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Monday, February 28, 2011

Our Local National Rating List....

Intrigued by the numbers shown by the FIDE rating list for our region, I tried to look at our own internal National Rating list which, as per the January release, had 8,506 players listed. I tried to go back as far as I can to compare the growth of our "internal chess community" and managed to get only as far back to April 2010, which is about 9 months ago. Fair enough... At least there is a start so here goes....

In April 2010, the National Rating list had 7,893 players and if we take the current numbers that we have from January 2011, we have expanded our chess community by 613 players in 9 months - approximately 68 players per month - and this seems to be very "good number". Looking deeper into the numbers again, we will see that 85% of these new players (or 522 of them) are school children and junior players, leaving us with only 91 senior or matured players that are over the schools age who are new in the rating list. There is nothing good or bad about this but it is rather encouraging to see that there are adults who into playing chess at a later "age" as it is usually popular amongst the kids (who continue playing into their adulthood). And to think that these "adults" did not participate in any chess events during their schooling days is rather "surprising".

The high number of young kids in the rating list is not at all surprising as these junior players may have been included in the rating list as a result of them playing in numerous MSS and Age group events that are being held on a regular basis all year round. After all, these junior events is considered as one of the major source of "chess population" in the country since chess is recognized as a sport in MSSM. Further, with many corporates eager to help and contribute to the cause of helping young and aspiring students to improve, it is rather easy to organize and find sponsors for junior chess events. Further, with the MSS structure covering both Malaysia, State and District levels, any annual MSS Malaysia event can easily produce between 300 and 400 players (consider 14 states sending a boy and girl team for both secondary and primary level, in team and individual events). And going down the State and district level, the numbers can easily increase by two or three fold.

As for MCF event, the annual NAG is always on the MCF yearly calendar and last year NAG event in Penang had more than 300 players in 6 age group categories for both the boys and girls. in fact, 200 to 300 players are the normal number of players playing in any NAG event since the last few years what more when the winners of these events are offered to represent the country in various junior and youth events all over the world. With these 2 major junior events being the main attraction for school children to get involved in chess, it is not surprising that our national rating list are populated by more active junior players than the senior ones

But, since the national rating list does not provide the number of "rated" games that each player play, it would be interesting to see how many games each of these new players have played in the last 9 months (regardless of they are junior or senior players) to see how active they have been. My bet is that these numbers would not be so high and that each new junior players would probably play in only 1 or 2 events - but maybe I am wrong.....

Looking at the same 613 new players that we have since April 2010, the average rating of these new players is 1,235 points which is a bit on the low side i.e. definitely from the beginner's or entry level. With so many junior players entering the rating list for the first time, this low number is not at all surprising. However, the huge numbers produced by MSS and NAG events does not necessary means that they are bad but... it would be best to look at the quality angle of it to make sure that success is achieved in both areas - quality as well as quantity.

Going back to the numbers, out of the 8,506 players that we have in the January 2011 rating list, there were no rating changes for 7,023 players. For calculation purposes, as it would be almost impossible to play in any event without experiencing any rating changes, we can probably assume that none of these 7,023 players (or 88% players from the 2010 April list) played in any event for the last 9 months. This is definitely a huge number of inactive players but then again, maybe they did play but none of the events that they played were sent for national rating purposes - both scenarios are equally likely to have happened. But as we are presented only with a limited data, we assume that they did not play in any event at all.

Out of that, we are left with 1,403 players who have played in a national rated event between April 2010 and January 2011 and out of that figure, a total of 1,044 players (or 70%) are junior players which again indicated how active our juniors are in playing local events compared to the senior players. Of course, this boils down to the same findings that we have in my earlier posting i.e. working people have to take leave, high entry fees, commitments, etc. These are of course some of the deterrent factor that limits senior players to play even in the local circuit compared to school children and junior players. What more, with more events tailored to the juniors, it is not surprising that they are more active than their senior counterpart.

The highest increase for 2010 (going into 2011) belongs to Iskandar Danial Adam who improved his rating point by more than 400 points. On the exact opposite, Nurislamurni Yahaya lost the most points with more tha 200 points going in the opposite direction. The average changes for each player whose rating changed in 2010 was 29 points.

What are the conclusions that we can observe?

  1. Again, we are seeing quantity over quality - a similar findings when we analyse our FIDE rating growth since 2001.
  2. Most of the active players are the junior players which are not at all surprising.
  3. 85% of all the new players included in the rating list are also junior players and again, this is not at all surprising.
  4. It seems that there are a lot of "dormant" players in the rating list. It would be interesting to see how many players in the list have not played in any chess game in the last 2-3 years.
  5. The entry level of new players averages at 1,285 points which is very low (considering that most of them are young players, the number are not surprising). Perhaps we should look at proper training and classes before we "throw" the new kids into a national rated event.
It is probably interesting to note that most of the top players i.e. Mas, Mok, Jimmy, Lim Yee Weng, Nicholas, Peter, Ng Tze Han, Yeoh Li Tian, Lim Zhuo Ren, are active in the national circuits.

Some of the findings needs more study and perhaps, the Rating administrator can provide more lights. Further, the national rating that we have seems to combine both rapid and classical time control as a single playing "strength". But, in view that we lack "longer time control" events and rating, the combined national rating list that we are currently using remains as the only benchmark that we can use... for now. At least, something is better than nothing...

Perhaps, if we can go further backwards and look at the rating list for 2008 or 2009, we can probably get a better picture on how our chess community has grown in the last 2-3 years. It would be great to look at that.

The rating list is a good indicator as to how our chess have improved locally but, the list must be maintained and include as many local events as possible to reflect the true strength (and activeness) of chess in the country. Players should be rewarded based on their achievement i.e. most improved, most gained in a single event, most games played, most events played. etc. to make the rating list a more acceptable and popular mode of ranking the local players.

Some kind of "quality" control must also be adopted to clear the list of duplicated names, inactive players, wrong spelling and so on. There are names which are noted as "Muhd Nabil Azman Hisham (not Azman Hisham's son)" which I find confusing as only the rating administrator would know who this person is. There is also another name "Tan Jun Hong (x Calvin)" and I kept wondering whether I am supposed to ask the person if he is "Calvin" or not. For the Malay names, it is a challenge trying to figure out if Mohd, Muhd, Mohammed, Muhammad, Mohamed, Mohamad, Mat, Md. or just the initial M. is the way to identify the player. And sometimes, event the players themselves are not sure which "Mohd" he had used to register his name. There was also a player who said his actual name is Mahamad and perhaps, some of the names used in the list were named out of assumptions rather than confirmations. Another challenge is whether to use Abd, Abdul or A, and adding a "dot" makes it even more challenging.

The best way is to use a unique identifier and whilst I/C is the best way to identify a person, it may create some uneasiness for some people as I/C can also be used in the wrong way if fallen to the wrong persons i.e. identity theft which is a very common crime in US where people stole other people's identity via a person's social security number.

Whatever it is, something needs to be done while the rating list is still in its "infant" stage because once the number hits thousands and hundreds of thousands, it will become a nightmare and instead of the list becoming very useful and informative, it can just become the opposite as the value can decrease as it becomes too complicated, without integrity, jumbled and confusing.

What say you?

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