Diversity in chess

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Diversity in chess

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Fri Aug 13, 2010 11:53 pm

[New thread started following a males/females in chess comment in the "Ethnic Diversity in Chess" thread]

I was browsing a website recently (belonging to a member of this forum who will doubtlessly recognise it when I quote it) and the following could spawn multiple threads if the male-female aspect hasn't been done to death enough:
"[chess] knows no boundaries of age, colour or creed. It can be played by men, women and children, by the blind, the deaf and the physically handicapped."
It struck me, on thinking about this, that it is more true than I had realised. It takes me no more than a few seconds to think of examples for each of those areas mentioned, and while you sometimes have to get used to some differences, the basic game is still there, unchanged, and that is the beauty of it. Almost at the level of two minds connecting in a pure mental battle. A good game of chess can leave me amazed at the abilities of the human mind (well, until a computer gives its verdict on the game, but even then, the abstract aspect of two minds duelling over the board is still amazing).

Other 'barriers' that chess can overcome include language and time. It is possible to play chess with people who know no English, and still feel a kinship with them, it is possible to play chess with computers (maybe even one day with artificial intelligences) though I don't get any feeling of kinship there(!), and it is possible to play through games from the past and feel kinship with both unknowns and famous people from history. And the games being played today are part of the legacy the game leaves for future generations.

And the best thing of all is the friendships that can result, even across some of these seeming barriers.

Richard James
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Re: Diversity in chess

Post by Richard James » Sat Aug 14, 2010 12:06 am

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:[New thread started following a males/females in chess comment in the "Ethnic Diversity in Chess" thread]

I was browsing a website recently (belonging to a member of this forum who will doubtlessly recognise it when I quote it) and the following could spawn multiple threads if the male-female aspect hasn't been done to death enough:
"[chess] knows no boundaries of age, colour or creed. It can be played by men, women and children, by the blind, the deaf and the physically handicapped."
:) :D :o 8) :lol: :P :roll:

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: Diversity in chess

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Sat Aug 14, 2010 12:19 am

Richard James wrote:
Christopher Kreuzer wrote:[New thread started following a males/females in chess comment in the "Ethnic Diversity in Chess" thread]

I was browsing a website recently (belonging to a member of this forum who will doubtlessly recognise it when I quote it) and the following could spawn multiple threads if the male-female aspect hasn't been done to death enough:
"[chess] knows no boundaries of age, colour or creed. It can be played by men, women and children, by the blind, the deaf and the physically handicapped."
:) :D :o 8) :lol: :P :roll:
Yeah, I found it more interesting than the Chessmetrics website! 8)

Jonathan Bryant
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Re: Diversity in chess

Post by Jonathan Bryant » Sat Aug 14, 2010 8:26 am

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
"[chess] knows no boundaries of age, colour or creed. It can be played by men, women and children, by the blind, the deaf and the physically handicapped."
"can" - yes ... but as far as club and tournament chess goes, chess is largely restricted to white men. There are exceptions, of course, but clearly at club/tournament level our game is not as diverse as it could be.


Edit:
I'm talking about England here. Things may be different elsewhere for all I know.

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Re: Diversity in chess

Post by Richard James » Sat Aug 14, 2010 5:00 pm

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
Yeah, I found it more interesting than the Chessmetrics website! 8)
Never! If you like statistics Chessmetrics is wonderful! My site only exists to deter parents who might otherwise want me to teach their kids! :wink:

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Re: Diversity in chess

Post by Richard James » Sat Aug 14, 2010 5:27 pm

Jonathan Bryant wrote:
Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
"[chess] knows no boundaries of age, colour or creed. It can be played by men, women and children, by the blind, the deaf and the physically handicapped."
"can" - yes ... but as far as club and tournament chess goes, chess is largely restricted to white men. There are exceptions, of course, but clearly at club/tournament level our game is not as diverse as it could be.


Edit:
I'm talking about England here. Things may be different elsewhere for all I know.
In terms of club chess, yes, you're right. The Thames Valley League, where I play, is dominated by white middle-aged males. But the Richmond Rapidplays, for instance, are pretty diverse in terms of both age and colour, and probably also creed. Most junior tournaments are pretty diverse in terms of both colour and creed as well.

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Re: Diversity in chess

Post by Jonathan Bryant » Sat Aug 14, 2010 6:19 pm

Richard James wrote:In terms of club chess, yes, you're right. The Thames Valley League, where I play, is dominated by white middle-aged males. But the Richmond Rapidplays, for instance, are pretty diverse in terms of both age and colour, and probably also creed. Most junior tournaments are pretty diverse in terms of both colour and creed as well.
Yes, I was going to mention that junior tournaments seem to be much more balanced in terms of gender. I'll take you're word for it with regard to the other biographical details that you mention.

My own club is located in a particularly diverse borough of London - which is, of course, more diverse than most places in England (or anywhere else i suspect). Nevertheless, the club is almost exculsively white male of a certain age.

We have connections with a club who meet in the local library. This is largely made up of casual players, some of whom join us to play in league matches but many of whom don't. We have joint tournaments that are highly enjoyable.

The library club is much more diverse in terms of ethnic origin, much more reflective of the local community as a whole, than the chess club that plays in the London League.



That chess, could easily be highly diverse, is sometimes, but isn't when it comes to League/tournament chess is rather interesting I think.

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Re: Diversity in chess

Post by Richard James » Sat Aug 14, 2010 6:24 pm

Jonathan Bryant wrote:
Richard James wrote:In terms of club chess, yes, you're right. The Thames Valley League, where I play, is dominated by white middle-aged males. But the Richmond Rapidplays, for instance, are pretty diverse in terms of both age and colour, and probably also creed. Most junior tournaments are pretty diverse in terms of both colour and creed as well.
Yes, I was going to mention that junior tournaments seem to be much more balanced in terms of gender. I'll take you're word for it with regard to the other biographical details that you mention.

My own club is located in a particularly diverse borough of London - which is, of course, more diverse than most places in England (or anywhere else i suspect). Nevertheless, the club is almost exculsively white male of a certain age.

We have connections with a club who meet in the local library. This is largely made up of casual players, some of whom join us to play in league matches but many of whom don't. We have joint tournaments that are highly enjoyable.

The library club is much more diverse in terms of ethnic origin, much more reflective of the local community as a whole, than the chess club that plays in the London League.



That chess, could easily be highly diverse, is sometimes, but isn't when it comes to League/tournament chess is rather interesting I think.

I didn't mention gender, but most junior tournaments, unless there's a girls' section, are mainly male. It seems to me that there are slightly more females playing in tournaments than in club matches.

Yes, there's a lot we could do to make chess more diverse. I have my own theories about the cause of the problem and what we could do about it, but it won't be very popular amongst certain people!

Then there's the whole issue of neurodiversity as well...

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Re: Diversity in chess

Post by Michele Clack » Sat Aug 14, 2010 6:39 pm

I think it is the perception of girls of chess being a boys thing that stands in the way. I run a chess club after school at my local first school. I have been doing it for several years and initially there were two really good girls who both got second prizes in the area megafinals of the Chess Challenge. I had quite a few other girls at the same time, often as many as 1/3. Now they have moved on and last season I never had more then 1 girl and at one stage there were about 16 in the club. Another local first school has a club run by the headmaster. He takes a different approach and the whole school gets the chance to go in the chess challenge in lunch breaks and most of them play. They have had a lot of success and now are getting nearly as many girls as boys. This year in the megafinal one of their girls, I think it was u9 scored higher than any of the boys in the U9 section and 1 or 2 more of the girls from that school weren't far behind. You get more girls playing and they get better results.

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Rob Thompson
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Re: Diversity in chess

Post by Rob Thompson » Sun Aug 15, 2010 9:35 am

Interestingly, i have been playing in a large Dutch Open this past week, and two things struck me about the players. Firstly, there were many more female players there than would be seen in a tournament in England, and not only at the bottom end either. Secondly, there were far more "young adults" playing there than there would be playing in a tournament here, i'd go so far as to say probably 2/3 to 3/4 of the players were aged U-30. I don't know what the Dutch playing scene is year-round, or how they introduce people to the game, but it seems to have different (better?) results than ours.
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Re: Diversity in chess

Post by Richard James » Sun Aug 15, 2010 6:22 pm

Rob Thompson wrote:Interestingly, i have been playing in a large Dutch Open this past week, and two things struck me about the players. Firstly, there were many more female players there than would be seen in a tournament in England, and not only at the bottom end either. Secondly, there were far more "young adults" playing there than there would be playing in a tournament here, i'd go so far as to say probably 2/3 to 3/4 of the players were aged U-30. I don't know what the Dutch playing scene is year-round, or how they introduce people to the game, but it seems to have different (better?) results than ours.
Hi Rob

I'm very pleased that you posted this. For many years the Dutch have used what they call the 'Steps' method as a way of introducing children to chess. It is used in the majority of schools and chess clubs in the Netherlands and consists of six manuals for teachers and six workbooks for children, along with simpler material for very young children. Each volume is expected to take about a year to complete.

The course is almost entirely devoted to tactics with nothing on openings beyond general principles (although they no doubt learn openings elsewhere).

The whole system is based on skills development and represents a totally different philosophy to what we do here, which is very much based on competition.

It is my belief, based on nearly 40 years teaching chess, that the way we organise, promote and teach chess, espcially to young children, needs a complete rethink. Although we produce a small number of strong players, our strength in depth is nothing compared to other West European countries. The evidence you've provided demonstrates that the Dutch system works much better than what we do here.

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Re: Diversity in chess

Post by CliveHill » Mon Aug 16, 2010 3:17 pm

Total football versus kick and rush, methinks!

:-0

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Re: Diversity in chess

Post by Richard James » Mon Aug 16, 2010 3:31 pm

CliveHill wrote:Total football versus kick and rush, methinks!

:-0
Absolutely. I'm not an expert on such matters but I understand (from reading a magazine article a couple of years ago) that there is a similar difference in approach between junior football in the two countries. Guess which, per head of the population, is more successful.

And there's one answer to your other question about the lack of chess café culture in this country. There's no chess café culture because there's no chess culture. We're promoting competitive chess as a trivial activity suitable for mass participation by small children, rather than as an activity for cultured and intelligent adults at which some children, with a lot of help and support from adults, can excel.

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Re: Diversity in chess

Post by matt_ward » Mon Aug 16, 2010 6:48 pm

Uxbridge International had a great variety of nationalities which was impressive, and the tournament was an amazing success I just wish all tournaments were so well run.

Matt.

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Re: Diversity in chess

Post by Michael Jones » Sat Aug 21, 2010 4:34 pm

One of the things I like about chess is the fact that I can (and have) play a tournament game against someone half my age or someone three times my age, and still get a good game either way. Online, I've played against people whose language I don't speak (and who might not have spoken mine - since you don't have much time for conversation during a 3 minute game I rarely find out). Thinking of my local league, there are certainly plenty of middle-aged white males around, but there are also quite a few under 30s (having a university club playing in the league obviously helps in this respect, but there are some at other clubs too). The youngest player in the league is 9, the oldest are 90+. There are a few non-white players, but not that many given the ethnic diversity of the area; there are only two women (some years there haven't been any).

The demographic profile at junior level is vastly different: girls made up around 2/3 of the first primary chess club I coached, and while none of those I've done since has approached that proportion, most have had a reasonable number; and yet, when I was captain of Lincolnshire under 18s, there was only one girl on the team. Large numbers of them stop playing sometime between the ages of 11 and 18, presumably because it's generally seen as a 'boyish' pursuit. That those who keep playing are at least as good as the boys was evinced by the fact that the girl in question played top board! Then again, plenty of boys lose interest at the same age; the under 16 and under 18 categories at junior tournaments rarely had a quarter as many entries as the under 9s or under 11s. Uncool? Geeky? Perhaps chess needs a makeover.

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