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World Map of Chess Grandmasters

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world-chess-grandmasters-2016

Based on FIDE stats as of 2016.

Without doing any complicated analysis it’s pretty clear that the main three factors are:

  1. National IQ – Though not absolutely critical, possibly because the correlation between chess skill and IQ is only a moderate r=0.35. (Grabner 2013)
  2. Not East Asian – They focus on go instead, where the best performing Westerner is the American Michael Redmond, in 595th place. The Chinese also focus on xiangqi (Chinese chess).
  3. Communist legacy – The USSR invested so much cognitive capital into chess that Bobby Fischer was obliged to learn Russian just to get at the bulk of the world’s top-tier chess literature.

karjakin-crimea-ours With the collapse of Communism and the advent of computer chess, the influence of the last factor can be expected to gradually fade away. But that doesn’t seem to be happening. Of the world’s top 10 juniors, six are East Europeans, and the prime challenger to Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen – now about to play the tiebreaker after a 6-6 stalemate in previous games – is Sergey Karjakin, a Crimea native (and quite the “Crimea is Ours” vatnik, to Kasparov’s evident chagrin).

(Incidentally, Boris Rozhin – better known as “Colonel Cassad,” the famous pro-Novorossiyan military analyst – is a regional chess champion of Crimea, with an Elo rating of more than 2300).

Of the world’s 1,541 grandmasters as of November 2016, only 33 are women. This 2.1% figure is remarkably identical to Charles Murray’s finding that 2.2% of the world’s most significant scientific and artistic figures were women. Last year, British GM Nigel Short got into trouble with The Guardian crowd for suggesting it might be due to biological factors.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Chess 

20 Comments to "World Map of Chess Grandmasters"

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  1. Never liked chess that much and never quite understood, though when I was young and naive, and because of that lack of understanding, I tried to learn the game seriously with a chess textbook (though most of it still unread). Having grown I started to like the games of chance and skill, such as card games or domino, even some games of dice. For me they are more entertaining and captivating. I only respect chess for its openness and equal opportunity at the start of the game. But probably it is the reason why I think that’s dull and blank. Life is more complex than that. Games of chance and skill are more unpredictable and ever changing and constantly giving you a new challenge. Just like life. Though I hate games of pure chance, when you have zero influence on the situation. They are real scams. I never play games like Black Jack, Craps, or Roulette. Even with a computer emulator very soon I become bored; not to mention I would never spend my real hard earned money for that casino idiocy (casinos are banned in Russia anyway, and it’s good). But I like bridge, poker and many other such card games. I think such games are an essence of Western mentality. Chess is more an Eastern thing. Probably I’m more Western-minded than I thought. But I guess I might have always been that way.

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  2. It would also be interesting what nations are successful at what games. You’ve already mentioned Asian games which are a “forbidden” playground for Westerners (including “Eastern Westerners” – Russians) with little chance for a success. But there have been some successful Asian poker champions. Seems the traditional cunning Chinese/Asian trading class is good at the Western games of trading and deceiving.

  3. There has been a steady growth of chess strength in both India and China in recent times, the previous world champion was Indian and I would not be surprised if there was a Chinese one in a few decades. I predict that there will be a big change in those stats, in 50 years it will be mostly East and South Asia that make up the grandmaster numbers. This will happen because a lot of the countries shown here will have majority non white populations (mostly not East Asian), Germany will by 2060 have the demographics of the nations that not even registering on that map.

  4. … the correlation between chess skill and IQ is only a moderate r=0.35

    Of the world’s 1,541 grandmasters as of November 2016, only 33 are women.

    The three Polgar sisters made the list at one time, didn’t they? Like Mozart and Tiger Woods, they went along with an obsessive father’s obsession, and it worked. This does suggest that there’s a lot of environment in these three fields, or perhaps just plain will power.

    Adam Grant offers in Originals that a primary reason women are less represented in creative fields is that it takes a lot of works to produce a few masterpieces, e.g., Mozart’s 600+ compositions, and few women have been up to that.

    HBD may not explain all that much of musical creativity. Why Italy, Germany and Austria, and Russia? Why not (as much) England, France, and Spain? The near lack of females among the 1000 most-recorded composers is quite striking, though, especially as it’s not a field which women are bad in. Also, in which they have been encouraged, at least in the private sphere. And in performance, they’re at least the equal of men.

    Why would (genetic) ethnicity play so little a part, but sex so prominent?

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  5. The three Polgar sisters made the list at one time, didn’t they?

    It’s pretty interesting. Judit Polgar was head and shoulders the strongest female chess player ever (in contrast, amongst the men, Carlsen, Kramnik, Kasparov, Fischer, even Capablance might vie for that title). She was the only woman ever to reach “Super Grandmaster” level (Elo >2700) and the only woman to consistently register in the list of the world’s top 10 chess players.

    She was also a Hungarian Jew. I have a hunch that Hungarian Jews might be the brightest ethnic subgroup in the world. Another famous Hungarian Jew was John von Neumann, whom other top scientists in the Manhattan Project acknowledged as the brightest amongst them. Exceedingly impressive for a group that numbered less than 500,000 even prior to the Holocaust.

    The near lack of females among the 1000 most-recorded composers is quite striking, though, especially as it’s not a field which women are bad in.

    Charles Spearman found that music was surprisingly well correlated with mathematical aptitude (much more than, say, drawing). Women have not been prominent in mathematics.

    Why would (genetic) ethnicity play so little a part, but sex so prominent?

    It’s a huge puzzle. I would ascribe it to:

    (1) A smaller S.D. There are big debates over this but I am leaning towards this being a real thing.

    (2) Drive and motivation (“Is There Anything Good About Men” by Roy Baumeister makes some arguments).

    (3) What I have come to view as the most critical aspect: A propensity towards holistic as opposed to abstract thinking (the latter is better for innovation).

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  6. And in performance, they’re at least the equal of men.

    A large majority of famous pianists have been men. In pop and rock the vast majority of respected guitarists are men. I think singing is one of the very few professions where the best women are as good as the best men. This is because having a nice voice is an integral part of a woman’s attractiveness.

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  7. Women are very interested in human relationships and bored by pretty much everything that doesn’t center on them. Pieces on a chessboard, formulas on a page, notes on the keyboard – that’s all very boring to them, about as boring as gossip and soap operas are to most men. So even when they have the ability to do math, compose music, play chess, etc., they don’t have the interest.

  8. I would put France on at least an equal footing to Russia.

  9. In pop and rock the vast majority of respected guitarists are men

    The further down the musical food chain you go, the more success you see from women. Country music’s fan base is a lot more “sexist” than classical’s or Broadway’s or jazz’s, but the field is full of lady songwriters. Less is demanded of them.

    But the words had better be interesting!

  10. The three Polgar sisters made the list at one time, didn’t they?

    No, Sofia Polgar never became a Grandmaster. She did reach International Master and was a Woman Grandmaster, if that is what you mean. Supposedly Sofia was the most talented of the sisters, but she had the least interest.

    Georgian women are overrepresented as female Grandmasters and International Masters. The country only has a population of 4.5 million.

    No American-born female has ever become Grandmaster, only American immigrants.

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  11. The World Championship Match between Carlsen and Karjakin ended with a bang, in a grand style in the Rapid Chess Tie Breaks … no less than a Queen sacrifice and a mate … the Russian Super GM Peter Sidler was left speechless, but GM Jan Gustafsson countinued with his loose comedic touch and smooth shilling for the site chess24.com … excellent commentary

    this video should start at the righ moment

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  12. [Like Mozart and Tiger Woods, they went along with an obsessive father’s obsession, and it worked. This does suggest that there’s a lot of environment in these three fields, or perhaps just plain will power.]

    We just never get to hear about all the instances when it didn’t work, or if we do we don’t remember.

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  13. The match went to what is equivalent to a penalty shootout in a world cup football final, so it did not end with a bang, it ended with too many draws and then to what is essentially a coin toss. It was very disappointing that match play is decided with rapid chess tie breakers.

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  14. Excellent analogy, which I could kick myself for not having thought of.

  15. We just never get to hear about all the instances when it didn’t work, or if we do we don’t remember.

    Um, that’s true of everything, not just education. “Man bites dog.”

  16. No American-born female has ever become Grandmaster, only American immigrants.

    Just like the first straight guys who come to mind in some fields– Mikhail Baryshnikov, Elvis Stojko– are immigrants, or the sons thereof.

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  17. The match went to what is equivalent to a penalty shootout in a world cup football final,

    Yes and no … there are similarities but the major difference is that playing chess with shorter time controls is still chess, but teams shooting penalties after the game is not playing football, it’s a more arbitrary exit strategy — but there had to be a reasonable exit strategy, or a decision making procedure, otherwise the guys would be still playing next year …

    Using reduced time would be like putting bigger goals on the field after regular play ….

    heh, GM Jan Gustaffson told how he went to Thailand to participate in a tournament and to his surprise it turned out that the Chess players had to also do Thai Boxing matches … “I’d rather would have known that before, like a year before so I could have trained a bit that Thai boxing …”

    “After a half year Alekhin and Capablaca were still even, with tens of draws , so they went for their first fencing match …”

  18. True. I used to be a figure skating fanatic and noticed that most of the homosexual skaters (men no women) came from English speaking countries, the USA, Canada, and Great Britain. It is especially notable when you look at the skaters who died of AIDS. Of course there are exceptions like 1972 Olympic gold medalist Ondrej Nepela of Czechoslovakia who died of AIDS. Canada’s Toller Cranston, 1976 Olympic bronze medalist, said he had a brief affair with Nepela. The 1976 Olympic gold medalist, John Curry of Britain, died of AIDS.

    Cultural differences make it possible for heterosexual men in slavic countries to figure skate and dance without their sexuality being questioned. In the US, heterosexual black men have that freedom too.

  19. I’m sure Italian Jews are smarter than Hungarian Jews. Less than 50,000 of them in the world yet they’ve achieved 5 Nobel Prizes. Italian Jews are 7 times more likely to win a Nobel Prize than the Jewish worldwide population and 73 times more likely than the average American. Their contribution to science and banking has been immense.

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