Checkmate! Women succeed on the board

Share
Related Topics
Are women as intelligent as men? You could hardly ask this question, even before the era of political correctness. Yet one puzzle, beloved by the intellectual misogynist tendency, remained unsolved. Why are there no great women chess players?

This week, for the first time in its 100-year history, the Hastings International Chess Congress began with five women among the 10 invited players for its Premier Tournament, the biggest event in the British chess calendar. The antics of some of the leading (male) exponents show that chess is not a pure test of intelligence. But high-level, specialised, abstract reasoning remains the most important attribute of a strong player.

The popular notion is that women are better than men at verbal tasks, worse at mathematical ones - and chess is a mathematical game. This is a myth. Such sex differences, if they exist, are tiny. In any case, some psychologists say that the best players cope with the incalculability of chess by using skills that are more linguistic than mathematical.

Another myth about the chess anomaly is that women are better at interpretative skills; men are more creative. This is specious nonsense. Chess has now been studied so thoroughly that it is largely interpretative rather than creative. Creativity, anyway,is assessed by subjective criteria, set by men.

Twenty-five years ago two Hungarian educationists, Laszlo and Klara Polgar, designed a teaching method to rear geniuses. They chose chess - with its objective, win-or-lose scoring - as the testing ground. Their youngest daughter, Judit, did much to shatter prejudices about women players. She became the youngest player to earn the grandmaster title, and is now ranked 20th in the world.

Other women players lifted their sights accordingly. The Hastings tournament is a small part of a much wider social experiment in unisex intellectual competition. Cultural expectations and conditioning have, perhaps even more in chess than elsewhere, combined to stifle the aspirations of women. In the minds of most grandmasters, male and female, there is a lingering doubt about whether women really can play chess. The events in Hastings may play their part in dispelling such doubts.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Science versus religion in the three-parent baby debate

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Kylie has helped to boost viewing figures for the talent show  

When an Aussie calls you a ‘bastard’, you know you’ve arrived

Howard Jacobson
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee