Debates Forum

Debates Forum

  1. Zugzwang
    Joined
    08 Jun '07
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    2120
    05 Oct '15 01:44
    _Players and Pawns: How Chess Builds Community and Culture_
    by Gary Alan Fine (2015, University of Chicago Press)
    is supposedly an analysis of chess culture, particularly American chess culture.
    Gary Alan Fine is a white American professor of sociology (who has
    written a book about the subculture of Little League baseball in the USA).

    After reading enough (while becoming increasingly irritated by its common
    factual errors and ignorant stereotypical assumptions) of this book,
    I have concluded that Gary Fine's much too ignorant and misinformed
    about chess to offer any original insights. He's selling stereotypes
    (packaged in pop psychology) to the ignorant American general public.

    First of all, while he claimed to have played some chess as a child,
    Gary Fine does not play chess, and his overwhelming ignorance shows.
    When he began writing this book, he admits that he believed that *every
    chess game must end in checkmate*. (In fact, only a small proportion
    of games played at high level ever end in checkmate.) He was shocked
    to discover that it's normal for a player to resign in a losing position.
    He says that he struggled to comprehend why any players ever resign
    rather than struggling to the bitter end (checkmate). And he also seemed
    shocked to discover that players often offer and agree to draws, which
    he seems to consider 'unnatural' for any competitive activity. After all,
    he might point out, two tennis players don't agree to draw their match.
    Gary Fine apparently fails to comprehend that a drawn result is a basic
    part of the nature of chess in a way that it's not of the nature of tennis.
    (Some Americans would say that a draw is part of the nature of soccer.)
    Anyone who believes that *every chess game must end in checkmate*
    has an abysmal comprehension of chess.

    Gary Fine also makes some factually inaccurate or misleading claims
    that show, at best, his ignorance of chess or his apparent prejudices.
    As an outsider to the world of chess, he likes to refer to FIDE as the
    'World Chess Federation' (which is not even a literal translation of the French)

    Gary Fine spends some time writing about why women are inferior in chess.
    Being ignorant, he begins by exaggerating the extent of this inferiority.
    He claims that only about 1% of the world's GMs are women when, in fact,
    more than 2% of the world's GMs are women. While that's a low percentage,
    it's much higher than it was not many years ago and it's more than twice
    as high as Gary Fine claims. Gary Fine also claims that no woman
    has ever won a 'major tournament'. What defines a 'major' tournament?
    I suppose that he could argue (if he understood anything about FIDE ratings)
    that a major tournament has players with an average rating in the mid-2700s.
    But, as far back as 1977, Nona Gaprindashvili tied for first in the Lone
    Pine tournament (ahead of many of the USA's best GMs at the time) in
    a 'shocking upset'--no one had expected her to perform nearly that well.
    Judit Polgar defeated Anatoly Karpov (a former world champion) in a match,
    albeit at a rapid chess time control. (So it shouldn't count, right?)
    By the way, I was amused to find Gary Fine describing Irina Krush as
    having been obsessed with romance rather than chess when she was
    a teenage girl. But Gary Fine's ignorant of chess players as well as chess.
    Gary Fine also claims that normal male players often like to compare
    victory in chess with successfully raping someone. He assumes it's
    part of the normal imagery or discourse of chess. As far as I know, this
    is a big exaggeration. Personally, I never have heard a male player,
    after winning a game, start comparing it to raping someone (or me).

    Elsewhere Gary Fine expresses his surprise that some Chinese could
    become interested in chess and, perhaps even more so, that any Chinese
    could become any good at chess. But Gary Fine apparently believes
    this is limited to women's chess, where he concedes there are strong
    Chinese players. Gary Fine has ignored the fact that China won the 2014 Olympiad
    for open (men's) teams and the 2015 (open) World Team championship.
    There are eight Chinese men rated FIDE 2700+ (Hou Yifan, a young woman,
    is the 9th highest rated player in China), and FIDE regards China as
    the world's second strongest country (behind Russia) in chess.
    But Gary Fine apparently feels more comfortable in a world where
    there are no strong Chinese male players.

    Now that was largely true a few decades ago (though even in the 1990s
    there were some Chinese GMs rated in the high 2600s), and Gary Fine
    apparently prefers to dwell in a chess world of outdated stereotypes.
    Gary Fine (who may be Jewish) claims that Jews always (including today)
    have dominated American chess, and he spends some time attempting
    to explain this reality (Are Jews intrinsically smarter?). While it was true
    that players of Jewish heritage dominated American chess in the past,
    it's not true today, particularly in American junior chess, which seems
    increasingly dominated by Asians. The top American chess players
    today are mostly not Jewish (Hikaru Nakamura is such a Jewish name!).
    So I might suggest (sarcastically) that Gary Fine spend some time developing
    his fine theories about why Jews dominate American basketball.
    It's no longer true that Jews dominate American chess, and it's even less
    true that Jews dominate American academics in mathematics and science.

    Do I recommend this book? If you are interested in the musings of an
    opinionated professor of sociology who does not play chess and seems
    very ignorant and misinformed about chess and chess players, then
    this is the book for you!
  2. Subscribersonhouse
    Fast and Curious
    slatington, pa, usa
    Joined
    28 Dec '04
    Moves
    52851
    05 Oct '15 19:551 edit
    Originally posted by Duchess64
    _Players and Pawns: How Chess Builds Community and Culture_
    by Gary Alan Fine (2015, University of Chicago Press)
    is supposedly an analysis of chess culture, particularly American chess culture.
    Gary Alan Fine is a white American professor of sociology (who has
    written a book about the subculture of Little League baseball in the USA).

    After reading ...[text shortened]... ms
    very ignorant and misinformed about chess and chess players, then
    this is the book for you!
    Wow, I can't WAIT to get this one πŸ™‚

    Maybe I should wait till the movie comes outπŸ™‚

    Wait, that's been doneπŸ™‚ Have you seen "Pawn Sacrifice" yet or even interested in seeing it?

    I haven't seen the movie yet but I understand they kind of demonize Boris Spassky and we know he is a real gentleman.
  3. Hy-Brasil
    Joined
    24 Feb '09
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    175970
    05 Oct '15 20:17
    Wrong forum.
  4. Standard memberbill718
    Enigma
    Seattle
    Joined
    03 Sep '06
    Moves
    3298
    05 Oct '15 20:472 edits
    Originally posted by Duchess64
    _Players and Pawns: How Chess Builds Community and Culture_
    by Gary Alan Fine (2015, University of Chicago Press)
    is supposedly an analysis of chess culture, particularly American chess culture.
    Gary Alan Fine is a white American professor of sociology (who has
    written a book about the subculture of Little League baseball in the USA).

    After reading ...[text shortened]... ms
    very ignorant and misinformed about chess and chess players, then
    this is the book for you!
    During the Fischer era in the early 70's a writer for Time magazine said "In America, chess is roughly on the same level as gypsy violinists." Sadly little has changed since then. Clearly this book is aimed at non chess players, and since the vast majority of publishers in America know (or care) little about chess, it's not surprising a company would agree to publish a book so full of errors. 😞
  5. The Catbird's Seat
    Joined
    21 Oct '06
    Moves
    2598
    05 Oct '15 21:20
    Originally posted by Duchess64
    _Players and Pawns: How Chess Builds Community and Culture_
    by Gary Alan Fine (2015, University of Chicago Press)
    is supposedly an analysis of chess culture, particularly American chess culture.
    Gary Alan Fine is a white American professor of sociology (who has
    written a book about the subculture of Little League baseball in the USA).

    After reading ...[text shortened]... ms
    very ignorant and misinformed about chess and chess players, then
    this is the book for you!
    Why don't you write a book about this book? I see nothing to debate.
  6. Joined
    23 Nov '11
    Moves
    23110
    05 Oct '15 22:41
    Originally posted by Duchess64
    _Players and Pawns: How Chess Builds Community and Culture_
    by Gary Alan Fine (2015, University of Chicago Press)
    is supposedly an analysis of chess culture, particularly American chess culture.
    Gary Alan Fine is a white American professor of sociology (who has
    written a book about the subculture of Little League baseball in the USA).

    After reading ...[text shortened]... ms
    very ignorant and misinformed about chess and chess players, then
    this is the book for you!
    There is a "Chess" forum site on RHP which might be more suited to this posting.
  7. Zugzwang
    Joined
    08 Jun '07
    Moves
    2120
    06 Oct '15 02:202 edits
    Originally posted by Phranny
    There is a "Chess" forum site on RHP which might be more suited to this posting.
    The Chess forum is reserved for *technical discussions* about chess, such as chess games
    or how to play chess better. But the book _Players and Pawns_ is *not* a technical
    discussion of chess. It's not about how to play chess better. It contains no chess games.
    Indeed, its author does *not even play chess* and shows overwhelming ignorance about chess.
    Instead, as an American professor of sociology, he's supposedly writing a book *not about
    chess in itself* but about *how chess fits into broader patterns of American culture*.
    In short, his book is *supposed to be about much more chess in itself*. And I believe
    that the author's ignorance of chess makes him unqualified to draw insightful conclusions.

    Can Phranny comprehend that there's great diversity in books supposedly about chess?
    There would be a vast difference between, say, an academic feminist critique of sexism
    in chess and a technical monograph of the Sicilian Defence Dragon Variation Yugoslav Attack.
    The latter book clearly should be discussed in the Chess forum, while I would submit
    that the former book probably should be discussed in a more political forum.
  8. Zugzwang
    Joined
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    06 Oct '15 02:201 edit
    Originally posted by normbenign
    Why don't you write a book about this book? I see nothing to debate.
    Normbenign could offer a knee-jerk ignorant defense of the book.
  9. Zugzwang
    Joined
    08 Jun '07
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    06 Oct '15 02:331 edit
    Originally posted by bill718
    During the Fischer era in the early 70's a writer for Time magazine said "In America, chess is roughly on the same level as gypsy violinists." Sadly little has changed since then. Clearly this book is aimed at non chess players, and since the vast majority of publishers in America know (or care) little about chess, it's not surprising a company would agree to publish a book so full of errors. 😞
    Yes, the problem is not only that this book's author does not play chess and is ignorant of chess.
    I suspect that this book had editors who also don't play chess and are ignorant of chess.
    (How hard would it have been to fact-check the author's wrong claim that only about one
    percent of the world's GMs are women? An internet search quickly shows he's wrong.)
    And I suspect that this book will be reviewed in the mainstream US media by people
    who don't play chess (or play casual chess at most) and also are ignorant of chess.

    I wonder how much books claiming to offer sophisticated insights about music or musical
    culture have been written by tone-deaf authors who cannot sing or play any musical instruments.
  10. Hy-Brasil
    Joined
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    175970
    06 Oct '15 03:00
    Wrong forum.
    Perhaps culture or general forums seeing that you don't want it in the chess forum


    The Debates forum description:
    "Potentially heated discussions on topics such as world affairs, politics and other such areas of interest"

    Ask the moderators to move this thread to the appropriate forum
  11. The Catbird's Seat
    Joined
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    2598
    06 Oct '15 16:29
    Originally posted by Duchess64
    Normbenign could offer a knee-jerk ignorant defense of the book.
    No, I'm simply not interested in it, or in your review of it.
  12. The Catbird's Seat
    Joined
    21 Oct '06
    Moves
    2598
    06 Oct '15 16:30
    Originally posted by Duchess64
    Yes, the problem is not only that this book's author does not play chess and is ignorant of chess.
    I suspect that this book had editors who also don't play chess and are ignorant of chess.
    (How hard would it have been to fact-check the author's wrong claim that only about one
    percent of the world's GMs are women? An internet search quickly shows he's w ...[text shortened]...
    culture have been written by tone-deaf authors who cannot sing or play any musical instruments.
    Wrong forum
  13. Zugzwang
    Joined
    08 Jun '07
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    2120
    06 Oct '15 19:001 edit
    Originally posted by utherpendragon
    [b]Wrong forum.
    Perhaps culture or general forums seeing that you don't want it in the chess forum


    The Debates forum description:
    "Potentially heated discussions on topics such as world affairs, politics and other such areas of interest"

    Ask the moderators to move this thread to the appropriate forum[/b]
    Having read enough of the book (which I doubt Utherpendragon has done), it does
    not seem that this interdisciplinary book *fits neatly* into any one particular forum.
    Again, the book (by an author who does not even play chess) is *not* a technical
    discussion of chess. It has no chess games; it offers no content about how to play chess.
    Instead, the book's supposed to be a sociological analysis of American chess culture.
    And there's considerable *sociopolitical* commentary in it.
  14. The Catbird's Seat
    Joined
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    07 Oct '15 16:35
    Originally posted by Duchess64
    Having read enough of the book (which I doubt Utherpendragon has done), it does
    not seem that this interdisciplinary book *fits neatly* into any one particular forum.
    Again, the book (by an author who does not even play chess) is *not* a technical
    discussion of chess. It has no chess games; it offers no content about how to play chess.
    Instead, the b ...[text shortened]... analysis of American chess culture.
    And there's considerable *sociopolitical* commentary in it.
    How much is "enough"? Perhaps none is enough?
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