Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Ranking not Rating

There is a big debate going on at the moment about the change to the FIDE Rating System. Essentially the K factor (the value used to calculate rating changes) is being increased from 10 to 20 for players who reach a rating of 2400 (and to 30 for players who are yet to reach 2400). However it seems that FIDE have gone to water on the proposal, in part due to complaints from some players and organisers.
Now I'm a bit of a heretic when it comes to ratings, especially as I think players regard ratings as some sort of personal property, rather than a mathematial solution to a function that measures performance. The net result of this attitude is that it is very hard to convince people of the merits of a system that might result in their ratings going down faster than they currently do (Gaining points is fine, its the losing them thats the problem).
One idea to combat this attitude is the emphasise ranking over rating. Keep whatever rating system is in operation, but publish a players ranking, rather than the rating. Certainly this is what happens in most sports (eg Tennis or Golf), where player X is referred to as the Number N player in the world. Although this sort of happens in chess, once you get below to the top 100 in the world it tends to get all fuzzy.
Of course this would have flow on effects to tournament organisations. Rather than have a Under 2000 section, you would restrict an event to players outside the top 200 (for example). And it might be harder to seed inactive players.
On the up side I would expect players to be less attached to their ranking of 732, than their rating of 1600. If my ranking dropped from 300 to 400 I would be less inclined to blame it on some imagined defect in the rating system, and instead accept that their are an extra 100 players now better than me.
But at this stage it is just a thought experiment, as for it to function effectively, the 'self-esteem crutch' that ratings currently are would have to be removed entirely.


SHump said...

I like the idea of a ranking. How do tennis players get ranked - that seems to work - the more time off, your ranking goes down as well... But then assume you have an Aust ranking - all well and good, but then with events with OS players, how to merge them into the system could get tricky?! But it is food for thought.

Anonymous said...

A nice idea of yours to publish only a ranking Shaun, but I suggest it would still miss the mark of the overly sensitive players.
The key worry is in your text where you say "it is very hard to convince people of the merits of a system that might result in their ratings going down faster than they currently do". In fact chess playing folk don't like any system where their numbers go down. Thus I suggest we simply publish only the number ' highest achieved life-time rating'. So, no-ones published rating ever goes down.
Of course tournament officials would still be able to make pairings based on current ratings, but those numbers would be kept private.

Anonymous said...

We already have ranking at the FIDE site; you only have to look at a player's "card" to see their world, regional or country ranking campared to either all or only active players.