1392: "Dominant Players"

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1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby rhomboidal » Wed Jul 09, 2014 6:15 am UTC

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Title Text: When Vera Menchik entered a 1929 tournament, a male competitor mocked her by suggesting that a special 'Vera Menchik Club' would be created for any player who lost to her. When the tournament began, he promptly became the first member of said club, and over the years it accumulated a large and illustrious roster.

Queen sacrifices are nothing compared to the unusual moves Bobby Fischer made off of the board.

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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby Turing Machine » Wed Jul 09, 2014 6:37 am UTC

To put it mildly, the cultural explanations of male dominance in chess are not convincing.

http://en.chessbase.com/post/explaining ... e-in-chess

Nurture is a lousy, Ockham's-razor-defying explanation of phenomena. Don't be dumb.

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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby dfeuer » Wed Jul 09, 2014 6:44 am UTC

The bit about Kira Zvorykina looks off. I think Randall probably meant 21st century, not 20th.

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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby mackereth » Wed Jul 09, 2014 6:49 am UTC

Try doing this with cricket, particularly batsmen. There's a strong argument that Sir Donald Bradman was the greatest sportsman of all time, given the amazing gap between his statistics and the nearest rivals.

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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby PayasYouDraw » Wed Jul 09, 2014 6:57 am UTC

Are there any jokes in this? I'm afraid I don't know enough about chess to know if there are any in there. I don't really know anything about basketball either.

I'd love this for sports I actually know about or even actually follow.
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby BlitzGirl » Wed Jul 09, 2014 7:06 am UTC

Turing Machine wrote:To put it mildly, the cultural explanations of male dominance in chess are not convincing.

http://en.chessbase.com/post/explaining ... e-in-chess

Final sentence: "This conclusion is unpalatable to many but it is best to acknowledge how the world actually is."

Gak. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. It's not just the conclusion of that article that's unpalatable.
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby CharonPDX » Wed Jul 09, 2014 7:13 am UTC

dfeuer wrote:The bit about Kira Zvorykina looks off. I think Randall probably meant 21st century, not 20th.


I would hope so...

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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby Eternal Density » Wed Jul 09, 2014 7:40 am UTC

PayasYouDraw wrote:Are there any jokes in this? I'm afraid I don't know enough about chess to know if there are any in there. I don't really know anything about basketball either.

I'd love this for sports I actually know about or even actually follow.

Ditto... actually I don't follow any sports. Well, I guess I know that names of a few past tennis players but... *shrug*
Even if I knew who these people were I think finding a joke buried among the grey text and wavy lines would be difficult. This comic falls flat, unless it's just meant to be an infocomic in which case I don't really care.
I guess the title text is kinda funny in a "silly man making wrong assumptions" kind of way, but that's more sad than funny. I prefer to assume everyone's smarter and better informed than I am... and then get frustrated when they prove otherwise :(
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby Eutychus » Wed Jul 09, 2014 7:45 am UTC

Am I the only one to think, from the title, that this comic was going to be about the German World Cup Soccer team?
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby CharlieP » Wed Jul 09, 2014 7:50 am UTC

mackereth wrote:Try doing this with cricket, particularly batsmen. There's a strong argument that Sir Donald Bradman was the greatest sportsman of all time, given the amazing gap between his statistics and the nearest rivals.


You beat me to it. Though I don't think player rankings have been retconned to Bradman's era - and that's what you'd need to plot a similar graph, not raw averages...
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby prasun » Wed Jul 09, 2014 8:00 am UTC

What about Vishwanathan Anand?

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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby CharlieP » Wed Jul 09, 2014 8:19 am UTC

Two more observations:

Why separate men and women in a game based purely on intellect and which has nothing to do with physical characteristics? To partly answer my own question, the world used to be pretty sexist, and chess (as well as many other things) wasn't as accessible to women, but surely in this day and age there's no need to separate men and women?

Secondly, do you consider chess a sport or not? I'm firmly in the "no" camp - not to disparage the skill and prowess of chess players, but because there's no element of physical skill involved at all, and you can have a proxy move the pieces for you, play by mail or computer etc. without changing the outcome of the game. People might scoff at darts or snooker because the players don't have the physique of swimmers and sprinters, but it takes years of training to hone the skills required to make the throws or shots to become a world champion.
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby PayasYouDraw » Wed Jul 09, 2014 8:38 am UTC

I agree, chess is not a sport. It is a game, and a great game, but there is no physical skill involved and as such remains a game.
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby Diadem » Wed Jul 09, 2014 8:47 am UTC

One thing that is notable about chess compared to other sports is that players tend to have longer careers. Chess is still physically demanding (chess games can last 6-7 hours. Matches between players have up to 24 games. It takes a lot of energy to keep your brain functioning at the highest possible level for such long periods of time), but not as demanding as some other sports. So a chess players can still be in the world top at 40.


The story of Judit Polgár is quite interesting. There are three Polgár sisters, all of them strong chess players. Their upbringing was pretty much one huge experiment in social engineering. Their father's thesis was that "genius can be trained". So he picked a field, which was chess, and started training their children in it from a very young age. His experiment proved quite successful, with Judit becoming the strongest female chess player ever by a huge margin, and the other two sisters doing quite well as well. On the other hand they probably came from a family that was probably already high above the average in intelligence anyway, so it is debatable how much it really proved. Still, basically saying about your newborn children "I am going to make them world class players in sport <x>" and actually succeeding is quite impressive. Obviously starting your training early gives a huge edge.

The story is interesting. The communists (they're Hungarian) weren't too happy about the sisters being homeschooled. Later they were very unhappy with them refusing to participate in female-only tournaments. They had to struggle quite hard to be allowed to compete against men. And of course from the other side the parents were criticized for denying their children a normal childhood.

Women's chess still has a very long way to go. There are not enough female players, and even today they still face prejudice. but the Polgárs singlehandedly (or threehandedly I suppose) proved that women can be as good as men, and kicked down a lot of the walls that were holding women back (I think Susan, the oldest daughter, had to qualify for her first title like a dozen times before it was officially recognized). And that is quite awesome.
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby zanglebert » Wed Jul 09, 2014 8:53 am UTC

CharlieP wrote:Two more observations:

Why separate men and women in a game based purely on intellect and which has nothing to do with physical characteristics? To partly answer my own question, the world used to be pretty sexist, and chess (as well as many other things) wasn't as accessible to women, but surely in this day and age there's no need to separate men and women?

[...]


The FIDE system is not correctly described as "separating men and women". There is the 'Top Players' list, that includes to both men and women (but only has 1 woman, Judith, among the first 100), and then there's a 'Top women' list. Similar for tournaments: most are open for men and women, a small number are "women exclusive" tournaments.

Alright. Do you think it's sexist that women get a "preferred treatment" that way, by having access to all tournaments, but also some tournaments all for themselves?

I don't think it is. It is a way to make the "main event" free to both genders, but give a little extra boost to women who have been historically excluded, and are still in the process of overcoming that historical disadvantage.

I'd be careful to declare "surely they had enough time to catch up by now" -- human progress happens pretty fast, but the de facto legal equality between men and women (and that's the case only in a small part of the world!) isn't even 50 years old. Changing an environment that was established over some millennia won't happen in less than half a century. We're not that fast.


Finally, on the topic of the "nature vs nurture" debate, here's Neil DeGrasse Tyson's excellent remark:

“I’ve never been female,” he begins, getting a laugh, “but I’ve been black all my life.”

He describes being nine years old on a visit to the Hayden Planetarium and deciding astrophysics is what he wants to do. He describes response to his ambitions as the “hands-down the path of most resistance” from “the forces of society.”

“Don’t you want to become an athlete?” teachers asked him.

[...]

“Before you start talking about genetic differences,” he says, “you’ve got to come up with a system that has equal opportunity. Then we can have that conversation.”



That's, in my opinion, the best possible answer in this debate currently: We don't know enough about the human mind yet to rule out relevant biological differences entirely (between genders, between ethnic groups, etc.), but we should wait and come back to that biological aspect once we have conclusively removed all or most of the cultural disadvantages that still exist plentifully.

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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby Netreker0 » Wed Jul 09, 2014 8:58 am UTC

Turing Machine wrote:To put it mildly, the cultural explanations of male dominance in chess are not convincing.


Fixed it for you:

To put it mildly, several studies asserting purely cultural explanations of male dominance in chess are not convincing.

Mr. Howard successfully pointed out the limitations of a handful of cherry-picked studies. I am not belittling that. Replication, criticism, peer-review... all that unexciting, uncreative stuff is vital to good science. Unfortunately, Turing Machine (and Mr. Howard himself at the end) give overly inflated significance to his findings. Mr. Howard did not prove, as his implies at the end there, that nature accounted for all of the differences, or even the majority of the differences, or even that nature is the only factor at work other than nurture.

For that matter, he either overlooks, or deliberately obfuscates, the fact that the studies he critiques do not actually test "nurture," as in everything that falls under that umbrella term. For example, the Georgia study on participation he mentions doesn't examine performance adjusted for "nurture." It examines performance adjusted for levels of participation. Level of participation is not a measure of "nurture." It is at best one of many environmental factors that may impact skill development. Mr. Howard seems to treat rate of participation as some sort of perfect quantitative measure of "nurture." That is to say, if girls have a rate of X, and boys have a rate of Y, we simply have to do some math to equalize everything that goes into "nurture," and if we get a data set where X = Y, then we can conclusively state that all of the environmental factors must balance out, and any remaining differences in performance must be biological.

But the main limitation in his conclusions is apparent in the difference between how he makes his critiques and how he tries to argue his own assertions. His critiques are scientific, focusing on flaws in methodology and shaky implicit assumptions. They are quantitative whenever possible. They are honestly good science. When backing his own assertions, however, he argues more like a lawyer. That is to say, he produced less quantitative evidence, he seems to overstate the implications of his evidence*, he tries to "argue away" confounding variables rather than control for them**, he imposes a higher standard of evidence on the opposition than himself and tries to keep his audience from noticing that fact, he couches his assumptions in terms that imply scientific certainty without backing, etc. As an attorney myself, I don't mean this (entirely) negatively. The lawyerly way of doing things is an incredibly effective persuasive tool, it is also based in enough logic that it tends to reach "good" conclusions more often than just a random sample of average people, and it also provides a mindset that is particularly good at dealing with having to reach conclusions from limited available data with numerous confounding variables. But it's not science.

Nurture is a lousy, Ockham's-razor-defying explanation of phenomena.


Are you an expert in evolutionary biology? (That question isn't sarcastic at all--on the xkcd forums, I really wouldn't be surprised if a few people were.) If you are, then perhaps that explains why you can so confidently claim that "nature" is the simplest possible explanation. From my non-expert's perspective, biology seems pretty complicated, particularly when it comes to cognition. The combination of environmental factors impacting our lives are also complicated, and to be honest I couldn't begin to tell you which is "the simplest explanation." Plus, "nature" and "nurture" encompass so many things. Having a gene leading to mental retardation is a very simple "nature" explanation for illiteracy, but being beaten every time you try to pick up a book is an equally simple "nurture" explanation.

Also, you should spend some more time getting to know humans. You'll find that we at a species excel at defying Occam's razor. And you'll also find that we are at our worse when we give too much credence to Occam's razor when trying to understand each other and when trying to attribute motivations to behavior we don't understand or disagree with.

Don't be dumb.


Sorry. Here's your Award for Excellence.

*Someone with journal access feel free to correct me, but from the abstract it seems like his studies are based on the unstated assumption that "nurture" works primarily through impacting participation. That is to say, if girls participate at half the rate as boys due to environmental factors, it is less likely that the top natural talent will even play chess, and thus less likely that the top player will be a girl.

**Read in the comments of the posted link for example: "I wrote to Howard to ask if had controlled for this problem. His response was that it was not necessary, since women play most of their games in open tournaments. But a quick glance at some online databases shows that his claim is factually incorrect. Most of the top woman players appear to play a large proportion of their rated games in women's tournaments. Some of them play nearly all their rated games there. "

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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby peregrine_crow » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:04 am UTC

CharlieP wrote:Why separate men and women in a game based purely on intellect and which has nothing to do with physical characteristics? To partly answer my own question, the world used to be pretty sexist, and chess (as well as many other things) wasn't as accessible to women, but surely in this day and age there's no need to separate men and women?


I think it's mostly that most other sports have separate categories for men and women and chess really wants to be a real sport. That, and lingering notions of sexism. But yeah, it's dumb. Do other high level intellectual competitions separate man and women? I don't think e-sports typically do this, but how about Poker, Go or Shogi?

Marginally related to this, I always felt that the way sports are separated into man and woman categories is technically sexist. Obviously men (at least at top sport level) just have more physical strength than women, but the way it is set up now if a woman would legitimately be able to beat the best men in her sport she would still be prevented from competing with the very best of her sport. Ideally you should have one category that anyone can enter and some categories for groups of people that have some physical reason why they can't compete with in the general competition (such as having a physical handicap or lacking a y chromosome).

Now obviously this will never happen because at first glance it seems to suggests that being a women is on a similar level as missing a limb and that's fine; it is unlikely this will ever lead to someone being actually cheated out of a title (and it is not like were going to run out of more serious discrimination issues to solve any time soon), but technically it is sexist.

Edit: Huh, apparently chess already does this, awesome!
Last edited by peregrine_crow on Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:06 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby Diadem » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:04 am UTC

PayasYouDraw wrote:I agree, chess is not a sport. It is a game, and a great game, but there is no physical skill involved and as such remains a game.

Of course it is a game. So's football. Or tennis. Or basketball. 'Game' and 'sport' are not mutually exclusive categories. The biggest sporting event in the world is even called "The Olympic Games".

CharlieP wrote:Secondly, do you consider chess a sport or not? I'm firmly in the "no" camp - not to disparage the skill and prowess of chess players, but because there's no element of physical skill involved at all, and you can have a proxy move the pieces for you, play by mail or computer etc. without changing the outcome of the game. People might scoff at darts or snooker because the players don't have the physique of swimmers and sprinters, but it takes years of training to hone the skills required to make the throws or shots to become a world champion.

You're wrong on both counts. There is absolutely physical skill involved in chess. Thinking is physical activity. Almost all top chess players have physical exercise as part of their training regime, as well as nutritional programs. Chess players have to be able to do ridiculously complex analysis for hours on end, without losing their concentration. And not just once, but day after day for weeks on end. That just can't be done without being very fit. Of course they don't have to be as strong or fit as a cyclist or runner. But plenty of sports don't require that level of physical strength.

But the entire criterium is bogus. The defining characteristic of a sport is competitive play, not physical activity.

The majority of the world also disagrees with you. Chess has historically been regarded as a sport by pretty much all important sporting organizations.
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby FletchMK64 » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:07 am UTC

Re: the Polgar sisters - in November 1986, 100 points were added to the ratings of all female players except Susan Polgar - the rationale being that because the other women tended to play each other in more-or-less 'closed' tournaments, their ratings weren't commensurate with the ratings of the men, but because Polgar played in 'open' tournaments against men, her rating was already 'correct'.

You can see this in the women's chart, particularly Gaprindashvili and Chiburdanidze whose lines take a serious jump at around that time.

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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby peregrine_crow » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:10 am UTC

Diadem wrote:But the entire criterium is bogus. The defining characteristic of a sport is competitive play, not physical activity.

But then, why single out chess, why are poker, go, checkers or other competitive board games not considered sports? What is so special about chess?
Diadem wrote:The majority of the world also disagrees with you. Chess has historically been regarded as a sport by pretty much all important sporting organizations.

I think this history is exactly what CharlieP is arguing against. If chess is only a sport by virtue of always having been considered a sport than maybe we should stop considering it a sport?
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby thomasloven » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:16 am UTC

Did anyone figure out what the red and gray lines are supposed to signify?

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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby putti » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:18 am UTC

Wondering why there is no V.Anand or V.Topalov in the male chess players' chart.
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby Netreker0 » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:21 am UTC

zanglebert wrote:That's, in my opinion, the best possible answer in this debate currently: We don't know enough about the human mind yet to rule out relevant biological differences entirely (between genders, between ethnic groups, etc.), but we should wait and come back to that biological aspect once we have conclusively removed all or most of the cultural disadvantages that still exist plentifully.


You pretty much hit the nail on the head. That is my main issue with the Mr. Howards and Turing's of the world--they examine some small subset of environmental factors, do some math, and say "This by itself isn't enough to account for the differences in performance, therefore, Occam's razor, BIOLOGY!"

It's like the argument many people buy into that blacks are mentally unsuited to be quarterbacks because obviously racial discrimination against blacks clearly doesn't exist in the NFL given how overrepresented blacks are in other positions. Nevermind that biases heavily favoring blacks as linemen don't preclude the existence of biases favoring whites as quarterbacks. Never mind that overt discrimination isn't the only mechanism through which the environment impacts results.

I am not a chess athlete, but when I was the more conventional sort, it was pretty obvious how much environmental factors mattered. In many sports, a good coach or trainer makes a huge difference, and the best ones are often successful enough to be very selective, picking only people they see as having potential. Imagine a world where nobody is consciously racist, overt racism is gone, but the power of stereotypes persists. The best trainers of quarterbacks buy into old assumptions, so when they're picking between two players of otherwise equal ability, they subconscious favor the white one. If trainers matter at all, then this gives a slight aggregate nudge up to white quarterback performance. However, it would be entirely possible that by Mr. Howard's participation rate metric, no racial disparity exists at all. Similarly, by the "but we have a black President" metric of overt discrimination, there would be no racial disparity. And yet a disparity-causing environmental factor would exist to, well, cause a disparity. Also note that an imaginary scientist in this imaginary world would have a hell of a time trying to prove or disprove the existence of this factor.

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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby Diadem » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:27 am UTC

peregrine_crow wrote:
Diadem wrote:But the entire criterium is bogus. The defining characteristic of a sport is competitive play, not physical activity.

But then, why single out chess, why are poker, go, checkers or other competitive board games not considered sports? What is so special about chess?

Both chess and bridge are official IOC sports. Draughts and go are also commonly regarded as sports. What separates these from other sports? Well, popularity I suppose. And a well organized competitive structure at every level of the sport. Like I said before, the defining characteristic of a sport is competitive play. So there must be well codified rules and victory conditions. But that also means organizations to set up tournaments and competitions. I guess that's why poker generally isn't considered a sport (though there is a movement trying to get it recognized). There's not one set of rules, but many, and while poker games are competitive, it 's not really done competitively. Though poker is certainly moving that direction, so who knows. And that's not unique to mind sports either. Plenty of physical activity has become a sport in recent decades, when it became more organized, such as skateboarding.

Diadem wrote:The majority of the world also disagrees with you. Chess has historically been regarded as a sport by pretty much all important sporting organizations.

I think this history is exactly what CharlieP is arguing against. If chess is only a sport by virtue of always having been considered a sport than maybe we should stop considering it a sport?

So you want to redefine sport to exclude chess, and your reason for wanting that redefinition seems to be that you want to exclude chess. That's not really a convincing argument.
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby CharlieP » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:36 am UTC

zanglebert wrote:
CharlieP wrote:Two more observations:

Why separate men and women in a game based purely on intellect and which has nothing to do with physical characteristics? To partly answer my own question, the world used to be pretty sexist, and chess (as well as many other things) wasn't as accessible to women, but surely in this day and age there's no need to separate men and women?

[...]


The FIDE system is not correctly described as "separating men and women". There is the 'Top Players' list, that includes to both men and women (but only has 1 woman, Judith, among the first 100), and then there's a 'Top women' list. Similar for tournaments: most are open for men and women, a small number are "women exclusive" tournaments.


Thanks for the clarification - it wasn't exactly what I'd inferred from Randall's diagrams.

Alright. Do you think it's sexist that women get a "preferred treatment" that way, by having access to all tournaments, but also some tournaments all for themselves?


By definition it clearly is, the question is whether this discrimination is a good thing or a bad thing.

A very similar situation exists in my sport (formation skydiving). Currently there are four categories in international competition - 4-way Open, 4-way Women, 8-way Open and 8-way Women - meaning women have twice as many opportunities to compete at the top level as men. The reason given for this is that something like 10-15% of skydivers internationally are female, and having a separate female class is seen as a means of addressing this imbalance.
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby Andromeda321 » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:39 am UTC

Female former chess player here. Never went beyond 8th grade, but for awhile my twin brother and I went to chess lessons every week and city/state tournaments quite often. It was a really fun thing to do as we'd get to hang out at the local university all day without parents with our friends eating cheese fries... and incidentally play chess.

Now here's the thing- there are really no little girls who play chess to begin with. In my age group there would be 20-30 kids in a tournament, and there would be me and one other girl. (I mean geez, I am now doing my doctorate in astrophysics after a degree in physics, and both of those were less gender segregated!) When I was in 6th grade or so Judit Polgar came to one of our tournaments and it was a huge deal, and they decided to get a picture of all the girls and her, and they rounded up like six of us in a tournament with a few hundred kids. This is absolutely insane, but honestly makes me think more that it's not that girls aren't interested in chess so much as their parents don't think to sign them up in the first place. It's one thing to say they're just not wired for it, another when I was the only girl in my elementary school from day one in the class- that's more just not running the experiment in the first place!

I will say though, it was kinda nice to be guaranteed a ribbon even if I didn't do well in a tournament, as I always won "top girl" as a default. So that was cool, I guess!

Anyway, hope that's of interest to some. I'm a gal in a really male dominated field and also into several really male dominated hobbies, but I think chess really took the cake looking back on it.

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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby popman » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:39 am UTC

I thought I'd get a word in before this thread becomes flaming walls of text.

The y axis isn't labelled with anything, Did anyone else notice?

I would have thought that would come first with an `informational` comic.
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby mojacardave » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:51 am UTC

thomasloven wrote:Did anyone figure out what the red and gray lines are supposed to signify?


From the looks of it, the red lines are for anyone who has ever been rated as the best in the world.

popman wrote:The y axis isn't labelled with anything, Did anyone else notice?


I'm going to give Randall benefit-of-the-doubt and assume it's because the rating systems used as scales are a very abstract concept that don't mean much in terms of units. He's listed the rating systems he used to produce the graphs. The actual numbers are fairly meaningless.

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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby CharlieP » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:56 am UTC

"Sport" means different things to different people - clearly my definition is at odds with the IOC's and other organisations, but my personal line is drawn between those pursuits where the presence of the competitor actually makes a difference, and purely mental competition like chess, go, draughts etc. that could be done by a brain in a jar. If the definition is simply "competitive play", does that mean pub quizzes are sport? Is the Booker Prize a sports award? Is recreational running, cycling, swimming etc. not considered taking part in a sport?
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby mojacardave » Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:58 am UTC

Diadem wrote:
Diadem wrote:The majority of the world also disagrees with you. Chess has historically been regarded as a sport by pretty much all important sporting organizations.

I think this history is exactly what CharlieP is arguing against. If chess is only a sport by virtue of always having been considered a sport than maybe we should stop considering it a sport?

So you want to redefine sport to exclude chess, and your reason for wanting that redefinition seems to be that you want to exclude chess. That's not really a convincing argument.

The argument he made was that history should be taken out of it, and chess ought to be assessed for "sport-hood" purely on the merits of what it is. I'm with CharlieP that it's not a sport.

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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby orthogon » Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:04 am UTC

mojacardave wrote:
popman wrote:The y axis isn't labelled with anything, Did anyone else notice?


I'm going to give Randall benefit-of-the-doubt and assume it's because the rating systems used as scales are a very abstract concept that don't mean much in terms of units. He's listed the rating systems he used to produce the graphs. The actual numbers are fairly meaningless.

But the middle and bottom graphs plot the same quantity, for men+women and women, apparently on different scales, so I'd say it was crucial that the scale be shown.

[Edit: the middle graph is for both, but you have to look carefully to notice that Judit Polgar appears in both and hence deduce the relative scales]
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby Diadem » Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:11 am UTC

Netreker0 wrote:I am not a chess athlete, but when I was the more conventional sort, it was pretty obvious how much environmental factors mattered.

It matters in chess as well. There is a lot of hostility towards women among older chess players (not all of them, of course. Not even a majority, but enough to be visible). Chess is a sport that at amateur level still be played at a very high age. So at amateur tournament it's normal to meet players of all ages. Older players tend to have more conservative values. And probably more unconscious bias as well, though it is harder to detect this. I have seen men walk out of a game they were losing against a woman, instead of officially resigning, on several occasions. That's something that is considered to be extremely unsportsmanlike, as well as technically against the rules.

Like I said before, back in the 80s the Polgar sisters really had to fight to be allowed to compete in men's competitions. These days that is entirely normal, and plenty of women compete in the general competition. But 30 years really isn't that long ago. Kasparov (who otherwise seems to be a quite awesome person), the world champion from 1984 to 2000, is on record as saying that female chess players should stick to having children. He did become the first reigning world champion ever to lose to a woman during a competitive game, so serves him right.

The situation for women is chess is definitely improving, but there's unfortunately a lot of inertia.

Fun anecdote one: Once back when I was 12, there was a major youth tournament in which I played that was won by a woman. This led to the rest of us joking that the #2 in the tournament should now get a prize for "Best male". There was no such prize. To this day I am still not sure if there should have been.

Fun anecdote two: There is a very cheap trick some chess players use, which is staring at your opponent in an attempt to distract him. No experienced chess player will be fazed by this in the slightest, but it sometimes works against very young players. At one time, I saw a 50ish year old guy try this trick against a 7 year old girl. Can you imagine that? The guy was losing, his position was basically hopeless. Instead of resigning though he first started to stall for time, dragging out all of his moves. Then he started staring at her to distract her. That's lame enough when kids do that to each other, but if you're over 50 and you scare tactics against a 7 year old girl? I still have no words for it.

Luckily this story has a happy ending. The girl's older brother happened to be a friend of mine, and together with another friend, the three of us took up position just behind the girl, and started staring back at the guy. That caused him to explode, and he sent the referee at us, who clearly wasn't impressed with the guy, but had to uphold the rules and send us away, but by that time the girl had regained her nerves, and she continued to squash him. Then the guy played his last trick, and walked out without resigning. He still had over an hour of playtime left at that point, so that would mean all of us would have to wait an hour for absolutely no reason before we could go home. He made the mistake of not just walking away from the game but actually leaving the premises though. So at the point the referee threw the rulebook at him and forfeited the game for him. Walking away from your board is allowed, players often do this to stretch their legs, or visit the toilet, but leaving the premises is technically against the rules. Half an hour later the guy comes back, realizes the game is over and angrily confronts the referee about this. Five minutes later he was banned from the entire tournament. A happy ending indeed.
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby teelo » Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:13 am UTC

404: point of the comic not found

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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby peregrine_crow » Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:29 am UTC

Diadem wrote:Both chess and bridge are official IOC sports. Draughts and go are also commonly regarded as sports. What separates these from other sports? Well, popularity I suppose. And a well organized competitive structure at every level of the sport. Like I said before, the defining characteristic of a sport is competitive play. So there must be well codified rules and victory conditions. But that also means organizations to set up tournaments and competitions.


Hmm, I never heard anyone refer to draughts or bridge as sports (not go either, but I don't know anyone that can play go, so that's unsurprising). But if that's the case then I have no objections to calling chess a sport. Though now I want league of legends as an Olympic event :p .

Diadem wrote:Fun anecdote two: <snip>

Ah man, some people really suck. I know this trick from people pulling it on me when I played chess competitively (at very low level and a very long time ago) but it was always children roughly my age, which is still rude as hell, but a lot less effective. Awesome move on your part though.
Last edited by peregrine_crow on Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:39 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby teelo » Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:36 am UTC

Forum trolling needs to be considered a sport, imo.

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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby trovatore » Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:37 am UTC

OK, I'm sure all the arguments about innate or otherwise male dominance in chess, and whether it's really a sport, are fascinating.

But we're losing track of what's really important here.

Where's KOBE BRYANT? I'm sorry, that's just wrong.

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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby rhhardin » Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:40 am UTC

Vicki Hearne's theory of lack of women in chess and math is a little better than social forces, namely that women can't sustain the interest necessary the way that men can.

It's not lack of talent, but lack of maniacal focus. Men abstract to resolve a single thing; women are attracted to unresolved complex situations. It's what holds the interest. Women do well and then drop out at the highest levels of male stuff.

It's in the chapter "Beatly Behavoirs" of Hearne's book _Bandit_.

Every guy I know in math and physics has always wanted more women in the field. You'd have somebody to talk to. That's hardly a social obstacle to women.

Some excerpts from Hearne http://rhhardin.home.mindspring.com/vickihearne.womenmath.txt

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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby Personman » Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:50 am UTC

teelo wrote:404: point of the comic not found


Yeah. Why these three sports in particular? I mean, it's kind of interesting, I just can't figure out what Basketball has to do with Chess, or why either of them is more interesting than Hockey or Go or Starcraft.
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby CharlieP » Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:59 am UTC

thomasloven wrote:Did anyone figure out what the red and gray lines are supposed to signify?


I thought that the grey lines were players who never made it to the top of the rankings, but on closer examination that isn't the case. Maybe the red lines are reserved for those who were dominant for a significant amount of time?
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Re: 1392: "Dominant Players"

Postby jgh » Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:05 am UTC

Why "Chess" and "Chess (women)"? If you're going to suffix a description you have to be consistent, you're explying that the first category includes everybody - including women. It should be "Chess (men)" and "Chess (women)".


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