This is International Women's Day, which gives me a good reason to mention some recent research on women in chess that has got a little less publicity than one might have hoped: certainly less publicity than attended Nigel Short's successful efforts to make an arsehole of himself a while ago. That went worldwide: if the research received any wider public circulation than the Yorkshire Post I'm not aware of it. Hey ho.
Anyway, it was recently published in the journal Psychological Science. Here's what it looks like, and as you can see its title is Female Chess Players Outperform Expectations When Playing Men, which is something that should perhaps interest us on principle
but which is also, apparently, contrary to what some research had previously led people to believe. This is a question of stereotype threat - described in the paper as a situation
whereby an individual's awareness of a negative stereotype influences their performancewhich in the particular case we are considered here, would involve women, playing against men and aware that they may be judged, as women, by the results, suffering in their peformance as a result of that awareness.
That is, if I understand it correctly. Don't rely on me - the actual paper is available here. Its author is Dr Tom Stafford of Sheffield University and his conclusion, from analysing the outcomes of a prodigious number of FIDE-rated games, is that not only does the effect appear not to exist in this particular context, but in fact a small effect in the other direction can be noted, that - as the title says - women appear to overperform when playing men.
Another way to put this is that men, considered as a group, may underperform slightly when playing women - to quote the paper again
one plausible mechanism is a degree of male under-performance rather than female overperformance. This coule be due to male underestimation of female opponents, misplaced chivalry or choking due [to] the ego-threat of being beaten by a woman.Who knows? More research required, as ever. I should say I'm not in a position to judge the merits of the paper, having jacked in mathematics when I was sixteen. (Just on the paper's terminology, I'm not sure that "throw a game" is usually taken to mean what Dr Stafford uses it to mean, and at one point there's a confusion between "game" and "match" that has irritated me before. But these are not important points.)
Anyway, read the paper. (I'd print it out if I were you, it's almost impossible to read on a smartphone.) And after that we might try and put some thought into how we can try and address the absolutely execrable ratio between male and female chessplayers that exists in English chess.