Why do so few women play chess compared to bridge.

Discuss anything you like about women's chess at home and abroad.
Michele Clack
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Why do so few women play chess compared to bridge.

Postby Michele Clack » Sun Mar 20, 2011 3:13 pm

Let's have a new topic. I played at a club the other day where there was a bridge club in another room. I couldn't help but notice that a least half the players were female. In the chess room I was the only female and only about 10% of graded players are female.

Is it perhaps that learning bridge is more accessible. You often see bridge courses for beginners at local colleges.

If we could recruit 9,000 new graded chess players to reach parity the ECF would have plenty of money at a stroke.

Thomas Rendle
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Re: Why do so few women play chess compared to bridge.

Postby Thomas Rendle » Sun Mar 20, 2011 3:35 pm

I suspect that one reason is that playing bridge is (or at least it is seen as) more social . It's two people working as a team - chess on the other hand is very much about the individual.

Chess certainly has an image problem still. If the game is viewed as male dominated (which to some extent it is) then many women will not choose to join a local club. It's a vicious circle - some women that do investigate chess clubs may be put off returning by the lack of other women. We also have a situation where at secondary school age girls often don't even admit to playing chess out of embarrassment! This can also be the case with boys but I think the problem is less.

Richard Bates
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Re: Why do so few women play chess compared to bridge.

Postby Richard Bates » Sun Mar 20, 2011 3:40 pm

It's coz women live longer, innit! ;)

Seriously i wonder what the relative numbers are like for the Under 40s, before a significant factor in the statistics becomes the husband/wife partnership.

Also how "competition" bridge compares with "social" bridge.

Alex Holowczak
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Re: Why do so few women play chess compared to bridge.

Postby Alex Holowczak » Sun Mar 20, 2011 3:55 pm

Thomas Rendle wrote:We also have a situation where at secondary school age girls often don't even admit to playing chess out of embarrassment! This can also be the case with boys but I think the problem is less.


I'm not sure if this is something that effects boys more than girls. I certainly had the problem of writing reports for assemblies and having to miss out about half of the players' names, due to them requesting they weren't mentioned. They didn't want to be associated with chess. Interestingly, both of the girls who played for my school team were quite happy for their name to be mentioned.

I think it's just more noticeable with the girls because there are so few of them in the first place.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Why do so few women play chess compared to bridge.

Postby Roger de Coverly » Sun Mar 20, 2011 4:31 pm

michele clack wrote:Is it perhaps that learning bridge is more accessible. You often see bridge courses for beginners at local colleges.


Up to a point, chess is easier to learn because it lacks all the obscure rules of Bridge. You might be told that it's wrong to move a piece twice in the opening, but it's not a law of chess you've infringed.

I did once check out local Bridge clubs, not because I wanted to play, but I wanted to see how many there were. What was very obvious was that many of them took place on weekday afternoons. Chess clubs would be reluctant to do this because you obviously exclude those attending educational establishments and those in work. So the demographic for Bridge clubs is the retired and those not in full time work. Historically (and perhaps currently), those not in full time work included more women than men.

Ian Kingston
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Re: Why do so few women play chess compared to bridge.

Postby Ian Kingston » Sun Mar 20, 2011 5:14 pm

Richard Bates wrote:It's coz women live longer, innit! ;)

Seriously i wonder what the relative numbers are like for the Under 40s, before a significant factor in the statistics becomes the husband/wife partnership.

Also how "competition" bridge compares with "social" bridge.

My chess club meets on the same night at the same venue as the local bridge club. Not a single member of the bridge club would fit in the Under 40 category. One or two might be under 50, but I wouldn't bet on it. The male:female ratio is about 50:50.

Martyn Harris
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Re: Why do so few women play chess compared to bridge.

Postby Martyn Harris » Mon Mar 21, 2011 1:01 pm

Michele,
A dangerous topic to contribute to as there is clearly a danger of sexual stereotyping, so I'll just natter away about bridge and the way it operates for a while, and you can decide whether any of it is relevant.



The staple diet of the bridge player is the club duplicate in which they compete in pairs, playing 24 to 30 deals (usually in sets of 2 or 3 against each of several other pairs), and with the players meeting the same hands during the course of the session. The pairs' performance is determined by how well they score on each hand in comparison to how others performed when holding the same cards.

Many bridge players only ever play at their own club(s) (multiple membership is common), so that they have set nights/afternoons on which they play, and of course a fixed venue.

Over the course of a whole session the best pairs tend to do best; however a fortuitous lie of the cards can enable inferior pairs to outscore their superiors on any particular deal. Consequently over the course of a session most pairs will have at least one or two good scores on individual hands to dine out on, making mixed-ability fields a more welcoming prospect for the weaker player than in chess where the lower standard player can expect to be consistently kicked from pillar to post.

A set of boards may take 15 to 20 minutes to complete, though obviously not all tables finish simultaneously. As a result the quicker tables will have a minute or two of dead time in which they can discuss grandchildren, holidays or anything else. Preferably quietly, so as not to disturb tables still in play.

New members of a club will usually join at the same time as a partner, be introduced by a current member, or come to the club with others for lessons. Apart from experienced players looking for a new club there is no sense of having to break the ice on your own.



Many bridge clubs own their own premises, chess clubs that use them will usually attest to these being amongst the pleasanter venues in their leagues. Even those bridge clubs using village halls and community centres will rarely if ever find themselves playing to a background of blaring music from a ladies keep fit class down the corridor. It is common either to have a refreshment break and/or to have decent tea/coffee making facilities available for use at any time. Some clubs may include the cost of coffee and biscuits in the table money.



There are plenty of bridge clubs whose members resent the EBU's attempts to get more money out of them. What you don't get at bridge are people resenting paying their club for providing them with playing opportunities. The desire to use second rate but free facilities seems entirely absent.



Bridge clubs are generally bigger than their chess counterparts, those with their own premises typically have memberships of over 100. Not all of these are affiliated to the EBU, so you won't find out about them by visiting the EBU website. On joining a club there is thus a good chance of meeting like-minded souls to strike up genuine friendships with.



Bridge is often first taken up by people on reaching retirement. Such people will often have a different expectations of the game than those who start early in life - it is much more an evenings entertainment in pleasant company than a step on the road to becoming world champion. Though there can be some intolerance in both directions between the thrusting young Turks and those playing bridge for social reasons, the former realize that to get on in the game they have to play in competition outside their club, and the latter are sufficiently numerous that at the very least their outlook is catered for. Often it is the more social players who organise and set the ethos of the club.

In contrast many chess leagues are not at all sympathetic to those who are no longer actively seeking to improve but just want a night out with an interesting game in which they have a reasonable chance of success. Rules on promotion and relegation, team make-up and board order conspire to tell the player what chess they have to play. No surprise that players unable to get the chess they want give up.



It is generally reckoned that women outnumber men at all but the highest levels in bridge. As far as clubs are concerned it may be true that university and school clubs are predominantly male, but in general a woman would not feel at all out of place walking into a bridge club.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Why do so few women play chess compared to bridge.

Postby Roger de Coverly » Mon Mar 21, 2011 1:39 pm

Martyn Harris wrote:so I'll just natter away about bridge and the way it operates for a while, and you can decide whether any of it is relevant.


Any thoughts on the near complete absence of prize money in Bridge? We noticed that Bridge at the Riviera Centre in Torquay and at the Denham Grove hotel had higher entry fees and no money prizes in comparison to the equivalent chess events. I believe there are professional players in Bridge, how do they earn?

Louise Sinclair
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Re: Why do so few women play chess compared to bridge.

Postby Louise Sinclair » Mon Mar 21, 2011 2:15 pm

I have never played Bridge although I like other card games and have played rummy and many forms of poker - just haven't come across many bridge players except one grumpy (now deceased) uncle.
Louise
You might very well think that ; I couldn't possibly comment.
' you turn if you want. The lady's not for turning'

Geoff Chandler
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Re: Why do so few women play chess compared to bridge.

Postby Geoff Chandler » Mon Mar 21, 2011 2:35 pm

Why do so few women play chess compared to Bridge?

The answer is obvious.

In Bridge you are allowed to talk. The bidding phase of the game.

In Chess there is no talking.

Introduce talking into chess and the clubs will be overflowing with women.

Krishna Shiatis
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Re: Why do so few women play chess compared to bridge.

Postby Krishna Shiatis » Mon Mar 21, 2011 6:39 pm

Not sure the comparison with bridge, but I certainly do have some ideas why many girls do not play chess. I do coach many girls who play chess as well as boys and there is a real difference in their attitude. I will number the differences in the order that I believe is the most contributing factor to the difference in attitude. (This does not apply to all girls - there are of course exceptions.....)

1) Girls are in general less aggressive than boys. This translates onto the chess board. When they first begin, girls really do not like to checkmate and will actively 'balk' at the kiss of death, where the Queen has to sit on top of the enemy King. In real life, they do not have such face-offs, which boys will do all the time in the playground to establish who is boss.

Having said this, once you teach the girls how to do checkmate successfully, they take to it like ducks to water and are fine with it. They do play 'in general' less aggresively, but once taught how to do it, are usually fine.

2) Girls like to 'give and take'. They will also do things like 'agree not to take the bishop if their opponent agrees not to take their knight' then they will happily agree to play until they draw. In contrast, the boys will mash their opponents without a care in the world and still be 'mates'. When I am teaching, I always ensure that the girls play the boys. They then get used to it and learn to 'mash' just like the boys and to understand that this is part of 'chess'.

3) If girls are not taught how to play aggressively, they always lose when they play against the boys. This results in them feeling that they are not 'good' at chess and they swiftly give up. It is imperative to teach them how to checkmate and develop fast before they get to this stage.

4) Boys will happily play chess for hours. Girls will do this sometimes, but usually have a range of hobbies. This means that their time and attention is often diluted. Again, it means that girls will develop their skills at a different pace to to the boys. If they are not fast enough and the boys are improving much faster, again this can put a lot of girls 'off'.

5) Some girls do believe that boys are just 'better' at chess. I do tell them that this is not the case, but with so few girls at the top, it is a hard sell.

Louise Sinclair
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Re: Why do so few women play chess compared to bridge.

Postby Louise Sinclair » Mon Mar 21, 2011 9:02 pm

Krishna
I like your views. It seems you have pinpointed the problem and are actively working on it. Ofcourse society in general abhors aggression / assertiveness in women and this isn't just masculine disapproval - other women dislike tough females. I recall my mother referring to Margaret Thatcher as a man in drag because she disapproved of her confrontational nature. For the record I admired it.
I do believe that great efforts are used to ensure that women remain docile people pleasers on and off the chessboard.
Louise
You might very well think that ; I couldn't possibly comment.
' you turn if you want. The lady's not for turning'

Ljubica Lazarevic
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Re: Why do so few women play chess compared to bridge.

Postby Ljubica Lazarevic » Mon Mar 21, 2011 9:49 pm

It's a tricky one. I do feel that society is largely to blame whether a girl has all the 'typical' female characteristics. One only has to look at the animal kingdom to realise that it's a misnomer to believe that the female of the species is some sort of a docile, gentle and non-aggressive creature.

From the moment of birth, characteristics are placed upon a child, "oh, isn't she so precious", "my, what a strong, big boy you are!". These classifications are perpetually repeated upon and recycled. With such degrees of behavioural therapy at such a young age, it's hardly surprising that these gender divides start to occur in areas considered to be solely of male disciplines. It is a well-recognised problem. There is no satisfactory physiological reason why there shouldn't be more women in the classical sciences, engineering and technology, or indeed chess.

Unfortunately in the western world, the fallacy that these aren't suitable areas to be pursued by women from a very early age, indirectly, and it really takes something extra for a woman to rise above this.

What is interesting, however, is how we are slowly moving away from an age where physical strength dictated our survival to the information age. With the last of the identifiable gender differences becoming slowly irrelevant to further the species forward, along with a change in attitudes to families verses career, it will be very interesting whether there is a gradual shift to 'gender neutrality'.

Alan Burke

Re: Why do so few women play chess compared to bridge.

Postby Alan Burke » Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:29 am

Ljubica ... I totally agree with your sentiments regarding 'conditioning' from birth and I'm certain that virtually everyone has been "innocently guilty" (now there's phrase to conjour with) of doing just that. It's just one of the ways of the world that has become the norm over the centuries - like when anyone sees a new baby; their usually reaction is; "Oh what a beautiful boy/girl" .. I've never heard anyone saying "Isn't he/she ugly !" (Well, not in public anyway !)

I totally agree that a unisex society would be far better and that the shape of our bodies should not be any reason for differences amongst us - however, would men then also be allowed to enter the ladies if there was a long queue at the toilets ? (Only joking, in case anyone wants to take issue with that.)

To prove my acceptance of any lady who wants to get involved in a "man's world", I was actively involved in rugby at a professional level for 30 years and during that period assisted and coached many ladies who wanted to both play and officiate in the sport. OK, they may have been looked upon by some as a 'novelty' but so would a man who decided he wanted to join the local knitting club.

Geoff Chandler
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Re: Why do so few women play chess compared to bridge.

Postby Geoff Chandler » Tue Mar 22, 2011 11:55 am

"Not True, most bridge clubs now use silent bidding cards."

Good. I'll have somewhere to go when the women start flocking to my Chess Club. :)

Joking aside: I always thought that;

The majority of women/girls simply don't want to play chess.

Nothing to do with brain size, left and right thinking, how you are brought up.
The game just does not appeal to the majority and you cannot force anyone
to play a game they don't like.

Women who do take up the game are just as good as men.
(I know because in one league season my only losses were to Elaine Rutherford
and Carey Wilman. I was losing to more women than men!).

People are doing the right things by introducing the game into schools
and opening the door to this great game by inviting everyone in.
Nobody is to blame for the lack of female players, they are not targetting
just the boys.

It just that Chess simply does not appeal to them as much as it does boys.
And even if one great day some clever clogs can give a 100% reason why.

Then it won't change a thing.
The majority of women/girls simply don't want to play chess.

Right I'm off to get a 2nd hand book on Bridge just in case.

I understand it's a bit like Trumps except, and here for me it will
become difficult, I need a partner.

(Actually looking forward to learning Bridge. I will now have four Queens to sac.)


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