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Men in Chess | Are They Naturally Better Than Women in 2021?

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Men in Chess versus women is a century-old debate in the world of chess. In 1962, the world champion Gary Kasparov said in an interview, “I guess they’re just not so smart” and “ Women are weaker fighters.” he said in 1989. The game does not come naturally to women, some might say, but external factors such as social, economic, and cultural factors are great contributors to one’s interests or skills. Also, no one was born and automatically good at playing chess, hard work, perseverance, and focus are crucial to be a grandmaster. 

Some chess enthusiasts say that it is the cold hard truth that women must gracefully accept, but the comparison of the larger group of people (men) versus the smaller group (women) is unfair. Male gatekeepers, lack of role models, biological and environmental differences, gender, and participation gap could also be contributing factors. 

The statements about men being the superior gender at chess do not include in any biological or statistical research, therefore, they must not be trusted but that does not mean there is no difference. Top women chess players were only invited to Women-only invitational tournaments, so most likely they are limited to increase their ranking. Men can participate in any tournament they are interested in and they can easily get sponsorships than most women. Furthermore, it’s so much easier for men to make a living from chess because they are less likely to nurture a child and maintain a home, unlike most women who typically do all the work. 

Among all these factors, the environment has the biggest influence on an individual’s way of life. For instance, the Polgar Sisters. Their success is only a product of their father’s experiment. They were nurtured and surrounded by chess-related things in their house, they developed a habit that made them a chess grandmaster, and faithfully guided by their father, László Polgár.

Judit and the Polgar sisters analyze her game against Kasparov. Linares, 1994.

Technically, it is impossible to break down and quantify all the social, economical, and cultural effects of and how it makes women inferior in Chess. According to Repková, maybe the game chess does not come naturally for most women because it is biologically hardwired in their brain that women are genetically destined to be a nurturer, so maybe the answer to why men are superior at chess is due to biological differences.

Women chess players are likely exposed to a hostile environment and it leads them to drop out in higher proportions. According to a study by Heilman, Pierre, and Toneva, women are often despised and penalized for choosing to pursue counter-normative roles that are conventional for men. All the external factors made by society have nothing to do with intelligence or natural ability because it is hard to untangle but gender differences are only caused by society-level beliefs. 

The endless babble of comparison between men and women being the better chess player has been an inevitable topic for decades and will continue in the future. But, some players have often turned to a simpler explanation than statistics and social treatment: biology. Serious chess players are categorized according to their assigned ratings based on their performance against their opponent. So, a group of scientists in 2008 in Germany compared the top hundred male and female chess players and found that men indeed outmatched women. 

According to a study by The Medical Journal of Islamic Republic of Iran, chess is a game that involves high cognitive skills such as memory, attention, focus, and understanding. Long-term playing can increase your cognitive performance and behavioral skills. Neuroplasticity is a term used for your brain’s ability to form neural connections and these neural connections can be formed due to activities and life experiences. The game of chess happens in the mind, therefore, regardless of gender or social differentiation, an individual could become a grandmaster at chess with enough effort and hard work he/she puts into it. The more time and hard work, the greater the chance of winning. 

Men believed that women are not innately brilliant to this specific board game, resulting in the toxic attitude that drives women out, so the gap participation increases. An article by Wei Ji Ma tackles the supposed gender gap and female inferiority in chess. It statistically shows that nothing suggests that top female performers are underperforming given the ratio of top male performers. So, it is unjust to compare the chess achievements of men and women if the numbers given were unequal.


So, are men in chess conventionally better than women? The social, cultural, and economic factors given are not enough to justify whether what gender is the best when it comes to chess performance. Biologically, men are hardwired to be better at chess since they are environmentally exposed more than women. Statistically, the unequal count of participants for both parties cannot give enough grounds to prove that men are superior to women. 

To be better at something, willingness, hard work, and your journey will help you to become what you desire to be. Luckily, men and women have brains that enable them to acquire and adjust to certain circumstances through neuroplasticity. Our brain can rewire functions, so if you’re thinking you cannot be a grandmaster now, think again. All you have to do is to believe in yourself. 

Related Questions

Is chess a male-dominated sport?

As to this date, there are no women among the top 100 chess players according to FIDE and shockingly, chess is indeed a male-dominated sport. Unlike men, women are less exposed and less interested in chess than men.

Why are there no female chess champions?

Simply because there are only a few women that are interested in chess and participate in chess competitions. In a ratio of 16:1, chess is dominated by men. 

Who is the first woman grandmaster in chess?

Subbaraman Vijayalakshmi was born on March 19, 1979, is an Indian chess player that holds the title of International Master and Women Grandmaster, the first female player in her country to achieve this award from FIDE. 

Who is the most famous female chess player?

Susan Polgar. Along with her sisters Judith and Sofia, they are the most popular siblings in the world of chess since they have the most interesting life story above all.

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