The Chess Files
The answers are out there.
By Jim Eade
The Woman’s World Championship is being held in Russia as of this writing. Results can be seen at: http://chess2012.ugrasport.com. It is a fact that the best players are almost all male, but why is that?
In many parts of the world, cultural and or religious factors play a decisive role in preventing women from realizing their potential. As for the United States, I think chess progress for females might be subject to the same influences as math and science, as detailed in Peggy Orenstein’s book “School Girls.”
She reported that young girls were at least equal to boys in math and science until they reached an age where they began to care about what boys thought about them. Girls were subject to negative peer pressure, if they continued to excel. This was coupled with a mostly unconscious bias in favor of the boys exhibited by the teachers themselves. They often demonstrated a tendency to acknowledge boys more frequently, and were prone to give the boys more positive feedback.
If you argue that there are intrinsic reasons that males outperform females in chess, you will undoubtedly, and correctly, be confronted with the example of the Polgar sisters. Home schooled, the three sisters were systematically trained in chess from a young age. The eldest, Zsuzsa, became a world renowned Grandmaster, and eventually Women’s world champion. The middle sister, Zsofia, became an International Master, while the youngest, Judit, became one of the strongest Grandmasters in the world.
The Polgar sisters became inspirations to young girls all over the world. When I asked former US Champion Jennifer Shahade who her role model as a player was, she didn’t hesitate in naming Judit. Thanks to players such as the Polgars and Shahade, young girls across the country now know that the sky is the limit when it comes to chess.
Judit Polgar delivered mate in five moves from the following position in a 1990 games against Krotonias:
1…Rd1+ 2. Kg2 Rc2+ 3. Kh3 Rxh2+ 4. Kg3 Rg1+ 5. Kf3 Rf2#.
As always, you can send your chess questions directly to me at email@example.com.