Jennifer Yu’s US Junior Championship: Can research explain her result?

by Alexey Root
7/21/2019 – The 2019 U.S. Women’s Chess Champion Jennifer Yu was the wildcard invite for the U.S. Junior Championship which concluded on Saturday, July 20th. She finished last in the 10-player round robin with ½ out of 9. In her post-tournament interview, Jennifer Yu mentioned, “Maybe there is a little more pressure or something.” In this article, WIM ALEXEY ROOT looks at two research-based reasons for the pressure Yu perceived and its possible effects on her result. | Photo: Crystal Fuller / Saint Louis Chess Club

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Pressure from “Chess Fans”

In the words of one ChessBase reader, Yu is “a role model for young women with [her] current title” and her U.S. Junior Championship result “will find its way in future articles/books/essays regarding the relative strength of female vs male players and be fodder for that debate.” Even before the event, some questioned why Yu got the wildcard invite rather than higher-rated boys. One “Chess fan” wrote, “What a terrible pick for wildcard. I want to see the best junior players in the US Junior, male or female. It’s a shame the wildcard wasn’t used to reward another 2500+ Junior.”

Despite her chess qualifications, then, Yu perhaps felt pressure on her from some chess fans. Her qualifications include the FM and WGM titles. Yu won the U.S. Women’s with nine wins and two draws, a performance rating of 2663.

Yu’s invitational rating (US Chess rating) for the U.S. Junior Championship was listed as 2455, which meant the only player rated lower than her was Atulya Vaidya. Vaidya had an invitational rating of 2299 and earned his spot by winning the 2018 U.S. Junior Open. So Vaidya finishing ahead of Yu was not predicted by their ratings. Yu’s score of just one draw out of nine rounds was lower than expected. (Yu's expected score based on the players' FIDE Elo ratings was a little over 3 points -Ed.)

Jennifer Yu

Jennifer Yu waits for her opponent's next move | Photo: Crystal Fuller

Stereotype Threat

ChessBase previously highlighted research that found “gender stereotypes can have a greatly debilitating effect on female players leading to a 50% performance decline when playing against males.” The links in that article no longer work, but I found the original PDF using my online library journal access where I work, at The University of Texas at Dallas. The following quote, with my boldface emphasis added, is from the article described in ChessBase, which is titled “Checkmate? The role of gender stereotypes in the ultimate intellectual sport.”

From the perspective of gender stereotyping, chess also constitutes an interesting realm of inquiry for two additional reasons. First, it is one of the few sports in which men and women enter in direct competition. Second, chess tournaments satisfy a crucial precondition of stereotype threat, namely category salience, considering that women represent a miniscule percentage of players in practically all mixed-sex chess tournaments. Such minority or token status is known to produce performance deficits, decreased well-being, and a reduction of self-confidence.

Wildcard status is somewhat akin to “token” status, as the organizer picks someone who would not have otherwise qualified for an event to play in the event. In the concurrent U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, Rachael Li got the wildcard invite. Her age made her a minority, as she was the only player with an age in the single digits. She also had the added pressure of being hyped, before the tournament, as its youngest-ever participant. Li was three years younger than the next youngest competitor. At that age, that’s a huge gap, between age nine (Li) and age 12 (Rui Yang Yan). Like Yu, Li finished last in her tournament.

Yu not only had the wildcard invite (which can be perceived as a “token” invite) but was also a minority, the only girl in a field of boys. 

Jennifer Yu

In practical play expect the unexpected | Photo: Crystal Fuller 

book coverAccording to “Checkmate? The role of gender stereotypes in the ultimate intellectual sport,” women perform 50% worse than expected when they know they are playing against men and are reminded of the stereotype that men are considered better and more gifted at chess. In the experiment on which the article is based, similarly-rated men and women played two-game matches online, at first without knowing the other player’s gender. In the match where gender was unknown, the women scored 1 out of 2 (the expected score). However, when the men and women were told the gender of their opponent (i.e. the men knew that they were playing women and the women knew that they were playing men), and the women were reminded of the stereotype that men are better at chess than women, the women scored ½ of 2.

The article’s authors noted that the stereotypes about women being worse in chess are pervasive, citing WGM Jennifer Shahade’s 2005 book Chess Bitch. Yu was undoubtedly aware of the stereotypes before she played in the U.S. Junior Championship. So stereotype threat may have negatively affected her performance.

Comeback likelihood?

A second research-based reason can affect both men and women. That is, research from sports about the likelihood of a second-half comeback. According to an article in Scientific American, if a team is way behind at the halftime, that team will almost surely lose the game. Quoting that article, “Being far behind did not increase effort. In accordance with the principle of diminishing sensitivity, the farther away participants were from their goals the less they tried to achieve them.” But being just a little behind at halftime can be motivating, and teams often rally in the third quarter (right after halftime) to win.

Yu might have found it difficult to make a comeback in the second half of the tournament, after scoring 0-5 before the rest day, since she was so far behind in the standings. She no longer had a chance to win the event, or to attain an even score. The commentators praised her for continuing to fight every game, however. And Yu graciously consented to a post-tournament interview with them.

Speaking to Grandmaster Jesse Kraai, Yu said, “I played some okay games. But there are some games where I didn’t have a chance at all.” Kraai asked about her future chess plans. Yu replied that she will “play in Washington International in one week.” Kraai asked if she would consider chess rather than college. Yu replied, “I might consider a gap year. I still have a year to decide.” 

Yu speaks with GM Jesse Kraai following Round 9 | Saint Louis Chess Club on YouTube

Commentator and WGM Tatev Abrahamyan asked, “How has your life changed after winning the U.S. Women’s Championship?” Yu replied, “More people know me now. Maybe there is a little more pressure or something.” Commentator and GM Robert Hess asked about areas for improvement. Yu replied, “My openings have been a problem for years and years. I should have held my endgame in round 8. Also, I need to fix my time management.” Abrahamyan asked about whether she had a coach. Yu replied, “I haven’t had a coach in a while.” Abrahamyan mentioned the top women players now get grants for coaching, due to the $100,000 gift for Women’s chess from Saint Louis Chess Club.

Jennifer Yu

Jennifer Yu exits with half a point | Photo: Crystal Fuller

Speaking of motivation...

Thanks to chess fan “Leavenfish” for his comment, which motivated me to write this article. His comment was, “I rather doubt however that we will see a ChessBase article specifically about this result from [Alexey] Root.” Perhaps Yu, when faced with those who may be currently doubting her, can find motivation for future results as well.

Alexey was the 1989 U.S. Women's Chess Champion and is a Woman International Master. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Puget Sound and her doctoral degree in Education at The University of California, Los Angeles. She has been a Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at UT Dallas since 1999 and is a prolific author.
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imdvb_8793 imdvb_8793 8/2/2019 06:35
"Your sad and inflammatory words and assumptions, not mine! Might say a thing or two about you though..and your 'response' deserves no more than that. So..."

I do believe you've lost your mind. (Or perhaps don't understand English words and sentences properly anymore. I'd suggest reading what I wrote again with a clear, unbiased mind, but I assume that's already pointless, once you've decided it was somehow personal...)
jb123 jb123 7/30/2019 09:39 Nowthis I disagree with. This is a setup to fail and fodder for another bias article. I know people want to anoint her the new Wonder Woman of us chess, but just because it fits an agenda doesn’t mean it’s so. a lot of these denier/barber kids are at or above her rating and can beat her in a one on one match, Let alone a simul. This is a bad idea. A simul puts all the spotlight on you, builds you up as this big thing. She should concentrate on playing one on one. If she fails this is due to the burning desire to make her more than she is- which is a very good player with a promising future, but not one that can beat a bunch of equal rated or slightly lower rated player in a simul. It says players from the Denver barber and NGIT will make up the participants. Have you looked at their ratings? Unless they limit the rating level this is just such a bad idea. Can’t wait for the next bias article. I’m sure it’s already written.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 7/29/2019 03:54
@ imdvb...

Your sad and inflammatory words and assumptions, not mine! Might say a thing or two about you though..and your 'response' deserves no more than that. So...
imdvb_8793 imdvb_8793 7/26/2019 10:18
"If she had hired a coach just before the event...and if that person saw the same defects in her play as she apparently sees (maybe more?), then he would never 'throw her to the wolves' knowing full well what would likely happen. It had to be demoralizing."

If we all skipped every event we didn't feel we were perfectly well-prepared for beforehand (even when we'd had good or even great results in the tournaments leading up to that), pretty much nobody would ever play chess tournaments again. Or are you saying she's so much dumber or more incompetent on the subject of chess training than a professional coach (even though she hasn't had one for a while and she's been doing a decent job training herself, one might think) that she wouldn't realize herself that she was so poorly prepared (according to you) or in such bad form as to make 0.5/9 in this field, instead of the rating-expected 3 points or so, or even a better score, whereas said coach would somehow immediately (and, might I add, borderline magically) know this?! That seems like a rather wild assumption... Sure, there's a difference in experience that would favor the coach in figuring this out better than her, but it's nowhere near THAT large, if you ask me.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 7/24/2019 02:50
@BeartheChessHusky - What 'revamp' are you speaking of?
fede666 fede666 7/23/2019 06:59
Let's put in perspective we are talking about what a 2300-2400 is minor minor league talk...
chessgod0 chessgod0 7/23/2019 05:54
@ jb123

"Further keep in mind Jennifer never asked for this gender based excuse. she displayed a champion’s mentality and made no excuses. She only offered explanations when pressed by interviewers. She is a true champion. if Jennifer wanted to make Gender excuses she could have, but she never once mentioned it."

Completely agree with this. Yu has the heart of a champion and doesn't make excuses. If she sticks with chess, she's going to back stronger than ever and it will be in part because she didn't turn to the gender whining you see so often here in these articles.
jb123 jb123 7/23/2019 04:07

Again the more recent research suggest women play better against men.
The research I would like to see if if women who have been bombarded with victim hood and have been told their poor results are because of bias do better or worse than women who haven’t been feed excuses after every loss? Which ones perform better when they play men? That would be interesting research. Also note, Jennifer was happy at this event. Just look At the UCSF website for pictures. This article just picks particular ones to prove its point. Jennifer is mentally stronger and I’ve never seen her blame gender for a loss, so I’m confident she will bounce back. the problem with this whole discussion is people see the loss as a bad thing. Aren’t people here chess players? What happened to learning through losing or have people fallen for everyone must be an equal winner. Her expected score based on rating was only 2 to 2.5 anyway. Losing is okay, it’s not a crisis, and one result is too small a sample. I think Dr. Root understands this. Further keep in mind Jennifer never asked for this gender based excuse. she displayed a champion’s mentality and made no excuses. She only offered explanations when pressed by interviewers. She is a true champion. if Jennifer wanted to make Gender excuses she could have, but she never once mentioned it. As quick as some people wanted to make her their chess hero they now want to make her their victim hero. Just let her be. Losses are good. Losses are good, this is chess.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 7/23/2019 03:45
@BeartheChessHusky: "To begin, the system is broken: we can’t just throw money at Women’s Chess - but’s it’s a great start!"

Could you please elaborate...and give your ideas on this 'revamp'?

My first thought in reading your quote above was that 'throwing money' is often referred to as a waste of valuable resources....
chessgod0 chessgod0 7/23/2019 03:19

As indicated in my previous post, "stereotype threat" findings are inconsistent at best and beset by what is known as publication bias. You can find the paper by noted statistician and researcher Andrew Gelman here:

BeartheChessHusky BeartheChessHusky 7/23/2019 08:12
As the Co-Chair of the Southern California Chess Federation’s Women’s Committee, I believe there is absolutely a “stereotype threat” in sporting events, as documented by scholarship on the subject, particularly at the level of college sports and including the sport of chess.

That said, we believe the decisive threat of stereotypes holding back seasoned, professional, female chess masters is extremely remote, as a force of its own. There is more to the problem!

To begin, the system is broken: we can’t just throw money at Women’s Chess - but’s it’s a great start! Chess governance officials need to begin considering a full-blown revamp of the Women’s Chess system. When a master can dominate the women’s professional chess championship of the United States (without yielding a single loss!), can immediately turn around and be crushed at an all-scholastic event (without earning even a single win!)...then the problem with the women’s system seems undeniable.

It’s time for more resources & new ideas for women’s chess!

Sean J. Manross & Bear the Chess Husky
President, Southern California Chess Federation
US Chess Outreach & Clubs Committees
FIDE Commission for the Disabled
UncleBent UncleBent 7/23/2019 07:42
chessgodo wrote: "The gender articles are almost always chock full of excuses making, whiny feminism, accusations of misogyny and male-bashing."

Please don't generalize about the intentions of every one of us that has left comments. While I can't speak for others who have posted, I must state that I am not some self-pitying, aggrieved male who is threatened by proposed, affirmative action to advance chess participation by females. I am in general agreement with Dr. Root's articles -- here and on other sites. My disagreement is with her has to do with one article concerning one chess player's result in one tournament. I felt that Dr. Root's response was a hastily-written, knee jerk response that was an embarrassing departure from her other, well-considered articles.
chessgod0 chessgod0 7/23/2019 03:52
I think it's no accident that whenever it comes to the gender question, the comment section is always of higher quality than the Chessbase articles. The gender articles are almost always chock full of excuses making, whiny feminism, accusations of misogyny and male-bashing. It is simply not possible for the authors of this site to be objective and fair-minded on this topic...and so it falls to the stalwarts of the comment section to bring the realtalk. And how.

Thanks to this comment section, "stereotype threat" was quickly exposed as the absolute rubbish and junk science that it is, and concrete, actionable analysis of Yu's performances and avenues for improvement were provided in spades. Yu can definitely play with the men---but only if she steers clear of the victim mentality advocated by this website (and she's doing quite well in that regard, to her immense credit).

Kudos to the best commentariat in the chess media world and here's hoping our collective willingness to defy politically correct hogwash and grievance peddling will spillover to the Chessbase staff. Don't hold your breath...but anything's possible.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 7/23/2019 03:07
imdvb_8790 - sorry, we will just have to agree to disagree.

If she had hired a coach just before the event...and if that person saw the same defects in her play as she apparently sees (maybe more?), then he would never 'throw her to the wolves' knowing full well what would likely happen. It had to be demoralizing.

No, that can damage someone...and again, probably throw away much of the good feeling that must have come from winning the Women's Championship by 2.5 points.

Now, if she had a coach for some time and they have been working hard to overcome all those 'defects' and he saw real progress...then yes, I can see her being encouraged to play in this event.

I opined that a 'sports psychologist' might be a good thing in general for those who might suffer from buying into stereotypes. Even if she did not previously...I am afraid that Jennifer may be in more need of one now.
UncleBent UncleBent 7/23/2019 02:56
typo correction.... "Then Jacobson chose a very risky, but complicated setup (with both f6 and g6) " should be "with both f6 and g5"
UncleBent UncleBent 7/23/2019 02:02
fgkdjilkag wrote, "...where is the value in spending time memorizing openings?"

It is not so much memorization, as understanding your openings deep into the game as well as being aware of your opponents' choice of replies. For example, in Jennifer's game vs Brandon Jacobson, Jacobson, as Black, played the Slav, guessing correctly that she would play the exchange variation. Then Jacobson chose a very risky, but complicated setup (with both f6 and g6) that he was well versed, but Ms Yu was forced to try and solve the problems over the board. Jennifer got into time trouble and erred. When playing in a round robin event, your opponents may know their opponents up to a month in advance, and I expect that many in the US Junior did a lot of opening preparation.... and Jennifer's limited opening rep made here an ideal target, I suspect.

That being said, Jennifer IS a terrific chess player. Her willingness and, in fact, her eagerness to work hard at the chessboard is a skill that cannot be taught. You either enjoy the struggle or you don't. I suspect that in her case a little coaching would have yielded significant results. When she has played in team events (world team and Olympiad) and world junior events-- her team coaches have praised her ability to absorb instructions tailored to her upcoming opponents. So, the very POSITIVE news is that this 17 year old girl has the ability to play with the boys -- all she lacks is specific training and more game experience vs 2450+ opposition.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 7/23/2019 01:42
She mentioned weak openings, but where is the value in spending time memorizing openings? I read in a trainer profile, I believe on chessbase, that he does not do any openings work and refers students to someone else, because why waste time when there are so many things to be done in life? Plus openings knowledge is not transferable, reverse the position of TWO pieces (as pointed out by GM Kasparov) and all opening theory from the prior position is "useless" (also per Kasparov). GM Sevian made a point about too much opening theory recently, as well as a plethora of other GMs (probably a plurality, if not a majority).

The wildcard comments are silly; as has been mentioned before, it is up to the organizer to choose someone based on whatever criteria she wants. If someone disagrees with the wildcard pick, let her organizer her own tournament.

I highly doubt that overt psychological factors were responsible for the performance, which Jennifer Yu admitted herself, as the games were fighting, she showed mental toughness, and she also had clear (different) insights into the reason for her performance.
imdvb_8793 imdvb_8793 7/22/2019 06:47
"I THINK IF SHE HAD A COACH, that person would have likely discouraged her from accepting the US Junior invite."

I think there's NO competent coach in the world who would ever do that...
Leavenfish Leavenfish 7/22/2019 03:00
No, mrstillwater...I am (if anything) pointing out precisely that the top US Women's player(s) (she won by...2.5 pts, which is a case for her being the top right now) can't compete with Junior males...which is why I say the result may tell us more than some might care to admit. Winning the title in that fashion was probably more of a fluke than anything. I was hoping Root's article might have touched on that thought...but it stayed pretty close to the old psycho/socio tropes.... I think perhaps even an out of form Irina Krush would have faired better. I think SHE is the better player despite her result.

I had to heavily edit my post for to finish my thought here:

I THINK IF SHE HAD A COACH, that person would have likely discouraged her from accepting the US Junior invite. She was coming off a stunning success and given that she has so many (self admitted) holes in her game, this sort of result was just too likely...with nothing positive would be gained. If anything she may have gained a 'complex' (I use that because of all the psychoanalyis articles...) in that maybe she can't compete with men and that she is really not as good as the Women's Championship result might indicate...that maybe should stick to the shelter of 'women's only' tournaments. Goodbye to all that good feelings from winning the title walking away? I hope not, but....
mrstillwater mrstillwater 7/22/2019 02:25
@Leavenfish You seem to have completely missed the fact that the US Women's Championship was a much weaker tournament than the US Juniors, so the fact that she won that doesn't mean much.
jb123 jb123 7/22/2019 01:50
Maybe this research helps explain it too? “Women beat expectations when playing chess against men“
I am a big fan of Jennifer. I would like to see her be the first woman to qualify for the us championship open section. She is doing the right thing by playing up. Like anyone moving from an under section to an open section, there are going to be growing pains. She is psychologically strong enough to overcome it as long as she doesn’t slump into victim hood. This is chess. You’re supposed to lose to get better. This is one tournament. Keep an eye on Annie Wang too. In recent events she has decided to stop playing in girls sections. For example the North American U20 she has played in open sections and even achieved an IM norm against males. Maybe this new research I cited explains that result? Also interesting that Wang did not play the Junior Girls section this year. Further let me end by quoting the great Judit polgar who “never beat a healthy man”. Bottom line let’s not make excuses for poor performance, yet also acknowledge one tournament does not define a player. . If chess players study the great players games, let us also study the great players’ mental outlook. GM Yifan and GM Polgar are great places to start.
bbrodinsky bbrodinsky 7/22/2019 01:32
hopefully Jennifer Yu does not read these articles, which seek to make excuses, and leave the poor child thinking that there's nothing she can do about all "society's bias". Know what? yeah, they do exist. But just study harder, Jennifer. Get better. Get a coach if serious. And all those biases just fade away. Suddenly, we won't be subjected to such excuses. I wish her to become the "men's" world champion one day. But excuses won't get her there, unless society resorts to its usual solution and starts women out with an extra pawn to begin the game.
rokko rokko 7/22/2019 10:24
There is also additional pressure for men playing women as they are not used to playing them and if ever they draw (or worse lose) they will become a laughing stock for the other men. Therefore men frequently underperform against women as seen in many opens.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 7/22/2019 04:03
In the article and post, Yu’s result gets attributed to:

1. Poor Openings (yet she won the US Women’s Championship)
2. No current coach (yet she won the US Women’s Championship)
3. Just weaker compared to the rest (thus a target for an ‘easy point’)
4. Failure feeding failure (1st half results leading to a snowball effect)
5. ‘Pressure’ from others ‘stereotype’ that women are not as good as men at chess.

Arguably there is no single answer; however one thing largely gets overlooked in favor of all the psycho analysis: women of high accomplishment in chess actually do play ‘worse’ than similar men - be it in mixed competition or segregated.
This is neither ‘opinion’ nor sexist. Go thru various tournaments on where engines evaluate each move and you will see a larger amount of DARK RED moves (signifying moves considerably worse than the engine sees) among female players.

Yu convincingly won the US Women’s title while not working on her game enough nor retaining a coach. If anything, that should have served as a MAJOR confidence enhancer! It is hard for me to square ripping thru the top US females and getting totally outclassed by a group of the best male Juniors.
Points 1 and 2 are entirely on her and of course would contribute to a degree to the 3rd point. Point #4 is a competitive thing – can happen to any of us.
Point #5 seems to be the main point of Root’s article.

If the ‘psychological angle’ is true, perhaps hiring a (sports?) psychologist is the best answer…if indeed ‘stereotypes’ had an influence upon Yu? If so, one might argue that segregated tournaments inadvertently enhance negative mixed tournament results? It is certainly something to be discussed…not demagogued.
My original thought revolved around how the US Women’s Champion could fare so poorly in this event…and what if anything it means to the male vs female players debate. Maybe it says more than many of us like to admit…or not.
fede666 fede666 7/21/2019 11:57
no the chess community does not have medial views..look at the results...where is the woman world champ in the world rating ? number 200 ? number 300 ? it says it all...there were better deserving players that should have been invited...lets invite to the tournaments the players that deserve it and not enforce women quotas...chess is open to everybody and there is no discrimination if you play good moves ...
countrygirl countrygirl 7/21/2019 11:38
I hope Jennifer hangs in there and keeps playing and improving. I hope she disregards the so-called 'stereotype' threat concept that has minimal evidential support. Chess is a tough game, and good moves (as Fischer noted) is what she needs, not some politically correct cop out.
The way for Jennifer to get great fast is to play against men whenever possible, and to always practise tactics. Getting a coach is the most obvious path to improvement.
At the end of the day, the Polgar sisters (especially Judit) have blazed the trail - so no excuses, just follow it.
All the best Jennifer, I am a huge fan.
jb123 jb123 7/21/2019 10:49
also keep in mind hou yifan got upset for HAVING to play against more women, and she's the former
world champion. judit also didn't want to play in women's only events. Perhaps jennifer has spent too
much time playing in junior girls events against weaker opponents. i mean, the actions of Judit and Hou
suggest that this is a better explanation. Having said that, this was a great opportunity for Jennifer to
play against strong competition and she should embrace it. This is exactly what she needs to get better.
This i pretty much a fundamental tenant of chess improvement. play against stronger players to get
stronger. Also, keep in mind the role of
statistics if she got 2 or 2.5points like Annie did last year that’s in line with her rating pretty much, so you don’t need much of a swing here to make this a non issue. I hope an article would not have been written if she had played in line with her rating.. so the next question is do women's only tournaments hurt women's players' development (talking about top players)because they are often passing up the opportunity to play higher rated opponents. For
ex Carissa Yip (2400) won the junior girls and spent 2 weeks playing against weaker opponents. All Opponents were more than 100 points weaker. that's 2 weeks where should could have been playing up. no doubt jennifer learned more in
the last 2 weeks than carissa-not a knock on carissa, but almost any chess coach would would agree with
this. Further if you remove the gender and ask a coach for a promising 2400 junior player should you play against a bunch of 2500/2600s or a bunch of 2100/2200? So are promising top level girls being shortchanged by being encouraged to play against much lower rated players? I’m not arguing against gender only tournaments, but am suggesting a diffferent interpretation of the result. What would Hou think?
jb123 jb123 7/21/2019 10:42
I like how the pictures are chosen to show sad Jennifer, alone among boys Jennifer. Is there going to be a Jennifer meme?
celeje celeje 7/21/2019 10:25
I didn't realize that we could just order ChessBase articles by baiting people to write them.
mindanalyzer mindanalyzer 7/21/2019 09:46
This stupid would be male / female super forced equality is getting to me nerves
Statistics to try to explain something obvious and even more with a ultra limited sample size?

She only scored 0.5 because everybody else in the field is much better than her; at least at the moment . Not saying that she cannot become a good player [in due time] but all the hype and wildcard status is not helping her. On the contrary, it is painting a bullseye in her back plus the fact that everybody see her as punching bag since she is , by far, the weakest player in the field

Always looking for stupid reasons that makes things politically correct 🙄, yeah I know , chess players are part of social trends after all
imdvb_8793 imdvb_8793 7/21/2019 08:56
Jennifer has been my favorite female chess player for a couple of years now (which would probably make her my favorite player overall - haven't really thought about that question) and she ABSOLUTELY, no question whatsoever, has what it takes (and everything it takes) to bounce back from this result and make it a mere footnote in her biography. And she will, obviously. As long as she has the motivation to do so - which I believe she does.

Personally, I think this was more likely very bad form/disposition and bad luck combined. That's usually the reason, whenever things like this happen. (Which isn't to say the factors mentioned above by mr. Root didn't also play a role - but Jennifer is SO strong mentally, which she's proven time and time again, that I doubt she'd let those things get to her too much.) Y'all remember when Alexei Shirov scored 0.5/9 in some (rapid, I think it was) tournament? Who still cares about that now?! Probably not even the players who beat him... Who thinks less of Alexei Shirov because of that?! Has he gotten ANYYWHERE NEAR having as bad a performance as that ever again? I've not looked into it (precisely because it's so clear what the answer is), but I'll bet anyone there's no way!

By the way, if Jennifer hadn't been the only girl in the field, this (rightly) would not be getting as much attention as it has been. You're the best, Jen! Crush that World Cup! And, if you don't, so what?! You'll still be awesome, and you'll get 'em next time! And those aren't just empty words, they're basically facts...
Jack Nayer Jack Nayer 7/21/2019 07:41
Very poor article, for reasons explained by others.

"Stereotype threat": show me evidence.
Tom Box Tom Box 7/21/2019 04:47
What's there to say? Jennifer Yu is a really good player up against a field of even stronger players, include 3 GM's. In addition, any chess player can have a bad tournament. Any male player with the same rating could have gotten the same result. Jennifer is also a full-time student who currently doesn't have a coach. I love the way she plays and that she is not afraid of complications. I am sure Jennifer will have a very bright future.
Ajeeb007 Ajeeb007 7/21/2019 04:32
Inadequate sample size, pure speculation and utter nonsense. No need to make it more complex than it is in an effort to assuage the female ego. Yu finished last because she was weaker than most of the other participants and she didn't catch a break..
chessgod0 chessgod0 7/21/2019 04:16
An excellent comment by UncleBent. If she wants to compete effectively against strong opposition she needs to get a coach and play in more open tournaments against men. If she has other interests that's of course fine as well.

I'd also like to add that so-called "stereotype threat" is not settled science for any stretch. In fact, there's a good chance it's bunk:


This is a paper by noted statistician Andrew Gelman which finds that empirical evidence for stereotype threat is inconsistent and that publication bias is a likely factor underlining the supposed strength of the phenomenon. Gelman found that researchers who found positive evidence of stereotype threat were much more likely to be published than researchers who did not.

You can also see this on Chessbase---research that attributes womens' chess performance to misogyny is much more likely to be aired here than research which does not.
UncleBent UncleBent 7/21/2019 03:48
Jennifer Yu's poor result is due to her playing opponents who were much stronger and more experienced vs top competition. If you look at Jennifer's "career," she has had little success against the few opponents she has played rated 2450 ELO or higher. Her designation as "wild-card" made her a target, but only because she was one of the lower-rated and, in a RR event, the others knew they had to get a full point from her if they were to have a good tournament result. What is true, is that most, if not all, of her "boy" opponents have spent considerably more time to playing and studying chess. Jennifer mentioned that she has not had a coach for a while, in spite of her weaknesses in opening repertoire and endgame technique. That was evident in her play. This is no longer the era of Capablanca -- you can't succeed against players who are more experienced, higher rated and who have done more preparation. Why Jennifer Yu decided not to hire a coach (with some of her US Women's Ch prize money) is not my concern. At 17, she has so many wonderful avenues available to her, that I'm not going to criticize he for not studying chess.

Dr. Root's article is an embarrassing, knee-jerk response. 20 years ago, Irina Krush placed 2nd in the US Junior. The number one reason for her success is that she was also the 2nd highest-rated participant. Playing against "the boys" did not seem to hurt her performance. (In fact one her Irina's losses was to Jen Shahade.) While there may be merit to under-performance (when females play males), I just don't think it is at the same level among higher-rated players, who have real achievements and thus more confidence.
mrstillwater mrstillwater 7/21/2019 03:08
Haven't read the research paper the article refers to but 2 game matches sounds far too short to draw any kind of conclusion. Also the fact that she doesn't have a coach seems surprising - what impact might that have had? By her own admission she says her opening play was poor. Did the players she was up against have coaches? I'm pretty sure GM Tang has mentioned on his streams that he has one.
jonkm jonkm 7/21/2019 02:21
Even granted all this psychological second-guessing, how do you explain the achievements of Judit or Ho Yifan? They overcame these 'handicaps' to do well anyway.
KevinC KevinC 7/21/2019 01:32
It was on result. You can't really look at that and draw conclusions. It would be the same if she had one fantastic result...oh, that's right...she did that.. :)
wethalon wethalon 7/21/2019 01:02
Very important, evidence-based piece. In my experience, the chess community tends to have self-righteous, medieval opinions about women in chess, and it would do male players good to take the message by Dr. Alexey Root to heart. Even better, read more social psychology literature on stereotype threat, motivation, and field-specific ability beliefs. We can all help to make the chess community better by being more welcoming to women, less prejudiced, and to point out systemic injustices.