Chess Grandmastery: Nature, Gender and Genius

In the late 1960s, a Hungarian teacher named László Polgár resolved to try an educational experiment. The author of a brassy parenting book called Bring Up Genius!, he sought to prove that, as one of his kids later put it, “any healthy child—if taught early and intensively—can be brought up to be exceptionally successful in any field.” He married a fellow teacher who shared his views, and together they had three daughters. When the eldest took an interest in his chessboard as a toddler, László realized the game—with its objective measures of success—would make an ideal test of his method. He could not have set the stakes higher. Top-level chess had long been considered a domain in which women were mentally incapable of competing. But László and Klara Polgár scorned the received wisdom. “Women are able,” László insisted, “to achieve results similar, in fields of intellectual activities, to [those] of men. Chess is a form of intellectual activity…. Accordingly, we reject any kind of discrimination in this respect.” With the help of elite coaches, the Polgárs drilled their daughters in the art of chess. All three turned into prodigies.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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