Monday, April 11, 2011

Checkmating Crime in the Neighborhood with Chess

Grandmaster Sends W. River Anti-Crime Rooks
BY Allen Appel | APR 11, 2011 2:49 PM

When a world-ranked chess champion read a story in the Independent that retired city cop Stacy Spell was determined to checkmate crime in his neighborhood, she decided to help.

By last week seven handsome portable chess sets had arrived in the neighborhood, sent by gender-barrier-breaking Grandmaster Susan Polgar, the director of the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE) at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

Saturday morning at the square where Derby meets Norton, Spell deployed those sets and oversaw an intense match in which the Sound School’s Seth Ortiz (right) was cornering East Rock School’s Moubarak Oury-Aguy’s king with his knights and rooks.

Along with the sets, Polgar had sent instructional videos and copies of her book.

The square has been plagued in recent years by flagrantly public street sales of drugs and the crime that often follows in its wake.

The Dunkin’ Donuts in the square was the scene of a murder in December and two shootings in February of this year.

On this Saturday morning, the charming square was the scene of more games of chess than of drug dealing.

“It’s becoming infectious, like measles,” Spell said.

This was the fourth weekend Spell, president of the West River Neighborhood Services Corporation, had organized a community clean-up followed by public chess games.

At least 16 people participated. They included Moubarak and Seth and several other kids from Squash Haven, for whom the clean-up was part of the 10 hours of required community service.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Psychology of Women at Chess

Why are men better at chess than women at the Grandmaster level and all other levels? Why are there more male than female GMs?

A paper published in the European Journal of Social Psychology argues this point:

Women are surprisingly underrepresented in the chess world, representing less that 5% of registered tournament players worldwide and only 1% of the world's grand masters. In this paper it is argued that gender stereotypes are mainly responsible for the underperformance of women in chess. Forty-two male-female pairs, matched for ability, played two chess games via Internet. When players were unaware of the sex of opponent (control condition), females played approximately as well as males. When the gender stereotype was activated (experimental condition), women showed a drastic performance drop, but only when they were aware that they were playing against a male opponent. When they (falsely) believed to be playing against a woman, they performed as well as their male opponents. In addition, our findings suggest that women show lower chess-specific self-esteem and a weaker promotion focus, which are predictive of poorer chess performance.

(Source: "Checkmate? The role of gender stereotypes in the ultimate intellectual sport" from European Journal of Social Psychology, Volume 38 Issue 2, Pages 231 - 245)