Wednesday, October 17, 2012

some terminology for new players

Every year I get hit with many of the same questions from parents who have kids who are new to chess.  So I thought I'd lay them out.  Sometimese these topics are not easily searchable.

What does Pxx (eg. P3 or P15) in the rating mean?  A P in the rating means "provisional".  The USCF gives you a provisional rating until you have played 25 rated games.  In layman's terms what this means is that the rating can rise or fall dramatically, until the person has played 25 rated games.  In some cases, players who have very high provisional ratings get the rating because they have played other provisional-rated players.  Also, a person who has played fewer than 4 rated games is still considered to be unrated, and as such, should be paired as an unrated.  This comes into play only in Quads tournaments, where pairings are based on one's rating.

How are ratings calculated?  this is a tough one to answer precisely.  The mathematical formula uses the Elo rating system which is the same system used to calculate ratings in other sports such as the BCS polls in college football.  Generally speaking you gain rating points by winning and lose rating points by losing, but you gain more points by beating someone much higher rated than you than if you beat someone with a lower rating.  And vice versa.

What's the difference between a Quad and a Swiss?  A Quad is a modified form of a round-robin.  4 players are put together in a group, and these 4 players play each other.  Usually, they are grouped based on their rating. A Swiss tournament is a format where the pairing is determined before a round starts.  Generally speaking, it is based on 1) how many points (wins, draws, losses) they have at the time, and 2) their rating.  What color they have played also is a factor at times but I'll explain that some other time.  The way the pairing would go is that all the players with a certain score is grouped, and then matched based on their rating.  So lets say that 6 players have 1 points after round 1.  The pairing for round 2 would go like this - the players are ordered by rating. Then Player 1 (the player with the highest rating) would play Player 4 (the player with the 4th highest rating).  Player 2 would play Player 5 and Player 3 would play Player 6.  As you can see, the group is divided in half and players from the top half play players from the bottom half.

So what does this mean from a practicial perspective?  It means that as you win, you generally play a higher-rated player, and if you lose, you play a lower-rated player.  Of course, upsets do occur frequently, so this may not be the case.  But generally speaking, we encourage players to play in more Swiss tournaments because it gives the player a chance to really test their ceiling if they are having a good tournament - something that probably doesn't happen in a Quads tournament.

There are a number of Swiss scholastic tournaments coming up - Norcal House of Chess has one on Sunday, and there is the G/30 and G/60 championships next Saturday and Sunday in Pleasanton.  Please try and make as many of these tournaments as possible.  This is good practice for our upcoming first required tournament, which is the Grade Level tournament in Pleasanton in December. Look at the blog on the right for more info.

What does G/30 and G/60 mean?  G/30 means "game in 30".   The number represents the number of minutes.  Each player gets 30 minutes for the game.  If the players are using a digital clock, the norm nowadays is that there is a delay of 5 seconds between each move.  This is so that the player can write their move down in those 5 seconds.  Sometimes you see a tournament listed as SD/1.  This means "sudden death in 1 hour".  The sudden death simply means that the game is over when the hour is over (in this case).

Can I take a bye in a Quad?  no, you cannot.  That would mess up the pairings, as someone would not have an opponent, which is not fair.  The pairings have already been pre-arranged at the beginning of the tournament.  If you child has a soccer game or dental appointment during the middle of a Quads tournament, don't sign up for the tournament.

What is a bye? Can I take a bye in a Swiss?  yes you may.  A bye means that you skip that round.  If the tournament director is notified ahead of time, usually the person gets a 1/2 point for that bye.  Sometimes the person will get 0 points depending on circumstances.   The good thing about Swiss tournaments is that if you have a need to skip a round, or even two rounds, because of a conflict, it is no problem - notify the tournament director in advance.

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