Noe av det fine, men dessverre også vanskelige, med sjakken er jo at man møtes på tvers av aldersgrupper og kjønn. Det kan kanskje derfor trenges en påminner om at likemannheten over brettet ikke må tas med ut i verden. Barn er fortsatt barn selv om de spiller sjakk med voksne!
— Ellen Carlsen (@ellenoec) February 17, 2023
Speaking to NRK, Ellen Carlsen says as a minor she received repeated phone calls and messages from an older man. The unwanted attention came after post-game analysis during a chess tournament.
“When you are young, you feel that it’s your own mistake, and that you behaved in a way that makes the person think you want to be friends. That responsibility that you shouldn’t contact a minor at all should lay with the adult. It’s not okay,” she said.
A medical doctor at the Centre for Fertility and Health at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the 33-year-old is a two-time player for Norway in the Chess Olympiad. She reached a peak FIDE rating of 1947 but stopped playing in her mid-20s. She now occasionally appears as a chess commentator on Norwegian TV. She recently gave birth to her first child.
“It wasn’t what led me to quit, but it made it less tempting to play tournaments in Norway,” she told NRK.
Jennifer Shahade’s story led to Ellen Carlsen to send an alert to the Norwegian Chess Federation about her negative experience.
“I did it first and foremost for them to look at their routines to prevent it from happening again. If it happened with me, it’s likely that many have experienced the same.
“I should’ve done it a long time ago. You sit with a feeling that you have done something wrong yourself. It happened to me just because we had analyzed a game together, which in no way is extraordinary.”
Speaking to Chess.com, Ellen Carlsen says Shahade’s tweet was key in her sharing her own story.
She said: “It was decisive for me because you can think that you are alone with something, but then you realize that there are several experiences either from different people, or in Shahade’s case from the same person that you were not aware of, by reporting it.
“Even though it doesn’t mean anything for me anymore, it can mean something for others, and that is why I want to contribute positively to perhaps prevent others from experiencing something similar.”
Last year NRK also reported on “a culture of harassment and exclusion” for chess-playing women in Norway. Some of them shared stories of “gross and sexist” comments by coaches, arbiters, and fellow players.
In a similar situation, 24-year-old Kimiya Sajjadi, a former player on the national team, has reported how an arbiter spread a rumor that he had slept with her.
“It wasn’t true at all. He was well into his 30s. It was very gross, but at the same time it doesn’t surprise you because you kind of get used to it,” Sajjadi said.
“A lot of older men could send inappropriate messages. That is both coaches, people at tournaments, and even people who worked in the leadership of the Norwegian chess community,” she added.
A few months after NRK published its article, the Norwegian Chess Federation launched a portal where anyone either publicly or anonymously can report improper conduct.