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How can we reconcile that with the rest of our picture of the world, and how obsessed should we be with getting a copy of Laszlo Polgar’s book? Let’s get this out of the way first: the Polgar sisters were probably genetically really smart.The whole family was Hungarian Jews, a group with a great track record.But it finds practice matters more (25% of the variance) in unchanging games with clear fixed rules, and uses chess as an example.So suppose that the Polgar sisters are genetically smart, but maybe not as high up there as some other chess masters.I don’t know if the case he’s arguing against – that practice is literally everything and it’s impossible for anything else to factor in – is a straw man or not.But it seems more important to consider a less silly argument – that practice is one of many factors, and that enough of it can make up for a lack of the others. This study showing that amount of practice only explains 12% of the variance in skill level at various tasks, and is often summarized as “practice doesn’t matter much”.Plugging the Polgar sisters’ chess scores into his equation, I get IQs in the range of 150, 160, and 170 for the three sisters. Even if both Polgar parents were 170-IQ themselves, regression to the mean predicts that their children would have IQs around 140 to 150.It’s mathematically possible for there to be an IQ that predicts you would have three children of 150, 160, and 170, but I doubt any living people have it, and even if they did there’s no way they would marry somebody else equally gifted.
Chess champion Gary Kasparov actually sat and took an IQ test for the magazine Der Spiegel, and his IQ was 135.
We would expect them to need much more practice to achieve a level of proficiency similar to those chess masters, and indeed that seems like what happens.
(all of this is confounded by them being women and almost all the other equally-good chess masters being men.
Someone summed up my previous post as “Hungarian education isn’t magic”.
I would amend that to read “Hungarian education isn’t systemically magic”.
Robert Howard has a paper Does High-Level Performance Depend On Practice Alone?