Men do not dominate chess competitions because they are better at the game but simply because women do not like it, according to an Oxford University study.
By Stephen Adams
Last Updated: 2:36PM GMT
27 Jan 2009
The lack of women who have broken into the top ranks of chess players is almost purely because so few of them play, academics found.
Researchers at the university’s Department of Experimental Psychology discovered that 96 per cent of the difference in performance can be accounted for by the vastly greater numbers of men who play.
They made their conclusions after analysing results from just over 120,000 members of the German Chess Federation, in which men outnumber women by 16:1.
Using a points-based scoring system, they found that men only slightly outperformed women.
Research team member Merim Bilalic, author of ‘Does Chess Need Intelligence?’, said: “Although the performance of the 100 best German male chess players is better than that of the 100 best German women, we show that 96 percent of the observed difference is down to the fact a greater number of men play chess. There is little left for biological or cultural explanations to account for.”
Gerry Wade, president of the English Chess Federation, thought the conclusions were “absolutely right”.
He said: “At primary school level, when there are an equal number of boys and girls playing, there’s a level playing field.”
Britain’s top ranked women’s player Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant only missed out on last year’s British Open titled by a single game, he said.
There has never been a female open world chess champion, nor a female British Open champion.