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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Syria's Kurds have little choice but to flee amid the desolution, ruins and danger they face

Patrick Cockburn
A bartender serves two Mojito cocktails  

For the twenty-somethings of today, growing up is hard to do

Simon Kelner
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering