Addressing Sexism in Chess: A Guide to Making Chess More Inclusive

by Amanda Chen
4/13/2021 – Nature or nurture? Much more men play chess than women and with a rating of 2658 Hou Yifan is the world's number one women player but on the world ranking list she is on place 85. The numbers alone suggest that there is a gender gap in chess. But why? And how should the chess world deal with this situation? Amanda Chen, chess fan and a student of Political Science and Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University shares a few observations and ideas.

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Sexism has always been rampant in the chess community. Bobby Fischer, arguably one of the greatest chess players of all time, once remarked that women are "terrible chess players" and suggested that they busy themselves with domestic affairs. Former world champion Garry Kasparov has stated, "there is real chess and women’s chess." He later recanted this message after Grandmaster Judit Polgar beat him in 2002, becoming the first woman to ever beat a world champion. Fischer and Kasparov are not the only grandmasters (or chess players, for that matter) to make these sorts of comments. And, unlike Kasparov, most don’t rescind their opinions. Such sexist remarks and ideologies would be seen as incredibly outdated and unacceptable elsewhere. Yet, in the chess world, these misogynistic attitudes seem to be mainstream.

Brought on by the virality of the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit, there has been a recent rise in discussion over the gender gap in chess. It seems that while no articles deny the presence of a gender gap, the reasoning behind this gap largely varies. Some have (in a very misogynistic manner) suggested that there are biological differences between the way women’s brains and men’s brains are wired, therefore contributing to men performing better in chessー a game that requires intellect and critical thinking. This suggestion is just false; there is no evidence that supports an innate difference in the way women’s and men’s brains function. Some suggest that the lack of representation for women amongst grandmasters is due to the lack of participation of women in chess. This suggestion may partially explain the situation; as of January 2020, the percent of rated female players is about 15.6%, and only 37 of the 1,600+ international grandmasters are women. Others presume that sociological factors, like stereotyping and the undermining of women’s abilities, have contributed to the widening of this gap. This presumption may be true; in fact, according to some psychological studies, the presence of differences in performance levels between men and women is the result of "increasingly traditional gender-role attitudes." Many suppose that the gap is a result of some combination of all three. At the end of the day, the gender gap in chess doesn’t exist because of only lack of participation by women or only sociocultural elements. Rather, this gender gap is a result of various complex and highly nuanced factors that would require a whole different article (or even a lifetime of academic work) to fully address.

Attractive fiction: Beth Harmon after beating the World Champion in the successful series The Queen's Gambit | Photo: Netflix

Still, the point of the matter is that there is a gender gap in chess, and there have been extensive debates seeking to explain the differences between men and women as a method of explaining this gap. As a result, the chess community has become incredibly divided; the few women that are involved in chess have discriminatory experiences and feel at a disadvantage in succeeding within the chess world, and many men feel at a disadvantage as they may lack the opportunity women chess players have in accessing attractive women’s tournaments and receiving subsequent prize money.

Addressing Concerns in Conversations Around The Gender Gap in Chess

From the perspective of an academic whose research focus involves gender-based issues, the discussions around the gender gap in chess have been very alarming. First and foremost, the frequency and quantity of sexist discourse are worrying. For the purposes of clarification, I use Audre Lorde’s definition of sexism as "the belief in the inherent superiority of one sex over the other and thereby the right to dominance." Sexist comments are incredibly prevalent in chess articles discussing the gender gap. In one recent article from Chess24, one commenter stated, "On the same lines, since [the] brain is also a part of [the] body, I am saying that calculating or analytical ability of a man's brain is higher than that of woman's brain and hence, on an average, men will perform better." While there were certainly reassuring replies that countered this misogyny, there were also many replies that supported this statement, showing the continued prevalence of sexism within discussions surrounding gender in chess.

Secondly, many discussions about the gender gap in chess tend to assert the narrative that because men and women are theoretically equal, it is the fault of women for not putting in the effort to participate and excel in chess. For instance, in a recent ChessBase article, one commenter wrote, "If there are suddenly 10 million more women playing chess, you cannot simply assume they are going to be better than Judit Polgar. That is not how it works. You have to put [the effort] in it. How you do depends on how much you are willing to put into it, not on gender or race or geography or anything like that. It's as simple as that." The assertion of such a narrative is incredibly damaging because it refuses to recognize the differences in the social, cultural, systemic treatment of men and women, thus resulting in misnaming of differences and the failure to recognize and examine the institutional oppressions at play.

Judit Polgar, the best women player in history | Photo: Budapest Chess Festival

Thirdly, it seems that so much of the discussions around the gender gap in chess revolve around the need for scientific, mathematical proofー the backing of quantitative data. Qualitative analyses are typically not used or seen as a weakness to an argument, thus devaluing any sort of non-numerical data. As a result, observations and narratives by women in chess are not seen as useful or valuable to these discussions. Not only does this invalidate the discrimination experienced by women, but the dismissal of qualitative data and analyses is just bad research and bad analyses (trust me, as an academic, I know this to be true). Women’s experiences in chess can be incredibly different from that of men’s and that of one another’s. This is not a hard concept to grasp, yet many seem to have difficulty grappling with it.

Lastly, it should also be noted that an overwhelming amount of the voices that contribute to explanations and analyses over the chess gender gap are men. Like the chess community and the world of top chess players, men’s opinions and voices have overwhelmingly (and ironically) dominated a discussion involving gender inclusivity and equality in chess. There needs to be a diversification of voices within such discourse as it will lead to the recognition and broader education of varied experiences and opinions. For the sake of those underrepresented in the chess community and the chess world as a whole, the voices of minorities must be heard and respected. Currently, the chess world is incredibly divided. Not only is there an exclusion of lower-rated players and a sense of elitism in top-level chess, but there is an exclusion of minorities, especially women.

As a Taiwanese-American woman, I am asserting my voice in this conversation of the gender gap in chess. Reading these articles and scanning through the comments sections, there are so many questions that should be considered. What if we’re examining and labeling and analyzing these differences in all the wrong ways? What would happen if there was a proposition to make the chess community more inclusive rather than exclusive, more united rather than divided? What can we do as individuals and as a whole to make the chess world a more inclusive space?

We, as chess players and chess admirers, must begin to acknowledge differences in the systemic treatment of men and women. We need to embrace the differences in our individual and demographic experiences. We must work towards unity, but not homogeneity. Through this recognition and mutual respect, we can liberate ourselves from this tyranny of sexism and misogyny, of elitism and exclusion. The survival of chess and the sustainability of the chess community depend on the move towards inclusion and acceptance.

Working Towards Inclusivity, Together

Addressing and diminishing sexism and elitism in chess seems like a long, arduous, and painstaking process to achieve what may be deemed as vague and unattainable. But, there are several steps that can be taken to make the chess community more welcoming to people of all backgrounds. The following actions can be taken as individual beings, and as a whole community:

1. Acknowledge and celebrate differences:

Through the recognition of our differences, we can begin to identify the distortions, the systemic oppressions, the institutional forces that drive us to make certain choices, think certain ways, act on certain things. We shouldn’t use our differences to separate ourselves from one another, but we should certainly use differences to understand what systems we as individuals play into.

Differences should also be celebrated. It is through our differing experiences, opinions, and ways of thinking that we find nurture a sort of creativity and diversity. We may not always understand or relate to one another, but we can and should learn to respect and celebrate differences.

2. Be willing to learn from one another and from our own mistakes:

We should stay open-minded and always willing to engage in conversation with one another. We don’t have to agree with each other, but we can certainly learn from what others have to say, and we can grow to respect each other.

In the words of academic feminist Audre Lorde, "We are not perfect, but we are stronger and wiser than the sum of our errors." We cannot expect one another and ourselves to be saints. We are human beings, and we make mistakes. But, what is truly important is that we reflect upon the mistakes we make and put in the effort to do and be better. We must strive to grow.

3. Legitimize experiences as a form of knowledge:

Individual experiences are completely legitimate, and quantitative data isn’t needed to validate the experiences of the discriminated and oppressed. This is not to invalidate the use of quantitative dataー when suitable, numerical data and quantitative analyses should certainly be applied. But, qualitative data and analyses are also valid. Both forms are reliable and can be used.

4. Move towards solidarity and unity:

Support women chess players and respect their skills and experiences. Strive to dedicate as much attention to women chess players and we do to chess players who are men. Perhaps titles for women chess players are not needed, but giving women a space to grow and feel supported through women’s tournaments is an important starting point. Understand that unity doesn’t mean homogeneity, and solidarity doesn’t mean only standing by one group. We can be unified and different. We can stand in solidarity with minority chess players while continuing to support others.

Closing the gender gap in chess is a struggle, and abolishing sexism in the chess community is just as, if not more, difficult. But, as the world progresses towards a brighter future, the chess community must strive to progress, as well. Together and as individuals, we can endeavor to learn and grow. Already quoted so many times in this article, I leave you again with the words of Audre Lorde:

"What we must do is commit ourselves to some future that can include each other and to work toward that future with the particular strengths of our individual identities."

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Amanda Chen is currently studying for degrees in Political Science and Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University. She is interested in all things politics and takes a special interest in researching gender-based issues within the political realm. While she is only a beginner in chess, she has been a long-time chess admirer and supporter.
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Resistance Resistance 4/18/2021 12:25
So that we can allow ourselves to behave like tyrants; the pretense of omniscience... (- The thirst for tyranny seems to run deep in certain quarters of our society. Rutgers University might do well to spend time and resources on finding answers to this very current human problematic, too. We might learn much about our conflicted culture, the actual reasons for it, and the human being behind... -).

I agree with the general sentiment expressed throughout the many comments to this article. This is not a serious call to find answers to some perceived/alleged problem, but an attempt to impose a particular kind of narrative in order to establish a false, illegitimate right to dominance (using some of the article's own words).

Rather than being concerned with the finding of actual knowledge (scientific inquiry), the author seems more concerned with the promotion of a certain line of action based on a particular, imagined/unproven interpretation of the issue at hand. Despite the continuous vitriol against allegedly unfair treatment, the reader is continuously treated to a plethora of unfair statements (- “Some have (IN A VERY MISOGYNISTIC MANNER) suggested that there are biological differences between the way women’s brains and men’s brains are wired, therefore contributing to men performing better in chess” -), bad reasoning (- a hypothesis that hasn't been proved true is, therefore, false (?) -), and outright falsehoods (- “Sexism has always been rampant in the chess community” (?) -).

On the other hand, although still unproven, the author's favored presumptions receive privileged status (- “This presumption may be true” (man's undermining of women may explain the latter's absence from competitive chess); a mix of the author's favored presumptions is supposed to be enough to explain sexism in chess, because a number of other people also believe that said presumptions are enough to explain sexism in chess. (?) -)

Justice is also about being honest.

_
lajosarpad lajosarpad 4/16/2021 11:40
@mc1483 I think everyone is relevant. Even the weaker players. And I presuppose that you agree with this. If that's the case, then I misunderstood your previous comment. As about differences in chess and go in terms of performance and preference of members of certain groups maybe a causal factor is that go has a much wider game tree, while chess has a much deeper game tree. This is just a hypothesis, I do not know whether this is the case.

@hurwitz and I also have an academic background and my political views align towards the right. Yet, even though this means that we probably disagree about almost everything (except facts, of course), I do aplaud your comment I totally agree with. Yes, equality of opportunities is something we need to aim for, it is a Libertarian value, while the egalitarian equality of outcomes is Communistic. I do not care about what chess players have between their legs, but I do care about they being treated fairly regardless of their inherent attributes.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 4/16/2021 11:39
@lute Let me first clarify with you that I agree that people are primarily individuals, group identity is secondary to that, which is an important point you made, but there are some points we disagree on.

"Maybe, it is because you do not want the label of being referred to as a racist or sexist. But as long as you continue to accept the inclination of using gender and race as the most obvious, basic, and natural descriptors of humans, you are one. " Let's clarify: I do not care how you or anybody else intends to label me. The labeling is below the level I care for. So, if I'm "racist" or "sexist" for you, that's fine, but I prefer serious discussions, which, by definition do not contain labeling.

"Only when we make issues like black/white and male/female secondary, and make the “inner person” primary – in terms of the most obvious, basic, and natural descriptors of humans – will we evolve as a species." Skin color and gender are not issues, I believe you agree with me about this. I agree with you that gender and skin color is secondary to the individuality of the person. I would call gender, race, etc. attributes we can describe a person with. Identifying people by these attributes is the usage of group identity which you seem to oppose, at least when it is being used to strip the person from his/her individuality and view them as part of a large group.

You say I missed your point. Actually I understood your point. But your self-contradiction of fighting for tolerance while not tolerating certain words is an issue to be fixed if you intend to improve your argument. I'm all for tolerance, but am against censorship.
hurwitz hurwitz 4/16/2021 09:02
As an academic person with left political views, I feel sorry and embarrassed to see this much of artificial efforts and affirmative actions for "equality of outcomes". What matters is the "equality of opportunities", which I personally believe we have it at a very good level in the current developed countries.
ahem ahem 4/15/2021 11:59
"...because men and women are theoretically equal, it is the fault of women for not putting in the effort to participate and excel in chess."

Fault?! Said as though it's a bad thing that women would rather spend their time engaging in more edifying endeavors? Wouldn't it be sexist--according to Audre Lourde's definition, which you cite--to assume that women are less inclined to choose a life pursuing the futile mind curse that is chess? But then you want them to stoop to that level?

Violent felons are overwhelmingly male too. Should we work to change the culture so that women will feel as comfortable as men being violent felons so that we can have equity?
lute lute 4/15/2021 11:58
Well said @BKnight2003.

However, I do not find fault with Ms. Chen. I believe her intentions are genuinely sincere. Anything that increases the popularity of chess is good in my book.

Where I do find fault is with Rutgers teaching staff. I believe @lajosarpad nailed it with the explanation on "argument from ignorance". Rather than encouraging constructive debate on today's issues, too many professors seem more concerned with getting their own personal viewpoints across to students. They cherry pick scientific truths to serve their own cultural, economic, and political objectives. Of course, they often use the term "lack of evidence" to bolster many of these viewpoints.

Hard to blame their students for behaving the same way.
ahem ahem 4/15/2021 11:49
A gender gap in chess...so what? If fewer women than men want to play chess, that should be fine. What kind of a warped mind would be upset about that?

Why are there so few women in chess in general and in particular at the top? A lot of possibilities...

1) chess is an intensely competitive game, and, compared to girls, boys are more likely to find meaning and pleasure in competition;

2) to excel at chess is difficult, and, compared to girls, boys are more inclined to sink years and years of concentrated effort into an empty and frivolous endeavor;

3) the male-dominated chess culture is a turn-off for girls.

Whatever. It just doesn't matter.

I used to run chess clubs at the neighborhood schools. My first day at the elementary school, there were 2 girls and around 23 boys. At the next meeting, there were about 20 boys and 1 girl. She kept coming the whole year, even though there were no other girls. She was treated well by everyone, and it bothers me not a wit that there weren't more girls. I was there to serve the kids that wanted to play, and if those were almost exclusively boys, that's fine.

In middle school, there were 6-8 boys and occasionally 1 girl, who was interested in one of the boys who was coming.
BKnight2003 BKnight2003 4/15/2021 10:47
"Acknowledge and celebrate differences"

That's what she is NOT doing!! She wants everyone to acknowledge and celebrate only the differences SHE sees, not the differences seen by the others. And what I mean is not "the belief in the inherent superiority of one sex over the other", it is exactly the inequality of different people (differente sexes, in this case, but it could be other attibute) regarding some activities.

"there is no evidence that supports an innate difference in the way women’s and men’s brains function"

What?? Well, a rest my case. She certainly should go out more.
mc1483 mc1483 4/15/2021 08:45
@ lajosarpad: it's not my fault the strongest Go western player is only 654th in the world. On the other hand, japanese are worth nothing in Chess - 3 IMs, no GMs - so it's not a "respect" problem, but a mere fact: something related to attitude and tradition (of course not different brains). Japanese don't like Chess, western player don't like Go. The reason is the usual one: in Chess the competition is fierce, in Go it's not. Same reason women like Go, not Chess.
lute lute 4/15/2021 05:23
@ Iajosarpad “How rude, but the “argument” is even more interesting.” You completely missed the point, Iajosarpad. Maybe, it is because you do not want the label of being referred to as a racist or sexist. But as long as you continue to accept the inclination of using gender and race as the most obvious, basic, and natural descriptors of humans, you are one.

Only when we make issues like black/white and male/female secondary, and make the “inner person” primary – in terms of the most obvious, basic, and natural descriptors of humans – will we evolve as a species.

That’s the point.

By way, your "argument from ignorance" was spot on.
adbennet adbennet 4/15/2021 04:31
@Phillidor - Well written.
Phillidor Phillidor 4/15/2021 02:49
@paulo1176: "In that regard, I'm extremely sad with the comments below!"

I found some comments a bit harsh too, but to be honest, I'm not surprised that such comments emerged.

Yesterday I read this article and found it interesting. Though, some statements and the general tone of the article bothered me somehow. It can easily be noticed that it expresses (unnecesary) underestimation of the readers.

Statements such as "trust me, as an academic, I know this to be true" suppose the reader has no clue about doing serious research. Doing this it seems quite obvious that author of the article set the fire for the discussion to turn into an ad persona argument.

Still, on one hand I can only say kudos for courage and choosing a very interesting topic. On the other hand for my taste the article is too opinionated, while it lacks certain facts and at least a bit deeper research. If I was rude, I'd say now: "trust me, as an academic and practice, I know this to be true", but there is really no need for that (I never wrote an article for Chessbase, so who am I to judge). The bottom line is: Amanda Chen, keep up the good work.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 4/15/2021 10:54
@mc1483 "Go ratings cited are more or less meaningful for western players only, who are worth nothing ." I think everybody is a respectable individual and I do not understand why western players would worth nothing.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 4/15/2021 10:52
@lute "Misogynistic and misandry are not acceptable terms and should not be tolerated. They are divisive terms used to express intolerance and hatred.

But more important is the inability to accept your own racism and sexism." How rude, but the "argument" is even more interesting. You want to fight intolerance by... not tolerating some words. Hilarious.

@paulo1776 "They showed ignorance in not recognizing Gender Studies as a consolidated area, and making all sorts of aggressive comments." Well, since I always see this communistic nonsense from Gender Studies specialists one may understand that I doubt it is a science. A science is based on facts, not on ideological axioms. For example: Short's theory might be right or wrong. As far as I know it was not confirmed, nor disproven. So, scientifically it cannot be said to be factually true or false. However, the writer of the article said that it's false, because there is no evidence. This is a commonly known logical fallacy called "argument from ignorance". To put it plainly: lack of evidence is not an evidence of the contrary.
mc1483 mc1483 4/15/2021 10:44
@fgkdjlkag: Go ratings cited are more or less meaningful for western players only, who are worth nothing . Far East players do not regard these ratings as important, while rankings (especially professional) and prestige are. Do you know the Fifa World rankings, for football (soccer)? Same problem. Belgium is no. 1 in these rankings, but nobody really believes that.
But even if you trust these ratings, comparison with Chess is dismal: it is true that in the top 200 the situation looks similar, but just take the top 500: in Chess, 6 women (1,2%), in Go, 36 women (7,2%). From 201 to 500: 5 women (1,67%) in Chess, 35 in Go (11,67%). And that's despite all the Far East countries are still _very_ mysoginistic, unlike western ones.
Women don't like fierce competition - Chess and highest Go level - but their brain works just fine, as men's does..
BmiS BmiS 4/15/2021 05:52
So much male fragility in the comments section. Poe's Law
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 4/15/2021 01:47
@fede666, it's been shown in numerous studies that women have better investing results than men. The reasons for it have also been determined.

@parsons, I thought masterpoints in bridge were not solely based on skill, but also on other factors like how many competitions one enters?

@mc1483, aren't the Go rankings cited based on a statistical, elo-like rating, and so why would they not be valid? Looking at the number of Go professionals by gender is not the same as looking at differences based on skill.

I'm surprised that participation numbers are still mentioned as a possible explanatory factor as it has been pointed out ad nauseum that ppl participate at what they are good.
MoveAnyMountain MoveAnyMountain 4/14/2021 10:37
A cursory perusal of Limitless by Jim Kwik would have been advantageous to the author. Furthermore, the predisposition the author has , coupled with the writer’s course of study, has opened her up to the cavalcade of criticism seen in the responses to this article.
WillScarlett WillScarlett 4/14/2021 10:20
While you're still reeling from the new knowledge that "misogyny" and "misandry" are hateful, divisive words, you may as well learn about one more word that is suddenly forbidden and soon to be erased from the public consciousness. Be very, very careful about everything you do, say, or even think. "Liberal- minded" monitors have their eyes and ears on you. No one ever expects the Woke Inquisition !
http://www.domigood.com/2021/04/calling-medical-term-slur-because-of.html
Orwell wept .
tomohawk52 tomohawk52 4/14/2021 10:06
I went to meet my wife at the grocery store. I asked the worker outside cleaning the carts if a human of unspecified physical attributes but a charming disposition and fabulous sense of humour had passed by a minute earlier. He shrugged. Then I asked if a 60ish, white woman had just passed by and he pointed me around the corner. What a bigot.
MoveAnyMountain MoveAnyMountain 4/14/2021 09:51
The. Move towards androgyny in all levels of society sets a dangerous precedent and this article does not take into account the uniqueness of the differences between male and female brains, especially in the areas of neuroplasticity and neutogenesis. While anomalies do happen (Judit being one), it is not misogyny but neuroscience that tells more of a story here. Rather than attempting to rationalize the delta through theoretical homogenization, it would be more enlightening if the writer had taken the time to research which areas of the brain are stimulated through playing chess, taking into account both strength and gender, and doing a comparative study on results derived from an EEG/EKG. While I do believe that presenting women with their own set of title achievements is wrong, the answer here is not to attempt to take down men in the process. If more women took chess as seriously and as fervently as Judit did paired with the right atmosphere and opportunity, more women would grace the overall top 100. As it is now, partly due to the move to segregate the sexes into their own tournaments, women have to push harder into Open events to make themselves be heard. Neuroplasticity says if one mind can do it, so can the next, regardless of individual makeup.
fede666 fede666 4/14/2021 09:02
women are better than men in the financial industry ??? where did you get this nonsense from ?
adbennet adbennet 4/14/2021 07:38
paulo1176 wrote `... taking for granted a supposed male superiority, based on "nature", "brain differences", "attitude" and so on`

Good attempt at sounding so reasonable whilst setting up straw man arguments. Ms. Chen said there were no differences, and the responses said there were differences. Now you are the one introducing the word superiority. Good job.

And here is the crux of the debate around words like "misogyny" and "misandry". These are neither always applicable nor always inapplicable. Whether these words are correct labels or not depends on the *intent* of the one being labeled. This places a high burden on the perceptiveness and judgment of the one doing the labeling. So it behooves the one doing the labeling to be cautious and gather many facts about the one being labeled before "pulling the trigger". When we see someone just shooting indiscriminately then of course it completely discredits the label at the outset. Not speaking of Ms. Chen in particular, but of a known pattern in some circles.
lute lute 4/14/2021 07:38
Why my dear Scarlett, you appear to be sincerely upset with my comments. Please pardon, but being dismissive does not encourage meaningful discussion.
Indeed, I find it quite humorous. Especially since it tends to be the normal modus operandi of those with leftist viewpoints.
WillScarlett WillScarlett 4/14/2021 07:15
More typical "woke" nonsense from lute,who, like most of the intolerant Left, presumes to tell us what is acceptable. Thirst for dictatorial power .Puritanism on steroids . Reformers from hell .
The other epidemic we see currently is the fanatical zeal of these neo-Marxists who spend their days censoring, banning, and canceling opposing views. It's their agenda or else ! The irony is both palpable and savage that the
"liberal" end of the political spectrum is the most fascist in speech and action . They are more than ready to burn books and property than any raving anarchists while simultaneously congratulating themselves for occupying the moral high ground. Some of these types have even told us that mathematics is racist. What's within them is what was within the people who burned heretics alive - and it isn't love and forgiveness , or spiritual in the slightest .
paulo1176 paulo1176 4/14/2021 06:52
Firstly, congratulations to Chessbase team and Ms Amanda Chen for this good article! I think most comments below focuses on gender gap, trying to "solve it" in few words, or taking for granted a supposed male superiority, based on "nature", "brain differences", "attitude" and so on. I believe Ms Chen resumed very well that any serious scientific approach to that question must involve not only math and statistics, but also sociology, anthropology, psychology and other fields. There are evidences that the performance gap is not historically or geographically continuous: along time, more and more women are reaching top level performances at chess; and we can observe in some countries women participates more and performs better (Georgia, for example). That, per se, shows the operation of sociological and cultural factors that must not be ignored. Albeit Chessbase is a science friendly website, the gender gap will not be "solved" or fully explained here, but I think here is a superb forum to discuss that subject and mostly the article's main subject: making chess more inclusive.
In that regard, I'm extremely sad with the comments below! Some readers didn't show the minimum respect or empathy. They showed ignorance in not recognizing Gender Studies as a consolidated area, and making all sorts of aggressive comments. When I think that those persons will be in over the board tournaments, I understand why girls and women don't want to participate more. Chess is a top level sport and way of living for only few. For most of us, chess is a hobby, a passion, an environment to make more friends and a tool to develop and enhance our intelligence. I hope one day chess would integrate people and make us better, in all senses. This website it's a good example, bringing dozens and dozens stories that illustrates how chess can be funny, absorbing, how chess relate to art, sciences and so on.
lute lute 4/14/2021 06:52
In response to Will Scarlett’s comment. Misogynistic and misandry are not acceptable terms and should not be tolerated. They are divisive terms used to express intolerance and hatred.

But more important is the inability to accept your own racism and sexism. Trying to sweep it under the rug by saying “gender and race are the most obvious, basic, and natural descriptors humans use to outline others with or without further attempts at delineation” does not mitigate the fact. This does not imply you are an extreme racist or sexist, it simply states the source of the problem.

Only when we evolve to the point where our first natural attempt to view another is based on “what’s within” and not “what’s on the outside” will we stop sexism and racism. That is not a Marxist view. If anything, it is a spiritual view. It is also a necessary view if we want society growth as a species.
talmage talmage 4/14/2021 06:04
There is so much to object to in this article, but I'll focus on its premise. Why would it be desirable to have an even number of men and women compete? What should be desirable is that no person of an underrepresented group is deterred from playing. There are plenty of hobbies dominated by one sex. Go to a poker room at a casino, and 90% of the players are male. At the higher stakes tables, it's probably closer to 95%. Go to a gymnastics class, and 90% of the athletes are female. Go to a gun range and 90% of the shooters are male. Go to a ballet studio and 95%+ of the dancers are female. Is it a problem if males and females are naturally predisposed to different hobbies? I would argue that it is only a problem when someone is denied access strictly on account of sex (without a compelling reason, such as the biological advantage of males in some female sports).

Then we get to the dogma within the article itself. The author reflexively dismisses as false the suggestion that there could be biological differences related to brain chemistry between males and females, even while conceding a lack of evidence presumably for either position. We know there are some differences in male and female brains on average. Men usually crave sex more than women. Women tend to be more nurturing than men. These are true statements on average, but of course there are many, many exceptions on an individual level. Could a similar biological tendency mean that men are more likely to excel or to enjoy chess than women are? I don't know the answer, but I wouldn't be foolish enough to dismiss possibilities out of hand merely because it contradicts my ideology.
pavelmorozov pavelmorozov 4/14/2021 05:34
'becoming the first woman to ever beat a world champion'
polgar beat spassky already in 1993
bbrodinsky bbrodinsky 4/14/2021 05:16
Big deal. Men are better than women at chess. Turns out, women are better than men at financial investing. I'd much rather have THAT!

I wonder what the author's response would be if someone told her "women investment returns are better than men's due to biology". Somehow I think she would say "Really? Oh. Yeah. Sounds right".
mc1483 mc1483 4/14/2021 05:00
@chessgodo @fixpoint. These Go ratings are meaningless. Rankings in Go work in a complete different way, and although I myself think something should be done in order to fix the problem and have them really look like Chess', this is not the way to proceed. A better way to proceed could be to count japanese (not to mention chinese and korean) Go professionals - the equivalent of Chess GMs: they are at the moment about 340, of which 75 are women, about 22%. In Russia there are, at the moment, 161 active GMs, of which only 4 are female. Not the same, don't you think? Also in Go there are a lot of female high level trainers and teachers, something never seen in chess.
It is true that in the "very top", let's say the equivalent of 2600+ Chess Elo points there are few women in Go too, but the reason is the usual one: even Go, at the highest level, becomes competitive, and discourages women. It's probably true that in the world Go top 200 the situation looks no different than Chess', but if we look at Chess players between 2500 and 2600 (the equivalent of Go professionals up to 6 dan), we count 558 active ones, of which 11 are women. In comparison, japanese Go professionals up to 6 dan (a bit more than 200) are 2/3 men, 1/3 women, and they are evenly distributed (at 6 dan there are 13 women and 24 men): something unthinkable in Chess, where the gender gap remains huge even at club level (for example, between 2000 and 2500 there are 28441 active players, of which 1372, less than 5%, are women).
And don't forget Japan is still a very mysoginist country. Despite that, japanese women in Go perform immensely better than western women in Chess.
So maybe Short is wrong, after all.
WillScarlett WillScarlett 4/14/2021 04:23
Being not at all interested or motivated by the urge to be inclusive, I am moved to comment on the below posting by
lute (4/13/2021 11:31). Firstly, misogynistic and misandry are perfectly acceptable words , and no one should be castigated by censorious types for using them fairly. Secondly, identifying or referring to individuals by "sex", that is gender, or by race or "skin color" is natural and neither sexist nor racist. People of African descent refer to themselves as "Blacks" often enough and without incurring heated correction from the politically correct crowd.
Describing the star of "Queen's Gambit" as a White "woman" or "female" actor is in no way derogatory or a sexist epithet. Gender and race are - usually - the most obvious, basic, and natural descriptors humans use to outline others with or without further attempts at delineation. One could legitimately add age as another natural identifier.
Using the term "old women" or "young men" doesn't make one guilty of ageism. Claiming , with the usual virtue-signaling, that "we need to stop identifying people by their sex and race" to eliminate sexism and racism is emblematic of today's cultural Marxist specious argumentation. In other words, it's doctrinaire ... and vapid. Treat everyone according to their merits - without tortuous efforts to deny obvious realities - and things should improve.
Stupido Stupido 4/14/2021 03:25
The level of this article is disappointing. It is merely a collection of the cliches about gender equality that can be found anywhere for anything. Chess is a sport and is by nature competitive. The only valid question is whether female chess player lack the means to make a living and a career in chess compared to men. You won't make the next Judit Polgar or Hou Yifan out of generic political statements.
TheBowtieClub TheBowtieClub 4/14/2021 03:08
There is so much affirmative action in chess in the form of additional prizes, titles, and competitions restricted to one gender.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 4/14/2021 02:38
I'm sorry to say it, but women tend to be less interested in chess and less successful. Maybe the two are not independent from each-other. Males do not stop women from starting to play chess. Males might stop women from becoming successful by playing better than them. But the same males are playing better than other males.

This egalitarian, communistic world view of working for equal results against meritocracy tends to lead to a failed society. Be it in chess or in the broader sense. As a result, gender studies is a communistic movement in my opinion rather than a science.

By the way, the author has a problem that the gender gap is addressed primarily by males. She seems to want some males to shut up or some females to speak up so the genders would be represented equally. What an absurd way of thinking! If everyone is free to speak up, then nobody stops women from speaking up. Also, why would we presume that males and females would think differently about the gender gap in chess? Let's not change the results artificially and let the players play freely. We may want to encourage new players to join, male and female players alike.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 4/14/2021 02:34
This egalitarian political movement, in this case disguised as "science" seems to believe that the outcomes of the identity groups they seem to favor should at least match the number the given group represents in a society. However, I strongly disagree with this. In terms of chess, as long as anyone is free to join, the rules apply the same way for everyone and everyone's results are determined by their abilities instead of their gender/race/nationality, then I'm good. I do not know whether biological differences of male and female brains are causing the fact that men tend to be better in chess. It may be the case or not. I think it is an interesting scientific hypothesis and it should be checked whether that's the case instead of labeling.

However, as a personal opinion I would say that the victimhood mentality of the feminist propaganda, a propaganda which is represented by this article contributes to the failure of some individuals. Women are not oppressed by some male tyranny, they just tend to be beaten by their male adversaries pretty often. Or, if one knows about such tyranny, then I would like to see the FIDE rules that prevent female players from playing in male chess. O wait, there is no male chess. But there is female chess. So, a woman may play at open and women's tournament, while male players can only play at open tournaments. So how are exactly women oppressed by male players?
lajosarpad lajosarpad 4/14/2021 02:20
Is "gender studies" a science? I do not know. But when I see such articles written by academics of this domain my doubt is boldened. Short said that men and women are differently wired in terms of brain attributes. That's an undisputable scientific fact. I do not know whether the differences of male and female brains affects the differences in terms of success in chess. It may be the case. Or not. Short expressed this as an opinion (if memory serves me well), while the writer of this article made a factual claim that Short's hypothesis is wrong because it lacks evidence. While it's true that the claim of

"male dominance in chess is caused by the differences of male and female brains"

is unproven and hence it would be premature to accept it as a fact, I do think that we should accept its existence as an opinion and we should avoid labeling people and opinions that may be true. However, if you make a factual claim that Short & co. is wrong, then YOU need to prove that your claim is factually true. Similarly, if Short says that he knows that the differently wired brains accross genders cause this phenomenon, then he needs to prove it as well. Whoever makes a claim needs to prove it. I find this bad language, labeling and activist rethoric to be alien from any scientific discourse.
fede666 fede666 4/14/2021 01:54
pretty convinced that 50 years from now we will be still talking about the chess gender gap...obviously political correctness prevents us from saying loud the obvious answer...but lets just leave it at that,,,by the way nothing , absolutely nothing is preventing women from playing better chess moves when sitting down at the board...
Harry Pillsbury Harry Pillsbury 4/14/2021 12:57
"As a Taiwanese-American woman..." statements like these immediately identify the writer as someone who has a need to be seen as a victim of some systemic racial/sexual oppression."

I couldn't agree more.
SKAcz SKAcz 4/14/2021 08:46
It would also be good to test the hypothesis on different forms of chess. For example, bughouse doubles realtime chess requires teamwork, so they might be able to excel better while combining potential differences. However, the speed of the game should be set from the internet bullet to slower using the tempo bronstein alias delay.