Too Bad Women Suck At Chess, Says Times

A young Chinese woman becoming the youngest world chess champion is the perfect opportunity to air wildly unsubstantiated theories about women's genetic tendencies. Wait, what?

Hou Yifan, 16, broke a record held since 1978. (For frame of reference, Gary Kasparov became a world champion at 22.) A few paragraphs into discussing this achievement and an interview with her is this:

No one really knows why the best women players are typically not as good at chess as the best men. One theory, common among some top male players, is that men are usually more aggressive by nature than women, and are therefore better suited to a game that simulates warfare. Another, cited in at least one university study, is that the talent pool among women has not been big enough to produce many great players.

No one knows why it's so easy to uncritically regurgitate gender essentialism with no empirical data, and only the most cursory nod any other explanation. One theory, common among bloggers, is that you may as well throw it in, because everyone likes to have their assumptions confirmed without really having to think about them.

Update: A tipster tells us the language actually improved: It used to be, "No one really knows why women chess players are not as good at chess as men."

Record Set for World's Youngest Chess Champion [NYT]