November 30, 2009

Why are Armenians good at chess?

The Prospect (U.K.) has a long article, The Lion and the Tiger, by David Edmonds on the latest Armenian chess savant, Levon Aronian, who may follow in the footsteps of world champ Tigran Petrosian. (Levon means lion, Tigran tiger). Like the great Gary Kasparov, Aronian is half-Armenian, half-Jewish. Edmonds writes:
They offered me 64 different explanations for why Armenians are world-beaters at chess. Armenia’s heritage as a cog in the Soviet chess machine plays a part, although that alone can’t explain why it outstrips other former eastern bloc nations. Some of them emphasised education—Armenian literacy rates are higher than in the US or Britain. A few others pointed to Armenia’s tradition of creativity in many fields, including music and painting. Armenia is poor and chess is cheap, one man told me. Then—and this is a favourite rationalisation—there’s the individualistic nature of the game. Armenians take perverse gratification in their incompetence at team games. (Weight-lifting is the only other sport at which Armenia excels.) The British ambassador, whom I later met in Yerevan, pressed a more physical, less abstract explanation upon me. Armenia is so mountainous that there’s no room for football pitches and athletics fields—but chess needs only space for a small board.

Being poor and smart helps, along with having the government shove chess down your throats the way the Soviets did.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

45 comments:

Alias said...

"Being poor and smart helps" - as does being half-Jewish.

Come to think of it, wasn't Bobby Fischer a half-Jew as well?

Guts Strongman said...

Bobby Fischer was a full Jew. His recorded IQ was around 180.

Anonymous said...

The last decent governor of California was George Deukmejian, an Armenian.

sabril said...

I don't think it's known 100% who Fisher's father was.

As far as Armenians go, the ones I have met have always struck me as being pretty smart. Have any studies been done on their average IQ?

Anonymous said...

Like Jews, Armenians have been a mercantile minority for many centuries. Did they go into commerce because they were smart to begin with or did they become smart after they went into commerce? I don't know. Selection pressures on merchants and peasants were probably always different.

An interesting thing about Armenia is that it won a war in the early 90s against Azerbaijan. Azeris are basically Turks. Azerbaijan's population is about twice that of Armenia. Azerbaijan has oil. Armenia has no mineral wealth. Azerbaijan had a powerful friend in Turkey. Armenia has no allies to speak of. And yet the Armenians won, annexing a large part of Azerbaijan and ethnically cleansing it of Azeris. I'm guessing that this result had something to do with the obvious difference in the two countries' mean IQs.

Anonymous said...

Looking at a picture like this it would be hard, with that hair and complection, to say Mr. Fisher was 100% Semitic, let alone Jewish.

So, the 1/2 Jewish thing may be right for those who want to claim this nut as theirs.

Anonymous said...

Armenians are a high IQ group, no question about it.

Anonymous said...

Gary fisher's mother was jewish but he didn't identify jewish (to say the least!)

keypusher said...

It's pretty definite that Fischer's real father was Peter Nemenyi, a Hungarian Jewish physicist. His mom was Regina Fischer, whose Judaism is not in doubt, so he was 100% Jewish ethnically. Look at chessgames.com, the Fischer page if you want to see this topic discussed at length.

Another thing you'll see at chessgames.com is ferocious Armenian nationalism. Apparently back in the 50s and 60s wherever a Soviet chess team that included Petrosian went, they would be greeted by expatriate Armenians chanting Tigran's name. Once there was one great Armenian chess master, there was enormous demand for more.

The great young chess talent right now is Magnus Carlsen of Norway. Probably the best teenage player in the history of the game. Norway has no notable chess tradition, which makes his accomplishment all the more extraordinary, like J.R. Capablanca of Cuba a century ago.

The (Soviet) Georgians also went in for women's chess in a big way after producing the great Nona Gaprindashvili in the 1960s. But that seems to have petered out.

Truth said...

I propose you do a little research and take a chessboard to Glendale Starbucks sometime.

Stopped Clock said...

The mountain thing is silly. Even the most mountainous parts of the US still have flat spaces here and there, and even dirt poor Armenia can afford earthmovers if they need to build one where there isnt any.

Anonymous said...

I was one of the best chess players in high school, and number 1 in my age group. Part of my ancestry is originally from very close to Armenia.

On the other hand, at physical team sports I was usually the worst player on the team. I'm still not sure why my parents insisted I play baseball and soccer, considering my very weak frame, my poor coordination and being prone to injuries.

I have no Jewish ancestors as far as I can tell.

Osman the Turk said...

"An interesting thing about Armenia is that it won a war in the early 90s against Azerbaijan. Azeris are basically Turks. Azerbaijan's population is about twice that of Armenia. Azerbaijan has oil. Armenia has no mineral wealth. Azerbaijan had a powerful friend in Turkey. Armenia has no allies to speak of. And yet the Armenians won, annexing a large part of Azerbaijan and ethnically cleansing it of Azeris. I'm guessing that this result had something to do with the obvious difference in the two countries' mean IQs."

LOL - those Turks, terrible at warfare...
http://s7.invisionfree.com/worldconflictsforum/ar/t843.htm

stupid too:
http://www.imo-official.org/results.aspx

Pissed Off Chinaman said...

Wasn't the game of chess invented in the region?

Anonymous said...

I wondered if the keypusher here was the chessgames.com one. I guess so.

More interesting than the lone cases of Aronian and Kasparov (born Garik Weinstein, uses a russified version of his mother's Armenian maiden name Kasparyan) is the fact that Armenia has far more GM's per capita than any country but...Israel. The two countries are quite close, something like 25 GM's in Armenia (pop. around 3 mil I believe?) and 35 or so in Israel. Even the chess-mad Ukraine is far behind.

Now if chess talent followed the bell curve that some people like to imagine as adequately describing everything, and certain groups like Armenians and Jews are just on a curve "shifted right", you would expect Jewish and Armenian overrepresentation to be much higher among the world elite than among ordinary GM's (of whom there are about 1000).

I'm not sure that that's actually the case; the very best players in the world right now are Vishy Anand (an upper-caste Hindu), Vesselin Topalov (a Bulgarian, gentile so far as i know), Vladamir Kramnik (Russian, I've heard his surname is Jewish, he does have a schnozz and heavy beard growth so maybe he is at least part Jewish), Magnus Carlsen (a Norwegian) and Aronian. So 1 or 2 out of 5 are Jews, 1 out of 5 Armenian - and Aronian counts twice. Among the 10-20 elite players who are not quite as strong, but get regular invites to the major closed tournaments, Gelfand is the only Jew that I know of. There are no other Armenians; Gabriel Sargissian is their second-best but he is not on a par with, say, those low-IQ Azeris Radjabov and Mamedyarov, who are about as strong as Gelfand or maybe stronger...certainly more enterprising.

As for Aronian following in the footsteps of Petrosian - yes he might, though like Petrosian he will never be clearly the best player in the world, nor would I expect him to hold the title long. Carlsen hasn't yet reached his full strength, and it is already hard to choose between him and Aronian.

Anonymous said...

Looking through the top 20 players on http://ratings.fide.com/top.phtml?list=men I would have to say Jakovenko and Eljanov look to me like Jewish surnames, though Eljanov may not be derived from Elias. So just by glancing at surnames 4-5 Jewish players in the top 20.

And 3 Azeri players actually, I had forgotten that Gashimov has moved up the lists - and Mamed down, it seems. Whether Gashimov will stay there is another question.

Jimmy Crackedcorn said...

Osman the Turk,

I love your link to the essay "Glory to the Turks." It is incredibly accurate, like citing the glorious Turkish victory at Gallipoli. A victory in which Turkish deaths were twice as high as Allied deaths. Glorious indeed. It looks like they took Mustafa Kemal's "order to die" a bit too literally. But as Patton said...

BTW, the Turks also outnumbered the Europeans at the Battle of Vienna by a factor of (at least) two-to-one. They still managed to lose.

Ivy League Bastard said...

Israel does not produce grandmasters at a huge rate, any more than the US or the US-born Jewish population. What Israel has is a large population of chess players and teachers who are products of the old Soviet system. Similarly, the Israeli athletes at the last few olympics were often products of the Soviet training machine. I think there is a Russian chess academy in Tel Aviv, run by otherwise unemployed chess masters from the old country, but it is not comparable in scale or tournament results to what existed in the USSR.

I recall reading that Israel has several homegrown, non-Russian, experts in chess problem composing and solving, and some of them have won the world competition in those areas. Chess solving is a much smaller competitive universe than chess playing, and could just be relatively popular in Israel compared to tournament chess, in the same way that blitz or correspondence chess may be more popular in some places than others.

Truth said...

You guys who are fanatical about chess, how many of you would defeat Maurice Ashley?

Anonymous said...

Radjabov, an Azeri player, is half jewish. Peter Svidler, a Russian player, is fully Jewish.

Both are consistently top 10-15 players.

I must admit I didnt know that Aronian was half jewish.

Anonymous said...

"Like Jews, Armenians have been a mercantile minority for many centuries. Did they go into commerce because they were smart to begin with or did they become smart after they went into commerce? I don't know. Selection pressures on merchants and peasants were probably always different."

Actually they -along with Jews and Greeks- were driven to go into commerce living inside the Ottoman Empire, where all public and military positions where held by muslims.
So it can be assumed that an evolutionary process similar to the one proposed for the Ashkenazi Jews of Central Europe may have occured.

Bandung File said...

Levon Aronian is a megastar. He is 27 years old, charming, handsome...

Handsome???

Mark Krikorian said...

Uh, sorry, but Tigran (alternatively Dikran or, in the Greek form used in history books, Tigranes) not only doesn't mean "tiger" in Russian, as the Prospect piece says, it doesn't mean tiger in Armenian, either. The name's of ancient Persian origin, apparently meaning "shooting an arrow" and was used by a number of Armenian kings.

And, although I'm Armenian, I'm no good at chess.

Middletown Girl said...

Armenians, like the Jews, have long belongeded to a Middleman Community. They suffered something like the Holocaust too at the hands of the Turks. It could be Armenian society and history favored and preferentially selected the smart and enterprising ones, just like what happened with the Jews.

Jono said...

Lynn and Vanhanen have mean Ashkenazi IQ a full standard deviation above Armenian. So while IQ obviously correlates positively with chess skill, perhaps it's something else these two groups share in common. Talent for commerce, for example... also correlated with IQ, but not tightly.

RandyB said...

I'm sure being poor, smart and cold helps.

It's kind of hard to imagine a brat from Beverly Hills becoming a chess champion.

Anonymous said...

"stupid too:
http://www.imo-official.org/results.aspx"

Osman,

The Turks aren't stupid but with an average IQ of 90, I wouldn't call them brilliant either. They are among the smartest of the Muslims, FWIW.

Anonymous said...

"You guys who are fanatical about chess, how many of you would defeat Maurice Ashley?"

Gee I dunno Truth, but some of us might beat YOU. Do you have a USCF rating? I got up to 1900 before I quit playing serious games, what about you?

Anonymous said...

lol. I'm absolutely shocked that 'Truth' mentioned Maurice Ashley! He is black, for those who don't know. Though if 'Truth' really wanted to impress, he should have named Emory Tate instead. Tate is a black International Master born in Gary, IN and one of the more entertaining players in US chess. He isn't a world-class player, neither was Ashley. But, yeah, either one could likely beat anyone who posts here. So what?

Anonymous said...

"He isn't a world-class player, neither was Ashley. But, yeah, either one could likely beat anyone who posts here. So what?"

Truth is just reminding you folks that high IQ African Americans do exist. Everytime a high-IQ black is either mentioned in the news, about half of the comments at iSteve ridicule his intelligence or imply that he only got where he was due to affirmative action. Once you guys stop assuming that EVERY black man with an advanced degree didn't deserve it, then Truth will stop comparing the illustrious commenters at iSteve to successful African Americans.

Anonymous said...

"Truth is just reminding you folks that high IQ African Americans do exist."

Right, because Steve and all the regular posters here are on record as thinking that every black person who has ever lived has been a moron.

"Everytime a high-IQ black is either mentioned in the news, about half of the comments at iSteve ridicule his intelligence or imply that he only got where he was due to affirmative action"

Sounds like another great reason to get rid of AA. In fact, take away AA in all its noxious forms and give us a sane immigration policy. I wonder then how much interest us right-wingers would have in HBD. I know I would lose some of mine.

Maurice Ashley was the first 'African-American' to achieve the Grandmaster title in chess. To the best of my knowledge, he did so without any help in the form of lowered standards or being given an extra Rook in his games. When the next (second) 'African-American' gains the GM title, he'll have to do it the same way. Sounds fair to me.

Anonymous said...

RE: Osman and the Turks

The original Turks were in fact high-IQ Mongoloids from North-Central Asia, and were close kin to the Mongols. As they conquered and moved westward, they assmilated the lower-IQ Central Asian Caucasoids they came across. As the original Turks were greatly outnumbered by those they conquered, they became Caucasoid in appearance and gravitated towards the mean IQ of the Centra Asian Caucasoids. In spite of this, enough of the original Turkish ingenuity remained where they were able single-handed destroy the Byzantine Empire and threaten Central Europe. But eventually the Europeans surpassed them, and it's been downhill ever since.

P.S. - I'm sure Islam had something to do with their falling behind. Islam seems to have a negative effect on IQ that only worsens with time.

Anonymous said...

"Once you guys stop assuming that EVERY black man with an advanced degree didn't deserve it..."

The day when affirmative action is abolished this assumption that you speak of will become stupid and irrational. But not before then.

Truth said...

"I'm absolutely shocked that 'Truth' mentioned Maurice Ashley! He is black, for those who don't know"

Maurice Ashley is black?

Anonymous said...

"Maurice Ashley is black?"

Well, kind of a rich molasses color, really.

Middletown Girl said...

"The original Turks were in fact high-IQ Mongoloids from North-Central Asia, and were close kin to the Mongols. As they conquered and moved westward, they assmilated the lower-IQ Central Asian Caucasoids they came across."

Tartar brigands from North Central Asia were high IQ? Central Asian Caucasoids were of lower IQ? Where do you get such nonsense?

I don't think there's much difference in IQ among Europeans, Central Asians, or Middle Easterners. I think it's really a matter of culture. By the way, Turks took or stole smart people from their vast empire for centuries, so shouldn't this have made Turks smarter? Greece was under Ottoman rule for something like 300 yrs, and the Ottomans took the smartest and best looking Greeks to Istanbul to serve the Sultan.

Truth said...

"I don't think there's much difference in IQ among Europeans, Central Asians, or Middle Easterners. I think it's really a matter of culture."

Well, I guess that invalidates The Bell Curve, eh?

corvinus said...

How come I haven't seen figures for Armenian IQ? Given that Armenians seem to be in many ways "Christian Jews", I think we should at least try to get a handle on that. I mean, Israel was recorded as something like 90, IIRC.

Anonymous said...

Most tests done on Armenian IQs are done on Armenians in Armenia.

This is inherently biased because after the breakup of the Soviet Union, there was a brain drain from Armenia, the more intelligent and educated Armenians going abroad as they had more money.

The mean IQ in Armenia is 94. Smaller, and unpublished results, of diaspora Armenians puts the IQ around 107.

G. Ames said...

The likelihood of a race-game being a forerunner of Chess is preserved in the promotion of a pawn to a piece when reaching the 8th row. Hinduism prohibits gambling. The revival of Hinduism during the Gupta Dynasty led to an enforcement of this antigambling policy in the 6th century AD. This is used as an argument by some scholars for supporting the idea of an Indian origin of Chess. It is stated that the suppression of dice forced the transformation of a race game into a strategic game. When I discussed this with some Indian historians during a visit to India, I got clarification that the gambling inhibition was local and did not apply to total India.

Anonymous said...

Uh, guys, according to Richard Lynn, their IQ is only 93.

Swisheryan said...

The reason that Turks have the highest IQ among Muslim natinos is becaus so many Armenian girls were taken by Turkish men that so many Turks in Turkey don't even know they are Armenian.

Anonymous said...

There are no IQ studies on Armenians damnit. Richard Lynn got his numbers by averaging Russia and Turkey's numbers.

Anonymous said...

Armians are for me underrated. In scientific domain there are recognized as intelligent people (I mean scientists). Russians put on plans to persecute 'hem cause they worried about their hold in the area. There were a lot of intellectuals armenians.

By the way I could speak about current ashkenaze's genetics tests more accurate than in the past. Results? They come mainly from Caucase & and therefore probably near to Armenians. Possibly Armenians are really even almost same population as ashkenazes. To say true, when I look a ashkenaze I see easier an Armenian than a Arab. Indeed I know Armanians and there are some you make out differences with Europeens and some others not at all.

Let me also express relating to I.Q. results. For me shouldn't be considered as definitive & accurate. It's only indications. It doesn't mean nothing and not a lot in the same time. Another motherf****rs did current I.Q. tests in UE (Europe) and they pretended that there's more significative differences between europeens populations than the olds ones. For instance, Germany 107 & France 95. That shit get so stupid. And every year forth I.Q. Ashkenaze is higher. Don't tell me that s**t ain't become : So whatever. It nearly looks like propagand and nothin' more. I don't give details to raise the results mathematicly but not logicaly cause that become harder to me to explain (cause I speak french), but there is. It looks like a race to results and it's get literately pathetic. Not really scientific, ain't it?

Also we could criticize the test. Is it really representative the intelligent? Is it really instinctive? The parts of each exercises are they representativeb/proportional of brain ability? It deem, no no & afresh no. But there somerhing more relevant than those tests. In USA, U or they (I don't know where U R from) have people from the whole world who speak english as mother tongue (native linguage). Furthermore there national test relating to University named "SAT". The top of the art is that the results are compared with family's incomes & that it's relevant. Real profeciency & performance come from those tests.
Result undiscutable : East Asians are the bests (Chineses with Hong-Kong & Singapour, Japaneses and koreans. Perhaps mongols to, but not sure).

Sorry wether my english is not perfect.

I hope you will appreciate and take in it all.

Luc, swiss-made. LOL.

Anonymous said...

PS I'm schoked when I read that the religion could get less intelligent. I won't reply so much that comment is silly.

Luc, swizerland