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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”.

According to Wikipedia: Polgár began teaching his eldest daughter, Susan, to play chess when she was four years old.

[EDIT: Thanks to a few people who pointed out some problems with my math here (1, 2, 3).

I still think that having three supergenius-IQ kids when you and your spouse show no signs of being a supergenius yourself (Laszlo Polgar’s daughters could beat him at chess by the time they were 8) is pretty unlikely, but I admit not impossible.

The Polgar sisters’ IQs might have been a permissive factor in allowing them to excel, but it didn’t necessitate it. Malcolm Gladwell uses the Polgars as poster children for his famous ‘10,000 hours of practice makes you an expert at anything’ rule.

The Polgars had 50,000 hours of chess practice each by the time they were adults, presumably enough to make them quintuple-experts.

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