24 August 2017

Chess Players Aren't 'A Barrel of Laughs'

Spotted on Facebook (FB).

'Dear Abby' (Abigail Van Buren) probably belongs to the 'Not Everyone Likes Chess' crowd, as in Life's Too Short for Chess (November 2011) and Mainstream Comments on Magnus (December 2013).

A few years ago we had another advice columnist in 'Ask Marilyn' (November 2015); 'I recently played a game of chess against a woman in my chess club, and she defeated me in front of many of her girlfriends. [...] One of her friends said, "Her female piece, her Queen, executed the mating... Oh, yes!"' • Snort!

Here's a transcript of the Abby advice:-

Women can meet men by joining chess club

DEAR ABBY: You have often been asked a question like this: I am a 26-year-old female who would like to meet a decent, eligible man. I've tried the bar scene, but most men are after a one-night stand. I've tried church groups, but the few men who are present came because their wives made them go. So where do I go from here?

Abby, I have a suggestion: Join a chess dub. Women are always welcome. Furthermore, they will find that men outnumber women 10-to-1. Not bad odds! Also, from 25 percent to 40 percent of the men will be unmarried. Men who play chess on a regular basis are usually of good character. The game requires that the player make individual, intelligent, patient and logical decisions. These attributes carry over into everyday life. For example, I estimate that 95 percent of steady tournament players do not smoke, and I have never met one who abuses alcohol or drugs. They are almost always employed, are high achievers and have a stable family life.

A woman could counter with, "But I don't know anything about chess." Well, that could be to her advantage. What better way to break the ice than to ask a man of her choice to show her the moves?

If you print this, some women will probably write in and say, "I married a chess player, and you can have him!"

I realize that not every chess player is necessarily an ideal prospect for marriage, but it's a good way to meet eligible men.


DEAR LYLE: It's a novel idea for a place for women to meet decent men, but the typical chess player (as I perceive him) is not exactly a barrel of laughs. He's apt to be quiet and pensive, more of an introvert than an extrovert, highly competitive, and slow to make decisions -- which isn't all bad. The moves in chess have often been compared with those made by two opposing generals on a battlefield. A chess game resembles a war in that it consists of attack and defense, whose object is making the "King" surrender. On second thought, it could be a good training ground for marriage.

A comment to the FB page provided a useful link to an online version with a different title: Check This Out, Singles: Chess Clubs (chicagotribune.com; 27 March 1986). Another comment gave a woman's point of view on the suggestion:-

S.M.: I'm afraid to say too much about this, but this is another case of "the odds are good but the goods are odd".

I definitely would say "women are always welcome" is not true. While I was largely welcomed as something of a novelty, there's a LOT of sexism, and a lot of assumptions that women are not as good at chess. This kind of attitude keeps women away from many male-dominated activities and perpetuates the stereotypes, so women aren't likely to give these kinds of activities a fair try -- it's just not worth it!

So it might be useful for meeting men, but pretty terrible if you want to pursue it as a serious hobby as a woman, or want to be evaluated based on your own merit rather than as representing your gender.

And as far as "I have never met one who abuses alcohol", I remember so many people at the chess tournaments REEKING of alcohol. Chess is definitely not the upper-class elite intellectual pursuit people think it is. For a lot of players, you could use that "not sure if chess player or homeless" meme.

Lyle was almost certainly overstating the attraction of chess for women, but you can't blame a fellow for trying.

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