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Women in Chess

 
EN
 
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EN
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26 August 2019 12:01
 

There has never been a female world champion in chess.  The greatest female player of all time was Hungarian Grand Master Judit Polgar, who defeated several champions in individual games, but never got higher than about 7 or 8 on the world rankings.  There is really no other significant competition from women besides her.  Women have been playing for a long time, and chess is not a game that would necessarily give men an advantage, since it does not take any athletic to win.  What causes the discrepancy?

One possible factor is simply that girls generally are not encouraged to play chess. Another factor is perhaps that they just aren’t that interested in it by nature.  I don’t think it has anything to do with IQ in general, but I have a theory that does involve the brain.

A supercomputer can defeat a world chess champion.  Computers don’t get tired, distracted, bored, intimidated or discouraged.  They just methodically and rapidly do what they are programmed to do, running through thousands of move possibilities almost instantly.  The more “computer-like” a person is, the more likely they are to be able to emulate the success of the machines.  I’m going to propose that, very broadly speaking, the male brain is more computer-like than the female brain.  Again, this has nothing to do with IQ or intellectual capacity.  The female brain is just a lot more complex and more factors enter into its working that just a computer-like, linear process of figuring out a move. There are more connections between the hemisphere’s across the corpus callosum in females than in males. (see https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-mens-brains-are-wired-differently-than-women/  “The research, which involved imaging the brains of nearly 1,000 adolescents, found that male brains had more connections within hemispheres, whereas female brains were more connected between hemispheres. The results, which apply to the population as a whole and not individuals, suggest that male brains may be optimized for motor skills, and female brains may be optimized for combining analytical and intuitive thinking…. “On average, men connect front to back [parts of the brain] more strongly than women,” whereas “women have stronger connections left to right…”)  Perhaps this is one reason why they end up being, generally speaking, more nurturing and empathetic. Think Florence Nightingale vs. Sheldon Cooper. The more that is going on, the more possible distractions there are in the thought process.  This gives males a slight advantage in chess, enough to account for the discrepancies in the history of the game.

And perhaps this also explains why girls may not be as interested in this game.  And then perhaps that may explain why they may not be as encouraged by others to get into it?  Thoughts?

[ Edited: 26 August 2019 13:37 by EN]
 
burt
 
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burt
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26 August 2019 23:06
 
EN - 26 August 2019 12:01 PM

There has never been a female world champion in chess.  The greatest female player of all time was Hungarian Grand Master Judit Polgar, who defeated several champions in individual games, but never got higher than about 7 or 8 on the world rankings.  There is really no other significant competition from women besides her.  Women have been playing for a long time, and chess is not a game that would necessarily give men an advantage, since it does not take any athletic to win.  What causes the discrepancy?

One possible factor is simply that girls generally are not encouraged to play chess. Another factor is perhaps that they just aren’t that interested in it by nature.  I don’t think it has anything to do with IQ in general, but I have a theory that does involve the brain.

A supercomputer can defeat a world chess champion.  Computers don’t get tired, distracted, bored, intimidated or discouraged.  They just methodically and rapidly do what they are programmed to do, running through thousands of move possibilities almost instantly.  The more “computer-like” a person is, the more likely they are to be able to emulate the success of the machines.  I’m going to propose that, very broadly speaking, the male brain is more computer-like than the female brain.  Again, this has nothing to do with IQ or intellectual capacity.  The female brain is just a lot more complex and more factors enter into its working that just a computer-like, linear process of figuring out a move. There are more connections between the hemisphere’s across the corpus callosum in females than in males. (see https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-mens-brains-are-wired-differently-than-women/  “The research, which involved imaging the brains of nearly 1,000 adolescents, found that male brains had more connections within hemispheres, whereas female brains were more connected between hemispheres. The results, which apply to the population as a whole and not individuals, suggest that male brains may be optimized for motor skills, and female brains may be optimized for combining analytical and intuitive thinking…. “On average, men connect front to back [parts of the brain] more strongly than women,” whereas “women have stronger connections left to right…”)  Perhaps this is one reason why they end up being, generally speaking, more nurturing and empathetic. Think Florence Nightingale vs. Sheldon Cooper. The more that is going on, the more possible distractions there are in the thought process.  This gives males a slight advantage in chess, enough to account for the discrepancies in the history of the game.

And perhaps this also explains why girls may not be as interested in this game.  And then perhaps that may explain why they may not be as encouraged by others to get into it?  Thoughts?

To start off, I’m a truly lousy chess player. Somehow my brain just doesn’t connect with the patterns of play in the game. But on occasion I’ve known tournament players (all men) and one thing that struck me about them was the killer instinct. They didn’t just want to win, they wanted to crush their opponents. I don’t think women get that motivated over a game. Back when I was a student at UT, however, I had a girlfriend who was a very good player (we never played chess together, but one of the reasons she’d split with her previous boyfriend was that he was a chess nut, taught her how to play, then she started beating him consistently. I taught her to play bridge and we made a good partnership. She amazed me when, only a few months after learning how to play, she got into a hand, thought for a long time, then pulled off a very advanced play. Very smart woman.

 
burt
 
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26 August 2019 23:07
 

On the other hand, I could have been a first rate Go player.

 
EN
 
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27 August 2019 03:37
 

I’m only average at it.  I play ASD weekly and he beats me 80% of the time.  But I’m talking about the higher levels of the game.  Sure, a particular woman may be better than 99% of the men, but only Polgar broke into the top echelon, and she was never champ.  I’m just talking about the overall averages. Killer instinct may be part of it - they say Polgar had it.  That’s also brain wiring - guys are more linear and go for the one goal.  More stuff is going on in the female brain, I’m convinced.  We are from Vulcan, not Mars.

 
nonverbal
 
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27 August 2019 06:03
 

Last winter, my sister and I, with some other people, met at the big State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. It’s a spectacular place to visit if you appreciate the aesthetics of mechanical beasts.

At one point, Lisa and I were oohing and ahhing a particularly intricate yet heavy-looking engine, and she said, “None this would be here if things had been left to women.” (That’s a paraphrase, attempting to snag her message.) I mentioned that I’ve seen plenty of big, strong women. But we didn’t argue longer than a few seconds, because I suspect she was correct. Certainly, the world would be a different place if not for the influence of human testosterone.

 
 
burt
 
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27 August 2019 08:06
 
EN - 27 August 2019 03:37 AM

I’m only average at it.  I play ASD weekly and he beats me 80% of the time.  But I’m talking about the higher levels of the game.  Sure, a particular woman may be better than 99% of the men, but only Polgar broke into the top echelon, and she was never champ.  I’m just talking about the overall averages. Killer instinct may be part of it - they say Polgar had it.  That’s also brain wiring - guys are more linear and go for the one goal.  More stuff is going on in the female brain, I’m convinced.  We are from Vulcan, not Mars.

I remember some years ago the question came up in bridge when somebody remarked in a column in the ACBL Bulletin that while the average woman tournament bridge player was better than the average male player, essentially all of the top players were men. If I recall (this was something like 50+ years ago) the consensus was that to be at the elite level in anything required single minded dedication that was easier for men than for women. I wonder if this applies in politics.

 
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27 August 2019 08:34
 
burt - 27 August 2019 08:06 AM

I remember some years ago the question came up in bridge when somebody remarked in a column in the ACBL Bulletin that while the average woman tournament bridge player was better than the average male player, essentially all of the top players were men. If I recall (this was something like 50+ years ago) the consensus was that to be at the elite level in anything required single minded dedication that was easier for men than for women. I wonder if this applies in politics.

Why would this be, because of children/families? Observation - bridge requires teamwork, while chess is a solo act.  That may explain something.

 
EN
 
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27 August 2019 08:38
 
nonverbal - 27 August 2019 06:03 AM

Last winter, my sister and I, with some other people, met at the big State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. It’s a spectacular place to visit if you appreciate the aesthetics of mechanical beasts.

At one point, Lisa and I were oohing and ahhing a particularly intricate yet heavy-looking engine, and she said, “None this would be here if things had been left to women.” (That’s a paraphrase, attempting to snag her message.) I mentioned that I’ve seen plenty of big, strong women. But we didn’t argue longer than a few seconds, because I suspect she was correct. Certainly, the world would be a different place if not for the influence of human testosterone.

Think of pioneers - pulling up roots and moving to new lands.  Easy to imagine men doing that on their own - a bit harder to imagine women doing it.

 
GAD
 
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27 August 2019 09:01
 

Why does it matter? Is there some scientific theory or widely held belief that women not beating men in chess means they aren’t as smart and therefore are inferior to men? Are women concerned about not beating men? Is there a movement or demand for special programs/funds to raise poor inferior repressed women up in chess?

 
 
nonverbal
 
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27 August 2019 11:04
 
EN - 26 August 2019 12:01 PM

. . .

One possible factor is simply that girls generally are not encouraged to play chess.
. . .

. . .  Thoughts?

I suspect, but don’t know, that chess needs to be learned early on, much like music, for it ever to be truly mastered. Exceptions to this perhaps can be found, but are so rare as to be considered irrelevant to the question at hand. But again, I’m only guessing.

If it’s true that, in general, boys tend to be encouraged to play chess more than girls are, then I refer to the world of billiards, once an almost pure domain of testosterone. Plenty of female pool sharks can be found these days, of course, but men still seem to dominate that sport/game. (I think it’s a game but others see it as a sport. Maybe it’s a spame.)

I’d be surprised if it’s not actually true because pretty much every female I’ve ever known is a better chess player, in the metaphorical sense, than I am.

 

 
 
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27 August 2019 11:12
 
GAD - 27 August 2019 09:01 AM

Why does it matter? Is there some scientific theory or widely held belief that women not beating men in chess means they aren’t as smart and therefore are inferior to men? Are women concerned about not beating men? Is there a movement or demand for special programs/funds to raise poor inferior repressed women up in chess?

It doesn’t matter.  I was just trying to generate a discussion about a particular issue.  We talk about stuff because it’s fun.  This whole forum “doesn’t matter” in a fundamental sense, but here we are.

 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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27 August 2019 14:17
 

It’s the Patriarchy!

Google (or better yet, DuckDuckGo, which respects your privacy) this phrase: ratio of men and women who play chess and you’ll see there’s lots of speculation but no hard answers. The question itself is interesting in the sense that it’s kind of a Rorschach test.

 
 
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27 August 2019 17:04
 
EN - 27 August 2019 11:12 AM
GAD - 27 August 2019 09:01 AM

Why does it matter? Is there some scientific theory or widely held belief that women not beating men in chess means they aren’t as smart and therefore are inferior to men? Are women concerned about not beating men? Is there a movement or demand for special programs/funds to raise poor inferior repressed women up in chess?

It doesn’t matter.  I was just trying to generate a discussion about a particular issue.  We talk about stuff because it’s fun.  This whole forum “doesn’t matter” in a fundamental sense, but here we are.

true dat.

 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
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27 August 2019 17:31
 

I think it’s probable that the sexes have respective strengths and weaknesses in cognitive domains as they do with physical tasks. As it stands I don’t think its really possible to test this yet. We would need enough real social equality to produce a field of candidates with a comparable background. Most world cultures actively discourage women from competing with men or, indeed competing at all.

I think its plausible that men might still do better because of long term adaptation. If chess really is a simulation of combat men might be better at a biological level. Or maybe women are better because they have a better grasp of risk management or rhythm or emotional intelligence. Or something entirely different. We just can’t know. We don’t have the tools for a fair test.

 

 
Garret
 
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01 September 2019 19:59
 

People who are left-handed also tend to have more left-right brain connections.  I’d be curious how many top rated chess players are left-handed.

 
icehorse
 
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05 September 2019 20:39
 
burt - 26 August 2019 11:07 PM

On the other hand, I could have been a first rate Go player.

I’m a decent chess player, but once I discovered Go I never really looked back. I’m curious to hear how you come to the conclusion about your potential as a Go player. I’m not challenging it, it just strikes me as interesting.

BTW, and back to the OP, there are also professional women Go players, but none have ever been world champions. And there is a general feeling among Go players that both sides of the brain are more essential in Go than in chess.

 
 
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