The Ratings Committee (RC) this year was involved with a few major
tasks. The main issues involved responding to a proposal to increase the
absolute rating floor, revisiting the formulas for changing USCF ratings
based on results in foreign FIDE tournaments, addressing the correspondence
between quick chess ratings and regular ratings, and monitoring the rating
system to decide whether changes need to be made to the rating formulas.
A number of minor issues arose as well.
The RC was asked to consider a proposal by Bill Smythe to address
a perceived pile-up of scholastic players at the absolute floor of 100.
The gist of the proposal was for each player to have their own absolute
floor that started at 100, and to raise the absolute floor by
one point per win up to a maximum of a floor of 150. Several variants
of this proposal were also suggested, including increases to the absolute
floor based on drawing games, and on completing games. The consensus
opinion of the RC was that while the proposal is not likely to
cause any noticeable inaccuracy in the rating system, it continues
to send a message to membership that the rating system can be
tinkered with in ways that have nothing to do with the main purpose of
the rating system, which is to measure playing strength. As of the middle
of March, to our knowledge the Executive Board is still considering
the proposal.
An ongoing task over the last couple years has been how to
address concerns that Quick chess (QC) and regular ratings are out of
alignment for players having both. Last year, the RC
proposed to replace the QC system by one that rates all events (and calling
the system something else, like the "universal" system), while
keeping the regular system which rates events with time
controls G/30 or slower. The proposal was accepted by the Executive
Board. In the Fall of 2007, our board liaison informed us that they had a
change of heart and would prefer to have a solution that keeps the time
controls of the QC system. We have been asked to revisit this issue.
In order to explore the divergence of QC and regular ratings,
Mike Nolan has been asked to perform a simulation in which QC ratings were
reset to unrated at the start of 2004, and then ratings would be computed
as normal going forward. We are currently working with Mike to obtain the
results of this simulation before exploring formulas that would more
directly connect the regular and QC systems.
The RC has had in place a set of formulas since the early 1990s that have
allowed the USCF office to update USCF ratings from the results of foreign
FIDE events. The formulas make use of crosstable summary information from
the FIDE web site that allow for a reasonably simple set of computations.
Early in 2008, after the World Youth Championships had taken place,
a number of complaints were received by the USCF office that players' ratings
were not changing to their satisfaction. The chair of the ratings committee
explained that the implemented formulas recognize the imprecise correspondence
between USCF and FIDE ratings for players that have both, so that the formulas
are intentionally conservative and tend not to produce large rating changes.
Bill Goichberg decided it was preferable to see larger rating changes,
and asked the office to implement a method which updates each USCF player's
rating by (1) converting the opponents' ratings to the USCF scale using the
current conversion, (2) calculates the player's rating change using a 1-pass
version of the established rating formulas, (3) multiplies the change by
0.8 (which recognizes some of the imprecision of the FIDE-USCF conversion),
and (4) adds in bonus points using the current bonus formulas. The USCF
office is in the process of implementing this revised system.
Related to the preceding task, a new FIDE-to-USCF conversion formula has
been derived based on the correspondence of USCF and FIDE ratings among
838 players that have recently published ratings in both systems. The
formula to determine a USCF rating from a FIDE rating is given by
USCF = 720 + 0.625*FIDE if FIDE < 2000
USCF = -350 + 1.16*FIDE if FIDE >= 2000
These formulas are to be used in adjusting USCF ratings from the results of
foreign FIDE events, and for imputing initial ratings for USCF-unrated players
with foreign FIDE ratings.
The ratings committee was also brought in to address several smaller
concerns. One issue that arose in August 2007 was whether to create a
blitz rating system which would govern games with time controls faster
than G/10 (currently the QC system applies to games down to G/5). The issue
has been shelved for the time being. Also back in late August, there was some
discussion about the imminent implementation of the title/norm system
that was approved back in 2003. Unfortunately, it seems that the title system
implementation has once again taken the back seat to other projects.
Each year the RC performs a set of diagnostic analyses to monitor
trends in the rating pool. Overall rating levels have deflated
from the mid-1990s through 2000 when rating floors were decreased
by 100 points without a counteracting inflationary mechanism.
With the new rating system implemented in 2001, ratings started
to re-inflate. The RC has the goal of restoring rating levels
back to where they were at the end of 1997. The focus of RC work
has been on players with established ratings who have been
active over the current and previous three years and who are aged 35-45
years old in the current year. The results of this year's analysis have
revealed that the average rating for this group has dropped by about 11
rating points, and the lower rated players in this group have had ratings
that dropped by closer to 50 rating points. Because of the rating
decline, the RC wanted to explore the effects of reducing the
bonus point threshold (currently set to B=10) in the standard rating
formula as a means to increase ratings more aggressively. We asked
Mike Nolan to re-rate all games from November 1, 2006 to October 31, 2007
testing bonus thresholds of B=8 and B=6. The outcome of the re-rates was
that for the group of players aged 35-45 years old who have played
in the current and the previous three years that ratings on average
increased by about 5 points for B=8, and another 4 points for B=6.
From examining rating changes in other age groups, the conclusions
were similar. After some discussion, the ratings committee recommends
to lower the bonus threshold to B=6 and monitor rating levels carefully
over time. We will work with the USCF office at having this change
implemented expediently. From correspondence with Mike Nolan,
it appears that this change (and the revised FIDE-to-USCF
conversion formula) is scheduled to take effect in June 2008.