Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sam Sloan Was Right...and it's the end of the world as we know it...

Ohmygoddess.  I remember reading umpteen years ago an April 1st article by Sam Sloan about a chess game between a young, attractive young lady in a sleeveless, scooped neck blouse (think: tank top) and an older grumpy butt dude who complained, after he lost the game, that the young lady in question had distracted him with her overly-sexy dress.  Mind you, as far as I could tell, she only played chess and ignored the older grumpty butt dude during the entire course of the game.  She did not smile; she did not flirt; she probably did not even blink. Her focus was on the game only --

Could such a thing possible be true, I - chess novice then (and now) - asked myself?  Over the years, there seemed to be scant evidence to support this premise in written accounts of chess events and, believe me, I scoured them for any hint of such evidence.  I found nothing, other than Mankova's mink-draped photographs in a Russian magazine (read article below) and some drooling commentary thereon to suggest that chess dudes even noticed the actual gender of their opponent  -- but then, there was a fist fight between two grandmasters at a certain Chess Olympiad over certain lovely female chessplayer who shall remain nameless.  An outlyer?  Perhaps.

In any event, scientific research continues apace and - ah ha!, it appears that Mr. Sloan was correct in the premise underlying his April Fool's Day article which was (I think) that attractive female chessplayers can be a distraction to male chessplayers. 

Honestly, I'm not making this stuff up.  It was reported tonight in no less an authoritative source than Duncan Loeb McClain's chess blog (yes, I do mean that tongue in cheek) at the venerable New York Times.  Read for yourself:

January 12, 2011, 4:43 pm
To Play Better Against Attractive Women, Men Need to Avert Their Eyes

Do men get distracted by and play differently against attractive women than against other opponents? Yes, according to a study by Swedish researchers.

Called “Beauty Queens and Battling Knights: Risk Taking and Attractiveness in Chess,” the study used a large data set of results from international chess tournaments and cross-referenced them with photographs of 626 of the players — almost half of them women — whose attractiveness was rated by at least 50 independent observers.

The study concluded, “Our results suggest that male chess players choose significantly riskier strategies when playing against an attractive female opponent, even though this does not improve their performance. Women’s strategies are not affected by the attractiveness of the opponent.”

Rest of article. 

Ahhhhh, romance, romance.  All those medieval accounts of romantic chessgames and murders by stone boards smashed over the head of an opponent must be true...

From Goddesschess:

On the topic of gender stereotypes in chess, see generally Gender and Chess
The Tussle in Turin

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