Friday 29 March 2019

Chess: Men Think, Women Feel

A widely held prejudice is that men are better at playing chess as the "female brain" is not really the most suitable organ for thinking strategically. Women are a "chess minority" because they are too much focused on harmony to compete, not willing to spend time on improving (via), because of the male image chess has and because girls and boys are brought up differently (via). In other words, men perform better because they use calculations to win, women use their intuition (via and via) or distracting low-cut necklines, hence the dresscode introduced in 2012 saying that only the two top buttons may be undone (via).

Chess is heavily male dominated both in terms of the absolute number of male players and in terms of male representation among the best chess players. The stereotypical chess grandmaster is undeniably a man, and – due to the face-to-face nature of tournament play – it is difficult for gender not to be salient when a female chess player competes with man.
Stafford (n.d.:3)
In his analysis, Stafford used data from 5.5 million international chess tournaments and came to the conclusion that "women players outperfrom expectations when playing men" and that the "question of under-representation of women in chess remains unsolved" (Stafford, n.d.). Rothgerber and Wolsiefer (2013) analysed data from 12 scholastic chess tournaments (n = 200 girls aged 5 to 15) and concluded that particularly young "females performed worse than expected when playing against a male opponent" due to stereotype threat.

The first time male and female chess players competed against each other in Austria was in 2018. The decision was made aiming to promote women as - on the national level - they otherwise would only have a few female partners to play with (since there are not many women in chess) and have only limited opportunity to improve and train for the Olympics (via). Playing with male chess players (a much larger sample) is far more challenging (via). This is surely an improvement - in the 1980s, the German male national team received a gold ducat for winning, the female national team chocolate pralines (via).

- Rothgerber, H. & Wolsiefer, K. (2013). A naturalistic study of stereotype threat in young female chess players.
- Stafford, T. (n.d.). Female chess players outperform expectations when playing men; download
- images via and via and via