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Record Set For World's Youngest Chess Champion 214

Posted by timothy
from the odds-are-one-in-a-billiion dept.
Pickens writes "Hou Yifan, a 16-year-old chess player from China, became the youngest world chess champion on Friday, in the final of the Women's World Chess Championship held in Antakya, Turkey, toppling a record held since 1978. Currently, the top-ranked woman is Judit Polgar of Hungary, who is thought to be the best female player in history but Polgar, once ranked No. 8 in the world among all players, men and women combined, does not compete in women's tournaments and did not play. No one really knows why the best female players are typically not as good at chess as the best men. One theory, common among some top male players, is that men are usually more aggressive by nature than women, and are therefore better suited to a game that simulates warfare. Another, cited in at least one university study, is that the talent pool among women has not been big enough to produce many great players."
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Record Set For World's Youngest Chess Champion

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  • ...In which case she'd actually be 12.
    • by wan9xu (1829310)
      either way she would not have much of a childhood. most such prodigies in china end up having a very miserable time before they achieve fame, and even worse when they fall from it.
      • by BeanThere (28381)

        That's repeated often but let's think rationally about that for a moment.

        Firstly, these young children that are so good at something particular, it's pretty much not possible that you can become so good at something unless you already enjoy it, and are highly driven. You think the government picks children purely at random and then holds a gun to their head for years until they become good? Even if they did, this wouldn't produce optimal results. No, the government picks children that are already showing th

        • Just like in the west [youtube.com], it is not "the goberment" that does the random picking. It is the parents.
          This article [npr.org] has a nice quote regarding that.

          "If my children don't get picked to carry on in gymnastics," Li says, "I'll move them to diving."

          Parents are the ones dead set at making their kid into the next [insert competitive activity here] prodigy.
          So they pack their kids to specialized training schools [youtube.com] at the age when they are barely aware of the world around them.
          And yes, they don't put a gun to their heads - but that is purely because an adult doesn't really need a gun to make a 4-year-old do what he/she [youtube.com]

    • by ruebarb (114845) <colorache&hotmail,com> on Sunday December 26, 2010 @01:34AM (#34668770)

      It's a great accomplishment, whether thru Government assistance or otherwise, she still had to play the game on the board herself.

      There was a little to be desired in terms of format - whereas the FIDE championship has a series of candidate matches to decide who goes against the challenger, (qualifications of which keep changing) - the Women's championship is a shootout format where last year's champion busted out in round two, more like a poker tournament then the way FIDE handles the regular Championship.

      Truth is, there is a lot wrong with FIDE right now and competitive chess, but Hou Yifan's accomplishment is probably the most important accomplishment in the chess world in 2010

    • by atari2600 (545988)

      Well said. http://goo.gl/fuylm [goo.gl] This will probably be marked troll but any news with the word China = I grab my salt shaker and remind myself about a cliche.

  • Talent pool (Score:5, Informative)

    by Amorymeltzer (1213818) on Saturday December 25, 2010 @11:53PM (#34668446)

    The same argument is sometimes applied to certain fields like math, etc., where men seem to be more successful than women. On average, men and women perform at the same level; the difference comes in the distribution. Men supposedly tend to cluster at the really high and really low levels, so while 4/5 of the best may be male, 4/5 of the very worst will also be male. It's a thought-provoking theory, and there is actually some evidence for it, but there is also plenty of evidence against it and it isn't one to make lightly. Like many other areas, it is likely really smart women are tragically funneled elsewhere or pushed to do something "more appropriate."

    More concretely, the concept that chess simulates war is simply outdated. Civilization, Warcraft III, and half the console games these days simulate war. Chess is an artful mastery of planning, brainpower, and pattern recognition that cannot be matched, but it's NOT warfare, not the way it matters.

    • Re:Talent pool (Score:4, Insightful)

      by shaitand (626655) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @12:34AM (#34668578) Journal

      The underlying concepts of the games you listed, including chess, are pretty much the same. What is your basis for saying chess is not a war simulation? Lack of explosions?

      • by Kagura (843695)
        Chess is a war simulation as much as baseball is.
        • Re:Talent pool (Score:5, Insightful)

          by shaitand (626655) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @01:22AM (#34668742) Journal

          Baseball is an athletic competition, the only thing it has in common with combat is running.

          Chess is a tactical competition where two opposing sides must utilize resources with different strengths and weakness, protect multiple fronts, and make strategic sacrifices, including faints and deceptions to attempt to annihilate one another. Just like actual warfare.

          Unlike baseball chess was designed for the express purpose of being a high level warfare simulation.

          If you'd said football you could have at least made an argument. You'd be wrong, but at least there'd be an argument there.

          • Re:Talent pool (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Klinky (636952) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @03:12AM (#34668962)

            Baseball & other sports take more mental prowess than you seem to think, at least on the professional level. A lot of a teams success can hang on managements ability to judge the other team, their own personnel & how they use their personnel.

            • by houghi (78078)

              managements ability

              And there lies the difference. We look at the people doing the running, not the people that tell them how and when to run. In sports we do not look at the management, we look at the people on the field.
              If you would compare that to chess, we would be looking how you move the pieces, not why.

            • by h4rm0ny (722443)

              Baseball & other sports take more mental prowess than you seem to think, at least on the professional level. A lot of a teams success can hang on managements ability to judge the other team, their own personnel & how they use their personnel.

              Not really. What happens is that when all the other significant factors of co-ordination, physical fitness and practice, practice, practice have been pushed to the utter extremes by being taken to the high levels of national and international competition, to the point where everybody is a brilliant athete and sportsman, then at that point the factors which are normally dwarfed by such things, e.g. choosing to send in one person in to bat next over another, start to become relevant. But with Chess, it's like

            • by denzacar (181829)

              I think that you missed the point of his comment about certain sport's similarity to warfare. [youtube.com]

          • by martyros (588782)

            faints and deceptions

            Except that at the grandmaster level, there's no hiding anything. Both of you know exactly what the implications of each move are, strategically and tactically for several moves ahead.

            One of the biggest differences I've seen between actual warfare and chess, and it's a doozy, is the ability to do two things at once. Chess tactics essentially all boils down to taking advantage of that fact that you can only make one move at a time, by forcing your opponent to choose between the lesser

          • by Risen888 (306092)

            Chess is a tactical competition where two opposing sides must utilize resources with different strengths and weakness, protect multiple fronts, and make strategic sacrifices, including faints and deceptions to attempt to annihilate one another.

            How is baseball not all of these things as well?

    • Re:Talent pool (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mitchell314 (1576581) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @12:58AM (#34668656)
      The answer may be simpler. Let's say you have population A that has a normal distribution of skill and many members, and you have population B with the same normal distribution of skill but few members, members of A *will* dominate the top places in rank, even though any person from A has has no advantage over a player in B. If you pick any range of skill, A will dominate with the number of players, including the back end (which you don't hear about). So near the very top, B will drop off before A.

      In my experience, I saw the same effect with cross country. Some schools have huge (like 60 runners) running teams, some have just enough (7) runners to qualify. And what I saw was that large schools tended to take the top spots and small schools usually got slaughtered even though the average runners performed about the same regardless of school. For those not familiar with how high school cross country is "scored," only the top (~5) runners from each team are compared plus a few tie breakers, which means only the top arrangement counts, so the bulk of the other runners don't matter. ie slow runners don't penalize a team. Hence the much larger teams having an advantage, even they also have the most slow runners too. Although this was only the case when one team was much larger or smaller.
      • by pmontra (738736)
        Mod parent up! If 80% of the chess players were women we'll have a female world champion and we'd be wondering why men can't play that well.
      • by BeanThere (28381)

        The answer may be simpler. Let's say you have population A that has a normal distribution of skill and many members, and you have population B with the same normal distribution of skill but few members

        So you're saying there are far fewer women than men? Last I checked, the ratio was close to 50:50 (according to Wikipedia, the global average is 105:100 males:females: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_sex_ratio)

        The question is why fewer women would choose to play chess then; you haven't really answered the question, just shifted it slightly.

        Personally I think women are just less interested in chess, which is probably genetic.

        • by obarel (670863)

          What bothers me is that it seems that women are less interested in everything.
          This fact alone can explain many things, but I'm wondering whether it's true, and if it is, why.

          It is possible that it's not that chess itself is a war game, but that any competitive sport (or any competition in general, including academia and politics) is a war, and women tend to avoid wars (genetically).

        • No. By population I meant the number of relevant people, not actual world population. In this case population A would be males playing chess and population B would be females playing chess, and it's safe to say there are many more males playing chess [competitively] than females.

          All I'm trying to show is that correlation (men taking the top ranks) doesn't imply causation (men being better at chess because they're aggressive or something).
        • The question is why fewer women would choose to play chess then; you haven't really answered the question, just shifted it slightly.

          Personally I think women are just less interested in chess, which is probably genetic.

          If you've ever been to a children's chess club, you'll notice that the ratio is something like 9 boys to 1 girl. The driving force in a child's chess career is the parents - they are the ones who organise everything, who finance everything, who transport the children between home and club and national events. Competing in national events requires thousands of miles of weekend travel every year - a considerable investment of time for any family. At this age (pre-puberty), there is no particular reason to thi

    • by shaitand (626655)

      To expand on my other comment. What do you think matters (with regard to differences in males and females) in warfare that is missing in chess?

      From a recent CNN article ( http://articles.cnn.com/2010-03-23/opinion/brizendine.male.brain_1_male-brain-mate-early-feminists?_s=PM:OPINION [cnn.com] ):

      "The "defend your turf" area -- dorsal premammillary nucleus -- is larger in the male brain and contains special circuits to detect territorial challenges by other males. And his amygdala, the alarm system for threats, fear an

    • by davek (18465)

      Chess is an artful mastery of planning, brainpower, and pattern recognition that cannot be matched, but it's NOT warfare, not the way it matters.

      O, but it is...

      The more you play chess, the more you realize that life in general is chess, and that life does includes warfare. The (grossly understated) realization is this: you must judge your next move in terms of how you're opponent will react to it. A move that makes your position look better means nothing if it is countered with a simple pawn push. Or, more simply said, DON'T MAKE STUPID MOVES. Whereupon, the majority of the game becomes finding the stupid moves and not making them.

      This is the (a

    • by bradley13 (1118935) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @03:59AM (#34669044) Homepage

      It isn't PC to discuss differences intelligence, even when there may be some truth to be found there. There is plenty of evidence that the mental abilities for men and women are slightly different - and a slight difference in the average population can turn into a big difference at the extremes. For example, men are, on average, better at manipulating 3D objects in their heads; they are also (again, on average) slightly better at mathematics. It is possible that this (or some other) particular facet of intelligence is applicable to chess.

      However, what I really wanted to point out is this: have you ever known really good, young chess players? The ones I have known are, frankly, not "normal". They are almost monomaniacal about chess. To become this obsessed about something may require a certain mental abnormality. Another mental difference: some studies have shown that women tend to be "saner" than men, meaning perhaps that they may be less susceptible to such obsessions.

      Last, random thought: why is it so non-PC to discuss differences in mental abilities? No one disputes that there are physical differences. We don't have men and women competing together in sports. Even where both may be equally good, the physical differences lead to completely different styles (think: floor gymnastics). We are built differently - why should it be surprising if our brains are wired differently too? To the contrary: Vive la difference!

      • by BeanThere (28381)

        Last, random thought: why is it so non-PC to discuss differences in mental abilities? No one disputes that there are physical differences. We don't have men and women competing together in sports. Even where both may be equally good, the physical differences lead to completely different styles (think: floor gymnastics). We are built differently - why should it be surprising if our brains are wired differently too? To the contrary: Vive la difference!

        Because the 'religion of the day' is that the genders are "equal", so it's pure blasphemy to point out the glaring facts.

      • by johnhp (1807490)
        Similarly, it's not politically correct to talk about how race is a major indicator of intelligence... despite being absolutely proven, with economic and societal levels controlled for.
        • Similarly, it's not politically correct to talk about how race is a major indicator of intelligence... despite being absolutely proven

          Massive citation needed there, unless you're just trolling. The only study I've seen correlating race and intelligence used IQ (which is somewhat ethnocentric) and only showed a deviation of 7 points for the peak of the bell curve between racial groups, which is nowhere near enough to be able to make any general observation about the expected intelligence of two individuals from two distinct racial groups. The study was also not controlled based on poverty or education level. This is the only study that

          • Massive citation required for the correlation of race and IQ? Just enter "racial differences in IQ" into Google, and you will have more citations that you can deal with, on both sides of the equation. Start with the references available in Wikipedia. Follow that up with "The Bell Curve" - this book offends people precisely because it carefully documents the existence of such differences.

            The problem is not whether racial IQs are different. The problem is that we are not allowed to scientifically investigate

            • Lots of words, not one single link to a peer reviewed study providing a correlation between race and intelligence, controlled for economic, social, and educational factors. I've typed that phrase into a search engine before, and I've looked at the results, all of which cited a single study, which is the one that I mentioned in my post. I've not read The Bell Curve, but Wikipedia provides a quote from it:

              The debate about whether and how much genes and environment have to do with ethnic differences remains unresolved

              So, even that book does not contain a definitive statement about how race correlates for intelligence i

            • PC dictates we can't examine personality and mental differences by race because a bunch of racists in the early 20th century published a bunch of white-supremicist drivel under the banner of science. I personally wonder how in particular generations of slavery affected the african-american population.
          • by mangu (126918)

            The only study I've seen correlating race and intelligence used IQ (which is somewhat ethnocentric)

            The *only* study you've ever seen correlating race and intelligence? Wow, you must have just arrived from an alien world, right?

            There have been gajillions studies published correlating race and intelligence. However, this field is so politically polarized that you cannot expect any coherence, either the studies are political propaganda or the reviews are political propaganda.

            This is an unfortunate situation, because it leaves the most vulnerable citizens to their own fate. It's funny how the PC crowd who in

          • What I've heard (and am too lazy to look up right now) is that although men and women have similar IQs on average, men have a greater percentage far below the line and a greater percentage far above the line.
      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        It isn't PC to discuss differences intelligence

        The best way to handle "non-PC" subjects is to discuss them anyway and ignore what people consider "PC". Fuck 'em. It's "voluntary" censorship on the parts of people who refuse to discuss certain subjects and that's fine, but not when they put you down for discussing someting they don't wish to discuss. Political Correctness is the hallmark of totalitarian governments and sociopaths.

      • by h4rm0ny (722443)

        Last, random thought: why is it so non-PC to discuss differences in mental abilities? No one disputes that there are physical differences. We don't have men and women competing together in sports. Even where both may be equally good, the physical differences lead to completely different styles (think: floor gymnastics). We are built differently - why should it be surprising if our brains are wired differently too? To the contrary: Vive la difference!

        It's non-PC for a few reasons. The first is the history of misuse of such research and discussions. Frankly, society has learnt its lesson that arguments about the "natural intelligence" of different races, genders and even social classes, have been falsely made, falsely justified and generally used to perpetuate injustice again and again. Is it possible that an over-reaction occurs? Perhaps, but it's marginally too far in one direction rather than the vast misdirection we've seen in the other direction thr

    • by Solandri (704621)

      The same argument is sometimes applied to certain fields like math, etc., where men seem to be more successful than women. On average, men and women perform at the same level; the difference comes in the distribution. Men supposedly tend to cluster at the really high and really low levels, so while 4/5 of the best may be male, 4/5 of the very worst will also be male. It's a thought-provoking theory, and there is actually some evidence for it, but there is also plenty of evidence against it and it isn't one

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      Chess is medieval Starcraft.

      How many of the world's top competitive Starcraft players are chicks?

    • It seems to me that it IS a simulation of warfare - from the perspective of the decision makers in places like the pentagon. They are about as removed from the horrors of the battlefield as a 16-year old playing chess.
    • Chess is an artful mastery of planning, brainpower, and pattern recognition that cannot be matched

      It is matched and exceeded by the game of Go [wikipedia.org]. The game of Chess has long since been conquered by AIs, but the game of Go has thus far proved stubbornly resistant to the sorts of AIs which conquered Chess. In fact, the Go AIs are so relatively weak that even an average human player, with only a couple years of experience, can easily defeat the AI, even with a substantial handicap. Chess is a game based upon a coincidental historical context, but it is sometimes said that if there are intelligent beings elsew

  • Merry Christmas (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BertieBaggio (944287) <bob&manics,eu> on Saturday December 25, 2010 @11:56PM (#34668456) Homepage

    Classy Slashdot, real classy. You post a news item about the youngest female chess champion and spend half the summary wondering about why the best female players are not typically as good at chess as the best men. Admittedly, it's only verbatim reposting of part of TFA (thanks NYT for also being classy!). Would another part not have done? Say,

    Ms. Hou said that she received training and financial support from the Chinese government. She studies chess four to five hours a day, and also attends high school. She said that she sometimes fell behind in her work, but her teachers understood and tried to help her out.

    or if you really wanted to talk about men

    The record among men is held by Garry Kasparov, who became world champion in 1985, when he was 22.

    Now, I don't have a problem with the facts, if the top women are indeed not as good at chess as the top men. But it seems rather small to spend half the summary pontificating on that rather than telling us a bit more about the champion.

    No one really knows why Slashdot posts summaries that are at best disingenuous and at worst deliberately inflammatory. One theory, common among top Slashdotters is that inflammatory stories get more comments than report-the-facts posts.

    Rant over, I really need to lighten up. Merry Christmas all!

    • Agreed. Summaries should summarize the story, and leave pontification, speculation, spin, and opinions for the comments. Putting these into the summary turns it into essentially a blog posting, where a single person shares their opinion on a topic and sets the tone for the discussion. Nothing wrong with blog postings, as long as they're made to a blog.
      • by BeanThere (28381)

        Newsflash, slashdot is a blog.

        And the summaries are always spun to generate lively discussion, funny how it only suddenly makes a whole lot of people uncomfortable when the topic is one of society's great "taboo" subjects - the fact of gender inequality (earth round) in the face of a global cultist belief that genders are equal (world is flat).

        • by martyros (588782)

          the fact of gender inequality (earth round) in the face of a global cultist belief that genders are equal (world is flat).

          Except that the vast majority of tech men, in my experience, don't believe that apparent differences in performance have more to do with sociology than with biology. The conclusion almost everyone jumps to, without looking at the actual evidence, is, "Well, maybe men are just better than women". Bzzzt. There is a lot of evidence for alternate explanations, but most techies I've talked

          • by BeanThere (28381)

            Slashdot is representative of the whole of society now? That's news to me.

            How about the differences in performance in athletic endeavors and physical strength and physical size and height, or are there "alternative" explanations for those too? To think that men are equal to women is a bit like denying the sky is blue.

            • by martyros (588782)

              Slashdot is representative of the whole of society now?

              No, you said that people get worked up when we talk about taboos. But on Slashdot, my experience is the idea that men are just better than women at computers / math / chess is not taboo, but very welcome.

              To think that men are equal to women is a bit like denying the sky is blue.

              I don't think anyone thinks men and women are the same. But think of it this way.

              Suppose, for the sake of arugment, that the only reason there are fewer top women in chess (o

    • by PatPending (953482) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @12:05AM (#34668490)

      Rant over, I really need to lighten up. Merry Christmas all!

      Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good knight.

    • You post a news item about the youngest female chess champion and spend half the summary wondering about why the best female players are not typically as good at chess as the best men.

      Given that she neither played the world's best male player nor the person believed to be the best female player (but who only plays against men), it is relevant to speculate where this player fits in with the rest of the population.

    • by hackingbear (988354) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @12:28AM (#34668564)

      No one really knows why Slashdot posts summaries that are at best disingenuous and at worst deliberately inflammatory. One theory, common among top Slashdotters is that inflammatory stories get more comments than report-the-facts posts.

      Because the summary is written by a male who is "usually more aggressive by nature".

    • or if you really wanted to talk about men

      The record among men is held by Garry Kasparov, who became world champion in 1985, when he was 22.

      To be honest, that comparison is just stupid.

      The article has already established that best female chess player isn't as good as the best male chess player, yet somehow it's supposed to be more impressive winning the "female world championship"?

      That's like saying "The new Danish national champion is only 16 years old. The youngest world champion was 22."

      I have the same i

    • by houghi (78078)

      Stop whining. You are such a girl.

  • Getting your kid involved in dangerous stunts like these is uncalled for. This kid could've choked on a game piece, or something [independent.co.uk]

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @12:03AM (#34668480) Journal
    While the sex breakdown of high level chess players is interesting, the idea that the sort of adaptations that suit a primate for small-group physical violence are good for a board game seems risible at best. If anything, I'd ask the question "How is it that some males manage to overcome adaptations suited to physical violence and sit still, for long periods of time, performing abstract mental operations as dispassionately as possible?(and, particularly at the middle and high school levels, many don't, which is why they are out on the playground punching each other and being diagnosed with ADD rather than in class...)"

    It is never a good sign for a theory when it can be turned into a persuasive sounding "just-so story" for either possible outcome: Since the leaderboard is full of men, you get "zOMG, chess is a wargame!". Were it full of women, you'd get "zOMG, chess is dispassionate and does not reward aggression!"(or, the other possibility, the evolutionary psychology brigade would march in to inform us that chess' brand of cerebral competition is well matched to women's well-known propensity for sophisticated verbal and interpersonal competition and alliance formation and poorly suited to men's more straightforward brand of violence).

    There is obviously something going on; but I'd suspect that it is much more closely connected to whatever it is, social or biological, that drives the sex breakdown of high level mathematics departments; not whatever it is that drives the sex breakdown of combat units.
    • The reason why there are so many better male chess players than women chess players is because there are a lot more boys and men playing chess than women.

      Go to a major chess club some time and look at the sex ratio.

      • by davester666 (731373) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @12:25AM (#34668558) Journal

        When I've gone to chess clubs, the ratio of people having sex vs not having sex at the club, is pretty much always 0 to X [X being the number of people at the club].

        But I did not spend a lot of time in the washrooms, so the ratio might be slightly higher than what I observed.

      • by Kagura (843695)

        The reason why there are so many better male chess players than women chess players is because there are a lot more boys and men playing chess than women.

        The reason why there are so many better male swimmer/runner/marathoners than women is because there are a lot more boys and men doing these activities than women.

        Or maybe men and women are not equally capable in all endeavors.

        • Physiologically, men are more powerful than women (on average, and at the higher end of the bell curve as well).

          But when you have a sex ratio of 10 men to 1 women, even if they both average out the same, chances are the "best" will come out of the male distribution group. Just basic math.

          As far as I can tell, having played chess at the amateur club level and played some really good young players (2100+), both boys and girls, there is no secret sauce in chess that resides in the gonads.

      • by NoSig (1919688)
        That is a possible reason though it does not follow that it is necessarily the right or most relevant reason. E.g. if we imagine that people who are good at chess at first go on to play more chess, we suddenly have a completely different perspective on the ratio of men to women. There is no reason to assume that choosing to play chess is independent of one's innate ability to learn chess - in fact I'd say that would be surprising. Your argument does show that there is a possible explanation that does not re
    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      "...as dispassionately as possible?"

      Actually most men waste a majority of their time and energy on pissing contests.

    • by FooAtWFU (699187)

      I'm sorry. We're not allowed to talk about the possibility of there being differences between men's and women's capacity for mathematics and intensive abstract logical reasoning. It's taboo, and politically incorrect. In certain quarters, you could probably lose your job for mentioning it.

      • I'm fairly sure that we are talking about it. I was expressing my position that, if anything, the capacity of a fairly small slice of the male population for high order logical function(while undeniable) seems unlikely to be linked in any but the most cryptic ways to adaptations useful for physical violence and intra or inter group competitive behavior.

        It does appear that there is something going on, and it may not be all social; but appeals to adapted aggression seem more useful in explaining prison sex
    • (and, particularly at the middle and high school levels, many don't, which is why they are out on the playground punching each other and being diagnosed with ADD rather than in class...)"

      Where exactly are you talking about? They've cut recess down at lower levels, and out of middle school+

    • Have a look at the prize money offered to men vs. the prize money offered to women.

    • by BeanThere (28381)

      If anything, I'd ask the question "How is it that some males manage to overcome adaptations suited to physical violence and sit still, for long periods of time, performing abstract mental operations as dispassionately as possible?

      Why are you conflating physical violence with mental strategizing capabilities? Both are complementary adaptations critical to winning wars.

    • by lakeland (218447)

      Somebody else noted that the standard deviation of ability of male chess players is higher but the mean is roughly equal, and that a similar property exists in mathematics, go and quite a few other pursuits. So I would posit the theory that males are more inclined to obsessive behaviour while females tend to have more balanced lives, but neither has inherently more aptitude for chess.

  • by Xonstantine (947614) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @12:06AM (#34668494)

    Not the world's chess champion, but the women's chess champion, which is altogether a lesser prize because the level of competition is so much lower.

  • On Women (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AmericanInKiev (453362) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @12:33AM (#34668576) Homepage

    May I suggest politely, that women, in the main, have /two/ paths to success, (or evolutionary strategies) whilst men may have merely one.
    That is that Women can, by merely looking fabulous, simply attach themselves to the success of a /competent/ male, while few males have managed a similar trick in reverse, and that these two strategies compete with each other in a way that dilutes the pressure to be competent. Fabulous women out-compete women who are merely competent in propagating their genes. I would wonder whether, in any species, both genders can adopt the same evolutionary strategy, this is likely not the case, as sexual reproduction leads to mutual exploitation by definition (as each gender conspires to make the other partner more responsible for the child rearing)

  • by milkasing (857326) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @12:35AM (#34668580)
    Kasparov at 22 became the youngest unified chess champion. But he is not the youngest ever -- Ruslan Ponomariov won the Fide chess championship in 2002 (during the split, in a knockout format).He was 18 at the time.
  • by ArchieBunker (132337) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @12:50AM (#34668628) Homepage

    Men and women are different?

    • by martyros (588782)
      Men and women are different. However, a huge amount of the difference in outcomes between men and women are much better explained by sociology than by biology. Look at the evidence with an open mind sometime.
  • Not surprising (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NoSig (1919688) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @12:57AM (#34668654)
    Chess requires high IQ, the variance (not average) of IQ (and lots of things) is higher among men than women so you get more male idiots and geniuses. In other words, more men are further away from the average than women - be that better or worse. Hence better top performers in many areas of human activity. Also, more male bottom performers. It's not exactly surprising that women have less variance since they have two different X chromosomes, so the effect of every gene on the X chromosome is the average of two genes from the gene pool, while in men the effect of every gene on the X or Y chromosome is just the effect of 1 gene. So a good X or Y gene gets full effect in a man and a bad X or Y gene gets full effect in a man. In a woman the X genes have two copies so both bad and good genes are likely to be counteracted by the second copy of that gene on the other chromosome. Women don't have a Y chromosome which also means they can't differ in their Y chromosome, again reducing variance.
    • by anilg (961244)

      Interesting theory if you buy the premise that random X and Y chromosomes are on average more different than two random X chromosomes, and thus lead to a larger degree of mutations.

      Can someone with some knowledge in genetics/related fields comment.

    • There aren't very many genes on the Y chromosome, so that part of your theory is not correct.

      View it from another perspective : evolutionary psychology. Generation after generation, in the natural environment, 80% of women succeed in reproducing but only 40% of men. Thus, men have to take risks for a greater chance at being among the 40%. (the giant difference is due to men dying before reproducing doing risky activities, and from competition from other men. Genetic evidence is that polygamy (a few domin

      • Even without specific genetic programming the necessity of risk-taking and hard work to get laid would motivate men to perform better. Playing chess isn't the first thing that would come to mind to reach that goal, but maybe they are thinking several moves ahead...
      • by NoSig (1919688)

        There aren't very many genes on the Y chromosome, so that part of your theory is not correct.

        It is true that the X and Y chromosomes together hold just a small part of total DNA in a human. It is also true that the difference in DNA between a human and a chimp is just 4%, and from your argument we would then have to conclude that monkeys perform to about the level of humans. So it is not valid to conclude that a small difference in DNA can't be important. I agree with the rest of your post, and I imagine that that is part of the reason that men have greater genetic risk/reward - because reaping the

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @02:32AM (#34668882) Homepage Journal

    No one really knows why the best female players are typically not as good at chess as the best men.

    Past studies have shown that the range of men's brains is wider. Thus both the smartest and dumbest people alive tend to be men. Men are not only wired to take more risks, but their physiology also seems to toss the dice further when putting their genes together.

    In mammalian groups, typically the reproductive quantity difference between the top male and bottom male is larger than that of females.

    This is because the top male can mate many times with multiple females, while the top female can only crank out and raise slightly more than her typical competition. Thus, the reproductive rewards and penalties are more extreme for males.

    This results in males being risk takers by personality and by construction. Recombinant DNA appears set up to take bigger gambles on male design; and this means that for any skill test, the more extremes of the spectrum will tend to be male.

  • And there is no mention about the chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnus_Carlsen [wikipedia.org]

    who was ranked first at the ELO Fide page at the age of 19 !

    Since chess competition between men is much tougher, it's really an amazing achievement (Judit Polgar is 49th: http://ratings.fide.com/top.phtml?list=men [fide.com] )

  • My theory would be segregation. The vast majority of chess-players are male, generally. But despite the lack of any obvious reason why men and women shouldn't compete on equal terms, any female chess players who come along get shoved into girl's and then women's tournaments, which means that they don't get to play so much against the vast majority of chess talent, and they're not encouraged to aspire to be better than the world's best players. And strong competition and high aspirations are two important fa

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