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Inactivity Points

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To pick out one item from the ACP/FIDE meeting and GM John Nunn's comments, let's take up the idea of losing rating points due to inactivity. I'm in favor of doing this in combination with other changes to make the list more dynamic. (Higher K factor, mostly, meaning bigger swings. Also emphasizing more recent events.)

This means redefining our concept of the rating list. Instead of being a long-view measure of a player's ability, as it is now, it becomes more of a performance rating. This turns the list into a more interesting subject for speculation. Using the list to encourage activity by dropping points for inactivity would be a small but fitting part of this.

The end result would be to make the list more interesting for fans and less relevant for things like invitations. If it changes all the time the players would be less obsessed with rating and more inclined to take risks. De-emphasizing the importance of rating is a worthy goal. It's not as if ratings are relevant across eras, due to inflation, and we could easily take averages to generate stable lists for the long view.

It's not about whether or not a player is actually weaker after being inactive for a while. Protesting on those grounds looks like a straw man. The point is to change the meaning of the list to who's playing well now, and playing at all is surely an important part of that. It shouldn't be extreme, but having a dynamic and varied top-20 puts the emphasis where it belongs: on exciting chess, tournament wins, and world championship stages and titles. (E.g. being a candidate should be more important than being a 2700.)


I don't like the idea. It might be ok for chess professionals, but it really hurts those of us who are amateurs and can't play very often! We count in chess too, you know. Due to work constrictions, I can only play a tournament every couple of years. I know that my playing strength doesn't diminish, as I consistently do well when I do play. I should not be punished by losing rating points, simply because I cannot play so often.

what a stupid idea!

I've always been in favor of something like this, changing the rating system in use to a measure of recent performance, something that rewards playing in more events. the notion that professional players make game decisions considering not only tournament situation but some freakin' number that circumstance has tied to invites and hence livelihood strikes me as breathtakingly vulgar, circumventing the board entirely. I'd like to see a pro tour on a yearly cycle where you accrue points for placing well and lose nothing but relative position for a lousy tournament, cf. car racing or whathaveyou. anything to encourage players to play and reward them for winning, as opposed to setting up a situation wherein the smart move is to sit out and draw with your cronies so y'all keep your jobs secure. sounds like nepotistic corporate vps, who needs more of that?

as far as amateur ratings, do what you will, I just can't imagine caring enough to feel hurt because something happens to my "rating" when there's no money at stake. actually, it only seems to help you make some $cratch by inactivity sandbagging your rating and increasing the number of divisions you can enter at that next tournament. "I am not a number."

I think you are misunderstanding. When I fight so hard to get my rating up to a nice level, it makes me proud, and I am happy to have accomplished something. Then when I can only play again two years later, I shouldn't have to start all over again at a lower level. I only get one or two tournaments every couple of years. If you take away the one measuring stick of achievement that I have, it takes alot of life out of the game. I think you should try looking at a separate measuring stick that is just for professionals. Leave the rating system at least basically alone for all of us! Or, give us a different metric for measuring our successes. Give us various amateur 'norms' such as Candidate Master and Master norms, so we have something else to aim for.

Most amateurs do not have FIDE ratings. Changes in the FIDE rating system wouldn't change how the USCF (or other national) rating system would work.

Here's a novel idea (I think)... How about rewarding activity instead of punishing inactivity? Players could amass more (extra) points for several good results instead of losing points for not playing often.

Inactive chess players should start losing rating points after, say, a period of 2 years without playing. That is, if we want chess ratings to reflect a player's actual chess strength and not his potential ability.

Right now we have a significant ratings inflation. That takes care of some of the problem: inactive players' rankings will drop down as the value of their rating decreases over the years. Fischer's 1972 rating is only good enough for 4th place in World rankings now, and Kamsky's 2717 did no longer put him in the top 10 last year.

In that sense, ratings inflation is a good thing. If we had ratings deflation instead, this inactivity problem would really be annoying.

Can't imagine why amateurs would care either way, or why these rules should apply to them. Regardless, you can still be happy with your peak rating. The point is redefining what it means. Instead of being obsessed by rating, and amateurs are as much as pros, although that's relatively harmless, we can concentrate on chess.

I agree that other metrics for amateurs would be useful. But rating floors could also be used.

"This means redefining our concept of the rating list."

More interesting for fans? I would say much less interesting since the ratings would mean less. Okay, so Topalov is #1 right now, and next time he is #6, and then another swing, but who would care? We already have performance ratings to look at. It's more interesting as it is, and I think a lot of us agree since there is much fascination about the ratings.

What do the players think? Not just the top players. Have there been polls? Most I've seen expressing a view have been against at least the specific points-deducted-for-inactivity proposal. Even if the suggestion has merits I would usually recommend thinking both twice and thrice before enacting revolutionary changes of anything. At least it has to have tangible player support, not just decreed by FIDE/ACP bureaucrats.

To clarify, I'm talking about Mig's suggestions put together and their purpose.

Players who would benefit from Mig's proposal would probably be in favor of it, so you would see some high-profile quotes from, say, Anand to that effect. (Just as he was in favor of merging rapid and standard ratings, while coincidentally enough being one of the players with the most to gain from such a merger).

IMO, most other players would hate it. Ratings are something you nurture and grow. They are "yours." There is an emotional attachment to them, whether you like it or not. To radically change them would be to depersonalize that.

I've always thought some kind of inactivity penalty is actually reflective of a player's present strength. Don't believe me? OK, then let's say you have two players you could face in a tournament: Player A is the same rating as you are and has played in 12 tournaments over the last 2 years. Player B is the same rating as you and has played in zero tournaments over the last 2 years. I find it hard to believe that most wouldn't choose to face Player B.

"Ratings are something you nurture and grow. They are "yours." There is an emotional attachment to them, whether you like it or not. To radically change them would be to depersonalize that."


"I find it hard to believe that most wouldn't choose to face Player B."

There are of course lots of factors that statistically speaking make you likely to be over- or underrated. But it isn't necessarily so. Spend two years practicing, studying, playing on the internet and even in unrated OTB events. Why should that by necessity make you weaker? If you PROVE yourself weaker by playing worse when you actually start playing, sure.

I must admit I don't see any real reason to change the rating system so radically. I like it the way it is.

Mr. Miller,
Actually most FIDE rated players are still amateurs. Go to any open FIDE event and by far the majority of players are us amateur 2000-2200s.

Those who would want to face player B may be in for a shock! I am one of those who goes for long stretches without playing, due to work, but I only seem to get better when I return. The last two tournaments I played in were the 2001 US Amateur West, where I took 1st with 5.5/6, and then the Budapest Spring Chess Festival in 2003, where I played very well until I got very ill. I honestly believe that I come back to chess with a stronger, fresher mentality after my layoffs, and I do better.

I also share knight tour's concerns fully. This number is very important for many people. 2234, to them, means much more than what it really means to others. People work their !@# 9-5, to pay their bills, study chess in all earnestness, screw up their vacation to sit in front of chess board for 40 hours just to get that number. And a formula is going to trash all this because he cannot afford as many vacations as the formula demands? Ridiculous.

Some where I read this and I fully agree with this. If the top 100 today, stopped playing chess, Chess will continue to attract masses. If people like me stopped playing chess, chess will die over night.

Ooops. Read it as "Even if the top 100 today..."

That one or two of the most consistent elite players wouldn't change much is beside the point. The idea is to have a regularly fluctuating list that rewards recent successes instead of giving a long-view measure of strength. A Bologan would shoot up by virtue of winning a supertournament.

Again, the entire point in my view is to make rating less relevant. Obsession with rating is terrible for the game, particularly the professional game. These points are the lifeblood of professional chess and are given as a reason why the same few players are invited to the top events. As in tennis, the top players would still be on top of the list most of the time, but there would be more movement and it would be taken less seriously.

In the computer age it is trivial to maintain as many ratings as you like. Amateur tennis players aren't concerned about their place in the world rankings and there would be no reason to penalize amateurs for inactivity.

re: Amateurs...

The FIDE list goes all the way down to 1800 now, and (at least here in the US) the opportunity to play in a FIDE rated event is very limited. So I would say a *majority* of FIDE rated players would be hurt by losing points due to inactivity; and it may even be just inactivity in FIDE events only, not nationally rated ones.

I think bonus points for activity and/or winning a tournament should be the way to go. Perhaps even bonus points for percentage of decisive games in an event?


Some INDIVIDUALS that would fit the criteria of Player B would actually be a better player than Player A. But as a COMPOSITE of possible players that could be Players A and B - I'd still rather face COMPOSITE Player B. And I believe most other players would as well, regardless of anecdotal "evidence".

I don't see the need to mess with the rating in this way. Let the rating stand as a measure of success or failure OTB! If the WC process needs some other metric, then develop one. How about a requirement to participate in some minimum number of events during a given cycle in order to be eligible to participate in the finals? Wouldn't this accomplish the same thing without altering the meaning of the ratings system?

Zinger - you might as well deduct points for aging. Say 10 points a year after the age of 35. After all, players get progressively weaker as they age, and who wouldn't rather face an older Player B?

Bottom line: let results dictate ratings. Do not deduct points for anything except 1, 0 or 1/2.

Globular, the Fide list goes all the way down to 1600 now. Soon it will go down to 1000.

I think the ACP point system shows who is currently playing very well. So I don't see why we would blend this idea with the rating system. If you are after two different goals have two different systems. By mixing you will achieve niether goal.

However I do agree that ratings are overvalued. I personally wouldn't mind if FIDE stopped rating games all together! Many people can develop thier own rating system, like Jeff Sonas and Stefan Fischl. So I say leave it to them. I do not give the "Official FIDE" rating more weight than these other systems when wondering what player is stronger.

I recognize my view is probably a minority one. Many people seem to want to eww and ahh everytime a new FIDE list is published.

Dont deduct points for inactivity!
Bobby Fischer didnt play for 20 years & still packed quite a wallop. If He had been penalized say,around 10 points a year, he would have been rated lower(!) than the"active" but much weaker Boris Spassky, who he easily dismantled.
I'm and FM who worked very hard to get the title & rating and , for now & the forseeable future,lack the time for tournaments. Im proud of my rating and dont think I and others like me should be penalized after all the time and effort we put in. My temporary withdrawal from tourneys in no way hurts other's chances of gaining points.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on July 3, 2005 11:22 PM.

    July 2005 Rating List was the previous entry in this blog.

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