Girls Are Bad At Chess

Thus far this century there have been many different ideas posited for why women have been inferior to men when it comes to the game of chess. The latest is an article on the Scientific American website by Daisy Grewal, who “…holds a BA in psychology from UCLA and a PhD in social psychology from Yale University. She currently works at Stanford University as an applied researcher.” The article, published April 15, is entitled, “Are Girls Bad at Chess?” (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-girls-bad-at-chess/)
Underneath the title one finds Daisey’s answer: “Of course not — but stereotypes can have a real effect on performance.”
I will leave it to others to judge just how good or bad girls are at chess and say only that I enjoy playing over games played by women, and in some cases, girls, because they are inferior to the games played by the best men chess players. I have also found enjoyment in watching women play golf and tennis even though they cannot compete with men. I enjoy this in the same way I enjoy going to a great website, Old in Chess (http://oldinchess.blogspot.com/) and playing over the games of the old Masters, who were obviously not as strong as the best current players. Because they are inferior does not mean they cannot be interesting. I also enjoy studying the games of the first round of major Open tournaments because of the disparity between the players. I believe one can learn a great deal from why the inferior player lost to the superior player. By examining the games of the lower rated players I see moves played that are the kind of moves I have made. Hopefully, this helps me to improve on the moves I may make in the future.
Daisey begins with, “Research has shown that stereotype threat can lead people to perform worse than expected. For example, women make more mistakes on a math test after being reminded of the stereotype that men are better at math.”
Then why remind them? It seems a no-brainer that to tell any child, male or female, they are inferior is not a good thing to do.
Daisey writes, “For many people, the idea of a famous chess player evokes the image of someone smart yet nerdy—and male. Do societal ideas about who makes for a better chess player impact the performance and motivation of girls who play chess?”
She says, “Psychology professors Hank Rothgerber and Katie Wolsiefer decided to tackle both of these issues by looking at whether stereotype threat affects young girls who play in chess tournaments.”
To do so, “Rothgerber and Wolsiefer surveyed 77 girls between the ages of 6 and 11 and found that the girls showed awareness of the stereotype that boys are better at playing chess than girls.”
This seems like a very small sample size to one who has read many sabermetric studies about baseball. The study would seem to have much more credibility if a zero was put on the end of the 77.
The article continues, “The researchers then gathered and analyzed data obtained from the United States Chess Federation (USCF). The data included information about female players from elementary, middle, and high schools who had competed in twelve tournaments. To control for the possibility that all chess players, both male and female, perform worse when playing against a male opponent, the researchers included a comparison group of young male players.”
Twelve tournaments. Only twelve tournaments? Study ten times that many and get back to me with the results.
“The results showed that when playing against a boy, girls were less likely to achieve an expected win. However, this was only true when they were playing moderate or strong (but not weak) male opponents.”
Well, how about that? The girls in the study did not do as well when facing stronger competition. The same could be said about me through out every decade I played, beginning in 1970 when I was twenty years of age playing in my first USCF tournament. Take any random player in the USCF files and it will be difficult to find anyone who has shown a better record against Experts and Masters than against class ‘A’ or ‘B’ players. Daisey continues, “Therefore, only girls who perform more poorly than expected seem at risk to give up on chess.”
From the graph published in Chess Life magazine (http://chessforallages.blogspot.pt/2013/06/2013-uscf-executive-board-election.htmland) and the comments made by USCF President Ruth Haring (“Existing scholastic programs see constant turnover and we see in our membership data, a membership decline beginning around the age of 11.”) it would seem that it is not only girls who are “at risk to give up on chess.” From what I have seen in my forty four years of chess, it is not the players who perform better than expected who quit playing the game. While working at the Atlanta Chess Center I once asked a player who had returned to the game why he had stopped playing. “I was losing too much,” he said.
Daisey continues, “This research demonstrates that stereotype threat may, in fact, thwart performance in real-world situations.”
Then again, it may NOT!
She continues, “Even outside the laboratory, where there are so many variables at play, stereotypes have the potential to cause vulnerable individuals to falter.”
It is a law of nature that only the strong overcome and survive.
It continues, “Overall, the study suggests that stereotype threat may be an issue for even young girls and may contribute to girls’ early avoidance of certain activities. To prevent girls from giving up in areas where they are negatively stereotyped, parents and educators may need to step in early. In the past decade, researchers have developed and tested a number of simple strategies to combat stereotype threat. If adopted for girls who play chess, these strategies could include providing young girls with role models of successful female chess players and emphasizing that chess ability is something that can be improved through practice rather than something you are born with. Another strategy might be to frame chess ability in terms of qualities that have nothing to do with gender—such as problem-solving and concentration skills.”
Why would anyone in their right mind emphasize “that chess ability is something that can be improved through practice rather than something you are born with.” I am aware of absolutely nothing that proves chess ability is something that can be improved through practice rather than something you are born with.” Where is the study? Show me the facts! People are born with different brains, as well as different bodies. Some people can naturally run much faster than others, and no matter how much the slower runner practices running, he will still be a slow runner. The same can be said for playing the game of chess. I have no idea how much stronger I would have been if I had learned to play chess as a child in lieu of an adult, but I do know that from associating with many game players, there are some who seem to have a “gift.” They have an understanding of the game, whatever game it may be, that others would not have if they devoted their life to the game.
It is apparent that Daisey believes that even though the evidence shows women have been, and still are, inferior to men when it comes to the game of chess, the answer lies in stereotypes. It is a fact that there is a difference in the brain of a male and a female. I realize it is “politically incorrect” to write such, but it is the truth.

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