Wednesday, September 27, 2006

About Elo and Ego and the Ideal Amateur

If I was an Ideal Amateur, I would only care about the beauty and the joy of the game. I would consider rating as something that is a little dirty and as totally irrelevant to chess. I must admit that it is not possible for me to commit myself to such Saintlike standards. I allready have used the word "I" 5 times in this post, so I can't keep up the appearances that I have no ego.

In earlier days I tried to deny that I was flattered by a high rating, which is of course a form of hypocrisy. The day I decided to leave hypocrisy, I started shamelessly to indulge my rating-desire (I hope this is correct English).

It is of course of highest importance that such shameless behaviour is executed in a proper way. Otherwise it's not only a shame, but it is stupid and useless either:)

Of course you are standing miles above this.
But since you have to avoid such behaviour, it is of course important to know how it works. . .
I noticed that the rating system is somewhat counter-intuitive for a lot of people.
This is how it works globally.
The explanation is based on the dutch rating system, but the system of the USCF will not differ very much, I assume.

For every game you win you get plus 15 points, for every draw 0 points and for every loss minus 15 points. Besides that, if you have a higher rating, your opponent is compensated for that. You can compare it with a handicap in golf.
The idea is that if you are 1700 , your opponent is 1500 and you play a few hundred games, in the end you will have both still about the same rating, 1700 resp. 1500.
You win more since you are better, but your handicap will compensate that. That handicap is based on statistics.

Rating diff.Handicap rtg ptsYou win
0 050%

If you are 700 points better you will always win, so you will always get +15. But since you have a handicap of -15 points, the total effect is nill.
The only way to gain ratingpoints is to score better than the statistical probability.
If you win from Topolov you will only get +30 points. +15 points for the win and +15 points for the ratingdifference. But I bet your ego will get a much bigger boost!


  1. I have thought a lot about the things you mention lately. I also wish I could just enjoy the beauty of the game and feel some sort of gratitude when my opponent kicks my behind in the most profound manner. I also wish I could forget all this nonsense about rating. But to be honest I hate to lose in chess (but hide it very well) and I dream of reaching a rating of at least 1700. So to put it plain: I like kicking butt and having the numbers to prove it! ;)

  2. Psychoanalysts might suggest that you are suffering from ELO-envy.

  3. Just a warning. Avoid such thoughts in a game. You'll play worse and end up with losing rating points. Just the opposite of what you are after.

  4. Maybe I expressed myself with just a pinch of drama too much... ;)