Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Women In Chess

Yes, believe it or not, there are women who play chess! Some might not believe it but that's not surprising. Visit your local mall, and you'll find a group of old men playing in the food court. Your local chess club will be mostly male. Out in the park on sunny days... same.

Being that I'm more into chess, I could name at least one female chess player, but not much more (I don't pay too much attention to names anyway, but those who are mentioned frequently in terms of brilliancy, great games, and chess theory are almost exclusively men).

Why is this? What is it about chess that attracts men more than women? Or are men simply better at the game?

Instinctively, my thoughts are that women in general are just not as interested. For one, it's a "war" type of game. Maybe guys enjoy the competition, the feel of control, being the leader of an army all your own. And maybe they just enjoy game over a coffee (without the need to make conversation). I also thought that being a thinking game (nothing physical required besides pushing wood pieces), that this would be a prime area for men and women to compete on the same level where they cannot in regular sports.

A recent article on ChessBase features a number of short interviews with competitive female chess players to ask why they think women aren't at the same level in chess as men.

You can read the article yourself, which has some very interesting comments, but one I want to comment on:

"Z.A. Why do you think women perform poorer than men in chess?

L.J. I think it is linked with their physical power?

Z.A. Physical power? But chess is about thinking?

L.J. Right, but female players become exhausted more quickly than men because they are weaker. That is why they may fail by the end of the game. Physical power may be decisive in many games. Take any game you want. For instance, in tennis women can never compete with men…"

I wouldn't have believed this unless I'd played in the Langley Chess Open at the start of this month. Let me assure you, compared to casual games, tournament play is much more stressing and energy consuming. It takes a lot of mind power, concentration, and it also takes physical stamina to maintain that load for two, three, or four hours at a time. By the end of three days and six games, all I wanted to do was go home, make myself a tasty supper, and relax for the rest of the evening. In fact, I took a full week off chess (with the exception of one quick game) to give my brain a rest. Going into the tournament unprepared, I had to work extra hard to keep up, and it took its toll.

So, chess does require good physical stamina. If you're in good physical shape, your brain tends to work better as well.

I would be quite pleased if more women played chess, though. Simply for the fact that that there would be more players, and more in terms of acceptance and popularity of the game. Maybe one of these days, I will even convince Natasha to learn...

Post your thoughts, comments, and why you do or don't play chess!

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6 Smart Remarks:

Anonymous mrs. trooper said...

Interesting theory... I can't comment since I don't play... maybe someday Andrew will convince me...

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

I like Chess...and played several games with Andrew when I lived at home.

Nobody around here is into Chess, so I never have the chance to play.

I wouldn't be much competition, but I wouldn't mind playing against someone.

5:58 AM  
Anonymous Mr. H said...

Thanks for the insight on the game!

I enjoy playing Chess, but because I have no one to play with...and it is certainly not a solitaire game, so...I never get to play! :(

I have know very few women and or girls (in school) that played Chess and I agree it must have to do with the concept of strategizing, fighting and conqouring that does not interest them.

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Susanna said...

I like chess, I just don't like the first few moves because they always seem to be the same. :)

I used to play chess with Andrew at home. We even had this computer chess game where you'd pick your move and the chess pieces were animated and they'd move to their new position.

8:41 PM  
Anonymous Trooper said...

Sue, while it does seem that there are limited opening moves, there is actually quite a variety. And at average level play, there's even more options as you don't always need to play the "best".

Once you get into it a bit, there is actually a lot of interesting stuff in regards to openings. But it's not required to know a ton about it. All you need to understand is the basic principles, and a few moves, and you're good to go.

10:25 PM  
Anonymous heb said...

wow i did not know not many women play chess as i have played since i was quite young. great game. i think guys are sometimes more competitive and women are smart-men don't like to lose sooo the women let them win. :) have a great week. heb

5:59 PM  

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