Women in Chess vs. Women in Tennis

Serena Williams
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When we think of the greatest players overall in either Chess or Tennis, we typically do not think of female players. In tennis, Serena Williams is often considered the best female player of all time, but if she were forced to play on the men’s circuit she might be lucky to be ranked 700th, rather than first.

The Difference is that In Chess It Might be Possible for a Woman to be #1

Judit Polgar

Chess Grandmaster Judit Polgar broke into the overall top 10 rankings among her male competitors. She and her two sisters were beneficiaries of a special homeschooling from her father Laszlo and mother Klara. Chess was emphasised from the early years, with some of the world’s top chess experts called on to provide training and coaching during childhood. As a result, each of the three girls achieved significant success in the game of chess — with the youngest, Judit, being declared as the best woman chess player of all time. More from Wikipedia

But despite Judit’s obvious exceptional innate talent and the very advantageous headstart in her technical chess training, she was never able to either stay in the top 10 for very long — or to break through into the top rank or even the top 5. She herself says that she is unwilling to give up her life just to become world champion — and perhaps that is what it takes to achieve the top spot and keep it for a time.

Tennis Involves Strategy, Tactics, and Physical Prowess

In Women’s Tennis, matches consist of best two games out of three. Men must do much more and win three games of a possible five. The difference in stamina required between a “women’s match” and a “men’s match” — especially on a hot day against a skilled player — is almost incomparable. Worse, men hit the ball harder and faster on average, requiring their opponents to do far more work for each point.

For chess, physical stamina does not come into play so much as in tennis. Rather it is largely a matter of knowledge, memory, focus, visual imagination, and mental stamina. Theoretically, an exceptional woman might come along at any time — call her the Marie Curie of chess — who will defeat the best players in championship matches consistently over a period of time. But if Judit Polgar, with all of her advantages, was not the woman to do it — who will that woman be?

Polgar came from a Hungarian Jewish family where chess was honored, and she received some of the finest early chess training of any child ever. Most men who eventually become chess champions did not receive half the advantages in their early chess lives that Judit took for granted. How did these men burst from nowhere to become world champions when so many girls and boys who received gold-plated childhood training could not make their priceless nurture work for them?

Obviously, nature plays a role in the lives of chess champions, as it played a role in allowing Judit to achieve higher rankings than either of her two sisters, who shared her upbringing’s advantages.

The World is Open to Exceptionally Talented Women

Someday a woman may come along with enough chess skills, innate talent, and superb concentration to win it all. According to La Griffe du Lion, at elite levels of mental skills such as mathematics, there are between 7 and 10 men for every woman. Until recently, no woman had ever won the prestigious Fields Medal for mathematics, and very few women have won the Nobel Prize in Physics. It happens, but it is rare. Eventually, we should expect a woman to achieve the world chess championship over male competition, at least for a short time. That is not as likely to happen in tennis.

Female Distributions Do Not Match Male Distributions

Males predominate at the top in chess. Almost all grandmasters are male, there never has been a female world champion and only one female, Judit Polgar, ever has reached the top ten in the FIDE rating list (eighth spot in 2005 with a peak rating of 2735).

The male predominance in chess parallels that in domains such as mathematics, physics and engineering, which may tap some similar abilities and propensities. Carrying out research in high-level, competitive areas of physics and mathematics or playing a grandmaster-level game can greatly tax physical stamina and ability to concentrate and can strain the processing limits of our monkey brains, which evolved to carry out much simpler tasks. __ https://en.chessbase.com/post/explaining-male-predominance-in-chess

Over time, an occasional female wunderkind may come along who can compete with the very best males. But the overall distribution of female players as a whole will not likely ever match the male distribution. This is the more important comparison, although most humans are more distracted by the outliers than by the underlying distributions.

In tennis, the offset between male and female distributions is more dramatic than it is in chess (see distributions above). But it is this difference in distributions that makes all the difference in male chess vs. “female chess.” Underlying brain differences between males and females that exist on the “distribution level” of analysis also determines the dominance of males in fields such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, technical engineering and computer science, and other fields where top ability in hard maths and spatial reasoning is required.

Note: The “transexual craze” which has taken over radical politics in western countries illustrates the point nicely. When boys compete as girls in athletic events, they tend to win “top female” prizes an inordinate number of times. One would think that the radical ideologues who promote “arbitrary gender assignation” would eventually comprehend that they are defeating their own cause in the eye of the discerning public. But apparently radicals are too blinded by ideology to note the contradiction.

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