Tag Archives: Chess Myths

Chess Myths – True or False?

Checkmate is a topic that many discuss and speculate

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about. Superficial knowledge is often the foundation of prejudice and stereotypes that are spread in public. Therefore, Chessimo will get to the bottom of those myths about chess today and will clarify.

Chess Myths

True or False?

1. Chess is an age-old board game

As a matter of fact, the Persians invented a game called “Chaturanga” in 450 AD, which many consider the precursor of today’s checkmate. The game was played on a board with 64 squares but without the recognizable checkmate pattern. The pieces were King, Counselor, Wagon, Elephant, Knight, and Soldier. Unfortunately, we do not know how the game came to Europe and when it was introduced to our ancestors. In 13th century, chess was already one of the Seven Virtues of knights all over Europe and a reformation of the rule set followed in the 15th century in Spain. Ever since, with only little changes, the game has been played accordingly.

Conclusion: Ancient game, but not centuries old.

2. One has to have an extraordinarily high IQ to successfully play chess

The University of Graz confirmed two interesting facts about this particular topic:

Chess players have a higher IQ (113) than the average human (100). Whether playing chess contributes to a higher IQ (read about the personal abilities you can improve through chess here) or intelligent people are simply more attracted by the game, as they trust their capabilities, remains uncertain. Undoubtedly, there are chess grandmasters of both, average IQ and high IQ of 130 and above. Interesting is also the result of Doll and Mayr’s test in 1987: Players of IQs below average (85 to 90) are able to reach ELO-ratings of up to 2000 points. 2200 points and more were reached by players whose IQ levels ranged at 110, which is only slightly above average. The key to a good performance on the chess board is practice and intensive study of the game over a long period of time. A person of average intelligence is by all means capable of standing out with practice and knowledge. If a highly gifted player misses those two, he will certainly not be able to make up for it with his intelligence.

Conclusion: Practice makes the master. A high IQ level is advantageous but not a necessity.

3. Women are not a good as men

In the history of chess there has not once been a female Chess World Champion. Amongst the Top 100 chess players of the world ranks only one woman, Judith Polgár on rank 39. Due to such numbers, many believe that women generally perform worse at chess than men. A few years back, Merim Bilalic, teacher at the University of Oxford and the University of Tübingen, dealt with this statement and evaluated data of the German Chess Federation. The result: Women are equally good at playing chess as men. Unfortunately, and this supports the misbelieving, there are significantly fewer women (7,013) than men (113,386) competing in this sport so that the ratio of players (assuming equal performance of women and men) in theoretical calculations is consistent with the real value of 96 percent.

Conclusion: The difference in gender of 96% can be explained statistically, and thus the male dominance in the world rankings and the number of world championship titles. It is statistical fact that a majority group is more likely to deliver excellent performances than minority groups.

4. No human is better at chess than a computer

In 2003 it was yet to be proven. Back then, Garri Kasparov competed against the world’s best chess computing system of that time. “Deep Juniorwon one of the five matches, so did Garri Kasparov. The remaining three ended in draws.

Today’s best chess computer is Houdini and so far no human was able to prevail over it. While a person can only calculate one positioning per second, Houdini manages to calculate up to 300,000. In the meanwhile, there have been contests among those computing programs to measure their performances. Even their ELO can be measured today. The Top 10 chess programs have ELO-rating ranging from 2954 to 3168 points, which should not be compared to real players’ ELOs as the ranking was generated only from duels between computers.

Conclusion: True. Computers have definitely surpassed humans in matters of chess.

written by Sarah, translated by Birthe