Sunday, January 10, 2016

Speaking as an outsider



Who else?

Poor old Nigel. People just can't help being horrid to him. Especially women.
There was a woman on NZ television... calling me a twat...does she know what a twat is? That's pretty damn rude.
You know, I suspect that she does know what a twat is, and I suspect that she also knows what Nigel is. In some ways, perhaps a little better than Nigel does himself, or is ever likely to - not while he continues to be baffled as to why he's in a fight that he's gone out of his way to pick himself.

Because I suspect that as long as he keeps using terminology like "mad feminist" or "shrill feminists" or "tyrannical feminist lobby" or indeed refers to women as "totty" or "trained monkeys", then he's never going to run short of women to insult him.

People can be unfair like that.

Read the whole thing, if you "like to be outraged". Or if you don't. Personally I'm keen (actually not all that keen) to know why Nigel's so sure that
three kids from some rough background
would be so unlikely to be smart or talented enough to succeed at chess given the same training that the Polgars had -or, for that matter, what he said about chess and
it's (sic) ability to stave off Alzheimer's disease.
Maybe he'll tell us in a future edition of the, ah, "scholarly chess journal New in Chess". Just for this morning though, let's close with three observations.

One is that when the author writes that
the Telegraph's [headline] for example, was 'girls just don't have the brain to play chess', something Short certainly did not say
it is hard, looking at Nigel's statement
Men and women's brains are hard-wired very differently
to conclude that "girls just don't have the brain to play chess" is something Nigel "certainly did not say". Because that's what it means. When you say that male and female brains are hard-wired differently - and that you consider this the major explanation for their substantially varying performances at chess - what you just said is that women's brains, by and large, make them worse players than men.

Second is that when Nigel says that the chess world, found it worth of comment
he is clearly working on a substantially different definition of "nobody" than I would use. Lots of people, as I recall. Even if we're individually nobodies. Gnats rather than elephants. But that ain't "nobody".

Third is that when Nigel claims that
most top female players - he reels off a list of names - agreed with him
then whatever the truth or otherwise, it kind of evades the point, which is this: how many scientists agreed with him?

How many?

Any advance on none?

[Nigel Short index]


JPS said...

At least as regards the first observation, I think you are indeed being unfair. There is a huge difference between saying “men are on average more talented at chess than women“ (basically what Nigel said) and saying “women can't play chess at all“ (your interpretation). The first statement does not deny that some women are exceptionally good at chess, the second says that no woman can ever become a decent player.

Anonymous said...

Not on his main topic, but with his statement about googling chess turning off sponsors, I decided to play the google game. With the two words CHESS and ALIENS I get 723000 hits, and CHESS and KASPAROV gets 614000. CORRUPT gains 449000, while SPONSORS gets 697000 though most of those are for various things that have CHESS as an acronym I think.

Amanda said...

I'm afraid that "paraphrase" is *not* what NS said or implied. He clearly said the *reason* for the relative lack of women in the world top 20 is that our brains are "hard-wired differently". When differently means "worse for chess" as it does in his article, then he clearly *did* say that women lack the right brains for chess. As an amusing aside, he dismissed the lower numbers of women players overall as an explanation, saying if that were true, Georgia with its greater numbers of female players would be doing well: mere weeks before Georgia women the team Women's World Championship.

It was indeed pointed out to the noble Mr Short that the existence of Judit Polgar basically tanks his sexist theory. His work around was something like "the exception that proves the rule". This particular nobody finds it sad that Nigel Short, former World Championship contender, internationally famous grandmaster and once creator of an alternative world chess federation feels I and other "nobodies" bullied him. If one would prefer to remain below the sexism radar, perhaps one should troll in a less aggressively sexist manner. I confess to a "militant feminist agenda": I'd like to see a chess world where half the players are women. Fetch the ducking stool! :)

Stanley Lee said...

I always wonder if Short had chosen something besides "brains" to talk about with sex differences, whether he would be so skewered. For instance, Kramnik has talked about (in relation to age and chess) how testosterone levels play a role in concentration, which is ever-important in top-level chess. Or he could have phrased his hypothesis in terms of higher frequencies of male autism (many top 100 players strike me as at least partially autistic), where researchers have given a preliminary speculation, namely that XX is less suspectible to mutations than XY as chromosomes (about 5% of 1500 genes on this chromosome affect the brain). If I were overgenerous, particularly interpreting the quotation about his wife's emotional intelligence, I could put his comments into the SQ/EQ male/female brain divide that Baron-Cohen promotes (where autism is the latest study area, with autistic females being said to have "male brains", as they typically score better with systemising than empathy).

Instead, he chose this rather amorphous "brainwiring" concept, that puts it more into a field of sociology. Even if he had just made a tamer speculation, for instance that male cranial regions are (slightly) larger on average, which in theory allows more neurocapacity, which in theory has some correlation with chess skill, and placing this all at the extreme examples, et cetera, et cetera --- then there would be some possibility of his claims having a scientific basis. Then again, maybe we'll all be surprised, and his next article will be a carefully nuanced review of how "brainwiring" and "brain plasticity" interact, and how males have more (or maybe less) of the latter, ...

Anonymous said...

No, I have to back Nigel here. It is the hyperbole of a journalist to suggest that he said women cannot play chess.


ejh said...

saying “women can't play chess at all“ (your interpretation)

Well in fact I was taking it that "play chess" wasn't meant very literally, in the same sense that I take it that Donner didn't think Prins literally couldn't tell a bishop from a knight.

JPS said...

Of course you did not mean it literally, but neither did I. "You cannot play chess" basically means "You do not understand it, probably because you are not intelligent enough". To say "Your play is worse than mine, because nature gave me more talent" is something entirely different. It does not mean that you are a bad player or that I don't respect your abilities, it just means that I consider myself to be the stonger player. To say "men are good at chess, women are good at languages" may be rubbish from a scientific point of view, but it is not offensive (and if it were, who would be the offended?). In contrast, to say "women can't play chess", or "Prins can't tell a knight from a bishop" cleary is, and it is also intended to offend.

ejh said...

To say "men are good at chess, women are good at languages" may be rubbish from a scientific point of view, but it is not offensive

I would not bet anything you can't afford to lose on that.

ejh said...

[This comment from Po - apologies, I managed to lose it in moderation.]

"men are good at chess, women are good at languages" is like most things, a generalization. Even with the aforementioned SQ/EQ split (systemising versus emotional), it's still just a statistical concept, that say 70% of men will favor SQ, and similarly the other way for women with EQ. But there's no convincing evidence that this SQ/EQ split (usually documented in college populations) is actually dominantly neural as opposed to socially influenced.

On the other hand, with Kramnik's idea of testosterone playing some role, here there is a dramatic biological difference, as seen in the recent IAAF hyperandrogenism debates, with the highest healthy females still being notably lower than the lowest healthy males (though some dispute that the situation might be less clear outside first-world populations). But I don't think the linking of testosterone via heightened concentration to significantly superior play is all that credible. Perhaps Kramnik is consulting "at the margin" in elite players, where 25-50 Elo is a "huge" deal. But if anything, J. Polgar is much more a counterexample to this theory, than to brain-difference considerations. If you were to argue that the observed typical 200+ Elo distinction between top males and females is (primarily) testosterone/concentration based, you'd have to come up with some explanation for her (maybe she was really 2900 in "brain" strength, but her lesser concentration cost her 150?).

Finally, the work of Hänggi if anything suggests that chess players have smaller brains, but that they have less diffuseness, though again he was working with a nonsuperelite participant group. Maybe a co-incidence of larger cranial region (increased "neurocapacity" as it was termed) and "tighter" communication pathways (lower diffuseness) would imply the highest chess potential at the neurological level, but really I find this to be a bit of an attempt to explain things the wrong way around (like biochemistry of TdF cyclists). Moreover, and not related to the theme but something I care just as much about, there's the latent musing that somehow "smarter is superior" particularly in an implied moralistic sense. Modern society may reward intellectual outliers to a significant degree, which is probably why the "tyrannical feminist lobby" finds it so repulsive that male/female intellectual distributions exist (for whatever reason), but everyone is still corporeal just the same.

JPS said...

"I would not bet anything you can't afford to lose on that."

I should indeed not, especially not in this day and age, when more and more people no longer regard it as sufficient simply to "disagree" with an opinion they don't share, but also need to express that they "feel offended" by it.

Jack Rudd said...

I was once told by a GM that "you can't play chess at all". As I had just beaten him in under 30 moves, I didn't take his comment all that seriously.