15

In the history of FIDE chess competitions or rankings, why hasn't there been a black super GM (2750+ elo)? What could be the hindrance or what is it that the black players are not doing right that other players from other races are doing right in chess?

  • 27
    It's complicated. The correct answer will be long and complicated. (Also I don't think that you should have accepted the sole answer to your question so quickly). Consider socio-economic factors. Consider similar questions, eg: "why are there so few women in STEM?", "why are actors mainly rich kids?". Ask yourself how a chess GM manages to support themselves, how can they afford to eat when being a chess GM doesn't pay a salary. Your answer will lie in inequality inherent in the world. – Aaron F Jul 19 at 8:06
  • 1
    @AaronF I came up with an answer that is quite long, but hopefully not too complicated ;-) – Dennis Jaheruddin Jul 19 at 9:53
  • 4
    Another similar question: "Why are there so few non-Asian Go professionals?" – ahiijny Jul 19 at 15:20
  • 1
    @ahiijny but there is a critical difference blacks make up a reasonable portion of US/Canada for many generations while whites have (at least before 1950s) not been any reasonable portion of Asian societies and of course go is almost nonexistent in Western culture and I might be wrong about this but isn't a good chunk of the western go pros of asian descent at least have their parents from Asia and thus have a decent amount of Asian culture – Hao S Jul 21 at 4:32
  • 1
    Chess is historically an Indo-European game, mostly played by Europeans (and in India). Minorities in European countries will be under-represented in chess because they are minorities - they are under-represented in the main population where chess is primarily played at very high levels. A similar question might be why there are so few white Mancala players. – J... Jul 21 at 12:27
29

The number of players was already mentioned. But lets go one level deeper than that.

There are two driving factors in the chance that a player becomes a top player:

  1. Talent
  2. Education

And once you know the chance that someone becomes a top player, you can multiply this with the number of players. Which depends on the population and chance of someone playing.

A very simplistic formula might be:

Expected number of top players = Population size * likelihood to play * likelihood to have enough chess talent * likelihood to have enough chess education

Now, let's look into each of the factors:

Likelihood to have enough chess education

This is both cultural and economical.

Beginner level: The more people play chess, the more likely you have access to someone who can explain you the rules, and teach you how to play

Intermediate level: If more people play, you are more likely to find suitable opponents to develop against. If the local economy is better, it is more likely that you can afford basic training materials or have the chance to play/study online. A combination of economy and player density will determine if you are able to play many tournaments.

Advanced level: At this point training will require a serious investment of time and money that not everyone can make. Logistics are slightly easier if there are several strong tournaments nearby, but you will still expect to travel international. Also don't underestimate the fact that you will likely not be able to work (or at least less) outside chess if you want to climb to the top.

Likelihood to play

Once a sport is popular, it is much more likely to be picked up by new people. A clear example can be found in the Netherlands, where the sport got really booming for decades after Max Euwe became the world champion. Not only will this lead to more players, it will often also lead to more facilitating infrastructure/clubs which may encourage people to play.

Likelihood to have enough chess talent

There are plenty of controversial statements that could be made here, but I think it is fairly safe to say that starting with general education and calculation/reading skills have a positive impact on chess talent coming out.

Population size

More people leads to more potential players.


Conclusion

The reason why there are less Black top players, is because the population in general has a lower average likelihood to become one. For people in less faverable circumstances the answer so far should already explain things clearly. For other people (e.g. those in the US) I think the main reason is that they have a reduced likelihood to become a player. If earlier generations did not play themselves, and there are no past champions to inspire you, that will slow down adoption.

That being said, as education and economical development increases across the globe, I think we just need one black world champion of a few top players in general before we start seeing many black players grow to the top :)

  • 5
    This should be the correct answer. Upvoted! – Jossie Calderon Jul 20 at 0:22
  • This was a very insightful answer. – Isac Jul 22 at 9:50
30

I would say the main reason here is the low proportion of black players. If you look at statistics from the 20th century, you will find very few top players from Asia. But as chess became more popular in countries like China, now there are plenty of Asian super GMs.

I guess something similar will happen to still underrepresented races

  • 3
    Are there a lot of chess players from Norway? – Salvador Dali Jul 19 at 7:20
  • 6
    Quite a few of them compared to its total population! But the boom is quite recent, so that's why there's only been one Norwegian top player. Compare it with the number of Russian players – David Jul 19 at 7:23
  • 1
    quite a few is not really a 'scientific' measure. Also nowhere in the question it was asked about a comparison to a total population, so even if you are right (which I doubt) I do not see how is this relevant. – Salvador Dali Jul 19 at 7:30
  • 2
    OK: Let's be a bit more clear and forget the "population sizes". Take all of chess history. Russia has clearly outperformed Norway, which in term has outperformed Nigeria. There's been a ton of Russian players, a bunch of them from Norway, and almost none from Nigeria. Of course I am not being "scientific" as I don't have the exact data. By the way, at no point have I claimed to be so. Please present us your better explanation – David Jul 19 at 7:35
  • 5
    I don't have data: this is my main point. You took a very complex system concluded that the main reason behind the behavior of this system is hidden in a single number. You have not done anything to back this up. And it is very easy to show a counter example (BTW, there are 8 NOR players above 2500, and ~25 who are above 2400. Anyway, clearly not only 1 top player). My point is that this is a complex problem which probably can't be reduced to a one line/one number explanation and probably the reason is a combination of many many factors. – Salvador Dali Jul 19 at 7:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.