William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Grandmaster: Men Better At Chess. Or, Data And The Underdetermination Of Theory

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Update Note the New & Improved title!

Chess Grandmaster Nigel Short caused a stink, reaching oooo-weee! but not quite burn-him! levels, when he said that men and women are different and that men are better at chess than women.

Yes he did. He said the two sexes are “hard-wired very differently”. From The Telegraph:

Speaking in the magazine New in Chess about the lack of women playing the game, Short said: “Why should they [men and women] function in the same way? I don’t have the slightest problem in acknowledging that my wife [Rea] possesses a much higher degree of emotional intelligence than I do…”

He might have still been safe had he not added, “…we just have different skills. It would be wonderful to see more girls playing chess, and at a higher level, but rather than fretting about inequality, perhaps we should just gracefully accept it as a fact.”

And that goes smack! in the face in the Theory of Egalitarianism. There is no gracefully accepting any disparity under that Theory. All unlevel (yes, unlevel) surfaces must be pounded flat in the name of Fairness, a corollary of the Theory.

This is why female chess player Amanda Ross said in response to Short, it is “incredibly damaging when someone so respected basically endorses sexism”. Sexism is when a disparity of any kind exists between males and females and which is caused by men pushing down or limiting females. Egalitarianism demands disparities be abolished, but it also claims men should not be better at pushing-down than females, but this internal contradiction is never spoken of in public. Skip it.

Ross takes some comfort in the observation that a female once beat Short in a game, which to Ross proves males and females are equal. And she would be right if “equal at chess” meant “some woman somewhere can beat some man at chess.”

Evidently, this is not what Short meant when he said men and women were “unequal at chess.” He meant something like, “In any list of top players, the majority will be men.”

There exists such a list of living Grandmasters. The compilers admit that the odd entry might be deceased (the list is large), but they also claim it is generally correct. On the list there are 1413 men and 33 non-men. This evidence bolsters Short’s claim that men are better.

But it also boosts Ross’s theory that sexism is rampant!

You read that right: the same data supports both theories. Think about it. Short says men are superior chess players and here is a list showing they are. But Ross says mankind (and presumably culture) is sexist and keeps women from reaching top levels, and here is a list showing her prediction is right.

The data cannot decide which theory is true. The theories are underdetermined. And, of course,other theories might also explain the data. Men and women might be equal, but men like playing more. And so on.

There is no use bringing in Bayes’s Theorem and asking about “prior” probabilities on the truth of each theory, because the holders of both theories start by believing they are true. The data we have can’t shake either Short or Ross free from the conviction he or she is right. The data wouldn’t help us either if we are indifferent between the theories.

It is true that different data might support Short and Ross differently. Suppose on the list were 722 men and 722 non-men. Ross, claiming the triumph of equality over sexism, is upheld. But then it would be Short’s turn to claim that men really are superior, but the culture is pushing them down.

There is no general solution. The underdetermination of the contingent is a fact.

Collecting more data wouldn’t work, either. What we have to do, and even this is not a complete solution, is to look outside the data. For instance, chess is an abstract analytical activity. If Short is right, men should be better than women at other abstract analytical activities.

For Short to be right, only one thing must be true: men must have different brains. For Ross to be right, many more things must be happening in more places and at more times. Sexism under Ross’s scheme must operate like the nervous say the Trilateral Commission does: a worldwide occult top secret network with strange unstoppable powers.

If we accept the premise that fewer premises are more often associated with true theories, than there is good evidence Short is right. But it’s doubtful we’d get Ross to agree.

Close readers will realize that this article is one more argument against p-values.

52 Comments

  1. How about doing an experiment with men and women who have never played chess before? Give each participant a copy of the rules, and maybe show an animated video of moves (no humans depicted). Let them play games over a series of some months and then let a group of grandmasters, looking only at the lists of moves (with no knowledge of which players were male or female), decide which players have the best potential.

    I don’t know if there is a difference in male/female mentality, or what it is, but the fact that there are people who claim to be transgender makes me think that there is some evidence that these people, at least, believe that there is a difference.

    But what does egalitarianism mean? Surely it doesn’t mean equivalent mentalities. An egalitarian surely, rather, should want the suffering of each person to be taken as of equally meaningful, regardless of their mentality. Should a person whose mentality conforms (or conflicts) with the stereotype be denied an equal standing? Even a meritocrat can be egalitarian, if the desire is to improve conditions for all.

    Furthermore, the idea that there is no difference in mentality between males and females is an affront to the transgendered. To deny a difference in mentality seems to deny that transgender is a meaningful category. It relegates all sexuality to a very shallow desire based solely on physical attributes, as though one might as well seek a life partner solely by looking at pictures.

  2. It’s not just about p-values, but also about essence. It’s (more importantly, I think) about a very clear signal that people (egalitarians especially) have lost touch with any method of valuing humans other than utilitarianism.

    When someone says “women are not as good at chess”, others hear “women are less valuable”. The only way to jump from the first to the second is to assume that being good at chess has any relationship to human value. You find this everywhere.

    Recently, the Pope made a statement that I quite liked:

    For example, I wonder if so-called gender theory may not also be an expression of frustration and resignation that aims to erase sexual differentiation because it no longer knows how to come to terms with it.

    Replace ‘gender theory’ with ‘egalitarianism’ and ‘sexual differentiation’ with ‘complementarity of the sexes’ and we’ve established a correct, more general principle.

  3. Maybe what we’ve got is a failure to communicate:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnO9Jyz82Ps

  4. Yet the Queen is the most powerful piece on the chessboard.
    The King is always hiding and running away.

    Egalitarian chess rules, anyone?

  5. Gary,
    With great power comes great vulnerability! The real power in a chess game is in the pawns and power relations change as we approach the endgame.

    My favorite chess aphorism is “the threat is stronger than the execution”.

  6. An argument against p-values. Well, let’s see. We need a Null Hypothesis(TM), and then a p-value that will Allow(TM) us to Reject(TM) the Null Hypothesis(TM). (p-value is not trademarked above because a p-value at least is an actual, definable, pin-downable real thing).

    If we take the Null Hypothesis(TM) in the present instance to be “there is no difference between men and women at chess”… But wait a minute. There’s already a list of grandmasters. Which, as Matt has deduced, given the under-determined premises, cannot ever, ever, ever allow us to say that “there is no difference between men and women at chess”. (Or that there is a difference).

    So what, prithee (this is talk-like-Shakespeare day, after all), would be a Null Hypothesis(TM) in the present instance, about which we could calculate a p-value? It would seem not to exist. Short and Ross cannot resolve their dispute, given the under-determined premises.

    And we are unable to improve our results by simply dropping p-values and the Null Hypothesis(TM) and using Predictive Statistics instead. Predictive Statistics doesn’t allow us to evade under-determined premises either.

    Sure, if we clarify the premises, we could do something. We could predict the likelihood, given present data, that (say) 90% of future Grandmasters will be male. But to Ross, that would be moving the goalposts. Evading her point. Not playing fair.

    As Matt implies, Ross is making an inherently frequentist (frequentoid? frequentist-like?) argument. Even grandmaster results til the end of time, even to infinity and beyond, can not disprove her contention that something (something external? internal? unfair?) is Holding Women Back.

    But Short also says that something is Holding Women Back. Something is causing the difference we see. Short says that the cause is that on average men and women have different brains, which are good at different things.

    So they both agree! Something is Holding Women Back. Something explains the difference we see.

    Well, if they both agree, why are we talking about p-values? I forget.

  7. Scotian,

    Yes, the powerful always have some vulnerability; not necessarily of equivalence, but sometimes small is deadly.

    Pawn power depends more on other pieces and positions than Queen power does. You know I meant her power in terms of movement. I suppose checkers, except for the “kinging,” is egalitarian chess.

    Understanding threat, especially moves ahead, is what makes playing chess well so difficult — and compelling.

  8. Sorry if I’m OT for not going into the p-value discussion, but contrary to popular belief, chess has very little to do with intelligence, and a lot with practice and expertise.
    My guess is most women have better things to do in life.

  9. Ross takes some comfort in the observation that a female once beat Short in a game, which to Ross proves males and females are equal.

    Proves nothing. Sometimes the best way to learn how someone plays is let them win. When they lose they have lost your game and you learn little to nothing.

    Chess tournaments are rarely determined by a single game. Besides everybody has a bad day. Even Gary Kasparov who was ranked number one for 225 months over 19 years (98%) lost an occasional game.

    But it also boosts Ross’s theory that sexism is rampant!

    Of course it does. There is an obvious conspiracy to keep women out of chess. Those 33 women had to be twice as good to make the list The Grandmaster list needs more women and and obviously the rating system (based solely on win/loss performance) is too hard for women so should be changed to level the field. Maybe it should be based on Twitter popularity or who is the prettiest.

  10. Johan,

    “contrary to popular belief, chess has very little to do with intelligence, and a lot with practice and expertise.” This seems absurd on the face of it and so I did a quick search:

    http://www.psmag.com/books-and-culture/champion-chess-players-smart-yes-question-65735

    My guess is that everyone who lacks ability in one area or another finds that they have better things to do in life. 😉 For those cases, they are completely correct.

    Gary,

    “Pawn power depends more on other pieces and positions than Queen power does.” I believe that you have this backwards.

  11. “Pawn power depends more on other pieces and positions than Queen power does.” I believe that you have this backwards.

    A single pawn has almost no power. A wall of pawns, especially one that’s fortified by the other pieces, is formidable. A pawn one row from conversion is as well. The queen is powerful on its own and almost regardless of position.

    chess has very little to do with intelligence

    The trouble is that no one really has a good definition of intelligence> which makes any intelligence/whatever discrimination difficult to support . Some people think being good at trivia or able to spout many facts is demonstrating intelligence but a book capable of the same is not.

  12. Scotian,

    That’s an interesting read, thank you !

    That’ll teach me to trust Scientific American ever again 🙂

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/mens-chess-superiority-explained-08-12-29/

  13. … to be fair to Scientific American, small correction, the claim is not that more practice makes the difference, but the fact that more men play

  14. At the SciAm link: And because many more men play than women, the best male players are extreme outliers on that bell curve.

    But completely unanswered is why more men play chess more than women in the first place which is strange if you are going to claim an explanation. The most likely reason is that men are better at it. The outlier part is a Well Duh!

    My personal feeling is that the best players are those capable of visualizing the flow of board positions. It may be an arguable contention that men are better at spacial relationships than women. Anecdotally, keep track of the stopping distance at traffic lights. Who stops with the most distance behind a preceding car? Men or women?

  15. Johan,

    Sigh, it is a shame that Scientific American has given up even the pretense of being scientific.

    To paraphrase: hares aren’t really faster than tortoises, it is just that more of them run.

  16. Dav,
    There is also a big conspiracy to keep women out of math contests. The Putnam math competition was practically always won by men so they had to set up a separate award for the women so they could win.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Lowell_Putnam_Mathematical_Competition

  17. Regarding link between Chess and Intelligence (analogous to CAGW?).

    This is JUST a GUESS and pure speculation. It is likely that just because you’re intelligent does NOT mean you’re good at chess. It is probably more than likely that if you’re good at chess (especially at high levels), you are intelligent (one-way correlation still wouldn’t imply causation).

    I’m sure there are other factors including practice and playing (and losing) to many different players. When I was a teen-ager, I played chess with a neighbor and probably won most of the games.

    He started playing another person and later when he played me, he won most of the games.

  18. John B,
    “It is likely that just because you’re intelligent does NOT mean you’re good at chess.” This was never the claim and, no disrespect intended, it is a trivial statement. After all you may never have bothered to learn the game.

    To extend my hare(y) analogy: Just because you are a hare, doesn’t mean you can run fast. You may have a broken leg that never healed properly.

  19. Ray,
    they had to set up a separate award for the women so they could win.

    The strange thing about affirmative action is that its recipients actually think they’ve accomplished something when they are only riding on what amounts to a consolation prize.

  20. Scotian

    No offense taken – the gist of the article stated that:

    A new analysis rebuts the claim that there is no link between general intelligence and expertise in a specific arena such as chess

    The article says there IS indeed a link, but I was saying the link is poorly understood and I would add there are likely MANY other factors (Natural Variation) just like the supposed link between CAGW and CO2

  21. Scotian,

    if you read the actually ‘analysis’ ( Grabner 2013, The Role of Intelligence for Performance In the Prototypical Expertise Domain of Chess) used as springboard by Popsci, it backs up Johan’s claim. First, it is more properly a literature review which does some analysis. Second, the author does this analysis by separating out various components of intelligence as tested and even finds a minor negative correlation in some components (figural selection and cube task) while finding a positive correlation is others (notably number series). Third, the author states that experience is a far better predictor of skill than intelligence (read the second paragraph of the discussion section). Forth, the regression analysis done shows that the difference in the component of intelligence most correlated with chess skill (number series) can only account for 30% of the difference in player skill.

    There are some components of intelligence which Grabner hypothesizes make it easier for some people to learn from experience, but hypothesizing that something is so is not proof that it is so.

    Grabner’s article supports the idea that chess skill has little to do with intelligence and a lot to do with practice. The PopSci article errs in claiming that Grabner refutes the “line of research [which] has suggested there is little or no link between a person’s general intelligence level and their success at the classic board game,” the Grabner article in it’s analysis of earlier studies specifically distinguishes between general intelligence and the components of intelligence. It isn’t that there is no link between intelligence and chess skill, it is that the best Grabner can find is that there is a non-dominant link between some components of intelligence and chess skill.

    Thanks for the article though, I wasn’t even aware that this was an issue. I just wish the writers of places like PopSci could avoid distorting the actual findings of studies.

  22. John B, Max,

    I still think that you are disputing claims that have never been made. The claim is that strong chess players are of above average intelligence which appears to be indisputably true, but for some bizarre reason sometimes denied. Max quotes a 30% contribution. This is high. The fact that one must also learn the rules of the game and practice the art against strong competition is trivially true and not the point under dispute here. Next we will hear that height is not an advantage in basketball because you can’t became good without practice.

    There is another problem in analysis that may be at work here. If you are comparing the skill levels and intelligence of world class players who all have high IQ, the variation in skill levels will probably be larger than the IQ variation for the simple reason that you have artificially restricted the range. The effect in the general chess playing public may be much more striking. A similar effect is seen in comparing SAT scores and success at elite universities.

    A final point worth noting is the observation that there are three areas where child prodigies are seen: music, mathematics, and chess. This is an indication that less practice or study is required here than in other areas where prodigies are not seen. It also implies that innate ability or intelligence plays a bigger role here than in other areas of human endeavour.

  23. A thirdmore obvious explanation (as opposed to sexism versus men having ‘superior’ chess playing brains) is that men and women are raised in different cultural environments. Women are more interested in social interaction, or at least there is more pressure and expectation. Men are more likely to engage in largely solitary activities, such as playing chess. Hence, different skill sets arise.

    The reason why I’m skeptical that male and female brains have major differences is that they arise from the same genetic blue print. It’s not like iPhone versus Android. There isn’t different ‘software’ running in male versus female brains. They are essentially the same brains. And yes, that goes for ‘dumb’ people versus ‘brilliant’ people. Same physical brains. Genetic differences are slight. A more plausible explanation is how those brains are exercised. That doesn’t mean there are no genetic differences. They must also exist. Yet except for extreme situations, I suspect those genetic differences are largely unimportant.

  24. Regarding that Scientific American article referenced by Johan.
    I think sabretruthtiger got it right. Males are slightly more variable in IQ than females. Over most of the intelligence range this doesn’t make much difference. At the extremes, it does.

  25. Will N, “Men are more likely to engage in largely solitary activities, such as playing chess. Hence, different skill sets arise.”

    I have to ask. Have you ever played chess? It is not solitaire. It requires two players at the minimum but is also played in chess clubs and tournaments where a large number of players interact. Also, you must be aware that team sports are a male invention so I am confused where your claims come from.

    “…they arise from the same genetic blue print”. They do? Can I see the blue print? You are aware, are you not, that only males have the Y chromosome.

  26. Alan, comparing male and female IQs is tricky since the creators of the tests arrange the categories to give the same average of 100 for both. Although it is true that the male range in many categories in wider than the female this is not actually what the Sci. Am. article is saying. The author is trying to invoke a large versus small number bias.

  27. Alan: Hear, hear.

    This is why we don’t see a lot of women agitating to be ditch-diggers—as the female IQ cluster is toward the center rather than at the extremes.

    That said, if equality is the desired state, then an allotment of those low-wage, low-status jobs should be set aside for females.

  28. Perhaps chess is a domain more likely to attract male competitive behavior than female? And then, probably males who are not physically competitive — movers of knights rather than knights themselves.

  29. Anyone who thinks men and women think the same are nuts, we have different wiring so our spices will survive, women have an enormous task, they need to procreate to insure the survival of the species, men not so much one man can replace a hundred men, Not true with women can only bear X amount of children generally less ten ten, so nature cannot be careless with them, men not so much, the will be more men genius as well as idiots. People who do not understand this are idiots.

  30. More insecure misogyny from the cons. Be treated equally under the law does not mean anything other than being treated equally under the law. Conservative men may be “emotionally stupid,” but I’m assuming we liberal men aren’t, so speak for yourselves.

    JMJ

  31. Jersey I hope is misunderstood what you just said if I did not you are truly an idiot, equally under the law means just that, the law should be blind to gender when an individual present themselves to it., the law cannot change nature. the law should be blind to gender, yet society need not be, society should make motherhood a higher level than being a sperm donor, being a sperm donor is also not being a father, society should recognize that. If you interpret that the law was equal in outcome that means as many women should be incarcerated at same rate as men, that is truly stupid since women on a whole are not as stupid or smart as men, their bell curve is narrow that of men and not generally it is as aggressive as men again their bell curve is narrow than men, but when a woman does transgress she should be treated the same as a man who has transgress. Why in the hell if you as liberal does believe in equal outcome is beyond me. I believe in a level playing field for all, what we do with that is strictly up to us. If you think the collective can or should equalize outcome God help us since that only means we will achieve the lowest common denominator in society and no society can survive that. The same is true for race, there are racial differences I can sunburn, some men cannot, how in the hell is society going to equalize that? That means I have to be careful around the sun, other men do not it not their fault if I am stupid enough to stand in the sun without a hat on, hell there are Caucasian that can do that and there is no chance of them burning there heads, how in the hell is society going to equalize male pattern baldness? I have brother with full head of hair, maybe you should send me money my way for my defect? If you would think for a few minutes you might give up you liberal thinking but if I interpret your comments right and you are not capable of thinking if you were you would not have liberal thoughts.

  32. max, To be a good chess player it requires two things skill and the ability to think ahead, the ability to calculate all the potential move sever moves ahead and the from that select the correct move in the time period requires a intelligence or “skill” that no amount of practice will ever accomplish, I have and do play chess and can obliterate your run of the mill chess player against a ranked player they will obliterate me. the reason is I cannot see the possibilities far enough. I can only see the possibilities a few levels beyond were the game is at, a good player can see them almost to the end, most of the time. No intelligent test can measure that, Deep Blue was only able to win because a committee of players programmed into it, could come to the best conclusion in the limited time period because deep blue could run all the possibilities in the allotted time, something a chess master can do at will, no the master chess player may not be able to understand string theory but his mind is unique and it is unique do to wiring and practice and the wiring is a prerequisite.

  33. @Scotian

    “Have you ever played chess? It is not solitaire.”

    Yes I have and yes it is, very solitaire. Relatively speaking. Mostly two people thinking in silence. At the professional level long hours of studying championship games alone.

    “…they arise from the same genetic blue print”. They do? Can I see the blue print? You are aware, are you not, that only males have the Y chromosome.”

    There is scant (if any) evidence that the Y chromosome has any connection to intelligence. More obviously, since males and females both score on average 100% on IQ tests this also suggests little to no genetic difference. There are slight differences between males and females on sub tests. Males score slightly better with spatial tests, females better in various communication skill tests.

  34. “Anyone who thinks men and women think the same are nuts…”

    I know some women who are very masculine in outlook and males who are more feminine in outlook. Separating nature from nurture is not clear cut. I suspect the intellectual differences are non-existent except when we look at extreme conditions. Such as grand master level chess. But it’s not clear if that skill is a clear cut definition of ‘intelligent’ anyway. A computer beat a grand master at chess recently, and we don’t consider computers to be especially intelligent.

    Having said all that, I do suspect that differences are greatest, where they exist, in the emotional centers of the brains, rather than the problem solving centers. There is likely an evolutionary basis for this. Intelligent males were better able to outsmart competition in the race to procreate. Clever females were more selective with who they procreated with.

    (And most of the discussion here has missed the pertinent point Dr Brigg’s made in his article. Which was NOT that females are ‘dumber’ than males, but that the socialist left automatically assume all differences must be caused by discrimination because that is the ideological perspective.)

  35. The trouble is that no one really has a good definition of intelligence which makes any intelligence/whatever discrimination difficult to support .

    I am very happy to accept that there is no good definition of intelligence.

    I suspect that the reason there isn’t a good definition of intelligence is that it isn’t one thing. Maybe it is like asking Howard Moskowitz what defines good spaghetti sauce.

  36. Having said all that, I do suspect that differences are greatest, where they exist, in the emotional centers of the brains, rather than the problem solving centers. There is likely an evolutionary basis for this. Intelligent males were better able to outsmart competition in the race to procreate. Clever females were more selective with who they procreated with.—Will Nitschke

    But the evolutionary pressures on men and women are surely different. If a tribe loses half its men, that fact may be virtually undetectable in the population of the next generation, whereas if it loses half its women the next generation will be nearly halved as well. Thus men are far more expendable than women.

    Surely this can be seen in the differences in musculature, with men tending to have more powerful, albeit less efficient physiques. It can even be seen in the differences in metabolic rates, and the relative ease with which men shed excess pounds. Women seem designed to survive. And perhaps it can be seen in differences in mentality, with stereotypical differences in how to balance lives vs honor, say. The expendable sex having more of a built-in drive to goals that conflict with self-preservation.

    So it would not be at all hard to imagine that there might be differences in innate approaches to problem solving (e.g. do we shoot first and ask questions later, or vice versa?).

  37. Will N,
    “There is scant (if any) evidence that the Y chromosome has any connection to intelligence.” At least you are no longer claiming that men and women have the same genetic blueprint. You must admit that that was a blunder on your part.

    “More obviously, since males and females both score on average 100% on IQ tests this also suggests little to no genetic difference.” Sorry, you are wrong again. You must have missed my earlier statement where I said “Alan, comparing male and female IQs is tricky since the creators of the tests arrange the categories to give the same average of 100 for both.” They are easily able to do this because there is a large, not a slight, difference in the subcategories. Some people have suggested that a less PC choice in the subcategories would show a significant IQ difference.

    “I know some women who are very masculine in outlook and males who are more feminine in outlook.”
    From your past comments I thought you were above such blatant logical fallacies. Some women are taller than some men. Does this mean that men are not, on average, taller than women?

    “There is likely an evolutionary basis for this.” How is this possible if, as you have claimed, men and women have the same genetic blueprint connected with the brain?

  38. Briggs

    April 24, 2015 at 9:14 am

    All,

    My WordPress won’t let me get past an update screen. So I can’t make any changes or put up today’s post.

    Stay tuned

    Update Restored.

  39. mark lohman;

    sorta, but the ability to ‘think ahead’ seems to be more the ability to ‘remember ahead’ once a player is actually ranked. since i had no idea this was contentious or even a subject of study i am only basing this on 3 studies i looked up yesterday, but it seems from what i read that it is experience which determines how well one can ‘think ahead.’ upon reflection this makes sense, chess favors recreating similar patterns and with experience apparently one doesn’t ‘crunch the numbers’ for each possible move when one can select the optimal move based one having played a similar pattern in a variety of ways before. what i find interesting is that in the breakdown of fluid intelligence subscales grabner presented the components of intelligence associated with shape recognition have am insignificant negative correlation with skill while those associated with math are more correlated, so to the extent intelligence plays a part in chess skill it seems to be not based on visual shape recognition but upon the same thing the brain does when doing math. which brings me back to ‘remembering ahead,’, when asked to multiply twelve by twelve it is unlikely that someone over the age of eight actually goes through and multiplies the numbers carrying the two and all that, instead because they have done the multiplication out before and memories the multiplication tables and when they see ’12 x 12′ they know just insert 144 without thinking, this seems to be similar to what determines the skill of ranked chess players. mind you i am basing this just on what i read yesterday, but that seems to me to be what those who studied the matter are saying.

    scotian;

    no one is arguing that chess players are not more intelligent than average, there is a baseline intelligence below which one is incapable of learning to play chess. the question is how much skill at playing chess is determined by intelligence. this is where the counter-intuitive comes in, that intelligence is not the determining factor in chess skill (beyond the most basic level). the thing is that studies indicate that some components that make up intelligence might correlate with chess skill in a positive way while others in a negative way. one study showed a positive correlation between numerical intelligence and chess skill with a negative correlation between verbal intelligence and chess skill among the same group of players. when grabner broke down his 2007 study into 9 subscales, the one component with the greatest correlation to skill could only account for 30 per cent of the variability which, because that component only makes up one ninth of general intelligence, means that general intelligence might account for less than four percent of chess skill based on that component. this is actually fairly interesting, and i would like to see more testing done with more subscales to see what components of intelligence correlate how with chess skill and will look for some over the weekend, but i suspect will be fruitless since grabner in 2013 claims to have been the first to breakdown intelligence tests by subscales.

    as always one must be careful associating correlation with causation, in this case since there is a very strong correlation between skill and experience one has to ask if people with low figural intelligence (which usually means poor coordination) and mediocre verbal intelligence (which usually means poor social skills) and of good numerical intelligence (corresponds with chess skill) are actually gaining that skill from experience by being a chess geek because it is the best high school clique open to them, and completely throwing off the results. it may be that higher general intelligence can make more skillful chess players or that intelligence is irrelevant to chess skill, but you cannot show this one way or the other by the studies which have been done which only show inconsistent correlations.

  40. Max, “no one is arguing that chess players are not more intelligent than average,”

    I always find these “no one” statements amusing since they are, by their very nature, guaranteed to be wrong. This whole discussion started with that very claim. It is always difficult to judge the relative contributions to success. If I may make an analogy it is like asking which is more important to sustaining a fire: fuel, oxygen, or heat. In one circumstance or another one of these may represent the rate limiting step but all are important. Much the same applies to success in chess, basketball, music, or what have you.

    There is something about intelligence that galls people and they don’t want to think that it is important for anything. They will accept physical limitations. If I was as strong as an ox I could play football in the NFL as well. Asimov once suggested that this had to do with the identification of intelligence with the uniquely human and strength with the animal. It does not bother you if someone is more animal-like but more human, that is insupportable. It is also more dangerous to express resentment against a person bulging with muscle.

  41. Shack,

    I was referring to evolutionary pressures on intelligence.

  42. Scotian,

    Obviously my understanding of IQ testing as an academically trained psychologist, is different from yours. Obviously if you believe I am wrong because you say so, let’s leave it at that.

    Also I would suggest you not accuse others of making logically fallacious claims when you make them yourself. Are you suggesting men on average beat women at chess? Or that men are all grand master players? Of course you don’t. Then please think more about what argument you are trying to make. Bring adversarial for the sake of being adversarial is an indicator of intellectual insecurities. Why don’t we have an interesting conversation instead even if we agree to disagree?

  43. Will N,

    I am sorry that I come across as adversarial but you did commit the lapses in logic that I accused you of. If you think that I have made errors in logic as well I invite you to point them out.

    “Are you suggesting men on average beat women at chess?” This is a true statement and not a logical fallacy.

    “Or that men are all grand master players?” No such statement was made or implied. Why do you even ask?

    “Why don’t we have an interesting conversation instead even if we agree to disagree?” I thought we were. Why so defensive?

    “Obviously my understanding of IQ testing as an academically trained psychologist, is different from yours.” You have my sympathy. 🙂
    I now wonder why you do not know that the equality of IQ average between the sexes is artificial. If you think about it such an alignment is unlikely to happen by accident. This information is difficult to find but it is mentioned in this link later in the article under the heading sex.

    http://communitycounselingservices.org/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=8217&cn=18

    I await your apology.

  44. Matt, on this one you seem yo be caught in your Short(s),

  45. Off topic but you might find this amusing.
    Georgian grandmaster Gaioz Nigalidze was expelled from a tournament in Dubai after an opponent complained that he kept running to the bathroom between moves and officials found an iPhone hidden there with a chess app analyzing the game.

  46. Scotian,

    “I now wonder why you do not know that the equality of IQ average between the sexes is artificial.”

    Had you read my comment properly you would have observed that I had noted that males and females do not score identically on all tests. A great deal of research has been done on male versus female intelligence over the years and there is little evidence to suggest that men are smarter than women. In fact, these days women tend to outperform men academically. However there are many confounding variables. Male intelligence tends to be more variable that females (that is to say, there are more really dumb men and really smart men, on average, than really dumb or smart females), and testing results tend to vary with age. At least in certain types of tests. Complicating all of this even more is that there is no such thing as a clear cut definition of what it means to be ‘intelligent’. Academic success? Financial success? What about the ability to achieve happiness in life? Is general knowledge important? Creativity? I can go on. In fact the only thing we are completely sure about is that IQ tests are excellent measures of people’s ability to score on IQ tests.

    When you assert that because men and women score identically in IQ testing, on average, this is of course due in part to the ‘artificiality’ of the test. Well, yes. The fact that the average person scores 100 on an IQ test is also an artificial construct. Where you will go wrong is to draw conclusions from the fact that IQ tests weren’t handed to us by Norse Gods (or your preferred deities) but were constructed by humans with set goals in mind. There is nothing ‘natural’ about an IQ test. To complain they are ‘artificial’ is to state the obvious. To draw any kind of general inference beyond the test itself, more likely than not, only speculation.

  47. Will N,
    “There is nothing ‘natural’ about an IQ test. To complain they are ‘artificial’ is to state the obvious. To draw any kind of general inference beyond the test itself, more likely than not, only speculation.”

    Then we agree, which is why I called you out on this speculative comment: “More obviously, since males and females both score on average 100% on IQ tests this also suggests little to no genetic difference.” for which I was originally accused of making things up but now apparently I was just stating the obvious.

    “In fact, these days women tend to outperform men academically.” Mostly in the humanities which have in recent decades been feminized and dumbed down to the point of uselessness. This has not happened in STEM courses which have bravely withstood the attack but, unfortunately, may not be able to maintain standards much longer. Areas like Chess and gaming in general will probably just be outlawed. You should read Christina Hoff Sommers’ “The War Against Boys”. There was a study recently that showed in proper double blind fashion that female teachers gave higher grades to girls for the same work but that male teachers did not show any bias. Something that, I assure you, most young boys are very aware of.

  48. Scotian,

    I don’t draw the same conclusion as you. There is no evidence that males are smarter than females. On *most* tests they score about the same. That’s consistent with my original point of view that females aren’t dumber or smarter than males. The situation is a bit different when we get to extremes. The empirical evidence suggests that there are likely to be more male geniuses right now on Planet Earth than female geniuses. But does that make men smarter than women? No, because there are also a larger population of dumb males relative to the proportion of dumb females.

    The other point you missed, and accused me of making an error of logic, was my observations about the malleability of human brains. Some men tend to have a feminine outlook, some females a more masculine one. Characteristics that have a pure genetic basis are not like this. You will not find many tall humans among the pygmy peoples, or red or blonde haired peoples in sub Saharan Africa. It’s not the case that 5% or 2% or even 1% of such groups have offspring that look, say, Irish. But you will discover an enormous amount of variability in personality and other traits of that kind.

  49. Will N,
    “I don’t draw the same conclusion as you. There is no evidence that males are smarter than females.”
    I’m going to borrow a page from Willis Eschenbach here and ask you to quote a statement that you disagree with. Nowhere have I stated that males are smarter than females that I am aware of. If you think that I have, quote me. What I did was call you out on unwarranted conclusions that you have made, quoting you when I have done so, and provided links where appropriate.

    “Some men tend to have a feminine outlook, some females a more masculine one. Characteristics that have a pure genetic basis are not like this.” I have no idea what you are trying to say here. What does “pure genetic basis” mean?

    “But you will discover an enormous amount of variability in personality and other traits of that kind.” Whether you call something enormous or not depends on perspective. Are you comparing the variation of human personality to that of other species, dogs for example? A good book on this general subject is:

    http://www.amazon.ca/Tourette-Syndrome-Human-Behavior-Comings/dp/1878267280

    Here the emphasis is on genetic causes.

  50. Scotian,

    I’m asking why you argued against my original comments if you now don’t disagree with them. I don’t mind people who disagree. It’s far more interesting to chat to someone who you disagree with as there is more of a chance you’ll learn something new, versus chatting with someone who is on the same page.

  51. Will N,

    You are still not quoting me. When you say “I’m asking why you argued against my original comments if you now don’t disagree with them.” I am at a loss as to where you think that I agree with you. I argued against your original comments because they were either incorrect or contained logical fallacies. You may be trying to read into my statements things that are not there. For example when I said “Nowhere have I stated that males are smarter than females that I am aware of.” you should take this literally and not read it as my position on the matter. Unlike most people I feel no need to express a public posture on controversial issues. As I said the reason that the general IQ is useless in this regard is because it is testing policy to normalize out any sex differences that may otherwise be there. I don’t have the knowledge to say any more than this but I don’t think that IQ testing is as artificial as you have implied.

    “It’s far more interesting to chat to someone who you disagree with as there is more of a chance you’ll learn something…” I wouldn’t worry about that as I have the feeling that there is very little that we agree on. Just a feeling though. By the way, have you learned something? 😉

  52. Scotian,

    An IQ test tries to normalise for gender, cultural, age differences, and anywhere where the IQ test might skew. Or what one might describe as bias. If Jews score higher on a test than Asians, there is a problem with the test. The test is designed that way on purpose. It’s supposed to be bias neutral. So you point out you don’t trust the test. Which I don’t disagree with. But you can’t draw any inferences from it either in the way people want to draw inferences, for the reasons explained.

    You also claimed my observations were logically fallacious and I rebutted those comments, and you failed to respond. You only repeated the original assertion, which basically means you lost the argument, because you didn’t move the argument forward. (That doesn’t mean I’m smarter than you, just that you lost because you failed to address the rebuttal.)

    If you want quotes, treat all of your original comments on my comment as the quote.

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