I have to object to Steve Goldberg's recent article in the Examiner about the recent All Girls US Chess School.
The most intriguing player from the U.S. Chess School
August 16, 12:34 AM · Steve Goldberg - Chess Examiner
Of course, every one of the players from the 10th session of the U.S. Chess School is very talented and brings something special to the table.
As Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis Executive Director Tony Rich commented, "Each of the young ladies in this all-girl edition of the chess school is probably stronger than everyone else in the building" (except for the instructors).
With the caveat that time didn't allow this reporter to get to know all the participants, the player that may be the most intriguing isn't a girl at all.
He's nine-year-old Jonathan Chiang, brother of participant Sarah Chiang. Jonathan was one of the players at an earlier session of the U.S. Chess School and is a remarkable child.
At one point, IM Greg Shahade presented a "White to move and win" problem to Jonathan. After about thirty seconds thought, he looked up at Greg and said, "It's pretty easy," as he found the initial move to the problem. Greg responded, "No it's not!" as he watched Jonathan contend with various stalemating options that Black had available. In short order, though, Jonathan indeed found the correct path to seal the victory.
This is one to keep an eye on for the future.
Before I start, let me say that Jonathan is an immensely talented, hilarious, hugely likeable child, and this is nothing against him. Also, Steve is a nice guy and I usually like his stuff, but this article seems to really miss a number of important points.
One of the big reasons to have a girls-only class is that typically boys treat questions in the classroom like a competitive game, trying to be the first to answer, rather than to really think about the question and try to get the answer right. This has the effect of silencing the "slower" (in fact, just more thoughtful) girls, and of creating the (totally false) impression that the boys are smarter. Jonathan was almost always the first to think he had the answer but was usually wrong, to the extent that Kaidanov and Greg would both good naturedly tease him when he raised his hand. He's even impatient and wrong in the example Steve gives. Singling this behavior out for praise seems misguided and unhelpful to everyone involved:
It hurts Jonathan, since it praises and thereby reinforces his worst habit, carelessness / overconfidence /overquickness.
It hurts the girls, by taking away from them one of the few opportunities for public recognition. Why not write about Abby Marshall, the first female to ever win the Denker? Isn't that more impressive than getting an answer wrong in 30 seconds?? Or write about Rochelle and Darrian, who gave an incredible number of correct, thoughtful, imaginative answers? Or write about thirteen year old Megan Lee, who won the Under 18 section of Girls Nationals and tied for first (with Abby) in the US Chess School blitz tournament?
It hurts the general public and the chess community, by reinforcing the idea that boys (even when they are much lower rated) are more talented than girls at chess.
update: Arne Moll of Chess Vibes writes about the issue