Lion of the Blogosphere

Archive for December 2020

Was I racially profiled?

Once, in my parents’ neighborhood in Staten Island, I was walking down the sidewalk when a Chinese woman comes out of a crappy townhouse and starts accusing me of taking something from her lawn or something.

Instead of having a big chip on my shoulder about being racially profiled because I was white and she was Chinese, I instead tried to explain to her that I was just walking down the sidewalk and I didn’t see anything and I didn’t know what she was talking about. But she was not convinced, and I walked away because I had no idea what she was talking about.

It occurs to me that, if I had been black and the woman had been white, and I acted more hostile to her with a big chip on my shoulder about being racially profiled, and I took a video of the incident with my phone, it could have become a viral thing on Twitter with everyone hating on the woman.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 30, 2020 at 9:25 AM

Posted in Technology

Grandmaster plays chess hustler in Washington Square Park

The highlight of the game is when the chess hustler, losing to the grandmaster, attempts to cheat by using sleight of hand to remove his opponent’s knight from the board, but grandmaster Maurice Ashley doesn’t let him get away with it.

Maurice Ashely’s family moved from Jamaica (the island nation) to a ghetto neighborhood in Brooklyn (Brownsville) when he was 12, and he went to Brooklyn Tech high school (which requires an admissions test to get into, but you needed a much lower score than you needed to get into Stuyvesant).

At Stuyvesant, several of the black kids were avid chess players. I had no hope playing against them.

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Why aren’t there more black grandmasters? My theory is that, with affirmative action, a black with the mental discipline needed to play chess can get a much more profitable career doing something else.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 11, 2020 at 11:48 AM

Girl power and chess

Here’s an article about a Chinese girl in Toronto who plays chess. And a pretty good chess player, the top-ranked female in the entire nation of Canada. I could certainly never play at that level (even though it’s probably a level that’s quite a bit below the top-ranked male chess player in Canada).

Like many of these articles, the spin is, how great it is that women are finally getting into chess because of the popularity of that Netflix series. But no one ever asks why that’s a good thing, why it matters. It’s not as if there’s any money in playing chess. Does being a good chess player help you find a job outside of chess? I don’t think so. Is it just a bias that things that men do are inherently better than the things that women do? And it’s always better for women to be more like men? (Although I have to admit that I hold the opinion that playing chess is a better use of time than going shopping.)

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 11, 2020 at 10:22 AM

Will chess become popular with women?

An article in today’s NY Times says that “‘The Queen’s Gambit’ Is Inspiring Women to Take Up Chess.”

The actress Beth Behrs has a new obsession — chess — and the Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit” is to blame. Her obsession even got her into trouble on the set of the CBS show “The Neighborhood,” where she plays Gemma Johnson.

“They yelled at me at work yesterday because I was hiding my phone under my script,” she said. “I should have been acting and I was playing on”

As typical for this type of “reporting,” the journalist who wrote the article found a few people to prove the articles point of view, and then headily announces that it’s a new trend.

Now fact-based reporting, not found in this article, does tell us that chess as increased in popularity many times normal since the release of the Netflix series, and statistics from websites like tell us that a higher percentage of the new signups are women than is typical for the chess site, but still despite the Netflix series being about a female chess player, a very solid majority of the newly-interested chess players are male.

According to an article at, chess streamer Antonio Radić says “Normally my viewership is 98% male, 2% female. Right now, as we’re experiencing this boom, it’s now up to 3.6% female, so nearly doubled.”

According to Google Trends, searches for “chess” have approximately tripled since The Queen’s Gambit game out. Google doesn’t break down by men vs women, but it does tell us that chess is most popular in Vermont and least popular in Mississippi.

I do believe that women are heavily influenced by trends, so if it’s perceived that chess is the new trend for women, then more women will try it, at least for a while. But ultimately, I think that despite the new promotion of girl chess players, chess is something that the vast majority of people with two X chromosomes will find BORING.

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Can women even play as well as men? Obviously a top female chess player like Judit Polgar can beat the vast majority of men, but it’s unknown if the average woman lacks raw ability to play the game compared to the average man, or if they just don’t play as well because only men can get so interested in playing and winning at chess that they devote a huge amount of time and mental resources into getting better at it.

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Chess can be profitable for an attractive young women because it’s much more exciting for viewers to watch such an attractive young woman stream chess online than to watch a man with the same playing ability.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 10, 2020 at 1:00 PM

Posted in Nerdy stuff

You don’t have to be that smart to be good at chess

The conventional wisdom is that you have to be smart to play chess well. I think the conventional wisdom on this is entirely wrong.

I will point out again that g (the general factor of intelligence) is the ability to reason and learn. Furthermore, g applies mostly to a specific type of learning, learning by reasoning. Learning by memorization or learning by mimicking are not g-intensive tasks. Learning Japanese seems to me to be a very difficult task, but even stupid children in Japan are able to speak it fluently. Thus not all difficult mental tasks are highly g-loaded. Children learn to speak by mimicking and not by reasoning.

As a blog reader once pointed out to me, the way that most children learn to play chess is highly g-loaded. They are taught the rules (which are somewhat complicated and require a certain minimum level of intelligence to understand), and then they have to figure out for themselves what the correct strategies are. It’s the figuring stuff out for yourself that’s a highly g-loaded task.

Luckily for would-be chess players of only average intelligence, smart people in the past have already figured out the strategies. With proper instruction, chess doesn’t require an above average intelligence, it just requires a lot of memorization (of openings, end games, and various strategy rules), and a lot of mental concentration (to scan the board for all possible dangers and play out several moves in one’s head). Yes, it’s a difficult mental task, but not a mental task which requires reasoning or learning by reasoning. Thus we see the phenomenon of an intermediate school in the ghetto with an excellent chess team. No, this doesn’t mean that kids in Harlem are just as smart as kids in Larchmont, it means that with good instruction and lots of practice, the kids in Harlem can be trained to play chess well, just as they can understand English a lot better than much smarter kids in Japan.

This also explains the phenomenon of not-very-bright chess hustlers in Washington Square Park.

At the very highest levels of chess playing, it has been suggested that g becomes more important, because grandmasters have moved beyond the stage where they can rely on strategies figured out by others and they have to figure out new and novel advanced strategies by themselves, which is a reasoning task. But maybe with chess software to help figure out strategies, even grandmasters don’t have to be as smart as they used to be.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 4, 2020 at 10:43 AM

Posted in Biology, Nerdy stuff

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