For every 1-standard-deviation increase in a female opponent’s attractiveness, male participants in large international chess competitions have an 8% greater propensity to play risky openings, but these moves aren’t beneficial for their game performance, says a team led by Anna Dreber of Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden. Female players, by contrast, don’t appear to be affected by the attractiveness of their male partners. Although there’s no payoff on the chess board, “it could turn out that playing a risky strategy against an attractive female player is beneficial for a male player outside of the chess game,” the researchers note.


In this study we explore the relationship between attractiveness and risk taking in chess. We examine whether people use riskier strategies when playing with attractive opponents, whether this affects performance, and whether there are gender differences in the reaction to an attractive opponent. We use a large international panel dataset on chess competitions which includes a control for the players’ skill in chess. We combine this data with results from a large survey on an online labor market where participants were asked to rate the photos of 626 expert chess players. Our results suggest that male chess players choose significantly riskier strategies when playing against an attractive female opponent, although this does not improve their performance. Women’s strategies are not affected by the attractiveness of the opponent.

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Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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