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There has been quite a bit of discussion around here about how girls are treated in math and science.  I figure that the game of chess has a lot of the same problems when it comes to attracting girls to it.  

I've written about scholastic chess before, but never just about girls in chess.  My daughter has been playing in competitive chess tournaments since she was a pre-schooler.  Yes, really.  There are a few kids in my neck of the woods who, at four, attend a qualifying tournament and achieve the necessary score to advance to the state elementary championships.  They play in the kindergarten section.  

I never really expected for her to do that.  I was more interested in teaching her the game in the hopes that she would gain as much out of it as my son has.

I also started to teach her the game for much the same reason that Laszlo Polgar taught his own daughters to play chess.  I wanted to learn something about learning, and the process that goes on.  
Beginning about a year after taking up the game in third grade, my son has consistently been one of the better players for his age in the state of Washington.  He and a cohort of players have moved form elementary, to middle school, to high school chess.  Most of those players also play in outside tournaments, and in national tournaments.  

Washington State is an extremely challenging chess environment.  One of Seattle's public schools has a 7th grader who is a National Master, and who played in the Seattle Slugger'sChampionship win in the United States Chess League.  To the little guy's left, you will see my daughter's much better than me chess coach.  We have a recent history of national championship elementary school teams.

I could go on and on about the benefits of competitive, scholastic chess for any kid, regardless of what's under their shirts, or in their pants.  But I won't.  I'll describe my experience as a coach at my daughter's school, and a coach at a second school which is very nearby, and which has much of the same student population.  

A Saturday chess tournament in this area is a high energy event.  Roughly 200 kids show up at 8 or 9 in the morning.  They play five games throughout the day.  Games last, on average, about 10-20 minutes, but there are always those kids who are more experienced who use up all the time.  Or they are just slow and hesitant.  That happens, too.  In the time between games, the kids play chess, go to the playground, eat lunch, analyze their games for mistakes, or just sit there in a comatose daze of chess infused stupor.  

The format of the event generally dictates that kids will have some even matches, and some uneven matches.  Everyone gets to play the five games.  

My guess is that the population that plays in these events is somewhere around 90% boys.  A girl already has a steep climb when it comes to playing in these events.  It has nothing to do with quality of play, but it may have a little to do with the size of the pool from which the kids are drawn.  If you have a pool of 100 boys, and 5 of them choose chess, you have a pretty good shot of getting a couple good players.  Whereas, the comparative pool of girls in this situation would be more like 7 or 8 girls, 1  of whom may choose chess.  The odds are already stacked.

Why are fewer international soccer stars American?  Is it because there is a smaller pool of players?  Probably.  Many of those who would have otherwise chosen soccer will move into a sport that has more opportunities for them, and which carries a higher value in our country.

A Tale of Two Chess Clubs

When my daughter began to attend Kindergarten, I figured I would try to build a chess club that would outlast me.  I wanted the community to see just how cool the whole scene is.  I wanted them to find out the reality of scholastic chess, and to shake off some of the old stereotypes that we see so thoughtlessly regurgitated in the media.  It's been a challenge, but the school is very receptive.  We will be hosting our first tournament in a month!  

After a couple of years, the head of the non profit who sponsors our chess club asked if I would coach in my area.  So now I have two schools, and a library drop in chess time that I operate.  

One school is my daughter's school.   As I said earlier, she started out as a preschooler in chess tournaments, and I had 4 years or so of experience in the local, statewide, and national scholastic chess scene.  Another way to put this is to say that I had already made most of the mistakes I could make with a kid in chess.  I had already been a too competitive father, for example.  I resolved to make her experience one that was driven by her.  

When she began kindergarten, she started to appreciate the social value of playing chess.  My boy had gotten a lot of social benefits from chess.  It's hard to look an opponent directly in the face and be ungracious, or unfair.  So the social aspect was very important for her enjoyment.  She has a big brother, so hanging with boys was no problem.  When she began bringing in her trophies from tournaments, the class was impressed.  The class then began playing chess at free time, with my daughter operating as the gray bearded veteran teacher.  

She's a pretty likeable kid.  That was a different experience for us.  My boy has sometimes suffered from his inability to recognize his social failings.  Having that role model in the chess club was very motivational for the kids.  It's not like they sat there and said, "Huh, girls can play chess, after all!" They hadn't been gifted with that particular misunderstanding.  Instead, it was just part of their view of chess.  Girls and boys both played.  Girls could be pretty badass.  

I just don't think that the kids thought twice about it.  They had a role model- A girl who was socially likeable, and who was competitive with the boys.  I doubt many of them had second thoughts.  It helped that she started out so early with them.  

As it stands now, the younger group of kids in this roughly 45 kid chess club is comprised of about 1/2 boys and 1/2 girls.  Some days, I will notice that the boys are getting their butts whooped so badly by the girls that it just seems unfair, and one would think that it's the boys who are at a disadvantage.  

The other school.  

This school just restarted their chess club this year.  It's a very popular program, and word travels quickly in Seattle's neighborhoods when something neat is happening.  They are only about 10 blocks away from each other, so the student population is similar, but the second school has a gifted program in which kids work one grade level above.  

I have had all of the girls in my morning session drop.  There are now two girls out of about 50 kids.  I always bring my daughter with me to the afternoon class, but not the morning.  In fact, the kids in the afternoon class always think that they are in trouble with me if I have them play my daughter!   Is it a coincidence that the girls dropped from the morning session, but not the afternoon?  I don't know, but I suspect it's mostly coincidence.  

That school is just getting started with tournament attendance, so no kids have really jumped out to shine.  That means we don't have much in the way of children as role models in there.  

What does it all mean?  

I'm really just getting started with the second school, so I'm mostly just surviving, and hoping that the kids don't hate me for getting them to go to a tournament where they only win 1 out of 5 games.  

The thing I see in the two schools is that there is a role model in one school, and not in the other.  The social part of the chess program in one school has, from the very beginning, had both boys and girls involved.  In the second school... not so much.  There's very little I can do about it.  

Positive Female Role Model
Social Opportunities within the Discipline that have higher numbers of girls
Start out young so they don't buy into the adults' stereotypes

and,

As much as I hate to say it...

Some of the girls really love the pink and purple chess sets.  So it goes.  

I look around at these gymnasiums full of kids, and I see maybe 10 or so are girls in a gym full of 200 kids.  It's a difficult situation for anyone to manage.  Imagine the reverse situation where you only found 10 boys out of 200 kids doing an activity.  You can bet that there would be a social pressure put on the kids.  Unfortunately, a lot of the social pressure comes from adults who carry their own personal baggage.  

Originally posted to otto on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 12:35 PM PST.

Also republished by Education Alternatives and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Imagine you're a 6, 7, or 8 year old boy (43+ / 0-)

    You're in chess tournament with your school.  The pairings get posted.  I'm going to tell you my daughter's name, because it's quite ominous for a fearful boy.  

    You're paired up against Pixie, a second grader who is currently the 15th highest rated player in the state of WA for her grade.  She comes to the board all smiles with her hair in pigtails.  

    It's got to be a daunting task for that boy.  

    I think it took my son about 2 years of chess before he won against a girl for the first time.  

    A little bit of the problem with girls in chess is that boys can be really obnoxious, and girls just don't really want to deal with it.  

    (Just remember these aren't absolutes.  Each kid is his or her own entity.)

    Streichholzschächtelchen

    by otto on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 12:33:25 PM PST

    •  Not only chess. Anything!! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mrkvica

      When I was younger, I was involved in junior basketball here in Australia.  (Please note the format of all junior sport in Oz is VERY different to that in the USA, it's generally organised around clubs rather than schools.)

      Anyway, I was there when they introduced an Under-10's competition in my town, and for the first season made it mixed because of the small number of teams.  My club's all-girls team won the final against an all-boys team from another club, and I was in range to hear some of the opposition parents giving their sons HELL for losing a final to girls.

      Come the second season there were enough teams to have separate boys and girls competitions, but I noticed that only a couple of the losing finalists ever played again.  Our association also decided later on not to have finals or publish ladders for Under 10's; but some parents kept their own records anyway and bragged away if their kid's team did well.  

      And thereby hangs another tale.  One year my club had a VERY athletic, and big for his age, 9 year old boy.  We agreed with his parents that it would be better for all concerned if he played Under 12's during the last season he was eligible for Under 10's (this allowed him to play soccer as well as basketball by avoiding a scheduling clash, so he himself certainly didn't need any convincing to play up an age group).  One week one of our Under 10's teams was short of numbers due to winter illnesses, and we got the kid to come along and make up the numbers.  He duly turned up at the last minute, changed out of his soccer uniform into his basketball uniform, and scored 25 points in a 32-28 win.  World War 3 then erupted, because unbeknown to me we had just happened to be drawn that week against the team that was (at that point) undefeated and was making a HUGE deal about it.  We were straight out accused of cheating, and even after providing proof-of-age there were mutterings from one opposition parent.

  •  Girls are very social creatures and really do care (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Texknight, kurt, kyril

    what other girls think. You might want to talk to some of the teachers in the second school and try to figure out if girls in that school somehow believe being in chess is a detriment to them socially. If that's the case, then you know you need to work on making that less so. If it isn't the case, then the teachers still might have some suggestions to help fix what seems to be an inequity issue.

    Also, does the second school have to go to tournament this year? Wouldn't it be better to let them build their chess skills and just let them enjoy the game before adding that other layer of pressure?

    •  Depends what you mean by pressure (6+ / 0-)

      If you think spending the day with your friends, playing 5 games of chess, and having recess the rest of the time is pressure, then they are under some serious pressure.  

      It's a very casual environment for the vast majority of kids.  

      I realize I talked about how challenging it is here.  Attending a tournament is not a whole group activity.  It is the kids who are interested in going. If kids don't want to do it, I would never make them go.  

      I will invite families to visit us at the tournament.  When they come and visit, they see that it's not what they thought it would be.  

      It's a loud, chaotic, and joyful event.  It's not a dour, somber, and purely intellectual event.  Neither are non-scholastic tournaments. Many of the competitors in non-scholastic events are kids, too. So those can be loud and chaotic at certain points, as well.  

      I'm very thoughtful about who I invite to attend tournaments.  

      Streichholzschächtelchen

      by otto on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 03:00:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  School is pressure. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Texknight

        Home can be pressure. Homework is pressure. If chess is challenging, chess club can be pressure. Pressure isn't what your definition is... it belongs to the kid that is feeling it.

        If you can't figure if the kids are feeling pressure (some might, some might not, under the exact same circumstances), then I would suggest starting from there. Maybe the girls that don't want to participate felt an uncomfortable level of pressure to perform when all they wanted to do was play chess for fun. Playing chess to win might be a different thing altogether.

        •  Great (6+ / 0-)

          Your opinion is noted.  If the kids don't want to go, they don't have to.  

          I don't get your opposition, but you are certainly welcome to it.  The schools love the chess programs.

          How do you feel about Spelling Bees?  Geog Bees?  Cup stacking competitions?  Student awards that are voted on by students?  

          I've had the conversation with myself, and with the parents in my chess clubs many, many times.

          Here is what we say about chess every day in our chess clubs.  It's about sportsmanship.  It's about learning.  I focus heavily on the learning aspects of chess, because it's a perfect encapsulation of the process of learning a new skill.  

          I can copy you some emails that I send to my clubs, and I assure you, it wouldn't be whatever it is your imagination has made it to be.  

          Of course they experience pressure.  I have to tell you that if you think you can raise a child free of pressure, you're sorely mistaken.  

          Additionally, I live in SEattle.  We stick our kids out on an icy soccer field in shorts an a short sleeve shirt at nine in the morning in the spring and fall.  

          One soccer game, my son's team was literally crying into their hands they were so cold.  

          Those games didn't even keep score.  

          We focus on healthy competition.  

          Listen to the story of my son.  

          When he was in fifth grade, he faced the highest rated player in the state.  He won.  Those players analyzed their own game together.  

          The next year, he drew the same player.  Not only were they already friends, but we were and are all friends with the coaches and other members of that team.  

          Fast forward to now.  4 years after that first meeting, the two young men are freshmen. They occupy boards one and two on a really good chess team.  They both were selected to the league all star team, as freshmen.  

          Did I mention that they play in a jazz band together?  

          Now, do you remember the first time they played against each other?  Remember how I said we know those coaches.  

          We know those coaches, because my kid and his long time friend/nemesis are now paid coaches at their school's chess club.  

          Not only that, the but the school is across the city in what one would describe as a more ethnically diverse area, while our school is over here in a fairly white area.  

          So guess who we have as our official partner school?  Guess who our kids can count on to help them out at tournaments if they need to be helped.  

          I'm sorry if you disagree, but I can only tell you that I have gone over the moral issues in this situation mulitiple, multiple times.  

          Here is one thing I tell the kids all the time-

          "What does it mean if you are good at chess?"

          They already know the answer.  They've heard it dozens of times.  

          The answer to the question

          It means you're good at chess.  

          Streichholzschächtelchen

          by otto on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 08:47:13 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm not sure why you think it is opposition. (0+ / 0-)

            It isn't. I was just responding to your wondering why girls dropped out. Period.

            Enjoy your Chess Club. Sounds like the kids that stay have a wonderful time. It's nice that you're able to offer it.

            •  VEry nice (0+ / 0-)

              You seem like someone who is concerned about kids.  

              I've spent the last 25 years working with elementary aged kids in many capacities.  

              Most of it, I've done in situations where I was far underpaid, or in situations where I provided my skill and experience for free.  

              You seemed concerned about pressure.  I explained to you why it wasn't pressure.  You said I didn't know what meant pressure to a kid.  I said the kids aren't required to do it.

              It seems to me like your concerns have been addressed within my comments, but you still wish to give me a backhanded compliment.  Classy.

              Streichholzschächtelchen

              by otto on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 11:12:16 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  sorry I disagree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      otto

      boys and girls are the product ultimately of their enviroment and upbringing

      You can be the most social person 'naturally' in the world and that doesn't mean you will be social.

      And in point of fact with all due respect this is really what we fight in general. The idea that people because of __(insert gender, skin color, race whatever) are ___ (or are not ____)

      You are what you make yourself

      •  There are outliers, that is for sure. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        duhban

        And I probably agreed more with you when I was fresh out of college before working with kids and having my own. As the years have gone by, I have a different view. Kids who attend schools that divide groups by age tend to follow pretty strict social patterns of behavior even though they have the option to make themselves in their own mold.

        I would love to see a comparison done of kids in a traditional school setting and those in a democratic school setting (like a Sudbury model but with public school kids rather than private school kids - same economic demographics). I wonder if the choices they make in how to socialize and who to be are easier for this kids in the democratic models rather than the traditional models. But this is definitely getting off topic.

        Do you follow Education Alternatives? These are the kinds of conversations we love to have. Always looking for interested diarists.

  •  Thanks for posting. I liked chess club in high (6+ / 0-)

    School.  I was a bit socially awkward, but I really enjoyed chess club.  It helped that my dad taught me starting in the fourth grade and I had played a lot so I had the opportunity to be good at something.  I remember it caused quite a stir in the club when I showed up one day out of the blue as the second best player.

    Since then, I've gone through various phases of semi regular play.  The Internet has been great for amateur chess players who enjoy playing but dislike or lack the opportunity to play in tournaments.

    Thoroughly enjoyed the post.  Reminds me of the chess "computer" my parents bought me one Christmas.  It was from sears and I would punch my moves into an interface like a digital clock.  Then the lights would randomly flash while it "thought" and then announce its move in chess notation.  It was pretty good considering the state of technology.

    A standing army is like a standing member. It's an excellent assurance of domestic tranquility, but a dangerous temptation to foreign adventure. Elbridge Gerry - Constitutional Convention (1787)

    by No Exit on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 02:40:41 PM PST

  •  Back in the '80s (9+ / 0-)

    I did some youth-hostel travel around Europe with a female friend who was a pretty good chess player. Lots of guys play chess in youth hostels - it's something to do in the evening, you don't have to speak the same language, and there is always a set to be had. My friend was the only woman I ever saw playing in those situations, and she always won. (I should perhaps add that she was incredibly cute, and I mean that in the best way, as well.) The way that these young men responded really was incredible. Grumpy, sullen; one guy swept all the pieces onto the floor and stomped out of the room when he saw the end coming. We thought it was a hoot But some of those guys may be chess teachers somewhere, today.

    Babylon system is the vampire... ~Bob Marley

    by sfinx on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 03:11:21 PM PST

    •  It's an interesting batch of people (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert, Gardener in PA, kyril

      If you're a very good chess player, then you are probably spending a lot of time trying to guess the motives of the person you're playing.  

      When we spend all of our time trying to suss out the motivations of others, it can be mentally distressing.  

      Ger from here and Maine, told me that the one rule about playing against kids is to never lose to a kid.  

      Lazlo Polgar defied the conventional thought about women in chess by training his three daughters.  All of them are amazingly good chess players.  

      I've seen a documentary that was split into pieces and posted on youtube about them.

      Streichholzschächtelchen

      by otto on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 03:31:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  What you describe is a fairly common reaction (5+ / 0-)

      In boys and younger men. It's because the others are likely to rag them up one side and down the other when they lose to a "girl" (said in a disdainful way).

      I had one guy turn the table over during a game of Monopoly when he realized I was going to beat him once again.

      Then people wonder why so many girls/women don't want to deal with the impulsive violence that many boys/men exhibit like this.

      Women create the entire labor force. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

      by splashy on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 11:50:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  re: impulsive violence upon realizing impending (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        otto, kyril, sfinx, mrkvica

        loss- One of my favorite comic strips from long ago illustrates this, and perhaps speaks to the uncontrolled anger that seems to be fueling some of our national tragedies recently:

        Dogbert beats Dilbert at Chess by yelling "My Queen has an uzi in her purse and she slays your entire side!"

  •  Girls, Girls, Girls (13+ / 0-)

    I was president of my high school chess club. That's me in the front row sitting next to our sponsor, Mr. Kennamer. Four of the members were girls including my Vice President, Secretary, and Reporter!

    The parade float the club constructed won First Place. That's me driving the Ford Galaxy convertible.

    To be honest, a lot of the male members wouldn't have even bothered to show up had it not been for the female members. The girls really were the backbone of the club in so many ways. They were also some of the best chess players.

    Thanks for an interesting diary.

       

    The only trouble with retirement is...I never get a day off!

    by Mr Robert on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 03:43:18 PM PST

    •  If you ask me to answer more candidly (6+ / 0-)

      If you want a more candid answer to why more girls don't play chess, I'd say it has something to do with the boys.  Boys can be incredibly obnoxious to young girls.  

      Streichholzschächtelchen

      by otto on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 04:51:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I spent about a year (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        otto, kyril

        working as a teacher for an after school program. So I certainly know what you mean. But, by the time kids are in high school that's less of a problem. I think we were competitive, but I don't recall the boys getting out of line in my chess club.

        The only trouble with retirement is...I never get a day off!

        by Mr Robert on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 04:57:16 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •   Also, I love those pics (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert, FindingMyVoice, kyril

      A local chess WGM recently passed away.  She did the regular Sunday  puzzle in the paper.  I don't know if she did the national papers, but she was an excellent coach.  

      Her husband is my daughter's coach.  A fairly slight man with a softly rasping voice, he seemed like a terrifying figure before I got to know him.  

      Excellent guy.

      Streichholzschächtelchen

      by otto on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 04:55:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I was the only girl on my high school chess team (6+ / 0-)

      in 1967. I would have loved to have other girls in the chess club! I also used it as an opportunity to socialize with boys and mostly dated boys in the club.

      It's true that some boys from other clubs were angry when I beat them at the state tournament, which my team won. But I didn't win all my games, either. Everyone who competes gets beat sometimes.

      I love your photos Mr. Robert, thanks for sharing.

      working for a world that works for everyone ...

      by USHomeopath on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 06:16:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Why in the world (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, otto

    Would you hate them liking the pink and purple chess set?

    http://callatimeout.blogspot.com/

    by DAISHI on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 05:46:04 PM PST

  •  I played in tournaments in high school (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    otto, kyril

    But they weren't school-sponsored. They were regular USCF tournaments with adults. I was usually ranked around 1300-1400, but my younger brother (who memorized openings and studied chess a lot) got up to around 1900-2000. I don't think he ever reached master level (which I think is around 2200 or so). We learned how to play when we were probably around 8 years old. My father and uncle played a lot. And my grandfather played, too.

    Funny thing. My father and grandfather would almost always beat me at chess when I was a kid. But when I played Scrabble against my mother, she'd often let me win (because then I'd keep playing and learn new words).

    I think it's great that you're teaching kids to play chess. One of the lessons I've learned from chess is that while the game is on you play your best and try to win, but when the game is over, you shake hands and there are no hard feelings. It's just a game.

    “If you misspell some words, it’s not plagiarism.” – Some Writer

    by Dbug on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 05:59:33 PM PST

    •  Absolutely (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril, mrkvica

      I wrote a big comment upthread about my son's long time friendship with one of his strongest opponents on the chess board.  

      Streichholzschächtelchen

      by otto on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 08:52:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I still remember a game with my grandfather (5+ / 0-)

        He always beat me, but that was OK because we'd talk about things in between moves. He was always giving me advice about life.

        I was about 12 years old. In this particular game I was getting crushed. My king was backed into a corner and my grandpa was certain to win. I studied the position and moved my knight (or was it a bishop?) to a place where it was vulnerable and unsupported and could be captured by his queen. I pretended like it was a mistake and said, "Oh no!" He swooped in and grabbed my piece. He didn't believe letting people take back a move.

        But it was a trap I had concocted. He thought I hadn't thought about it, so he moved without thinking. Which is exactly what I wanted.

        He captured the piece and I said, "Stalemate!" He looked at the board, looked at me, looked at the board, looked back at me and said, "You played for a draw! Why, I never!"

        He grumbled about it for the rest of the night. Because he should have won the game.

        I told this story at the dinner after his funeral.

        “If you misspell some words, it’s not plagiarism.” – Some Writer

        by Dbug on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 10:07:23 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  The myth made real (4+ / 0-)

    Frankly, I find women who get science incredibly sexy.  

    However, part of the reason why many girls drop out of math is based on a learning curve problem.  In the early grades (2nd-7th or so) Girls are statistically way ahead of boys.   This means that boys struggle with a lot of classwork, but teachers offer them the encouragement of: "You just need to try harder, it's going to be OK".   Since girls are normally farther ahead of the class, unless they are self motivated when they start to experience real difficulty (statistically middle school up) with subjects (primarily math) the lessons learned earlier are different.   Boys have learned it's OK to struggle and they should just work at it.   But when confronted with that struggle, many young women are basically told "maybe this isn't for you."

    This is a change in how we approach the problem.  

    Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

    by Chris Reeves on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 06:23:38 PM PST

  •  Gender & chess. Two stories. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    otto, Dbug, Flying Goat, kyril

    My older son grew up playing chess, and I was a very involved chess dad.

    Story #1. Since my kid quickly became the best player in his school, I started a regional chess club for kids from any school. We had weekly lectures, which we called "lessons", from local Class A players, Experts, and whoever else we could scare up. An IM was a special treat.

    Even though I went out of my way to recruit as many girls as I could, the club was mostly boys. And by mostly, I mean, by a lot. One day a little girl and her mother came in, having heard about the club. The mother asked, "Where are the other girls?" I said, "Look, over there! There's one!" The two of them turned on their heels & walked out.

    The girls who were in the club could take it & dish it as well as the boys could. But the girls who walked away? What can you do?

    Story #2. Eventually my kid got to High School, so I had to organize a club for him. We had fun with it, but again, almost no girls. One girl tried to join the club, but it only lasted a few weeks. She was blonde, and insisted on playing a breeze-brained, ditzy blonde role. After a few weeks, she came to me and said, "I'm quitting this danged club! All the guys treat me like I'm some kind of bimbo!"

    I wanted to plead with her, to act like the intelligent young woman she obviously was, to stop playing the breeze-brained bimbo, to stop bringing it on herself. But you can't say that, can you?  So no hard feelings, bye.

    Girls can play chess! I am completely convinced that participation is the only difference between girls & boys in chess. More girls = more girls winning. But once they walk in the door, you have to figure out how to keep them there.

    “Americans are fighters. We're tough, resourceful and creative, and if we have the chance to fight on a level playing field, where everyone pays a fair share and everyone has a real shot, then no one - no one - can stop us. ”-- Elizabeth Warren

    by Positronicus on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 06:55:22 PM PST

    •  Adults are fearful of it, too (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Positronicus, kyril

      I was helping her with some of her work in a coffee shop, and I heard a family out of the corner of my ear.  The 4 year old said, "Hey, they're playing checkers." The mom said, "Oh, that's chess.  It's a different game. " The boy says, "What is it?"  The mom says,  "Oh it's got a lot rules and different pieces..." And then the conversation ended.  

      Streichholzschächtelchen

      by otto on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 09:09:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for posting this! (4+ / 0-)

    I enjoyed the photos too.

    Interestingly, the strongest girl I ever had in my math group joined after playing scholastic chess for 3 years. The self confidence she gained here seemed to carry over into the math competitions as well.

    •  Part of the benefit I see (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nuclear winter solstice, kyril

      The lopsided boy girl numbers will probably help her exactly as you describe.

      I guess it just seems like if she were to move on in life into an area that is male dominated, I can imagine that she will not even think to notice the imbalance, because it's just not that big of a deal to her.  After all, she's played them all before.  

      Streichholzschächtelchen

      by otto on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 08:56:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This diary is misleading. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    otto, kyril, mrkvica

    I was promised three parts girls to one part chess.

  •  Hou Yifan (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    otto, kyril, mrkvica

    Hou Yifan has had some tremendous results, and is playing in the annual Tata Steel tournament this year: she was Women's World Champion 2010-2012, and was invited this year to compete in this very prestigious tournament (it finishes tomorrow). She's in the bottom half of the rankings there, but she has been facing some of the top players in the world. She is only 18 years old.

    In the C section (also invitation-only but not as high rated) there are several female players including a 14-year-old Russian girl, Aleksandra Goryachkina (rated 2402).

    Most chess players, male or female, don't even get close to this level of play, so these are pretty inspiring examples.

    (Judit Polgar is still the best female player: ranked #51 on the world rating list. But Yifan beat her last year in a game they played in the Tradewise Gibraltar tournament).

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