Chess is gendered?

I would hope that she is taking offense but maybe not offence.

On the general point, doesn’t this reflect society in general? When I look at what is going on in my country I see evidence that the majority of men see themselves as the superior sex. Often, it’s just casual: Women getting into nightclubs free while men pay, or assuming that the female is junior in a group of business people.

Fair enough, I don’t think asking is necessarily patronising but thinking that it must be frustrating for them to be beaten by men sounded a bit off to me. The implicit assumption being that it isn’t possible for them to play and beat the men given a level playing field. I’m not sure that is true.

I have no problem with women-only tournaments existing - plenty of the women who participate in those have voiced, over the years, the sorts of things that are said to them in open tournaments, or how difficult it is to get support. Here’s some commentary from Judit Polgar’s sister, Szusza, who trains young women chess players:

Chess Daily News by Susan Polgar - “Why is there a need for Girl’s or Women’s Tournaments?”

That said, I do think the presence of women’s chess titles (Women’s Grandmaster, etc.) with lower qualifying thresholds is strange, and it feels condescending.

Since this is about a game, let’s move it to the Game Room.

[Not moderating]
The pedant in me feels obligated to point out that all of the top chess players in the world currently are agendered, and no male nor female would stand a chance against them in a general competition.

Though there, at least, the reasons for the agendered players’ dominance are well-known.

Yes, they are equally NMOS and PMOS…

It might not make sense to you, but it’s factually correct. The top female chess player is the 83rd best in the world. Serena Williams at her peak was probably somewhere in the top 500 tennis players in the world. Dianu Taurasi, at her peak, was probably in the top, I dunno, 10k players in the world. Diana Taurasi is a top female basketball player. She is not a top basketball player.

It’s a lot closer for chess because as you said, there’s no biological impediment for them to compete at that level. However, if you combined the two women would not win anything important. I think in the future you’re likely to see combined chess, but not the other two.

Chess tournaments are not fully ‘separated by gender’.
Anyone can enter the (Open) World Championship, although there are also separate World Championships for women, juniors and veterans.
The same is pretty much true at lower levels - when I played in the British Chess Championships, my opponents were largely male - but also women, juniors and veterans.
There were separate events for these categories.

As for why this is, I suspect it’s a combination of reasons:

  • chess is not a social game (unlike e.g. bridge where you have partners)
  • chess games can last hours with literally no talking (you must not distract, disturb, worry or annoy your opponent)
  • to reach the top, you need to start early and practise a lot
  • historically it’s been seen as a ‘man’s’ game

Chess may always have the gender divide due to certain personality types being the ones who excel at chess. Chess is not something that just anyone can hop into and excel at through practice. If more men have the typical personality for chess, then it’s likely that more men will be at the top of the rankings since there is a larger pool of potential chess champions among men. Taking the Myers-Briggs personality results as an example, we can see that there are gender divides in personality types:

If INTP or INTJ have the best traits for chess champions, then it’s more likely that men will be champions since there are more men who have that personality. Women also have that personality type, but they will face more obstacles due to sexism and gender stereotyping. That may cause more of them to drop out. So even if the top chess players should be split along those gender personality ratios, the women are going to be underrepresented since it’s harder for them to make it that far.

My only objection to this is that Meyers-Briggs is specious, unscientific claptrap.

That is not proven.

You see, in tennis there is an element of strength required, and men are, in fact, better at burst strength, sprinting, and over all strength when compared to women.

Chess, however, does not require physical strength. It’s a game of mental ability, primarily, and by saying that men are inherently superior in chess you’re basically saying women are inherently stupid. Which premise I disagree with. Particularly when there is so much evidence of sexism and bias in chess, not just in the highest levels but also just to get entry into playing the game competitively.

FIDE may not be gendered, but opportunities to learn chess, practice chess, get instruction and coaching in chess, and play competitively most certainly ARE gendered.

It’s like saying black people can’t be CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies because, look, there are none and the selection process for such CEO’s in non-biased - sure, just ignore all the other bias from kindergarten on up in education, in internships, and other opportunities.

Until women at ALL levels of chess have non-gendered and non-biased opportunities to learn and play then no, the premise that men are inherently smarter is not at all proven.

Yeah, I’ve done that.

In fact, when I signed on to World of Warcraft I used my husband’s name for exactly that reason - which will be awkward if I ever need to talk to them on the phone for any reason, as I am assuredly not as male as my ID is. And DH can’t come to the phone anymore and speak for me.

So… you have exactly zero facts at all, you’re doing this just based on a “feeling”, and you are oblivious to that being patronizing…



Well, OK, personality traits do matter. But I see this rather like aviation which is still 70-80% men overall and with a much more skewed man:woman ratio in some selected areas. The traits that make for a good pilot are more common in men. However, flying competitions are no longer gendered - the very best women compete against the very best men on the same playing field and have the same chance of winning as the men. The fact that most aviators are still men is not a problem so long as women have equal opportunity for learning, training, and competing.

Likewise, some professions are still dominated by women - nursing for example - but men who desire to enter that profession can do so and achieve the highest levels in that profession. The fact the gender ratio is skewed does not make it biased, the traits useful for nursery tend to be more common in women than men, but for men with those traits they are free to pursue that area of endeavor.

In chess, though, women do NOT have the same opportunities for learning, training, coaching or competing. Until they do I’m assuming that the disparity is not just down to “women aren’t interested” but rather the sexism in the established hierarchy

Don’t women have not only the same opportunities to complete that men do? There is open competition and women’s competition. There is no men’s competition. So women can compete against men or not as they choose.


Completely ignored half the thread, didn’t you?

Here’s something you might have missed:

Here’s another:

In short, NO WOMEN DO NOT HAVE EQUAL OPPORTUNITY IN CHESS. The bias starts very young and it’s very blatant. Please do not try to gaslight me on this, it’s very real.

The playing field is not level, and never has been. Until it is, any claim that men are inherently better in chess is bogus.

Is that a requirement to justify a women’s only league? Seems to me it’s justified just by the fact that the top of the rankings is almost all men, regardless of the reason why that is.

I do agree that the disparity in rankings is mostly or possibly entirely due to the disparity in opportunity as outlined in this thread.

I remember reading here on the boards a decade or two ago about how men’s IQ varies more widely than women’s. As a result, there are more men at the very top and the very bottom of the scale. If that were true, that would be a justification despite the net result being neutral.

For example, everyone agrees that men are physically stronger than women. If you line everybody up strongest to weakest, the strongest man is stronger than the strongest woman, and on down the line pretty much every man is probably stronger than his counterpart in the women’s line. Thus we say that men are inherently stronger than women.

If the bell curve distribution is different for men and women’s IQ, it might look like the top thousand IQ spots would be all men, but so would the bottom thousand. Line everybody up in this measure, and by the end of it about half the comparisons would favor men but half would favor women, for a net neutral result. Neither gender being inherently smarter than the other.

But in that case, you’d still expect to see the top of the grandmaster list be mostly men. And also in that case, a separate women’s league would seem justified to me.

Anyone know if my half remembered SDMB fact from the early 2000s is true or not? Are men more likely than women to have extreme IQ scores both high and low?

It’s definitely possible that there is something inherent in men’s concentration ability at the very highest level that make them better in chess than women akin to track or basketball. I would bet against that though. The thing is that we will never know until the playing field is leveled at a very early age and then we churn through a few decades.

I can tell you for certain that women are just as good engineers as men, if not better. When I worked for an engineering company in 1982 just after high school, there were effectively no women in engineering. When I was getting my engineering degree, maybe 20% of my colleagues were women. At the end of my career, the newly minted engineers were about half and half. It took the entire course of my career to see that. Chess right now is probably where engineering was 30 years ago and probably not on the same trajectory at this time.

Why would you say “better”?

I worked with plenty of geniuses and idiots from all genders but on average the women were more competent in my opinion.

That’s really not what is being implied. It is entirely possible that women could be more intelligent, and better at chess on average, and yet the very top players could still be overwhelmingly male.

This is because the very visible cohort of top players are not necessarily representative of the general ability split in the population but rather they are taken from the extremes of the distribution tails.

The same could be true for the bottom of the distribution. Were there a competition for worst chess players it could be that males would occupy those positions as well.
Would you have a problem accepting that? Would that not imply that females are inherently cleverer than males?

Do you think that is an inherent trait of females?