After reading Kevin Spragett’s post dated March 30, 2019, Friday Coffee
by kevinspraggettonchess · Published March 29, 2019 · Updated March 30, 2019, (http://www.spraggettonchess.com/friday-coffee-24/) which includes the question, “Is Chess Sexist?”, I sent Kevin an email:
You write, “We acknowledge that there is no fundamental difference when it comes to the brain of a women or that of a man.” You, sir, are WRONG! I have written much on my blog concerning the science and studies which confirm just how wrong are you as there is a “fundamental difference” between the male and female brain, which you would have known if you had read my blog.
After reading the new book, Gender and Our Brains, by Gina Rippon,
I must apologize to Kevin and admit being wrong. Although there appear to be some differences between the male brain when compared with the female brain that does not mean there is any difference between the two brains when it comes to cognitive ability. For example:
Study finds some significant differences in brains of men and women
By Michael Price Apr. 11, 2017
The largest study to look at sex differences in brain anatomy found that women tend to have thicker cortices, whereas men had higher brain volume. (https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/study-finds-some-significant-differences-brains-men-and-women)
Are Male and Female Brains Biologically Different?
The scientific debate around this question keeps raging, but one neuroscientist says we’re more alike than we think.
By Taylor Lorenz Jun 25, 2018
Ms.Rippon writes, “We have tracked the “blame the brain” campaign down the ages, and seen how diligent was the scientists’ pursuit of those brain differences that would keep women in their place. If a unit of measurement didn’t exist to characterize those inferior female brains, then one must be invented!”
She also writes, “Hence men’s more efficient callosal filtering mechanism explained their mathematical and scientific genius (with chess brilliance thrown in for good measure), their right to be captains of industry, win Nobel Prizes and so on and on. In this instance, in the “size matters” wars, with respect to the corpus callosum, small is beautiful.”
This is the only place in which one finds the word “chess” in the four hundred pages of the book.
If you believe Gina Rippon’s thesis then the question of why women are segregated in Chess must be asked. As a matter of fact the question was asked by E.E. Deedon in a letter (via email) to Chess Life magazine in the July 2019 issue. Mr. Deedon wrote:
“I just received my May 2019 edition of Chess Life, “The Women’s Issue.” What I cannot understand is the fact that men and women are still segregated after it has become quite obvious that men have no “advantage” when playing against women as they would obviously have in “physical” sports like football, basketball, and track and field. Would you be so kind to enlighten me as to why this situation still exists?”
For my international readers I must mention that when E.E. uses the word “football” he is talking about the American version, what I call “maimball”, not what is known in the rest of the world, which is called “soccer” here in the United States of America.
There follows in Chess Life:
Women’s Program Director for US Chess, WGM Jennifer Shahade
(that’s for WOMAN Grandmaster, as opposed to a real Grandmaster, whether male of female. For the international readers, Jennifer Shahade is rated 2301 US and 2322 FIDE. She has earned the title of “Original Life Master” from the United States Chess Federation. Although I am uncertain how one becomes an OLM I do know that if Jennifer were a male she would be considered just another National Master) responds:
“Women have historically been outnumbered in chess competition (She could stop there as it answers the question, but adds more, much more, as if she is a long-winded politician running for office) and most women and girls play and study in mixed competitions for the majority of the time.”
This begs the question of how she knows “most women and girls study in mixed competitions.”
“Women’s spaces, tournaments, and camps are great ways to allow them to work on their game, make friendships, and get attention for their success and talent, which creates a positive, self-perpetuating cycle that brings more girls and women into the game.”
You are not alone in your curiosity. Your question is by far the most frequent I get when hosting, supporting, or streaming an event that includes a women’s or girl’s component. Unfortunately, when this question is asked, it is often negatively charged, and changes a positive event (women and girls enjoying and playing chess) into a forum for amateur analysis of gender, biology, and sociology. This line of questioning is so common that streamers like Alexander Botez (as featured in the first edition of my Ladies Knight podcast) create automated moderator responses for her streams – if the questioning become negative, moderators advise re-focusing on the chess.
Which brings me to an important point when we talk about women and girls in chess. As Woman’s Program Director, I focus on the positive as we grow the game: from Jennifer Yu’s stirring victory to the inspiring story of Phiona Mutesi, from Rachael Li’s standing as the top nine year old in the U.S. to the rich history of women’s chess from Menchik to Graf to Rudenko.
Thanks for you interest in US Chess Women!”
What, women cannot “work on their game, make friendships, and get attention for their success and talent” by attending a “space” -whatever that means- tournament or camp that includes males?
Who judges when a question is “negatively charged?” If anyone suggests females play in tournaments open to everyone regardless of sex does Jennifer consider that to be “negatively charged?”
I played Backgammon professionally for a time and women were welcomed in tournaments. There were no tournaments for only women.
Jennifer’s ridiculous answer to an important question can be distilled to, “Because we’re special.” Women want to eat their cake and have it too. It is as simple as that…
The fact is that men resent preferential treatment for women in Chess because females are diverting money from the small pool of Chessbucks which should go to the best player(s) regardless of sex. Period.
As I write this a Chess tournament, the FIDE chess.com Grand Swiss, is unfolding in the Isle of Man. In the second round the female player GM Antoaneta Stefanova defeated male player Gawain Jones. IM Batkhuyag Munguntuul bested GM Sergei Movsesian.
There are many female players challenging males. I do not know exactly how many, or what percentage, are female because Chess Results (http://chess-results.com/tnr478041.aspx) makes no distinction between the sexes.
There are more women and girls involved with Chess than ever before and it started with the so-called “youth movement,” which began when money earmarked for Master Chess was, shall we say to be kind, diverted to children’s Chess. With this brought an influx of “Chess moms,” a term first heard in relation to soccer, as in “Soccer mom.” It has gotten to the point that many women have been placed in positions of power in the Chess world, taking positions formerly held by men. For example, in the Spring 2018issue of the American Chess Magazine
there is an interview with the new executive director of the USCF, Carol Meyer.
Pete Tamburro posed this question to the new E.D.:
Have you learned to play chess? (Upon reading this my first thought was, “What The Fork?”) Anybody offer you lessons? Do you have a chess strategic plan?
“I know how to move the pieces and have played with my family.” (I’m thinking, “You’re kidding me, right?”) “What I’ve learned is that playing chess for a tournament player is a very different concept from playing chess as a casual player. (How would the woman know that if she has NEVER PLAYED A TOURNAMENT GAME?) I have considered taking lessons after I settle in a bit more. I was thinking about blogging the personal experience of someone over the age of 50 learning the game.”
Good luck with that! The fact is that Chess is so difficult it is almost impossible for anyone over the age of 50 to learn how to play a decent game of Chess. I have attempted to teach Chess to men in their 30s to no avail. One gentleman was an attorney with a prominent law firm who informed me he had accomplished whatever it was he attempted until trying to play Chess.
From the earliest days of my involvement in Chess everyone involved came from some kind of Chess background. It may not have been required, but that was the way it was…I have battled over the Chess board with many USCF pooh bahs, such as Don Schultz, President of several different state organizations. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Schultz) Don was POTUSCF at one time. The fact is I cannot recall all of the many positions Don held in Chess. I do know he was once President of the Georgia Chess Association. This woman, Carol Meyer, in that position makes the USCF President, Allen Priest, rated 701 after having played 45 games in his life (10 wins; 3 draws) look like a battle scarred veteran. What can this woman possibly know about the Royal game? Is having someone who knows almost nothing about Chess good for the USCF? Having a litigious imbecile as POTUS has not exactly turned out well for the USA or the world, and it will get worse before he is impeached and forced to resign. I do not know about you but I would not want the pilot of my plane to say, “I know how to push the buttons and have flown in a simulator.”
Then there is the Publications Editor, Melinda Matthews. I searched the USCF and found her listed along with other rated players but the USCF MSA page shows she has yet to play a rated game. I kid you not. Maybe she is the reason the once venerable Chess Life magazine now includes articles such as More Chess Parenting: Nurturing the Talented Child, by Alexey Root, WIM.
Alexey is rated 2000 USCF, meaning she would be a floored National Master if male. I recently reached out to a number of Chess players, asking if they read the article. No one replied in the affirmative. One wag responded, “No one reads that shit, Bacon.” Who knows, maybe a few parents of children involved with Chess actually read the article. Maybe… Another said, “The USCF could care less about people who actually play Chess, Mike. They are attempting to reach PARENTS!”
“It’s a Total Numbers Game”
The above has become the mantra for women involved with Chess. It is also a load of crap. Statistics prove that young girls exposed to Chess stop playing the game around puberty. There is a reason. I do not profess to know the reason, but there must be a reason, because there is always a reason. Unfortunately, the same could be said for preteen boys. Something happens to children of both sexes around puberty and they leave Chess in droves. Why is that? There is a reason, and it would seem those in charge would spend as much of Rex Sinquefield’s money as they could grasp to learn why young people leave the game. Instead, large sums of money go to attracting even more young children to replace the money of those who leave the game, never to return.
Sports Illustrated Features US Chess Women: “It’s a Total Numbers Game.”
By Jennifer Shahade|December 21, 2018|Kids, News, Women
It’s a total and complete numbers game. What the women’s committee is trying to do is to grow the base- Maureen Grimaud
Edward | December 27, 2018 at 4:29 pm
No matter all the explanation in the world, having separate girls/women chess tournaments sends the message that females can not compete with males in chess.
Ladies Knight with Maureen Grimaud [PODCAST]
By Jennifer Shahade|August 21, 2019|Ladies Knight, News, Podcast, Women
The August episode of Ladies Knight features Maureen Grimaud,
chair of the US Chess Women’s committee. Maureen is a vocal proponent and supporter of bringing more women and girls into chess, from her work with the girls club’ rooms and Regional women’s events. In a Sports Illustrated article about women in chess, Maureen said, “It’s a numbers game, It’s a total and complete numbers game. What the women’s committee is trying to do is to grow the base.”
How about Maureen’s numbers? The woman has played a total of 44 rated games since 2006. She won four of the games and drew three. She last played in a USCF rated tournament in 2012. Her rating is 440. How about Rex Sinquefield putting up money for a match between Maureen and the President of the USCF, Allen Priest? Although the Prez outweighs her by about the same number of pounds as he out rates her I would hafta say it’s a toss-up.
I do not have answers to the questions posed in this post; maybe there are no answers, or no one really wants to learn the answers while the money is still flowing into Chess. But how long will it last?