In 1906, "Lasker's Chess Magazine" claimed that the lack of female stars was due to women lacking "concentration, understanding, impartiality and Above all, a spark of originality. Bobby Fischer claimed that girls "are weak" and "shouldn't play chess." Garry Kasparov went so far as to say of Judit Polgar : "She has a fantastic talent, but after all she is a woman." The girl "took revenge" by sneaking into the top ten in the world and even beating the ogre in a game, but the data is stubborn: the best grandmasters are almost always men.
Currently, there is only one woman Among the top hundred: l to China Hou Yifan in 86th place. When it comes to explaining gender differences in an eminently intellectual activity, biological, psychological and social factors are usually sought, with special attention to testosterone levels and the killer instinct of man since he was in charge of going out hunting mammoths. There is also the factor "fanaticism", which explains that there are fewer serial killers, for example.
The Dutch Wei Ji Ma, professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at New York University, he has posed the question from an approach that is not new either, with the idea of showing that the only explanation for the "phenomenon" is numbers. The researcher recalls that in 2009 another work by Bilali, Smallbone, McLeod and Gobet defended the same thing, "but chess players do not know it or prefer to ignore it."
The approach of Wei Ji Ma and his collaborators published in an article in ChessBase, is revolutionary and at the same time very simple. In his opinion, it is nonsense to compare two such disproportionate groups, chess players and "chess players", by the method of looking at the best. Of course, it is easier for stars to emerge from the largest, especially if the ratio can be almost 20 to 1.
For the same reason, there are hardly any elite red-haired chess players. The Dutch professor even considers statistical malpractice to continue comparing the level of one and the other based on the scores of the best. The great teacher and coach Arthur Kogan has defended the same for years, "just as Magnus Carlsen does not represent the level of men."
Wei Ji Ma argues that the fair way to compare two groups is to use the mean score of each. To check the result, he applied his method to a real and representative group: all chess players in India, based on the latest list published by FIDE. Of the 19,064 players with a rating, 17,899 are men (93.9%) and 1,165 (6.1%) are women.
With the "classical" method of comparison, men win again, because the best grandmaster is Vishy Anand (2753 points), while the grandmaster Humpy Koneru "only" has 2586 points. But it turns out that the average of the former is 1,434 points, 32 below the female. Even if gender differences were found with "his method", Wei Ji Ma assures that they should not be attributed to biological causes, but to "the systemic disadvantages and the threat of stereotype" that female chess players traditionally suffer .
In her opinion, one should not ask why men play chess better, but rather why there are far fewer women who practice it.