The original title for this post was "Rant of the Week: Is this parent nuts?" However after going off on one of my mad statistical hunts to answer the question I posed in my original title, I decided the post needed a more fitting title. I'll let you you answer the question yourself after looking at my data.
Sometimes I think after 35 plus years in chess that I've seen everything. Then something happens makes me scratch my head and think to myself "WTF??" I thought April Fools was on the first day of April not on the last day. I guess since I didn't play on April 1st, Caissa decided to have a little fun on April 30th. Last night I played in my 203rd "Four Rated Games Tonight!" tournament at the Marshall Chess Club. Don't be overwhelmingly impressed with that number. Gabor Schnitzler hasn't missed a Thursday night tournament in several years. Jay Bonin misses maybe one or two in a year. I can't even begin to tell you how many Thursday nights those two played. They both could stop now, never play again, and I probably wouldn't catch up with them.
It's a very strong tournament. With a time limit of Game/30 it's not for the faint of heart. There have been nights where half the field has been rated over 2200. I've had my share of nights where at 1700 I've been last on the wall chart, and have to try to dodge the annoying early round bye. (Note: The linked post has been edited to include a game that had vanished in Chess Publisher's black hole. I reposted in Chess Flash and I've added new analysis to it.) The lowest class prize the organizer gives out is Under 2000. Some nights it takes 2.5 to 3 points to win win that prize. With a prize structure like that sometimes one is tempted to ask; "Why would anyone rated under 1800 want to play in a tournament like that?"
Why? Because it's an fairly inexpensive way ($20-$40 entry fee) to get some an opportunity to play stronger players. That's why I play in the tournament. I know I'm going to get at least two if not more games against higher rated players. Any serious kid from the New York City area plays in the tournament to get the experience against strong competition, and the opportunity to pick up rating points. There are kids that used to play in scholastic tournaments that I directed that move to playing in this tournament. They may get hammered when they first start playing in this tournament as a 1400. Those who stick with it eventually work their way up, and break 1900. I know I've contributed numerous rating points over the years to those rising kids.
I've played 790 games in this particular tournament between July 1997 and April 2009. Wayne Zimmerle's MSA data program and an Excel spreadsheet made it possible to figure this stuff out. I'm an Excel addict. I love putting data in an Excel spreadsheet, manipulating it by doing different sorts and coming up with statistics about win-loss records against various players, average rating, and the different range of people and ratings I've played over the years. The MSA data program takes all of a player's rating history and generates different reports. These reports are in text file format but can be imported into Excel. I sorted my history by tournament and then took all the Thursday cracktion data and put it on a separate page and then played with it. To borrow from Paul Simon, there must be "50 Ways to Sort This Data."
My record in Thursday night "cracktion" is 124 wins, 86 draws and 580 losses. Yes that looks pretty bad. However the average rating of my opponents is 1810. That average includes treating unrated players as having a rating of zero. If I throw out the unrated players the average goes up to 1850. My highest rated opponent was 2470. My lowest rated opponent was 629. (I don't count the 501 rated house player I played when I got a bye in the first round.) The 629 was a visitor from New Mexico who thought it would be a fun thing for his son and him to play at the Marshall Chess Club while visiting New York. His son was rated 1200 at the time. They had no idea how strong the event Now his son is 1756. Dad's rating has dropped to 550.
After seeing how bad the overall record was I decided I would break it down by rating ranges and see just how bad it really was. I played 505 games with players rated 1800 and above. 105 games were against B players. 180 games were against players rated under 1600. The interesting, but somewhat depressing thing was noticing the number of players who I lost to in the 1400 - 1599 range that have beaten me again when their rating went up.
2200+: 1 win 2 draws 77 losses = 80
2000 - 2199: 9 wins 0 draws 178 losses = 187 (No draws? What is that all about?)
1800 - 1999: 19 wins 28 draws 191 losses = 238
1600 - 1799: 25 wins 16 draws 65 losses = 105 (Yes this indicates that I'm playing below my floor in these tournament.)
1400 - 1599: 32 wins 26 draws 48 losses = 106
Under 1400: 31 wins 10 draws 16 losses = 57
Unrated: 7 wins 5 draws 5 losses = 17 (Box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get.)
What got me started on this silly exercise was the WTF? moment of Thursday night. I've only played 5 games against people with ratings under 1000 in this tournament. One was the unsuspecting father from New Mexico. Two were against the same low rated player acting as a house player in an early round so I wouldn't have a bye. One game was against a kid rated 982 who was in over his head. He stopped playing in 2005. My most recent game against a three digit rated player was the teenage kid who started out 0-9 in this tournament and was much better then the rating indicated. He's now rated 1487.
This past Thursday was a fairly small field with only 23 players. However it was a strong field. You know it's a strong field when a 2014 gets paired up against Alex Lenderman in round 1. I played Kassa Korley on board 7 in round 1. When I'm on a lower board with an opponent like that I know I'm going to play I'm going to play up again in round two. I don't mind missing the cut. It beats just making the cut and having to play a random unrated or a kid rated 1100.
Kassa crushed me quickly. It's Wacky Wednesday worthy, so look for it next week. When somebody said there was a player with a rating of 118 playing in the tournament, I said "No he's 1118." That's what I had thought I saw on the wallchart. I went out and looked at the wallchart again, and sure enough #23 is rated 118. He lost to a WFM from Estonia. I'm sure she was just thrilled to play a 7 year old kid with a 118 rating. I know Josh and his dad Guy were not thrilled to play him in rounds two and three.
I was sure I was going to play him in round three because the colors were right and it looked like I was just making the break. That was going to totally tick me off. Fortunately somebody took a bye in round three so Steve put Guy back into the tournament as a house player. Guy ended out playing him. I got paired "down" against somebody who was rated 1670, but is actually over 1700.
It's none of my business what a father opts to do with his 7 year old kid. However it begs the question, "What? Is he totally out of his mind?" How can anyone in their right mind put a kid with 118 rating in a tournament like this? The lowest possible rating a player can have is 101. It used to be 100, but the powers that be decided it wasn't good to have a bunch of players at 100. They decided that a player would get 1 point for each tournament they played in. Even my husband who doesn't play chess said "Him playing in that tournament is like a beginning musician going to audition for a Broadway show."
This particular player has played a total of 14 tournament games. His lone win came in an under 600 section where he beat a kid who went 0-4 and ended out with a rating of 101. It's not like the father doesn't know how strong the tournament is. Last week he and his son both played. I don't see any benefit to a 7 year old playing against adults who out rate him by 1500 points. Even me who likes to play stronger competition knows that there is limit to how beneficial it is to play up. Last summer, I had a very lively discussion in the the comments section of Rhode Trip: Winning the Battle. Losing the War about the subject of playing up. I took some heat for wanting to play up when I'm playing below my floor, but most agreed that playing up can be helpful.
Maybe I shouldn't say anything considering how quickly I lost against Kassa. Though I did resign and not play out to mate. Even though I'm 0-7 against him, I've had some decent games with him. This last one was not! That being said, I still contend that to subject a player to such large mismatches is unfair both to him and his opponent. I think players expect a challenge when they come to the Marshall Chess Club on Thursday nights. I don't think they expect to play somebody 1500 points lower then them. Is there any challenge to playing somebody that much lower? Blunders happen, and sometimes we don't give or get the challenge we want. Stuff happens. However I don't think stuff is going to happen when there is a 1500 point difference in rating.
On the plus side, the kid handled losing very well. There was no crying or dropping out after losing a game. He seemed to be happy to be at the club, and his father would calmly go over the games with him after the round. Personally his father would have been better off bring him on Sunday when Steve has the New York Under 13. There's an under 1000 section in that tournament. There he'd get more appropriate match ups and probably would win a couple of games. Hopefully his father will realize that "Four Rated Games Tonight!" is not the tournament for a 7 year old with a 118 rating.