Lion of the Blogosphere

Is chess prole?

JS wrote in a comment: “Playing chess has become a prole activity.”

Is he joking? If chess is prole, what non-athletic games and pastimes are not prole? Chess seems less prole than videogames and computer games, for example, and I would think it would be equivalent to card games like Bridge, and less prole than modern boardgames because chess is older and more traditional.

* * *

On the other hand, I suppose that playing those types of games are no longer popular among urban bobos. More favored activities include yoga, running, cocktail parties, eating out at restaurants, and going on travel vacations. I guess after doing all of that stuff, who has time to play a boardgame?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 5, 2014 at 10:03 am

Posted in Bobos, Proles

39 Responses

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  1. JS? Come on, you know that he labels everything he thinks is uncool or lame as “prole.”

    He even tried to claim that cloudy weather is “for proles” lol ->

    The short answer is: No, beefy guys who dig trenches are not taking up chess.


    August 5, 2014 at 10:49 am

    • I said perpetual cloudy weather or overcast sucks and the UK has plenty of it. It’s harder for bobo to thrive on bad weather.

      Turn San Diego into a walkable NYC with all of its amenities and job prospects and I guarantee you that it will become a major bobo mecca, where a large exodus of SWPLs leave the Big Apple for Southern California.


      August 5, 2014 at 11:13 am

      • I think of hot, sunny weather as the prolest thing imaginable.

        Samson J.

        August 6, 2014 at 7:32 pm

  2. It’s prole because in NYC, proles and also NAMs play chess in public areas. And you’re right, SWPLs could care less of it, because they’re now more interested in socializing and outdoor activities.


    August 5, 2014 at 10:53 am

    • As a teenager my best friend and i would fly to San Francisco & play chess with the homeless black guys for money. I remember once some very attractive SWPL young woman with some SWPL guy on her arm (probably tourists) started quizzing us street chess players about how often we played etc. Even though she was very nice, encouraging, enthusiastic & attractive, I deeply resented her arrogantly feeling entitled to just starting talking to us. Imagine if one of us (particularly one of the homeless guys) had just randomly approached her & her SWPL friends & started quizzing them about their daily activities. They probably would have needed therapy for life (paid for by daddy of course).

      The level of arrogance & entitlement SWPLs exude is quite irritating, especially since they’re really not that special.


      August 5, 2014 at 1:56 pm

      • Only SWPL teenagers fly to San Fransisco and think of themselves as grouped together with homeless black guys as a single “we” toward which SWPL grownups are being arrogantly nice.


        August 5, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      • Okay, I feel a degree of empathy about the yuppie bitch, but I agree with ZERG below, because flying to San Francisco to play chess with homeless guys sounds is slumming-it, at its best.


        August 5, 2014 at 9:19 pm

      • Zerg, I realize that I’m much much closer in social class to the SWPL than I am to the homeless, though I don’t know if she knew that and I was partly offended on behalf of the homeless, especially since they were much older than she, so even agewise, she was inappropriate.


        August 5, 2014 at 10:28 pm

  3. I hate yoga so much. I can’t walk a block without passing a yoga studio of one form or another. It has become the new church. Worst of all is the Hot Yoga where they steam the hipsters like lobsters until the class ends and they boil out of the pot, beards (on the men) and underarm hair (on the women) glistening with dew as they all head as one for the nearest boutique coffee shop.


    August 5, 2014 at 11:02 am

    • Ha! Poetic, Sisyphean.


      August 5, 2014 at 1:32 pm

  4. The only people one ever sees playing chess are nerds and blacks.


    August 5, 2014 at 11:15 am

  5. Chess is quite popular among prison inmates. It’s where the skells in Washington Square Park learned to play.
    To address an earlier comment, there actually is a point to hot yoga. High heat loosens joints and makes people more flexible.



    August 5, 2014 at 11:21 am

    • Claude Bloodgood achieved a GM ranking in prison though it was likely massively inflated by the closed pool nature of his games. He also managed to escape from prison while on release for a tournament.

      slithy toves

      August 6, 2014 at 8:59 am

  6. I thought your comment that women didn’t view nerd activities like chess in a negative way pre-WWII was true. A lot of old time Hollywood movie stars played chess like John Wayne, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, Ray Milland, Spencer Tracy, James Dean and Jimmy Stewart. It wouldn’t have been popular with them if it had been seen as uncool or unmasculine. You probably couldn’t come up with a list of chess playing male movie stars like that today.


    August 5, 2014 at 11:25 am

  7. Chess is something Americans only cared about when an American was at the top. Back in the 70s when crazy-genius Bobby Fischer was the best player in the world, everybody followed his famous match with Boris Spassky. But when Fischer faded from the scene, nobody cared anymore. I wonder if an American had a shot at the title if we would care again?

    Apparently, this year the title match is between a Norwegian and an Indian. I know who I’m rooting for.


    August 5, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    • Go Anand! Viswanathan!


      August 5, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    • Bobby Fischer didn’t fade away, Bobby Fischer disappeared.

      Half Canadian

      August 5, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    • I like this blog, I really do but there’s definitely strains of stormfront present.


      August 5, 2014 at 9:24 pm

  8. Most amateur chess players in the US are male, 40+, professional, and somewhat nerdy. This is leftover from the spike in popularity enjoyed by chess during the Reykjavik match. Most Americans who started playing chess post 1965ish did so directly or indirectly because of Bobby Fischer. Otherwise it would have been thoroughly relegated to the dustbins of gamedom. However, chess in the US is sinking back down but in other countries still enjoys “high class” status.

    Then of course there is the prison/ street chess playing crowd but that’s a separate phenomena from the above.

    As far as GMs, they are such a rarefied group you can’t make generalizations about them beyond that they have stratospheric memories, analytical skills, and historically were jewish or of partial (ashkenazi) jewish descent.

    slithy toves

    August 5, 2014 at 12:33 pm

  9. 1. The best chess player in the world has been an American computer for 20 years.

    2. All of Central and Coastal San Diego is walkable. Lots of middle class people walk or bike to work or shopping and are car free when they can afford one. Actually San Diego is better than NYC in that upper middle class people have the choice of walking or driving to work or errands. The car often comes after the first baby is coming.


    August 5, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    • It lacks the diversity offerings that attract the upper middle class snobs from the Northeast. They want everything at their fingertips when they wanted it. It could be replicated in San Diego, but Californians seem rather uncultured or apathetic to bring in the Northeastern bourgeois lifestyle into their fold.


      August 5, 2014 at 12:58 pm

  10. If chess is prole, it would help explain the paradox of chess not correlating well with g, despite seeming like the ultimate test of intelligence. Perhaps intrinsic chess talent is highly g loaded, but practicing chess enough to get good is negatively correlated with social class, and by extention, IQ.


    August 5, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    • But many SWPL activities are not correlated with g too.


      August 5, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    • Chess is neither elite nor prole. It’s enjoyed by upper class and lower class alike. The only thing I’ve noticed is that people who play chess tend to be thinkers. Once again, not that high IQ is necessary to be good at it. It’s mostly that people who aren’t smart or don’t like to think don’t enjoy it. I’d probably make the imperfect comparison of chess with spelling bees. After you learn the rules, strategies, tactics, etc then it doesn’t take a genius to be great at either.Not to say that it doesn’t take a certain kind of intelligence to be great because it does. But I’m not sure that kind of intelligence would translate into what most would consider brilliance in anything other than chess.

      I disagree that using skype for chess lessons is some kind of “only in Manhattan” thing. I’ve heard of using skype for all kinds of tutoring for years. If you really want to know what elite is… some people my mother knew used to fly a chess master in twice a month to tutor their 13 yr old son. He flew a tennis pro in to coach another of his sons. I’m sure they were pretty good and were an asset to whatever school and university they attended. But I doubt they were ever good enough to justify that. Skype is justifiable though.


      August 5, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      • “You’re entitled to your own opinion but not to your own facts.”

        In case lion won’t post it:

        This result/FACT is especially interesting because the sprints are dominated by West Africans, and sub-Saharan Africans tend to have much longer lower legs than Europeans relative to their total leg length.


        August 5, 2014 at 11:49 pm

      • Uh, pequenino, I was just on wikipedia checking out the heights of sprinter world record holders. My sample was small, but the average was well above the U.S. mean for men (and way above the world mean). Tall people are faster.


        August 6, 2014 at 10:04 am

      • Uh…I wasn’t arguing with that and destructure never made a claim about that. And superheavyweight weightlifters are usually >= 6′. They aren’t very short limbed midgets.

        I was arguing with the notion that relative limb length (leg to torso within race) is a significant factor in determining speed. If it were one would find NO exceptions at the highest level, not one. The same goes for weightlifting.

        That is, destructure might be right (the study I linked to shows he’s wrong) that long legs, ceteris paribus, make you faster, but how much faster? And it’s never ceteris paribus.

        That is, if it makes a difference, the difference is small. That was my original point. I can’t find the article. I read it a very long time ago. Some E Germans were trying to identify sprinting talent with various measurements. Taken together they couldn’t even explain a majority of the variance.


        August 6, 2014 at 9:25 pm

      • pequenino

        “And superheavyweight weightlifters are usually >= 6′. They aren’t very short limbed midgets.”

        I didn’t say weightlifters were “midgets”. I said shorter limbs provide a mechanical advantage. It’s possible to have shorter limbs (relative to torso) and still be over 6′.

        I was arguing with the notion that relative limb length (leg to torso within race) is a significant factor in determining speed.

        The Telegraph article doesn’t contradict the claim. It’s possible for both to be true. Here’s the evidence…

        “Design in Nature: How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, Technology and Social Organization.”
        Bejan, Adrian; J. Peder Zane (2012).

        All animal locomotion (swimming, running and flying) is ultimately one design: the bigger should be faster.

        “The evolution of speed, size and shape in modern athletics.”
        Charles, Jordan D.; Bejan, A. (2009).

        Speed records in running and swimming during the past one hundred years are statistically related to athletes’ body size (mass, height) according to the same formulas as the speed-size relations for all animals.

        “The Evolution of Speed in Athletics: Why the Fastest Runners are Black and Swimmers White”
        Bejan, Adrian; Jones, Edward C.; Charles, Jordan D. (2010).

        Blacks have a higher center of mass (i.e. shorter relative torso) that favors them in running sports and whites have a lower center of mass that favors them in swimming

        “The evolution of long distance running and swimming”
        Charles, Jordan D.; Bejan, A. (2013).

        Compares the modern evolution of short and long distance running and swimming in terms of body mass (M), height (H), slenderness (S), and winning speed (V).


        August 7, 2014 at 7:29 am

    • You only need strong memory and pattern recognition to play chess well, not “g.” As far as chess engines, they have somewhat killed the excitement of chess because even at a GM level they go into matches with thousands of (computer calculated) openings memorized and play those openings well past 20 moves which leads to a lot of boring draws and little thrill. It took FIDE until June just to find a venue for the next championship match.

      Before the advent of superhuman engines GMs were typically in new territory by 12 moves on.

      slithy toves

      August 6, 2014 at 6:52 am

      • They should force chess players to adapt to novel rules (i.e. this game you each get 3 queens instead of 1 and in the next game you’ll be playing on a 20×20 square board instead of an 8×8 one). That would greatly enhance the g loading.


        August 6, 2014 at 9:40 am

      • That was bobby fischer’s idea with “fischer random chess…” but for some reason it never caught on. At the dawn of the internet (and before his death) there were rumors he was playing online because “he” would intentionally create bizarre opening positions then destroy his opponent. But it was probably a hoax.

        slithy toves

        August 10, 2014 at 12:17 pm

  11. On the other hand, I suppose that playing those types of games are no longer popular among urban bobos. More favored activities include yoga, running, cocktail parties, eating out at restaurants, and going on travel vacations.

    i.e., activities where intelligence can be signaled without being proven.

    The Undiscovered Jew

    August 5, 2014 at 5:50 pm

  12. Seems to be a barbell distribution of chess players: on one end, ex-con speed chess players and urban school teams, on the other end Russian intellectuals.

    Maybe similar to poker now? After the fad, who plays it? Union guys and hedge fund managers?

    Dave Pinsen

    August 5, 2014 at 9:00 pm

  13. I think what JS is referring to is that chess has been taken up by blacks. The best hs chess team in the country is black.

    Also, if you ever wanted to get really good at, you couldn’t have a real job.

    Further, contrary to what some may think, chess doesn’t require much thought at all. Blitz strength and standard strength are very strongly correlated. It’s almost all just pattern recognition. He won because he out thought me? Never. He won because he out prepared me and simply understands the game better.

    And as Fussel and Galbraith remarked, the rich are not a bookish lot, or intellectual most of the time. They’re too practical and status obsessed for that.


    August 5, 2014 at 9:58 pm

  14. It’s not prole but it is very non-elite. Chess and violin have always been what strivers imagine as an elite avocation when in fact active elite avocations are and always have been sports — team sports for the young, and golf, tennis, riding and sailing for everyone, and mountain climbing, flying, etc. for the adventurous. Music and chess at a serious level are for the asthmatic and hopelessly astigmatic.

    When the immigrant-language newspapers get hip to the fact that crew and lacrosse are the most reliable extracurricular tickets to Ivies, that’s going to be fun indeed

    suburban dad

    August 6, 2014 at 6:04 am

  15. You oversee one crucial reason why chess is unpopular among elits.

    It is HARD. Becoming a good chess player, or even a mediocre one, requires a lot of memorizing, practice and dedication. Lion gave us a good list of bobo activities – “yoga, running, cocktail parties, eating out at restaurants, and going on travel vacations” – in other words, activities where you set your own pace, or just relax and enjoy.

    And another point: however weekly correlated g is with chess, it’s even more weekly correlated with yoga or traveling. Most of the people, elites including, aren’t very smart, and prefer not to think very hard unless they have to. A typical chess grandmaster is way more inteligent than a typical millionaire.


    August 7, 2014 at 6:13 am

  16. Have you ever been to a chess club? I visited one in Minneapolis, once. The men there struck me as a smarter version of D and D players. Personal hygine wasn’t exemplary, no sense of fashion, didn’t give the impression that they were widely cultured, just quite good at and obsessive about chess.


    August 8, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    • If chess isn’t prole, then D&D is prole. I noticed chess players aren’t all that different from the comicbook/Sci Fi hobbyists. They have the same obsessive interests that serve no beneficial purpose for personal empowerment thus lowering their social status into Omegadom. Don’t be surprised if those chess enthusiasts are also comic book, D&D fanatics, since many of these guys are social outcasts w/o normal friends and women in their lives.


      August 8, 2014 at 2:27 pm

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