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Anand vs Gelfand

Most of you are undoubtedly unaware that the World Chess Championship is underway, the two contenders being Viswanathan Anand of India and Boris Gelfand, a native of Minsk, then in the U.S.S.R, now an Israeli. So far, all four games have been draws.

There's an almost total lack of interest in this tournament, in the game that arguably requires more high-IQ firepower than any other. That's to be expected, given the public's general interests, and also given that no American is playing. Haaretz and the Times of India think it's a big deal, though. Apparently at the time of the Fischer-Spassky tournament, more Americans were interested in it than they were in the Democratic Convention. (I read this the other day but can't now find the link.)

The two contenders are representatives of countries and cultures that have reputations as being very smart. That judgment must be qualified of course; the West gets a lot of India's high-IQ talent and doesn't pay much attention to the rest of the country; similarly with Gelfand, he represents the the high-IQ fraction of Israel. "Jews have been about half of the world’s top rated chess grandmasters between 1851 and 2000 (Rubinstein, 2004)" - source, Lynn and Kanazawa, pdf.

Here is a list of chess grandmasters by country, and naturally Russia is number one, and while Eastern Europe appears to be overrepresented in comparison to other intellectual achievements, the list otherwise looks about like one would expect. It would be hard to ascribe some countries' failure to appear on the list of grandmasters to a lack of education or infrastructure, considering that only a chess set is needed.

Posted by Dennis Mangan at 4:43 PM 35 comments

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