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Classic Games (Games) Games

Record Set For World's Youngest Chess Champion 214

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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  • Merry Christmas (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BertieBaggio ( 944287 ) < minus city> 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!

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Women (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 26, 2010 @12:14AM (#34668528)

    As a male, the only thing that ultimately matters to me is that women are the chest champions.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 26, 2010 @12:23AM (#34668554)

    Men and women are exactly the same and equal in every single way conceivable and the only reason there are more or less women in one field or recreation than another or why there are any perceived differences in aptitude or interest are purely due to evil, vile, horrible, sexist, chauvinist, males. (Oh, don't forget that women make up something like 55% of the population, so they're hardly in a "minority" position on anything).

  • 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?

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • by ruebarb ( 114845 ) <colorache@hotm a i l .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 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!

  • Goodbye, karma (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pjt33 ( 739471 ) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @06:54AM (#34669364)

    Wow, the feminists you know are surprisingly mild. I'm more used to hearing that women are superior to men in every single way conceivable.

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?