Friday, June 26, 2009

What About Reuben Fine?

How many things are wrong with this awful article?

It hits the ground running:
"They're all weak, all women. They're stupid compared to men. They shouldn't play chess, you know. They're like beginners. They lose every single game against a man. There isn't a woman player in the world I can't give knight-odds to and still beat." Robert James Fischer, 1962, Harper's Magazine
Now, Bobby Fischer was one of the best chess players of all time. Certainly he wasn't on the chess fringe. But this quote sets the stage for rhetorical shenanigans. After all, Bobby Fischer was an anti-Semitic schizo. If he wasn't saying something baffling, offensive, and profane, it's because he wasn't talking. The man's Sicilian was lethal but his social maturity would have gotten him banned as MiseTings (yes, even there!). He is not representative of intelligent commentary about the relative merits of Jews, blacks, women, or queen's pawn openings.

I should get this out of the way now - Natalia Pogonina and Peter Zhdanov are not native English speakers. They should probably get a friend to proofread their English writing, because it's awful. Idiomatic English is hard - get someone to help you.

Moving on.
Some say it’s about the level of testosterone that affects competitiveness – men are more likely to be trying to excel at something than women. However, if we look at the percentage of so-called “grandmaster draws” among women and men then we’ll see that women’s fighting spirits are definitely higher.
Is grandmaster-draw-frequency a reliable measure of "competitiveness"? Further, because, as the article helpfully points out at the beginning, there are de facto segregated men's and women's events, the incidence of draws in those events are not commensurate. Or maybe they are. Maybe only integrated events were considered - we don't know. If this article were Wikipedia, the quoted passage would have a few "citation needed" tags (and the talk page would have some Asperger's-ridden teenager arguing with a middle-aged homosexual about reliability of sources and "NPOV" complete with accusations of sock-puppetry, lack of good faith, and other nonsense concocted in the fantasy world of Wikipedian imagination). I hesitate to go here but...complete lack of discussion of the relevant statistics? Innumeracy? In an article about the relative abilities of men and women? It just writes itself.

This is less than insightful:
So, maybe women are just less smart than men? According to multiple studies, on the average the answer is “no”. Then what’s the problem?
On the average, people aren't grandmasters, either. So, uh, I guess no one is good at chess? Perhaps we could restrict our discussion of relative intelligence to chess players, or to the very intelligent, or something, but that would entail actually confronting the facts and apparently this husband-wife team is unwilling to go there. So ends a hilariously short section of the article.

Now what? Oh, more idiocy:
Women have started playing chess professionally long after men. Nowadays the number of professional women chess players is growing, but the proportion is still incomparable. There are very few women in chess, so they have meager chances to enter the world chess elite.
What?! But you're trying to explain this phenomenon. The article is based on trying to find an explanation for the fact that much fewer women than men play high-level chess. This section explains that, because there are fewer women playing high-level chess, there are fewer women in the chess-playing elite.


I mean.


Come on.


Moving on. I don't want to be cruel. Poor, poor Natalia and Peter.

A few more illustrative figures: according to FIDE’s website, there are 20 female players who hold the GM title to 1201 male grandmasters (about 1 to 60), 77 female IMs to 2854 male (about 1 to 37), 239 WGMs and 7 female FMs to 5400 male FMs (about 1 to 20). Side note: notice the downward trend?
Facts! Numbers! That's what we've been in need of. In fact, the "side note" is exactly what we needed: it hints that the distributions of men and women in intelligence match the distributions in relative chess-playing skill - could there be a correspondence? Might the fact that chess players tend to be more intelligent on average mean that the distributions we'd normally see (more really bad and really good men, more average women) don't occur because of the bias toward high intelligence in chess players? Well, we can't dwell on facts and numbers long, so we won't get an answer to that. Still, evidence! Hi there!
The other important issue is that in order to become a top chess player you’ve got to study chess diligently from early childhood.
If only we knew of three sisters who studied diligently from early childhood but still, while having great success, never challenged male supremacy. But we don't. Obv.
Roy Gates (Southern California, USA) recalls:
I think that there's definitely some cultural/sociological bias at work that has made it more difficult for women to excel in chess. I realized a few years ago (after it was pointed out to me by an ex-girlfriend) that I was taking a much more active role in my nephew’s chess education than I was with my niece despite the fact that she was more eager to play/learn and seemed to take to the game much quicker. I had subconsciously not taken her interest in chess seriously and was mortified when I realized I was helping to perpetuate the myth that boys are better chess players.
Southern California? Oh, I know this will be good! How is it a "myth" that boys are better chess players when boys do better at chess? Again, this article is all about explaining why the obvious fact is true. We're not here to debate the obvious facts. They're obvious. Mr. Gates reminds me of so many law students who, rather than answer a question, tried to fight the hypo. Look - the terms are set beforehand so we can focus on things that are actually at issue. "Boys/men are better at chess than girls/women" is the peculiar fact that needs explanation; it's not dubious. If it were, then all this would be easy - we could just blame the liberal media or Fox News or Iran for perpetuating a totally false, untrue myth that is not factual at all.
Moreover, serious chess studies require substantial investments (coaches, trips etc.), while it’s a well-known fact that women chess players can’t make a decent living playing chess unless they’re at the very top.
Male chess players can't make a decent living playing chess unless they're at the very top. This was true long before the economic crisis; it must be worlds more difficult now. Make sense, article.
A stereotype exists in chess that women are no match for men.
This "stereotype" grew from bigoted people who saw the score "Random Man-Random Woman 1-0" time and time again and made an inference. Damn bigots.

Seriously, why is this article fighting its own hypo, so to speak? What if a professor asked you "Assuming the plaintiff has standing, what remedies are available?" and then shot down every answer with "That's nice but you didn't establish that the plaintiff has standing"? Yeah.
That’s why many female chess players are taught from early childhood that they’ll never make it to men’s level. TV and books are also trying to convince them that it’s unreal. But all this is a myth! The first woman to break it was the incredible Judit Polgar, the greatest woman chess player of all times.
"All times" lolol. Sorry, I am supposed to be nice. This is incredibly silly. I'm actually getting a little pissed right now. Learn statistics, folks. We're talking about group averages, not individuals. Judit Polgar could beat me in a blindfold simul - we know that. What we want to know is why Judit Polgar never played another woman, ever, when she was in the chessplaying elite.

What if women are just not interested in chess?
Then why do they still go to tournaments? I mean, you told us they had these chess tournaments for women. Are you contending now that women were never really serious about it anyway? Sore loserdom is full of buffoons who lose, throw a fit, and claim they weren't really trying anyway.
Robert Tierney (Binghamton NY, USA):
Adding my two-cents here, I think the question is phrased wrong. "Why do women play chess worse than men" is an improper question, framed in a male-dominated area with a male-dominated history. Since everyone (here) seems to agree that women are quicker learners than men, and mature quicker than men, perhaps they are too intelligent to spend more time at something that is just a game, as Morphy stated several times. Maybe the question should be, are men too stupid or too immature to quit obsessing on chess? Then maybe we wouldn't have this topic getting abused over and over again. "Chess is a sign of lack of intelligence"--now wouldn't that be a kick in the head?
"Male-dominated X" reminds me so much of this lovely poem about Bobby Fischer:
We loved his Jew-controlled chutzpah
and his Jew-controlled moves
And his Jew-controlled antics
gave us Jew-controlled grooves

Worldwide Jew-controlled plotting
caused his Jew-controlled bind
and an uncontrollable Jew-controlled hatred
filled his Jew-controlled mind

He's now in Jew-controlled hiding
said the Jew-controlled news
to the Jew-controlled pleasure
of the Jew-controlled Jews
I am actually feeling some Schadenfreude at the pique expressed in Mr. Tierney's comment. Clearly the guy is really, really bothered that men are better at chess than women - I don't know why; he's gotta be a dude, right? - and his response to the obvious facts is "NO U." The poor guy; did you have to print his insane ramblings? I don't know if he's fishing for tail or just being a PC douche, but don't draw attention to the poor fool.
It’s also important to note that (no matter what their interests are) most women have to dedicate a lot of time to their family: e.g. when a child is born they don’t have enough time to study chess or participate in multiple chess tournaments.
What about barren women? Where are that stats on them? I miss when numbers and facts were provided to support arguments. ;_;
Final question – what should we do to make chess more popular among girls?
This is missing "if anything." I mean, if Mr. Tierney is right, we should be thankful that women aren't wasting their time making themselves stupider playing a stupid game that is stupid and for idiots.
Another key thing is sponsorship – women chess is very attractive and exciting, so it’s worth investing into.
Then people will do it. Seriously; people with money do not like wasting their money. If something is worth doing, it will have money thrown at it. Investors are not allergic to profit!
If prizes in women’s events increase to the same level as in men’s, then girls (and their parents) will have a good financial motivation to consider chess seriously.
No they won't. Prize support is pathetic as it is. Chess is a profession only for those at the very top. Get real.
Finally, the girls themselves should know that they are equal to men in terms of chess talents, play in men’s tournaments, study hard and believe in their powers.
Even if it's not true! Believe in yourself! Don't grow up or anything.
If most women start acting that way, then one day quantity will lead to quality, and the world chess elite will be enjoying more female players.
What? If enough chicks start playing, they'll crowd out the dudes? Under what system of logic does that follow? Ho-dal logic?
It’s essential to remember that the sky is the limit and all the obstacles are in our heads…
So we've selected delusion as our ethic. Aight.

Amusingly enough, the wife in that couple is clearly carrying the husband. "Successful IT-specialist, leading world debate expert, top blogger and a proficient chess player," really? I can stretch my way into three of those categories and a few weeks at RACC would take care of the fourth.

I keep thinking "world debate" means Spinozism.

Keep reaching for that rainbow, girls.


At 1:50 PM, June 26, 2009 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

If there were an equal number of of women playing as men, then the world champion men would only out number women 1000 to 1 instead of 1000 to zero. This is rough statistical inference. No guarantee that it wouldn't still be 1000 to zero. Sure some women beat some men in Iron Man triathalon, but no women beat the top men. That is what the phrase "Do your best" refers to. We all benefit when we all do our best in competition and in life. The human race may need women to do their best at what they do best rather than be annoyed that men always beat women in the areas where men do best.

At 2:48 PM, June 26, 2009 , Blogger Joshua said...

Asking why there aren't more women in chess, and what can we do about it, seems to me exactly the same as asking why there aren't more women in boxing, and what can we do about it?

and the talk page would have some Asperger's-ridden teenager arguing with a middle-aged homosexual about reliability of sources and "NPOV" complete with accusations of sock-puppetry, lack of good faith, and other nonsense concocted in the fantasy world of Wikipedian imagination



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home