Mig 
Greengard's ChessNinja.com

The Kelly Rule

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I just posted the latest update to the US Championship website to include the World Open results. Qualifiers included Joel Benjamin, who will be at his 23rd consecutive championship. If he sticks around a while longer he can pull a Walter Browne and get in by winning the Senior Championship.

Other news includes the expected change in the qualification guidelines (#8) to prevent people from getting in by just paying the fee. A minimum 50% score will now be required to qualify, effective starting with the next event (the US Open). It covers all qualifiers, but is will only likely be a factor for the women's spots.

This is a reaction to what happened at the National Open, when only one woman (Kelly Finegold) paid the fee and so qualified automatically. This situation which was almost duplicated at the World Open. We've had long, interesting discussions of this crisis and related women's chess issues here and here.

This change patches a hole so qualifiers will have to at least earn their spots with a decent performance even if they don't have any competition. The larger issue is what to do with the women's championship if so many of the women don't want to play. Getting tossed to the lions might be an honor once, but we saw many women this year playing in the class sections instead of going for qualification. The carrot of playing in the championship clearly isn't enough for everyone.

Let's hear your suggestions. Back to a round-robin with the women fighting it out amongst themselves? One "ghetto" event per year might not hurt anything, although it seems a shame for them to miss norm chances and playing top competition. Eliminate the women's title entirely? The AF4C is listening...

90 Comments

I find it strange that getting "thrown to the lions" would discourage someone from participating against such terrific competition. I would love such an opportunity, and I would do it again and again no matter how beat up I got, just for the experience.

Women already have a championship to play for: the same one as the men.

My own feeling is that at least as many women would be challenged by an absence of female players in a gender-neutral event as would be "inspired" by a group of much lower-rated females who get in on a gender-segregated pass and then end up at the bottom of the field.

Any woman who is a Master is already in the top 1% of US tournament players--there just doesn't seem to be any reason to set up rules or events to benefit one particular group of top 1% players over another.

http://www.uschess.org/ratings/ratedist.html

So I say just eliminate all the gender-segregated stuff and let women work to be the best players that they can become. In the long run, that will be the best for everyone.

But then, you already knew that was what I was going to say, yes? :)

--duif

The problem isn't just the "getting thrown to the lions" aspect. I'm sure many players, both male and female, would love to do what Chouchan Airapetian did last year when she became the first woman ever to qualify for a gender-neutral invitation to the US Championship.

She was a 2100 player who had the tournament of her life at the Chicago Open, ending up with the same score as GM Nakamura, and then went on the play in the US Champohonship.

If she could do that twice in a row, I'm sure she'd love to go back again.

The problem is when you come in "through the side door," thoroughly UNqualified for the competition, and then lose, and lose, and lose again.

When you have to listen to the endless comments of those who want to know why you're there, why someone else isn't, why you think people like you are inevitably at the bottom of the field...when you hear journalists ask for three or four of the leaders by name, and then say, "Well, maybe we can get one of the women for an interview." When you become part of a group that is defined as being just not very good.

Then the "great experience" becomes something else entirely.

It is ultimately a matter of self-esteem. Some women are not bothered by the experience. But many find it far more satisfying to earn their invitations without having any standards lowered.

Chess is a game in which no luck is involved. Indeed, that's what draws many of us, male and female, to it. So many prefer to see the contest for the Championship played on completely objective grounds, with each person earning their invitation on the same objective basis.

--duif

I think it is unfair to the women who had planned to qualify via later events. e.g Anna Hahn may have been planning to play in a later event. (I just made up a woman player's name, it could be anybody else). She has had to play by different qualification rules than people who qualified earlier. I think it is unfair to people who qualify later in the year. The rule change should have been effected next championship onwards.

have my postings made the AF4C ban me from play? I have vanished off of the Qualifier Grand Prix list. Missing the WO proved costly...

I just mailed John about it; he does the lists, I put them in html and post'em. I'm sure you'll be back faster than you can say "if I play in all these damn things I sure as hell better qualify."

peachtree: The point is to MAKE people qualify. If there is one spot and only one person signs up, that's not qualification by any but the most liberal definition. It could have gotten worse, with some 1000-rated 9-year-old "qualifying." Nobody expected there to be so little participation, but something has to be done to protect the integrity of the championship. As envisioned, there wouldn't have been much of a chance of anyone qualifying with less than 50% anyway.

I think this all seems strange. First of all, there are women who were already registered and payed a qualifying fee for the US Open, now they have to ask for a refund? Seems as though some of them might have chosen not to even play, sad, but you certainly can't blame someone for taking advantage of an opportunity. It seems these rules should've taken place for the Thanksgiving tournaments since nobody has pre-registered for those yet.

As for the 50% score, I believe I've made this point before, but it can't be applied to all events the same like that, perhaps performance rating (norm-like) should be applied, the only problem is what if a person with a lower performance rating has a higher score than someone who has a passing performance rating. Anyways, any system in place seems artificial. But I got 5/9 last year at the US Open and I was 1780 (and I don't think my result was particularly spectacular), I don't think this year at American Open if I play in the open section I can even say I'm likely to get an even score. I agree with what the policy is trying to do, but I don't agree with how it is doing it or how they're implementing it.

Another note: As for how they're dealing with the unqualified spots. I don't believe that they should just go to ratings if someone doesn't qualify in an event, I believe the qualification process as a whole is a good one and players should be encouraged to participate in these large swiss events and hence qualification spots should be carried over to the next events until at the very end if they are unfilled they can be placed by rating. I mean why should players like Abrahamyam go out and pay to qualify if they're going to be giving all the spots away by rating anyways. AF4C wants to have this very accessible view of the US Championships, but not actually have to suffer any consequences for it.

I'm still curious as to what's going to happen when a girl scores 4.5/9 at the US Open with like an average opponent rating of like 1700, luckily looks like a whole bunch of women are trying to climb on the easy qualify bandwagon and there are like 4 or 5 women pre-registered who have payed the qualification fee.

Gender Neutral Events:
Now here's a real idea for supporting women's chess if it's all about promoting women, why not catch them when they're young? If these groups are really so interested in having women players, why not have a US Junior Women's Invitational, a lot of the top girls are under 21 anyways. Or why isn't there a "women's spot" in the US Junior Closed? Clearly you can't say women need spots in the US Championships and not some kind of event to start preparing them for stronger events and a younger age.

I think it would be helpful to define this before we debate it. I'll take a stab at a definintion of purpose. The U.S. Championships serve two purposes: 1) to determine the best player in the U.S., at least for a one year period; 2) to promote the game and get people to play.

Can anyone add to this? Are there any other goals?

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

For "promote the game and get people to play" I would substitute

2. To showcase the best American players in a fan-friendly way.

I have mentioned several times in the past my concern that, as a community, we often choose "promote chessplaying" over "promote chessplayers."

Yes, it's great to bring in more 1200 level players. But the sport needs heroes in order to become financially viable. It needs ways for fans to connect with professional chess even if those fans don't play tournament chess themselves.

No other American event is so ideally framed to help promote chessplayers. It's an opportunity that we shouldn't lose in a general mission of "promoting chess."

The purpose of the Superbowl isn't to "promote football playing among amateurs." The purpose of the PGA Masters isn't to "promote golf."

It's to celebrate human accomplishment at its highest levels. And to give us a glimpse into the stories of the human beings behind those accomplishments.

Every story of every participant should be one of struggle, commitment, and accomplishment.

And the event promotion should be designed to tell those stories in a way that connects with a wide range of fans.

--duif

Lest Duif is compelled to repeat her thesis over and over like a Druidic mantra, keep this portal handy:

http://chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=2377

Thank you Duif and Clubfoot. Is there anything I missed? Is there some other goal that I omitted?

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Ed,

I'm sure there are a lot of minor goals that we could list, perhaps most prominently building a good relationship with sponsors, but I think it's a pretty straightforward proposition.

Your #1 goal is clearly the most important: to crown a deserving champion.

Second to that is to showcase America's best players in a fan-friendly manner.

If we get those two things right, I'd think the Championship would be a phenomenal success.

But what do I know? :)

duif

Okay, Dave, you and two other disappeareds have reappeared on the qualifier grand prix page list. No charge.

http://uschesschampionship.com/2006/news/grandprix.htm

Hello Ms. Duif,
If we accept the first proposition then it seems to me that only persons with a good chance at winning the event should be admitted to the championship. Allowing in players under 2400 (or perhaps even 2500) strikes me as absurd. I think the U.S. Championships should be invitational round-robins, not swiss events with dozens of qualifiers.

The qualifier system will create a limited race to the bottom. More and more players who are middle-range qualifiers (2200-2500) will simply stop trying, as the cost will exceed the reward. This means that more and more players below 2200 will get in.

Players who can beat the best players but who are highly unlikely to win the title should be excluded. A 2100 player may knock off one or two grandmasters but he won't win the event. This tarnishes the title.

Even more serious is the sluggo factor. With swiss events there are rounds with odd numbers of players in certain score groups. This results in cross-group pairings. All that is needed for the title to be debased is for one grandmaster to play some sluggo, pick up a point, and win the title by half a point, the difference provided by the sluggo.

I think invitational round-robins are the only way to go.

I'll post more later. What does everyone think of my argument?

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Mig

ha, funny. but "fluffy" is lower case "f". get it right. damn missing world open proved costly. @$#@

Ed

If the time isn't an issue, last place at the US Championships is $2000, that should cover anybody's cost for the trip. I'm fairly convinced based on your view of experts that your understanding of chess is weak. Do you really have this high and mighty view of 2100's? I don't personally know any 2100's that could realistically beat two GMs in a nine round event, let alone even one, especially when there's real money on the line for the GM's.

The problem is your view on who "has a shot" at winning is backwards. You think it should be a round robin, but one could argue in such events, even fewer players have a chance at winning (since round robin's are a better gauge of who played better than than a swiss), but then from this we should cut the field to four, and make it a series of 6 game knockout matches, but in a match the stronger player wins EVEN MORE often, so we really only need one match, the two people Edward Yetman, III decides "have a chance" of winning the championships. The number of people who have a chance to win an event depends on the structure of the event. I think a large swiss may not be ideal for picking a champion also prevents artificial exclusion for people who really do have a chance. I'm sure it could be argued that the field could be cut in half from its current state, but I don't believe in a 64 player swiss event only 10 people have a chance of winning (and I'm not talking about a 90% chance, 5% IS a chance). One might argue this is wrong since we're not determining which player "is best", but this is not the point of championships. I could argue that the 2003-2004 Lakers were better than the 2003-2004 Pistons, but they lost in the championship, that's the point of the championship, it's the element of randomness that makes it exciting, or the element of dominance even in a structure that should allow for randomness. Either way few championships are set-up to determine who played better over the course of the season, just who played better during that short period of time.

Also, clearly you don't know the recent history of the US Championships, it was turned into a large swiss because it was dying as a round robin, there was a serious risk of there not being a US Championships in 2004 (Instaed they called that one the 2005 while there was officially no championship in the 2005 calendar year). Clearly an event that takes place where top players recieve money is better than an event that doesn't take place even at the cost of some slightly weaker players getting paid.

I also noticed one other thing browsing around last night on the USCF site. A lot of people were talking on a previous thread about limiting the women's spots to the top 100 women, however, the women's field is not so deep and as it turns out Kelly Cottrell is the 96th strongest women in the US at 1684, so if you want to stop 1800's from qualifying, this is clearly not the solution.

My solution would be : Eliminate all gender specific qualification spots (women's only). Anybody who qualifies like Chouchanik Airapetian did would get selected.

Have the top 6 women who play at least 20 FIDE rated games in the last 2 years directly seeded into the tournament.

Have another 6 spots from a US Women's Open Swiss tournament qualify for the US championship.

On a different tack, has the criteria for selection of the 2006 Olympiad team been decided? What are the activity requirements ? Do people who hardly play any FIDE rated games like Zsuszua Polgar, Boris Gulko, Anna Hahn , Jennifer Shahade get to qualify for the Olympiad team, if otherwise eligible ?

JEGutman,

I may have missed something, but I don't think anyone suggested limiting the gender-restricted spots to the "top 100 US women," since, as you point out, that list goes down to middle amateur level.

At one point I did say that if people felt they HAD to have some gender-restricted invitations, I would limit it to those women who are on the "Top 100 Overall US Players" list published by the USCF. On that list, IM Krush is #94.

My feeling was that the current event structure, which inevitably has all men in the top 10 spots and almost all women in the bottom 10 spots, sends the wrong message. In a field that had fewer women, but where those women were GM Susan Polgar, Zatonskih, and IM Krush, at least you couldn't automatically bet the result based on gender.

However, I would prefer to see no gender-restricted invitations at all.

I'm sorry if there was any confusion caused by my failing to identify the list under discussion clearly enough in the original thread.

--duif

Ed,

I like the idea of the gender-neutral qualifying spots. I think they do just what they were intended to do: add excitement, draw attention to over the board tournaments, and create a sense of drama throughout the year leading to the championship.

So at this point in history, I would keep the expanded swiss format and the gender-neutral qualifying spots.

Respectfully,
Duif

Oh, an interesting point about "what happens to the top women if we eliminate gender-segregated invitations?"

The great thing about the current situation is how good our good women players are.

11 of the gender-neutral invitations last year went to players rated between 2300 and 2450, with one more going to Airapetian who had the performance every amateur dreams of.

Using the USCF's top 100 women list, we can see that that range already includes ALL of the top 10 women on the USCF list.

So if the gender-neutral qualifying spots stay, women like IM Krush, Shahade, Abrahamyan and Goletiani have just as much chance as men like Adamson, FM Casella, FM Zilberstein, and Kleiman to make it to the Championship.

They just have to play as well as the men to get there.

So I think the current format offers the best opportunity we've had in decades to welcome ALL players, men and women, equally to the sport of chess.

With one championsip for all. :)

Mr. Gutman,
Do you mean to insult me?

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

If we look at the root of this whole problem it is that for some reason there is a woman's prize at the US Championships. Under prizes in swiss events are rarely accurate at determining who played best as we saw in this last US Championships it was a disadvantage to the two women who went into the last round leading their peers by 1/2 a point. I honestly have no problem with gender specific events, but I don't believe there should be a gender specific prize within a gender neutral events nor should there be gender specific invitations with a slight exception. My only exception would be that if there were a seperate US Women's Championship I would not be opposed to there being a qualifying spot from that. One might argue that the spots should be open to all, but this is similar to the US Junior and US Senior qualifying spots that already exist although one might argue that both of these qualifiers would have good chances to qualify otherwise (As recall at least 3 participants from the US Junior Championships qualified last year).

Hello Ms. Duif,
I recall that Mig posted elsewhere in the Daily Dirt that of the bottom 11 places last time 10 were taken by women. I haven't done an analysis of the event, but it seems to me that if the women are not competitive with the men they should not be playing together. I think that having a lot of comparatively weak players (comparative to the players who are likely to be competing for first place) only dilutes the field and makes the event less interesting. To include a body of women players in the name of equality of opportunity is even worse.

I would like to see something like this. Hold a championship of the 50 state champions. Make it a big swiss. Include Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands even, if that seems good. Take the winner and seed that player into the "Absolute championship" of the U.S.

Run a women's championship on a round robin. Take the winner and seed her into the "Absolute Championship."

Then add 12 more players seeded by rating and run a 14 player, 13 round event. Time it run with the U.S. Open. Winner gets seeded into the next year's final.

I think this would do a number of good things. It would turn the women's championship and the states' championship into feeder events that would allow outsiders to get into the U.S. Championship. Gradually those events would get stronger and stronger, and the women's title event could even rival the men's, or outdo it, as in the glory days of Soviet Georgia.

Best of all the individual state championships would get a shot in the arm. What happens on Olympus does affect the mortals, but we still need to go to work everyday. Top level chess cannot thrive if local chess declines. The current online championship event is just a cheap, crass substitute in my opinion.

Anyway, that's my view.

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Peace...

In following this discussion, I have noted several holes in given arguments:

A) Yes, the presence of lower-rated players does dilute the overall strength of the tournament, but it does not delegitimize the overall title, inasmuch as those battling for the crown are usually playing from the middle of the pack up for the entire tournament. Also, if people qualify via the revised means, i.e. Airapetian last year, then they are still able to dilute the overall strength of the tournament, so it is bogus to claim an attempt to do otherwise.

B) People who are complaining about the women's prize miss a very important fact, which is that the Women's Championship has been a title which has existed for several decades. To eliminate the title altogether would be tragic, while to go back to an independent tournament would require more fundraising, likely a differenr time frame altogether, and I am not sure that sponsors want to commit to this.

C) The minimum score provision not only is an issue for people competing in different types of events (say, as someone else did, World Open vs. the all-for-one US Open), but also it does not allow for someone who has an oustanding tournament otherwise to make it if, for example, she is at 50% and faces tough opposition in the last round because of it. I wonder if this might convince someone, if she is leading the field and at 50%, to withdraw after Round 8 or some such. (It is a bizarre thought, but one thing that I have learned over the years is that chessplayers are very good at hitting on bizarre ideas when they may be beneficial.)

On a contrary note, I agree entirely with the idea of a Junior Girls Invitational or female spot in the US Junior championship to provide both better preparation and alternatives to women qualifying from these events. As somebody correctly pointed out, nobody is complaining about US Junior champions playing or US Senior Open champions playing; women are just another interest group.

Hotep,

Maliq

Tradition is relevant, but decades ago American women couldn't compete at the men's level. Now they can. If there were a dozen 2500-rated women, having a women's title event, or any subsidized official event, would be almost bizarre. Discarding the title when the women are competing equally, or close enough to it, is logical and correct.

Junior, senior, and women's events are all artificial for promotion purposes. They promote the game and they promote those groups. The usual switch in utility is when they become irrelevant, the way the world junior is a bit silly now that the really strong players are 2600 by the time they are 17 and nobody bothers to play in the world junior.

You can't qualify if you don't play in every round of the qualifier. No bye tricks. Worrying about strength of opposition and such is beside the point. 50% is not too much to ask and some standard must be set, if only to defend the event this year until something better can be done.

perhaps the best measure of effectiveness of seperate womens chess prizes in terms of boosting female involvement longterm should be the impact on scholastic events. Hopefully the mere prescence of several women in the 64 player championship has already encouraged participation by a wave of young school age girls who will begin to appear at big opens in significant numbers in a few years. I seem to remember seeing a lot of girls at the National open participating in the scholastic tournament. If the boy/girl ratio has evened at that level there won't be a need for gender oriented prizes in a few years.

Maliq,

I'm confused as to how there needs to be more money raised to give out money at a seperate US Women's Championship than to give it out during the US Championship to the same field of players? There was in fact recently a seperate event, the US Women's Champion has been crowned twice some years. Also the wonderful scheduling of a tournament occurred to knock off a woman from being on the women's olympiad team. The simple fact of the matter is that having a women's championship within a men's championship is silly, last round in last year's championship Krush was 1/2 point ahead of any other women, but she got matched up against defending US Champion GM Shabalov and the two women that passed her in the last round didn't even face IMs, if this were its own event she would have had a chance to play for the title against her competitors, that seems a little logical. Swiss systems are not accurate at gauging the results of players other than the first place finisher.

Maliq,

An interesting post, with a number of important points. The main thing I would disagree with is the characterization of the loss of the gender-segregated championship as "tragic," but Mig already answered that far better than I could, so I'll move on.

Whiskeyrebel, there are two separate issues. One is that the single most important factor in getting more women into chess turned out to be the Polgar sisters and Pia Cramling doing very well playing in integrated events. There had been gender-segregated events for literally generations before the Polgars arrived without noticeably increasing the number of women who played. Or their average rating.

Yet less than 15 years after Susan Polgar became the youngest GM ever, the top 1% of US adult women players by USCF rating are in the top 1% of all US tournament players. That's very cool.

When we have gender-segregated events or titles or invitations, we are basically saying, "Oh, look, even women can play chess. Isn't that nice!" (Not "women can play chess well"--we give them bonus points, sometimes quite a few, just for showing up.)

However, when we see women playing chess head to head on an equal basis with men of equal rating, no one has to make a fuss about it. It works, and it works within the spirit of chess itself, which is a completely objective game.

As a woman and a chessplayer, there is nothing inspiring to me about seeing someone proclaimed "good for a girl." I am frankly embarassed when I see some 2400 player standing next to the US Champion holding a trophy of equal size and am told that person represents ME. I don't want the equivalent of a 200 point handicap because I somehow managed to teach my poor feminine brain how the pieces move.

Susan Polgar once said "A 2400 player is a 2400 player. [Male or female.]" And a 2400 player with a 4.5 out of 9 score does not belong on the championship dais.

Yes, if you believe women will never be able to compete for the top spots, then it is a kindness to offer them their own championship. And I accept that this is all meant with the very best of intentions.

I know that there are those (a few on DD) who believe that the female brain is intrinsically unable to handle chess. That women lack courage, or honor, or calculating ability. That they cannot and will not ever achieve equality with men in chess.

The best answer to those men is for every woman to decline any offer of bonus points based on genetic profile. To compete fairly, openly, and equally with all players. To study hard, work hard, and aim for the highest standards. And, of course, to win. :)

cheers,
duif

Peace...

I agree, Mig, that we are getting closer to the point at which the women's title will become irrelevant, but we are not there yet and should not force the issue in the name of calling it progress. Thus, to eliminate the women's title at this specific point in time WOULD be tragic.

One must come to recognize that we are not yet at a point when our own social ideals can stand beneath the weight of societal reality. Duif, I understand your point, but I also ask that you recognize that there IS significance to a woman making it to 2000 or so. Claims of a 2400 being a 2400 would work better if everyone started from the same position and progressed under the same circumstances, but this is not the case. There are social pressures from which no well-devised Dvoretsky book can shield a young female. Women are still heavily under-represented in tournament halls and are not often provided with the same protective environment necessary to develop abilities. (Exceptions include the cases I mentioned earlier, such as Laura Ross, Jenn Shahade, etc.) Based on these realities, the fact that some women are able to move forward DOES merit recognition, and not only for those who make it to the 2500 level. I would argue that it actually does, in general, take more for a woman to reach 2200 than it does for a man to reach this level, because factors which have nothing to do with chess are very relevant with regard to acquiring competence. This is equivalent to the rebuttal to the argument that people from all socioeconomic standings can attain the same success if they just put in the effort.

Hotep,

Maliq

I agree with jegutman's point about Krush last-round matchup. It also happened 2003 when there was a three-way playoff between Irina Krush, Jennifer Shahade and Anna Hahn. Hahn won her last-round game against WIM Elena Groberman while Shahade lost to IM Finegold and Krush drew with IM Perelshteyn. Hahn went on to win the blitz tiebreak and a lot of controversy followed.

On the World Junior, I still think it's a legitmate title and some strong juniors I know always talk about where they rank in their age group internationally... bragging rights. They also talk (with glee) about the time they played "so-and-so" as a junior way back when. I believe that tournament is still important as it gives obscure players a chance travel and to show their stuff.

IM Amon Simutowe of Zambia rose from obscurity at the 2000 World Junior and nearly won the tournament over strong luminaries (he was joint 2nd). Lazaro Bruzon won. Where would people have heard about Simutowe (now with two GM norms)? Who had heard of Anand before he won the World Junior? Some people heard about the "Indian boy" who moved very fast, but he was an unknown until his victory. World Junior uncovers a lot of talent.

Koneru Humpy played in the World Junior last year... as she should. Girls typically play in the Girls tournament.

Hello Ms. Duif,
It seems to me that your argument is internally contradicted. If women can compete equally with men, then there should be absolutely no preference shown to women. There should be no reserved qualifying spots and no women's title, period.

On the other hand, if we justify these things on the grounds of promoting the game, it seems to me that goal would be served better by a separate women's championship. By giving women special options for inclusion gives the impression of women as inferior players more strongly than a separate event. That is my opinion at least.

I add that determining the women's title in a mixed event also defeats the purpose of determining the nation's best women's player. Swiss systems are vague, and given the complexity of the pairing rules pairing anomalies will always occur. Anomalous pairings will result in scandal. USCF decided that Anna Hahn should not be on the Olympic team, and the mild scandal surrounding her title was probably part of the decision-making. I personally think that Anna Hahn was treated poorly--USCF made the rules and then decided not to live up to them.

When that happens it is bad for everyone, and the two goals outlined above are not met.

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Ed,

Seems strange to me that you're complaining about a championship with weak qualifiers yet you are paying the $75 to try to qualify at the US Open. If you qualified would that not downgrade the overall quality of the championships???

Ed,

My apologies if I was confusing. My position is indeeed exactly what you state in the first paragraph: that there should be no gender-restricted invitations, titles, or official national events.

The qualifying spots I referred to as positive were the gender-neutral ones that are open to either men or women.

--duif

p.s. Jen Shahade has convinced me that someone might want to hold an unofficial women-only event on social grounds, just as they might hold an event only for left handers or only for people associated with a particular company. I also respect the use of gender-restricted events for those whose religion forbids them from ever playing in mixed competition. So I can't say no gender-restricted events ever. But not as official national ones.

I have a question:
Would you be less offended by the idea of official national events if there were say two events the "Mens US Championships" and the "Women's US Championships". I think the offense probably draws from the fact that the women's events are always seen as a lower tier since women are never excluded from men's events, but the last time I check I can't qualify for a women's spot. I'm not saying this would be a good idea, but it would certainly seem to remove this idea as women being an inferior class. The current system seems to be saying to men "c'mon, you're a man, you can't compete in a women's league, that's cheating", but to a woman: "If you're particularly good you can earn the right to play with the men".

With few exceptions, every other sport in the world has separate championships for men and women. The thrill and the agony of competition are independent of the exact length of the jump or the exact speed of the run. Who wasn't thrilled when Fani Halkia crossed the line first in the Olympic Women's 400m hurdles in her home country in Greece? And who cares if her time was over 5 seconds slower than the fastest men's time? That was a great race.

With apologies for not knowing the history of this issue in chess, to me it seems we are out of alignment with the rest of the sporting world. We don't need to be forever responding to the now-dead voices of the last generation of misogynists: women can play chess as well as men but do not participate in large numbers, end of story. The focus should be on the quality of the competition, not on proving how politically correct we are.

JEGutman,

I prefer to see one single overall championship, open to all, with special treatment for no genetic group.

The only reason to have a separate women's event is if you believe that women are, by nature, unable to perform equally with men. That is not a message that I wish to see our official organizations supporting.

Respectfully,
Duif

Physical sports separate men and women not because of what happens with the top 1%, but because of what happens at the mode. The average man is stronger, taller, and has a longer reach than the average woman.

None of that has anything to do with chess.

The top 1% of US women players are already in the top 1% of all US tournament players. That's enough to tell you that this isn't the kind of physical sport that requires separate of the genders to ensure fair play.

Mah Jongg is a mind sport (like chess). In China, it is played almost exclusively by men. In the US, outside of Chinese-American communities, almost exclusively by women. In Japan and the Netherlands, by both.

At the 2002 World Championship, the top scoring team was made up of all men. But the individual world champion was a woman from Japan, Mai Hatsune. And there were all male teams, all female teams, and mixed teams in the same competition.

http://www.mahjongnews.com/tokyo.htm

Although we tend to talk about chess as a "sport," it is not the sort that requires gender segregation.

Respectfully,
Duif

Hello Ms. Duif,
First, thanks for the clarification. Just a couple of short comments in reply.

First, I think that eliminating the women's titles will not serve to promote chess. It seems to me that your position requires a kind of chess organization I would find impersonal and cold. Some women simply do not want to play men, for a variety of reasons. Also, I think people play competitive games to acquire distinctions. If some women want to acquire these distinctions I do not think that your values should be forced on them.

This leads me to my second objection. You note that chess does not 'require gender segregation.' I do not see a separate women's championship as 'required.' I see it as simply handy. I had a long debate with my friend knight_tour on the message board "TWIC" in the thread "Helping U.S. Chess." One of the points I made there bears repeating here: other than the title of world champion, all other titles are really consolation prizes. The world champion is objectively the best player in the world; the rest of us are also-rans. What harm is there is organizing some extra titles, provided the titles do not become exceptionally absurd? I think a separate women's title is a great idea as it provides to women players heroines with whom they may identify. I do not see that happening with the current system, at least not with the same effect. Without a women's title all the women competitors are simply faces in the crowd.

Thank you for your kind and polite responses. I apologize for any offense I may give; these are my own opinions, not Holy Writ.

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Mr. Gutman,
As you chose to address me so impolitely in your earlier post I will not respond to you.

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Ed,

I appreciate your thoughtful comments, and reasonable people can always agree to disagree.

I have no problem with women who choose only to play women, for example, for religious reasons. I myself have have some students who were young girls from Moslem families whose parents made this request, and I was always happy to arrange matches for them with other girls.

I think you will find, though, that all of the women participating in the "women's championship" for the last 10 years, in whatever format, also played in integrated events.

As for the "heroine" concept, all I can tell you is that far more women players admire the Polgars for playing integrated chess than can name the "women's champion" for any previous year. I know that my women friends who are judges, surgeons, company presidents, and who might be interested in playing tournament chess are also not going to be "inspired" by a group of women masters playing each other for a championship title.

To my mind, any woman who declines a gender-restricted invitation and is willing to be judged on an objective basis is the true heroine. She is giving up some immediate benefit, often monetary, to stay true to herself and to the game. She is asking to be treated fairly and with respect for her real accomplishments. I admire that.

Sincerely,
Duif

Hello Ms. Duif,
Thanks for your kind words; it is always nice to engage in civil discourse. It seems to me there are more reasons for women to desire an all-play-all event for women than religion. I am sure you did not mean to exclude those reasons by not mentioning them. I would think the desire to test themselves against their peers would be one. By creating a single U.S. championship those alternative reasons, however many there may be, are simply buried and ignored. Women who prefer to play other women are denied that outlet for competition.

The thrust of your last post seems to be "this is the best way to do it." I disagree. If there is no women's championship then there is only one way to play chess for women, namely, integrated events. If there were a women's championship it would provide at least one event for women that is all-women.

I think we also ignoring a crucial fact here. Men play better chess then women as a group. Whether that is a permanent condition for some biological reason or a temporary condition caused by societal norms is not relevant for the point I want to make. Granted, there are exceptions, such as Jennifer Shahade and the Polgar sisters. How many players must be allowed into the U.S. Championships before women can get in? It is often charged that a women's championship is demeaning to women. I think that lowering the standards to allow in a substantial number of undeserving men so that some women can be admitted is equally demeaning.

One last question: how many of the women that you mentioned--judges and so forth--are currently tournament chess players? I infer from your post that none of them are.

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Mr. Yetman,
My point was not to be rude, although I'm sorry it came accross that way. My point was merely that in any field of any strength, when a player of below average rating qualifies he is of course "lowering the overall quality". But clearly not all opportunity is equal. It certainly seems that a 1900 female player would have a much stronger chance to qualify than a 1900 male player.

I would like to make this point to Duif: You make the point that a woman would be a heroine if she were to decline her gender based spot, but I see no problem in a woman taking a spot that exists. In fact I would not find it hypocritical for a woman to take the spot, play, and fight for the very spot which enabled her to play be removed. Certainly even without such measures, is playing in this event not an opportunity for chess growth? So why shouldn't a woman take this spot and improve herself? I'm sure you could draw all kinds of lines of inequities for qualification. Certainly residents of the Southwest or Northeast united states have a much easier time traveling to more of the qualification events? It is possible to play in 4 events by car int he southwest, but none are possible without air-travel from for example florida. One could certainly try to claim that there is a "blue state" preference in qualification.

Hello Mr. Gutman,
Apology accepted! I try to be very civil here. Mr. Greengard does the chess community a huge service by providing these message boards. It is almost impossible for the average chessplayer to make his voice heard in the ears of the chess pooh-bahs. So I am always very formal and try to be ultra-polite. I don't want this board to decline into a Usenet forum. As a word of advice, using terms like "your understanding of chess is weak" or "clearly you don't know the recent history of the U.S. Championships" is condescending and not helpful to anyone.

To answer your question on my entry fee for the U.S. Open: I am a very streaky player. Sometimes I do really well and sometimes I do really REALLY poorly. No one knows which Ed Yetman will show up at the U.S. Open, the master-killer or the ratings point pinata. I decided it was better to pay the $75 and risk not quailfying if I had a bad streak than to not play the $75 and then kick myself later if I had a qualifying score.

Also, if I qualify that will, I think, underline the bad features of this system. I don't belong in the U.S. Championship, no matter how hot my streak. Only a small number of players in this country can be considered potential champions, and I and players like me are not among them. Including people like me in the U.S. Championship lowers the quality of play and introduces random elements into the results. I think that should be avoided at all costs.

If I qualify I promised to wear a button that says "Hello. I am the bye."

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Hello again Mr. Gutman,
I noticed your comment about players in the Southwest. What area do you mean? I live in Tucson, Arizona, and playing in qualifying events from here is prohibitively expensive in terms of money and time.

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Ed,

There's no statistical evidence that "men as a group" play better than women.

More men play tournament chess, but that doesn't make them as a group better players than the women as a group. In fact, in many events the average rating of the women players is higher than that of the men. And the top 1% of US women players are already in the top 1% of US tournament players overall.

The issue of players in the top 1/10th of a percent probably just comes down to the size of the pool.

With regard to wanting to "play their peers"--any group of people with a common trait is free to set up a member-only event if they like. They can be all Rotarians, all redheads, all left handers, all women. But that doesn't mean we need an official national championship for them.

As for my own chessplaying peers: at the moment they are A and B players. I do not require that they match my gender, religion, political affiliation, height, weight, hair colour, or national origin. :) And I can find them at any tournament in the US. Good will is appreciated, good play is enough.

Respectfully,
Duif

Duif,

I've seen you use that "1% statistic" several times. What does that mean? Do you imply that the top 1% of women players are as strong as the top 1% of men players? You actually said "tournament players," but if that's what you really mean, the data are being skewed. We are not discussing all tournament players in the USCF, only the 64 qualifiers. The relevant question is whether top 1% of U.S. women are in the top 1% of the 64.

If you're stating that to make a case that women can perform as equal, then we have to look at the data (and cut it anyway you want. In the U.S. Championship, the data are not encouraging for women (who represent the top female players).

I have heard a few of women say that the reason men are (at this time) stronger than women is because there are more men playing. That's the line many female players are giving, but it's a simplistic argument to make. Is that really the reason?

We've already exhausted on another thread the psychological differences in how both genders approach chess. Sheer numbers do not automatically make one group stronger than another. If we go by that rule then why is a small nation like Cuba much stronger than most nations with many times more players? It has to do with organization, training, focus and interest. Men happen to be more focused on chess than women... women become disinterested, OR more interested in other affairs. There have already been debates (here and elsewhere) on why this is the case.

Daaim,

The top 1% of US women players are in the top 1% of US tournament players, even though none of them are in the top tenth of one percent.

That's true because you reach the top 1% level around 2200.

At the 2500 level, you're in the top 1/3 of one percent.

http://www.uschess.org/ratings/ratedist.html

To use the numbers...Say there are about 38,000 adult members. If about 4% of those are women, and we then take 1% of them, we'd expect about 14 to be 2200 or above if they have a similar distribution to the overall group. And indeed, that's just what we find.

But it's really hard to say anything with any statistical accuracy when the population sizes are so small.

Hello Ms. Duif,
At the risk of piling on with Mr. Shabazz, I must echo his comments about the "1%" mark. As all know statistics can deceive. Down in the middle of the bell curve of ratings any given woman player is the equal of any given man. We are talking here about the very very tip of the bell curve. If we decided to run the U.S. Championship solely on the basis of rating, we would need to go to the 35th spot just to find one woman (Kosteniuk). The top 34 spots are all male. Of the top one hundred rated players in the U.S. only four are women. Since we are discussing the U.S. Championship the 1% figure is simply misleading.

I don't mean to be rude, but I think this fact explodes your argument.

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Just in case anyone wants to check my numbers, I am using the June 2005 USCF Top 100 list. Another interesting statistic caught my eye. Player 100 on the men's side is a tie between David Pruess and Ricardo de Guzman. Their ratings are 2438. Player 100 for the women is Sara R. Walsh, rating 1671. Such a dramatic rating difference tells me that if Ms. Duif's point about the top 1% is true then the statement is misleading, as the total pool of women players is so small as to make statistical comparisons meaningless. The pool of women players must be greatly increased in size before that can be done.

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Ed,

Have you taken a statistics class recently? It's often a bit counter-intuitive. (Both of my parents teach statistics at the university level, so I grew up around it, but it can certainly be confusing.)

There's a huge difference between the top 100 women and the top 100 men simply because there are more than 20 times as many men playing. So the top 100 men represents the top .03% of the men.

The top 100 women represents about 6% of the women.

So naturally the range goes much lower in the women's 100. That doesn't disprove the 1% statement in any way. And since there are 4 women included in the top 100 overall, that's about right also. 4% of the total players, 4% of the top 100. Again, no disproof there.

Here's where there is commonly a confusion. Imagine that in a field of 35,000 players, I tell you that 4% are wearing orange shirts.

If you just pull out 50, you might not see any orange shirts at all. It's too small a sample size. But that doesn't contradict the statement that 4% of the players in the larger group are wearing orange shirts.

This is the same thing that involves coin flips. The odds of getting heads is 50%. But it's entirely possible to flip a coin three times and get tails three times in a row. That doesn't "disprove" the 50% statement in any way.

I never said anything about the top 1/3 of 1% of players, which are who you're looking at in your top 34 spots. In fact, the top 57 spots on the overall list fall into that same percentile But that's 57 out of 38,000 people. That's such a tiny percentage that you're quite likely to run into the coin flip issue. (And even so there are two women in the top 50.)

So you can't "explode" my statement, because it's simply a statement of fact. There are only around 1400 active adult tournament chessplayers who are women. 1% of that is 14. The top 14 women in the US are rated 2200 or higher. And that puts them in about the top 1% of all US tournament players. Perhaps technically the top 1.4%, but well within the margin of error.

It's just a fact.

You are absolutely right that until the pool of women players becomes much larger, probably at least 25% of the total, we won't be able to draw any conclusions about what happens way off in that top 1/3 of a percent area.

Respectfully,
Duif

Well, a friend of mine points out that when people start relying on contradictory statistics, you've moved away from theory and into belief system. Which are, by their nature, unresolveable.

So I'm going to move off the boards for awhile.

take care,
duif

p.s. Good luck Ed, fluffy, and anyone else playing in one of the qualifiers! I expect to see some excellent blog entries in the ChampBlog from any DD folk who make it in. :)

--duif

Hello Ms. Duif,
I did not say it exploded your statement; I said it exploded your argument. Your argument is that women play chess as well as men at the top, but clearly that isn't so.

We go back to the two goals: first, who is the best chessplayer in the U.S.?; second, how do we best promote chess and chessplayers? I do not see the current system doing that. It appears to me that this is shifted from separate-but-equal to tokenism.

Yes, I am aware of the statistical differences you cite about orange shirts. The only relevant fact here at the moment is that the top 20 or so players are all men. Including more players dilutes that skill pool. I do not see any statistical way to get around that.

As far as my qualifying, thanks for the good wishes, but don't hold your breath on my account! :)

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Duif,
Your numbers sound roughly correct in terms of the number of men as compared to women, but it would be curious to do the actual analysis based on a larger sample, say the fide list, I'm gonig to try to figure out if there is some reasonably easy way to walk through the fide list with a script, unfortunately sometimes they have the genders wrong which without knowing the probability of this is difficult to adjust for. I believe your claim is probably correct, but why not make a little math project out of it and actually do it (if I have the time, I am playing chess four of the next 5 weekends).

Yetman:
Your point about diluting the skill pool is relevant, but after 2 or 3 rounds, the field really splits and the same high-quality games are still there, but there just happen to be lower-quality games mixed in. This doesn't seem to be a real problem. In fact last year's championship produced a very good number of interesting games more than would be possible in a round robin, which as a spectator is one of the top goals I like to see of any chess event. Also round robin events encourage more quick draws I believe since you do not need to put up as many wins to win the overall event.

-Josh

I think I just figured out a much easier way of getting a very good estimate of these stats. Find a player rated very close to 2000 fide, a player rated very close to 2100 fide, 2200, 2300, etc. And check their world rank, it tells you their gender rank, so you can from taht figure out the number of men and women above that rating and just do some kind of exponential regression, if the curves have the same shape should confirm duif's theory.

The issue should -- and will, one way or the other -- be resolved by the top women players. If the current system doesn't appeal to them, they will stay away in droves, voting with their feet, and AF4C will be pretty much forced to try something else.

Susan Polgar clearly thinks there is some value in segregated tournaments: she sponsors the "Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls". Assuming the other top players agree, AF4C should simply ask them what procedure would bring them to the table (in 2007), and then do it.

Hello Mr. Gutman,
Yes, it is true that the event breaks down after 2 or 3 rounds, but it isn't as simple as that. The event is nine rounds, and as I recall two to the ninth power is 512. There are only 64 players (correct me if I'm wrong) which is only two to the sixth. This is further complicated by the fact of the "compression" effect of top level play. Many more draws will occur at the top level than down in the fishbowl where I swim. Thus after 5 or 6 rounds there will be pairing troubles, such as odd-man score groups and color conflicts. These pairing problems could over time erode confidence in the event.

As for spectator interest, that may have some value in San Diego to maybe 100 people. In the rest of the country and with most members of USCF that is not really important. More good games is not always a good deal; it leads to spectator (or magazine reader) burnout.

I realize that these things you cite are values, but they are not the only ones. I think the values of a round-robin outweigh the values you cite. I say this for one simple reason: there are tons of big tournaments, both online and in the press, that one can follow. There is no shortage of games to watch online or games to study and analyze. But this is the one and only U.S. Championship, and if it gets watered down the title will lose meaning. That will be bad for all of us.

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Hello Positronicus,
I am friends with WGM Anjelina Belakovskaia, and she prefers the round-robin (at least that's how I understand her). As many of the top players, both men and women, come from Eastern Europe I would suspect they would all prefer the round-robin.

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

the US Championship would be a much bigger success if media darling fluffy was allowed to play.

The problem with a round-robin is that of the 10 people that play one year, 7 will play the next, and of the top 6 finishers, 5 will play the next, and there's no fair way to significantly prevent this problem. Your argument about having to do strange pairings because of draws only occurred in the last round in this past championships because stripunsky and nakamura had already played, but I don't see this as a real problem since it in fact FORCES fighting games. If they were to play eachother in the last round, there would be a much greater chance that the game would be a quick draw.

P.S. As for there being enough games, this may be true, but, I like to follow all major events anyways, and it's always nice to see games of people you know locally, which the large event provides for.

Hello Mr. Gutman,
The championship is not the only thing that can be affected by strange pairings. Norms can also be loused up. With the current system if a player needed one more opponent to make a norm but couldn't get that opponent because of the pairing rules, that would be a major scandal. That's not a problem with a round-robin.

I see your point about watching local players. That's another value to be weighed by the organizers.

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Hello Mr. Gutman,
Your first sentences about a problem seem incomplete. What problem do you mean? I'm not seeing it.

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

The problem I was referring to was seeing the same faces in the championships every year. The point about norms is pretty much irrelevant since in a round robin event it would probably be 10 GMs battling it out with no norms possible anyways.

Hello Mr. Yetman,
(Re: round robin) There are two parts to the procedure: first, the selection process by which the contestants are chosen and second, the format of the tournament itself. The first part appears to be the more broken at present, but both parts must appeal to the players or they can simply elect not to participate. Ask your friend how the players should be chosen as well as how the tournament should be conducted.

I don't believe that girls can be sheltered (in all-girls environments) over a long period of time. They certainly should be encouraged to play in mixed tournaments from the beginning because they will eventually desire to beat stronger players. As I said before, girls may have fun (smiling and laughing) at these tournaments, but they will not become any more serious about competing.

There is a reason the strongest U.S. female players are emigres and not born in the U.S. The female emigres understand chess as a serious sport (as a respected profession). The way it appears now, we'll continue to have this talent gap... unless we continue to have a flow of emigres. There is no system for harnessing talent here (male or female). GM Polgar is attempting to use a model that was unlike the one that made the Polgars such battle-tough warriors against men. Most of the female GMs in the world got that way by playing against men. Some still played in women's tournaments, but played enough male GMs to get the requisite norms.

As for the U.S. Championship, I still believe there should be a rating floor to qualify... 2200. You should be at least a National Master. If a 1600 (or 1900) can qualify, what does that say about the strength of the players here? This is NOT a federation with 40 active players!

I believe if women do poorly in the upcoming U.S. Championship, it will continue to erode the confidence of female players and they'll want out. The top five female players (strong masters) may continue to play.

Where are the next crop of women coming from to replace those who don't like the Swiss or are frustrated? More and more women will be discouraged if they keep seeing 0-9 or -8 scores and all you'll have left are 1600-1900 rated female players in the U.S. Championship.

Hello Mr. Gutman,
I see now what you mean. We could run the U.S. Championship as a hybrid. In the old Soviet Union they ran the championship in two leagues, Premier and First. If a player finished in the last three spots of the Premier he went down to the First League; first three from the First advanced to the Premier.

I'm suggesting something similar here with the States' Championship, although I am advancing only one player from that event. Again, it is a trade-off: fewer players means fewer new faces, but also fewer non-contenders.

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Hello Positronicus,
I'll talk to her and see if she will post her views here. As far as I know, she prefers invitations based on ratings and past performances, but I'm just hazily remembering.

I think the invitations for the women's and absolute should be strictly by rating, that way there is no political disputing. There will, of course, be people who feel unjustly treated, but that can't be helped. All systems are imperfect; the only issue is how to design an event that will most completely meet the two goals outlined above.

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Hello Mr. Gutman,
I think I have a way to combine both our values. Run the U.S. Championship as a series of round-robins: the top one would be the absolute championship, the second would be a GM norm event, the third an IM norm event. We could even double up the last two, or we could create an "International" section: invite the top contenders for the world title and put them in with the best U.S. players. That way we could have clear-cut norm chances, avoid pairing hassles, and you and people like you would see lots of games. Does that sound fair to you?

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Peace...

I am not sure that the idea of invitation by rating is all that fool-proof, nor that it necessarily avoids controversy. Note the issues within the last year, both of which concerned Olympiad teams: Hikaru Nakamura, owing to the fact that he was building his strength overseas, did not attain a USCF rating high enough to make the Olympiad team, even though his FIDE rating at the time would have been amongst the highest in the country and he was certainly playing well during his run in Libya. There was also, before the Anna Hahn controversy, the issue of Jennifer Shahade vs. Rusudan Goletiani, a situation in which an overseas tournament was rated by USCF and was not processed until many months after its completion. Jenn, who had held the leading rating for the fourth position, suddenly found herself below her competitor because of this late rating of an event which did not even play out on our shores, which opened the door for other questions to be asked, ultimately leading to the mess we had with the US Women's Championship.

I note that, at current, USCF invites youth players to overseas competitions based on rating position. Whenever Fabiano Caruana returns to the US, he will once again lead the rating group for children 14 and under, even though he has not played here in quite some time. This is because events played in Spain and Hungary are making their way into our rating system, allowing him to gain a great number of rating points without participating in one USCF event for such a long time. I think that if we are to make the argument that invitations should be based on rating only, then we must clarify how the rating system should work efficiently and also end this practice of rating tournaments played overseas, which makes no sense to me.

Hotep,

Maliq

Hello Mr. Soter,
Yes, you are right, invitation by rating has its problems. No suggestion we can come up with would be; I know none I come up with will be!

Invitation by rating has the one advantage that it is public and objective. If formulas weighting events are used, then we wind up with all sorts of skullduggery.

To work a single rating supplement must be used, either December or June, as those two are comprehensive. That's the only way around it that I see.

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

The Olympiad debacle concerning Hikaru Nakamura (who didn't make the team) and Jennifer Shahade (who played sparingly) was a disgrace. The problems of the Olympiad selection is an outgrowth from the problems at the U.S. Championship and a failure of the federation.

Remember the boring round robins with the same players year after year? I tuned out after a few years and lost interest... tournaments had no marketability. I hope we don't return to that, but honestly, I like the qualification format. The rules need to be a bit tighter so we won't have a 1000 player qualifying. Yea... I'm sure the 1000-player is cute and will make an interesting story, but it may further mislead the public on what chess is about. The next thing you know, they'll be calling her "little Grandmaster," or comparing her with Fischer (like they did with Hana Itkis).

The current format needs more stingent rules. Lower-rated players also mess up norm opportunities. Make the floor 2200-2250. I can't imagine a weekend hacker trying to compete with professional golfers any more than I can imagine a 1600-1900 chess player competing with Hikaru Nakamura or Alex Shabalov... not in such a prestigious tournament. Make it the REAL U.S. Masters!

Last I checked, Caruana was at 2381 FIDE and had an IM norm. His parents are really determined to see how far his talent takes him. They may feel that Fabiano cannot rely on the USCF to harness his talent and have decided to play abroad.

Peace...

Yes, Daaim, Fabi's talents are definitely being better developed abroad, just as Hikaru has developed his game overseas in recent years. The difference is that, while Hikaru's USCF rating suffered for it, Fabi's rating continues to increase based on tournaments he played in Spain and Hungary. Before leaving the US, Fabi's father, Lou, assured me that the reason they were going to Europe for a while was NOT for the purpose of chess development, but Lou also hinted that Fabi might play a little bit of chess while out there. It seems as though he has picked up momentum and may now find himself even more active on the European chess scene, which cannot be bad for his game. I do find it unfortunate, though, that this overseas activity affects his USCF rating and allows him still to leapfrog players who are competing here whenever he returns to our shores. Some might argue that if this was done with Hikaru's tournaments, it would have benefitted him and the best players may have been in Spain during this past Olympiad, but I actually prefer that the USCF rate only tournaments played in the US or at the very least amongst a clear majority of paid USCF members. The Olympiad issue should be solved by putting more weight on FIDE ratings than on USCF ratings so that players who compete abroad are not penalized for this.

Hotep,

Maliq

Hotep,

Maliq

Hello Mr. Soter and Mr. Shabazz,
I think I have a solution to the boredom problem of the round-robin.

Suppose we set up the U.S. Championship in tiers. Top section is "International". We invite the top top TOP players, like Anand or Kramnik. We mix in a few U.S. GMs, like Nakamura. We make clear to the few U.S. players that next year we will rotate in new players from the next level down, while the top U.S. players in the international will rotate down.

The next level down is the "Absolute." In this we put up a 13 round, 14 player event. The U.S. Women's champion and the States' Champion are included. The first year we invite the 12 highest rated (or next 12 after we put up some U.S. players for the "International.") We make clear that the top finishers (say the top 3) will advance to next year's "International". The bottom six invited players (excluding the U.S. Women's Champ and the States' Champ) get relegated to the "Premier" or "First" division.

In the "First" division we invite players from the Women's, the States', and players by invitation. The main point of this event is to generate norm chances for those that don't get many chances. The top six advance to the "Absolute" the following year. The event could also be a 14 player, 13 round event.

We could then hold the Women's Championship and the States' at another date in the year. This way we could have cycle building up to the big event.

The advance/relegate feature, common to European soccer leagues, would break the field from year to year. This would also generate a ton of games for Mr. Gutman.

What do you think?

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

I'm still confused as to how this is used to generate the US Champion, would seem to take a lot away from the champion if he won the title and didn't even win the tournament he was playing in. The idea overall is a good one, probably a little tough to get enough for appearance fees and prize money, however I don't believe it could be used for the US Championships. I also like Maliq's point about players being left out, in the current 64 player format, it is pretty much impossible to say that someone who could have won wasn't there.

Hello Mr. Gutman,
The events could be staggered through the calendar, like a football season. Women's and States' Championship in say January, Absolute and First league in May, International in August or November or something. Then the cycle starts all over again.

As for leaving someone out, I doubt that is a serious issue. There are not that many players who can be considered serious contenders. Nakamura is something like 2756, while Joel Benjamin, #20 on the list, is 2628. At that level a 130 point fall-off represents a huge disparity of strength.

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Hikaru Nakamura didn't make the US team because of averaging ratings. Ratings are already averages, so this double dipping of old games is questionable practice. You can't blame the USCF for following their rules, and now FIDE is doing the same with its world championship, at the suggestion of Dr. John Nunn.

Jen Shahade did not do well in her first couple of games. As an arbiter, I saw them live in Calvia. I remember thinking at the time: this is a tough team with Eastern European values (winning rather than participation), they might sit her out for good. Sho'nuff. And the team won a medal.
With a different team, they might not have done that, but Susan Polgar was playing better as the event progressed, Irina Krush is young and strong, and Anna Zatonskih is a great fighter with stamina that most men could envy.

Jonathan...

Hikaru didn't make the team because of a mistake. Plain and simple. A year after not making the top six positions, Hikaru is the #1 player, U.S. Champion and probably was the strongest player THEN. It's ridiculous to not consider one's FIDE rating when choosing the Olympiad team. I think we've been through this discussion before.

I was at the Calvia Olympiad too, covered the event and I saw the women play. You said she didn't do well her first couple games, but she only played twice (if I'm recalling correctly)... rounds 1 (draw) and 5 (loss). This is from 14 rounds! Unless Jennifer Shahade was sick, there were several matches she outrated the board #3 opponent (and the board #1) and couldn've gotten off the bench. She had a good attitude though.

U.S. women did well to pull out the medal, but I believe the issue of choosing the Olympiad team is still an open question. I believe there was a controversy because one player had only lived in the U.S. a matter of months before she got a spot on the Olympiad training squad. We've had this discussion too.

150 point rating difference too much to overcome at that level? I agree that the difference is much larger, but the occurance of draws is much higher. So if a 1650 plays an 1800, he'll probably beat him more often than if a 2600 plays a 2750, but overall the record would look similar if you give .5 for a draw (if this weren't true, the rating system wouldn't work at all).

As for 150 points being too much to overcome, I kindly direct you to this link.

And those are 150 points at an even higher level with a world-class field.
http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=2521

Peace...

Daaim, we've spoken about this several times. Hikaru not making the Olympiad squad was NOT a mistake. It was in keeping with the letter of the law which allowed the other players to qualify. While I would have liked to see him on the team, it would not have been just to simply leapfrog other players who had already secured spots. At the time, I told you that the USCF should rightfully revise its selection criteria to weigh FIDE ratings more, because Hikaru was playing overseas a lot and thus was unable to raise his USCF rating. (We should have known about the Fabiano/Goletiani rating increase scenario, which for some bogus reason allows tournaments played overseas to be rated by USCF.) It would NOT, however, have been correct to remove one of the players simply because Hikaru suddenly had such a great increase in strength. I would rather the rules bring about an unfavorable scenario than that we start advocating selection by popularity or favoritism, which opens the doors to back-room dealing and freeze-outs of unpopular players. As I said to the kid at the time, he will make plenty of Olympiad teams in the future and hopefully set the world on fire when he does.

Hotep,

Maliq

Hello Mr. Gutman,
Your point is valid, I guess--I can't get your link to work. I'll try again later.

What I was trying to point out here was a question of likelihood. Yes, it is possible for a top player to run the table against a 150 to 200 point deficit. It just won't happen very often. I don't think that possibility is much of a justification for including someone, or even a group of people. I personally don't see it as much of a problem. This is another one of those tradeoffs: eliminate the lower rated players and you reduce the possibility of a thrilling upset; include them and you run the risk of diluting the quality of the play.

Thanks for the comments.

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Peace Maliq,

I agree. When I said 'mistake," I didn't really mean technical mistake although I may have implied it. Nevertheless, I remember our lengthy discussions and your other posts and the point is taken. I realize that the rules were set... even though they were questionable. Seeding a couple of inactive players (based on rating) may have been OK because the rules allowed it, but it was a failure of the system.

I too hope Hikaru will make many Olympiad teams and he will make the 2006 team, but nothing much is guaranteed in chess these days.

Mr. Yetman,
I realize there will be a few players weaker than there were in last year's championship, but did you follow the games of last year's championship? I thought there were many exciting games and I thought overall it was a very high quality event and was very happy with the way it was run and the various prizes other than just prizes for finishing position that were available (fighting chess, best endgame, etc.). I think the two players who played the best ended up with the best score and there was an exciting playoff to end it. I think if every year could be as good as last year the event will be a tremendous success. You seem to be of the opinion that last year's championship was not a good event?
-Joshua Gutman

Hello Mr. Gutman,
I annotated 28 games for the "Yetman Brothers' Descriptive Chess Magazine", which my brother and I publish. The games were by two IMs and one FM, Lev Altounian, Jesse Kraai, and Robby Adamson. I concentrated on those games because those three players live here in the Southwest and our magazine's main body of subscribers are here.

Their games were not bad by any means, at least for a patzer like myself. Lev finished with 5, Robby and Jesse with 3 1/2. That's a long way from 7 1/2, which was the winning score as I recall. My point is this: sure, it was great event in a lot of ways. But it could be made better. None of the three made a norm. Why not set up some round-robins where these three have a shot at getting norms or at least giving other players a shot at norms?

I see American chess suffering from a equalitarian malaise. There is no "next level" for players. There are a few events like Foxwoods, the World Open, the U.S. Championships--but there is no order to it. Just some 9 round swisses with no particular differences. In my experience I've found that things happen by accident or design. Fortunate accidents are rare. If we want to generate interest in chess we need more than money: we need a planned program wherein players can actually make advances. The British do this with the "Four Nations Chess League" or 4NCL. Why can't we do the same?

My ideas will take more time and planning but I don't see them costing any more money. I don't dislike the current system, I just find it disappointing.

Ed Yetman, III
YetmanBrothers.com

Gulko took Hikaru's spot and he made a miserable score against much lower rated opposition. As I recall, his performance was barely 2400. This in turn probably cost us a medal. Honestly the rules should allow for the strongest team possible and not allow Gulko to play 3 rounds of the world open to remain an active player before withdrawing.

Peace...

To clarify, Gulko did not take Nakamura's spot. He claimed a spot which was available; he did not bump Hikaru from the team. Indeed, the activity requirement was a hot topic during the organization of the recent Olympiad teams, and I think that there will be some clear revision in the future which will not allow for such minimal activity to count toward qualification for a spot. Despite his schedule of playing tournaments overseas, Hikaru still plays a good amount of games in USCF tournaments (Foxwoods, World Open, etc.), so he should have no problem, and I don't see higher activity requirements hurting male players as much. I wonder about female players, many of whom hold other jobs, such as Anna Hahn. Nevertheless, some decent requirement, which calls for them at least to maybe compete in two of the "majors" each year (Foxwoods, Chicago Open, World Open, US Open) should work for most, as these tournaments are usually held around holiday weekends.

Hotep,

Maliq

My point is that if Hikaru had played even as an alternate in place of Gulko we would have medaled.

Peace...

That is a matter open for debate, DP. There is no certainty that we would have gotten medals with Hikaru on the team, although I agree that it would have increased the likelihood. However, if your argument is that Gulko should have been deleted from the roster and replaced by Hikaru, then I disagree with this arbitrary move. If you are, instead, asserting that something must be done to prevent such a scenario from happening again, then I wholeheartedly agree with you, provided that such reform can be legislated rather than left to the devices of chess politicians.

Hotep,

Maliq

Peace Maliq...

Remember... chess politicians are who made that decision to use USCF ratings and to include two inactive players (Gulko, Kaidanov, and almost a 3rd in Seirawan). In fact, if they chose the team today, Gulko (who's not playing much) board #4, Novikov (who's not playing much) board #5 and neither Shabalov, nor Akobian would make the team. They are two of the most active and successful GMs in the U.S.

http://www.uschess.org/ratings/top/0508/OverallList.php

There should be an Olympiad committee for the expressed purpose of handling this... not some executive board... or did they have one?

Rhetorical question... what is the contingency plan for 2006? Any effort to groom younger players or are they going to have the same 4-6 players again? They should take a lesson from Canada and what they've done with Bluvshtein.

Mistake... Novikov would be #7 and wouldn't make it either.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on July 12, 2005 12:40 AM.

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