Ratings – possible issues with monthly grading

Quick league update – congratulations to North Bristol CC for the div 2 title! Now for something completely different – some thoughts about grading:

I read with interest Bob Radford’s and the BCT’s comments on the ECF’s proposals for using FIDE ratings. It’s handy to have a quick conversion check list and it’s interesting to see the BCT’s questions about the conversion process. To quote them: “Here at the BCT we are quite confused about all this K-factor and RO and algorithms going on”

But I see from the link to the ECF proposals that these are headed “Monthly grading proposal” and the change from ECF to ELO is a secondary detail to facilitate the introduction of monthly grading. The change to monthly grading seems to be a done deal, while the switch from ECF to ELO is a supplementary matter which is explained (or not, depending on your point of view!) in great detail. So, really, there are two separate issues: monthly grading and the switch to ELO.

I suspect that the introduction of monthly grading has rather gone under the radar and in fact opens an enormous can of worms. There is a major issue concerning how monthly league results would be communicated to the ECF. At present the results are sent twice-yearly and the increase in administrative hassle to do it monthly must be a major concern. I don’t want our league’s administrators to be caught up with feeding monthly data to the ECF if this will in any way affect the excellent reporting of results that we currently enjoy. Chessit reporting is actually quite sophisticated in the way that it handles not only match scores and updating of tables but also detailed club statistics including grading thresholds and play ups and downs. We are extremely lucky to have all this.

It is all very well for the ECF to lay down that results must be sent in monthly but I seriously wonder whether they have really thought it through properly and understand the problems they may be causing bigger leagues like ours. They state in their proposal that “At least in the early stages, there should be tolerance of delayed reporting, particularly for leagues and internal club results.” I wonder if this could be the thin end of the wedge.

As regards how monthly grading will affect the individual player, I suspect that anyone who is desperate to know how his/her grade is progressing from game to game is able to do this quite easily on the back of an envelope or, if they are so inclined, on a simple computer spreadsheet. And indeed they probably already do! How many will feel the necessity to log on to an ECF file to see their monthly grade? Nice to have, maybe, but hardly essential for most players. We have around 320 players in the league, of whom typically 60-ish play in weekend congresses which means that over 70% only ever play league chess for grading purposes. They can already see their grade not monthly, but weekly, on Chessit, so the ECF’s publishing of monthly updates will add nothing of great value for them.  And, after all, “they”, the silent majority, are the League.

I am fairly sure that we all play league chess for the enjoyment, fun and competitive spirit that the league gives us. And I suggest we look out for the results and league tables on Chessit in much the same way that we check the football results in the Sunday paper or on the internet. I would not want that to be put at risk because of issues to do with sending results to the ECF.

Perhaps it will be argued that monthly grading can be implemented with no adverse effect on Chessit. However, until I see convincing proof of that, I shall remain very cautious about the potential administrative problems. If push came to shove and the ECF were to try to force the League to send monthly results against our better judgement, I would hope we would have the determination to stand up to them. Incidentally, these are all purely my personal views.

And my personal view on changing from ECF to ELO is that I suppose it is “progress” and I can’t get too excited about it one way or the other. Of greater concern seems to me to be how the webmasters will cope with it.

BCT: If anyone else has any thoughts about current proposals, or proposals of their own around grading, please comment and share them with the league. Many thanks to Ian for his.

Author:  Ian Pickup is a regular Bristol League player in division 1