Monday, September 21, 2009

more gender and chess


STRATEGIC BEHAVIOR ACROSS GENDER
- A COMPARISON OF FEMALE AND MALE EXPERT CHESS PLAYERS

This paper studies expert chess players, making use of an extensive database from international chess. We investigate whether men and women differ in choice of strategy, and particularly, we distinguish between "risk-averse" and "risk-loving" strategies. Controlling for playing strength, age and nationality, we find that females are more risk-averse. Furthermore, males act more aggressively against female opponents even though this reduces men’s winning probability. Due to enduring differences even after using individual fixed effects, we think that gender differences in preferences are to some extent biologically determined. This sheds new light on the discussion of women’s under-representation in society. read it


thanks to Macauley Peterson for the paper

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

hmm, it sheds new light... unless the subjects of the study knew about similar studies, in which case... wait, I'm confused now. Just another frakking study

Temposchlucker said...

If you would try to hunt down a mammoth with a risk-averse strategy you would end up hungry. By taking risks both the probabilities that the mammoth dies and that the hunter dies increase. In order to be succesfull in mammoth-hunting you need to suppress your fear and common sense. I hypothesize that testosteron is a chemical which is able to do that.

It is miraculous that shutting down your common sense in chess is not punished by losing all your games. Maybe a risk-averse strategy tends to lead to a draw. While risk taking distorts the balance and increases the probality to end up with a win or loss.

If that's the case women would produce more draws. I wonder if that is the case.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm an IM, and I think draws are a kind of risk too.

Anonymous said...

The population of expert chess players is possibly such an unrepresentative group that I wonder whether these conclusions shed any light on society as a whole. The fact that women are vastly outnumbered by men among chess experts introduces some kind of bias. The sampling is hardly random: people choose whether to be chess players, non-random factors determine whether they excel. All this paper shows is that their conclusions about chess experts is consistent with conclusions from certain other studies; they haven't proved anything more about society in general.

Leon Akpalu said...

This is a very strange result, when you think of how many top female players are ultra-sharp (J. Polgar, Xie Jun, Gaprindashvili) and how there really are no top women (please correct em if I'm wrong) with the "boa constrictor" style of a Kramnik/Karpov/Andersson.

Their methodology is also a bit shaky: they say that they evaluate the players' risk-taking level by having four experts grade the ECO opening codes as risky or solid and then seeing what people played.

But the ECO system is not perfect, and there are many currently important openings that are only defined after the ECO code is finished. For instance, in the Sozin, Black's ...Qb6 occurs after the ECO line is finished, so whether or not the game suddenly becomes very solid is not reflected in the code. Likewise in the Slav, the Schlechter variation and the Geller gambit can both arise out of the same "early sidelines" code.

I place more confidence in the Chabris study showing that young players of similar ratings drop out at similar rates (and have other similar behaviors) regardless of gender. And the fact that female achievements have risen pretty much in direct proportion to their participation. I mean, we now have four or five woman players on their (male) national teams, a result that Fischer probably wouldn't have believed in. Likewise, when I was in high school, the top American female players were all experts (and there were only three or four of them). Now, I wouldn't be surprised if there are an equivalent number of female *masters* just in high school (certainly in college).

I wonder in passing if the "C. L. Chabris" credited with this study is the Chris Chabris who was a chess rival in my youth.

Leon Akpalu said...

@Temposchlucker:

You're wrong about hunting the mammoth. A pit trap is a risk-averse but highly successful strategy. You're assuming that the testosterone-driven, "running screaming at the mammoth waving a spear" strategy is the only effective one.

Besides that issue in the abstract, I have seen a study of hunting in aboriginal tribes in the Phillipines, and it found that women were the more effective hunters.

The men went off in small groups, hunted large animals, and used individual-effort, testosterone-intensive strategy. They had a fun time, got to feel heroic, and occasionally brought back big hunks of meat that they beat their chest over, but often the prey just got away while the men were busy yelling and chasing it.

The women went out in organized groups and beat the bushes to scare out small game like rabbits and mice, which women waiting in planned, strategic locations beat them to death with sticks. Very low-risk, but very effective. Small animal by small animal, the women brought back twice as much meat as the men.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

My first concern is that risky openings also tend to be theory heavy openings, so perhaps you could argue that what’s really revealed is a female aversion to studying or memorizing variations. I think it’s also worth noting how much the article privileges both tactical play and risk taking

Leon Akpalu said...

@ Elizabeth Vicary said...
" My first concern is that risky openings also tend to be theory heavy openings, so perhaps you could argue that what’s really revealed is a female aversion to studying or memorizing variations. I think it’s also worth noting how much the article privileges both tactical play and risk taking "

Yes. Plus: many of the players who use sharp openings do so because they've spent a lot of time memorizing them and hope to use their prep to win *without* risk.

The article could have phrased its findings as "We found that the male players tend to cling to memorized openings (especially against women), whereas the female players are more comfortable being creative early on, thinking up their own moves and being responsible for their own play."

This lays it on a little thick, but it shows how the way you spin it affects the tone of the results.

Anonymous said...

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/28670

Jan said...

I can't believe this kind of stuff is STILL an issue! Please read this study, http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/114262136/PDFSTART?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0 which amply demonstrates that any differences in how males and females play chess are due to socialization of the sexes, and NOT due to 'inherent' differences (or hormones) between the sexes. Geez!

gurdonark said...

The metrics are interesting, but the analysis is less compelling.

I recall over the years reading the "knock" against women players (particularly developing women players) that they tend to play "innocuous" openings, such as the London, Colle or King's Indian Attack, while male players play "aggressive" openings like e4 gambits and the Sicilian. Let's leave aside the obvious discussion about "innocuous" and "aggressive" (is Morezevich a passive player when he plays the London? Was Suttle when he played 1. g3?).

I thought that this type of comment showed 2 things--
a. a difference in opening preparation resources available to the female players in question. If you are teaching yourself, or don't have the first databases, you tend to play solidly rather than at the cutting edge, and
b. the author's own gender bias, because anyone who plays Bs, As, experts, and even 2200 level masters in US tourney play realizes that a lot of male players play "innocuous" openings and count on winning middlegames and endgames.

I posit my theory, admitting it is entirely anecdotal--there is one reason and one reason only for gender differences in chess--and that is more opportunity and nurture for male players in most settings.

anjiaoshi said...

This is a very strange result, when you think of how many top female players are ultra-sharp (J. Polgar, Xie Jun, Gaprindashvili) and how there really are no top women (please correct em if I'm wrong) with the "boa constrictor" style of a Kramnik/Karpov/Andersson.

Perhaps this is because, given the existing lopsidedness in sex representation, it takes a particularly aggressive female personality to break into the top levels. A more patient female player might feel content to remain in the middle ranks -- or might simply decide that success in such a domain simply wasn't worth her while.

Based on Jennifer Shahade's observation that "playing like a girl" in chess seems to mean playing aggressively, almost recklessly so, the hypothesis that successful female chess players feel a need to "out-guy the guys" explains perceptions about the styles of top-level women. This latest study raises the question of whether women's "risk-averse" play is typical or atypical at the top levels, and if it is typical in general but atypical at the top levels, whether the difference has anything to do with top-level players' success.

The trouble with applying this kind of analysis to, say, an expert-level player is that you can point to her style and say, "See? This is why she isn't a grandmaster!" But you can also point to her style and say, "See? This is why she's an expert!" It's not easy to know whether a player's style makes her stronger or weaker than she might otherwise be.

Globular said...

Honestly, who cares? There's enough personal variation in people to explain anything.

We just need more girls to play in schools, then they'll grow into more women playing eventually.

Keep doing what you're doing Elizabeth; I sincerely hope the kind of program your school supports becomes the norm.

-Matt

Jo "Skip Frog" Tenkins said...

And going right along with your train of thought, why do terrorists exclusively use russian weapons? I mean you never see them with a M16 or even a stolen Steyr AUG A1, oh no, it's always an ak or an rpd, or even a dragunov.

Anonymous said...

Вы американцы настолько глупы

Jo "Skip Frog" Tenkins said...

We here southerners aren't much for book learnin' but I'll tell you this much, I didn't fight a secret war in Zaraysk so you could go around bad mouthing Lady Liberty in your damned mirrored sunglasses. Я убью вашего семейного коммуниста! Didn't think I knew the language of the forked tongue did you? I'll be cracking open a bottle of PBR and rubbing one out to Gretchen Wilson in your honor pinko! USA USA USA USA USA!!

Brunner "Dowitcher Bill" Buel said...

This here be none other than Jo's cousin by marriage and disparage, but enough kneeslappers ya'll, got to come straight with this anonymous fellow. I reckon you mustered all the courage you had just to write that comment under an anonymous name. Calling the great Harrison Ford, our iconic Indiana Jones, and Cate Blanchett 'Capitalist Puppets' just to get a whipsnapping headline, real macho. I bet your Aunt Olga has a hairy back, you heard what I said mister. You call a beautiful girl in Russia a tourist, and no amount of stolichnaya vodka is going to change that fact! Time to lift the Bonnie Blue Flag and get the cartridges I s'pose, I reckon you don't have a lick a sense, I'll give you some knowledge Russki, Stonewall Jackson style.

Anonymous said...

Ваша страна - дерьмо

Elizabeth Vicary said...

thanks Matt

anjiaoshi said...

Я верю, что вы в сговоре с мясником!

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's the same Chabris from your youth.