Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Chess Gender Advantage Explained

We've all wondered about the male dominance in chess, and whether it was genetic or just due to greater interest in chess among men. Merim Bilalic from Oxford University decided to do a statistical analysis of the ELO ratings and find out:

"Every serious player has an objective rating - the Elo rating - that measures their skill based on their results against other players. Bilalic looked at a set of data encompassing all known German players - over 120,000 individuals, of whom 113,000 are men. He directly compared the top 100 players of either gender and used a mathematical model to work out the expected difference in their Elo ratings, given the size of the groups they belong to.

The model revealed that the greater proportion of male chess players accounts for a whopping 96% of the difference in ability between the two genders at the highest level of play. If more women took up chess, you'd see that difference close substantially.

Overall, the women actually performed slightly better than the model predicted and the top three in particular were playing well ahead of expectations. From positions 3 to 73, the men have a small but consistent advantage, wielding a competitive superiority that slightly exceed what statistics would predict. From the 80th pair onwards, the advantage shifts back to the fairer sex."

Now if only someone could do a similar study of poker players. I'm convinced women would actually be superior poker players to men were their interest in the game similar to ours.

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