Is rating deflation a thing?

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Daniel Gormally
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Is rating deflation a thing?

Post by Daniel Gormally » Mon Dec 23, 2019 9:39 am

I had this debate with Keith last night... he seems convinced that ratings are dropping :shock:

Personally I'm not so sure... has anyone ever done a statistical analysis on this? While it is true that many of the better known players in the UK have seen their rating drop, I think that has as much to do with age and motivation, and the overall declining chess scene in the UK, than anything else. Some of the younger players have dropped off as well but if you are 25 and working full time in a job, then logic has it that you are probably not as fanatical as you were about chess as when you were 15 and had nothing to distract you from that obsession. Other countries like Indian are instead reversing the trend and forging forward.

Ok the argument in favour of deflation is that plenty of new players have come on to the scene and that being sometimes underrated they drain the points from the higher players. That might be true. But I think generally ratings stay about the same. I was 2573 in 2006, I don't think that I was any better or worse than a 2573 around now. I remain to be convinced otherwise.

Alex Holowczak
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Re: Is rating deflation a thing?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Mon Dec 23, 2019 10:23 am

I've had a similar discussion with Keith in the past, and his argument is that he believes he is a better player than he was at his peak rating, but he is now below his peak rating.

If there were deflation in the UK, then whenever UK players play overseas, we would gain rating points. Luckily, there is a very recent tournament we can use as a yardstick - Sitges, in Barcelona, at which a large number of English players were present.

In Group A, English players had the following W-We and Rating Change:
Name W-We Rtg+/-
Gordon, Stephen J 1.02 10
Webb, Laurence E 0.56 11
Trent, Lawrence -1.28 -13
Eggleston, David J -0.77 -8
Kirk, Ezra -1.80 -18
Moreby, James -0.71 -28
Zheng, Harry Z 3.25 130
Dias, Savin -0.64 -26

Overall -0.37, but a rating gain of 58 thanks to Harry Zheng and his k=40! Even with Zheng's performance, that's only an increase of 7 Elo points per player.

In Group B:
Name W-We Rtg+/-
Kumar, Sanjit S 4.34 174
Zheng, Jerry Z 1.36 54
Dias, Ruwan 2.84 114
Moreby, Kurt 0.11 4

Overall +8.65, and a rating gain of 346, 74 per player.

Andrey Pichugov got 4/8 in Group B, and has a performance rating of 1678. A few weeks ago in London, he scored 1.5/4 against a field of 1502 (assuming they were all rated!). He doesn't even an ECF grade yet, and I don't think he will in January either unless he's played some other games in England so far this year (or he's playing LJCC next weekend).

There are regional variations on FIDE ratings, where in certain parts of the world they are better than others. Warwickshire has two juniors whose ability is almost equal; certainly close enough for the purpose of this. One got their first FIDE rating by playing in the European Youth Championship, and came back with a FIDE rating of about 1150. The other got their first FIDE rating by playing in a 9-round late summer tournament in Spain, and got a rating of over 1600. We see that again with Sanjit Kumar, who got his initial rating in a Continental/World event - I forget precisely which - and look at his W-We in Sitges.

What we know about Spain is that they FIDE-rate all of their tournaments. In England, we FIDE-rate some but by all means not all, particularly compared with parts of Eastern Europe. Our FIDE-rating coverage in the lower part of the rating system is particularly poor. So I think "deflation" might be part of this oft-quoted imagined concept of "the FIDE-rating system not working", usually when adults grumble at juniors with FIDE ratings that are much too low. Actually, if we submitted more of our chess for FIDE rating in England, then I think this problem would slowly disappear; so to some extent the same adults who don't want to FIDE-rate more sections are the ones who are helping to cause the problem.

What happened in Sitges is exactly what I would expect to see from English players playing in Spain. Our players at the top are in the right place, but the ratings of players in the 1000-1800 bracket are much higher than English players of a similar standard. So the players at the top scored about par, but the players at the bottom gained lots of rating points.

While 2019 Keith Arkell may be objectively better than 1999 Keith Arkell, lots of people have just gone past Keith in the intervening 20 years. I think that's why his rating isn't as high as it once was.

Keith Arkell
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Re: Is rating deflation a thing?

Post by Keith Arkell » Mon Dec 23, 2019 12:22 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote:
Mon Dec 23, 2019 10:23 am
I've had a similar discussion with Keith in the past, and his argument is that he believes he is a better player than he was at his peak rating, but he is now below his peak rating.

While 2019 Keith Arkell may be objectively better than 1999 Keith Arkell, lots of people have just gone past Keith in the intervening 20 years. I think that's why his rating isn't as high as it once was.
It's always worth checking the accuracy of throw away statements.

In the active list I am currently number 17 in England. In July 1999 I was outside the top 22. This paints a different picture to 'lots of people going past me'. My rating ( 2460, live) is about the same.

There has of course been a worldwide chess explosion. You've only got to look at India and China, for example, but England has maintained or even improved it's status in the chess world, regarding team performances, so there is no reason to believe that we are falling away.

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Re: Is rating deflation a thing?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Mon Dec 23, 2019 12:41 pm

Keith Arkell wrote:
Mon Dec 23, 2019 12:22 pm
Alex Holowczak wrote:
Mon Dec 23, 2019 10:23 am
I've had a similar discussion with Keith in the past, and his argument is that he believes he is a better player than he was at his peak rating, but he is now below his peak rating.

While 2019 Keith Arkell may be objectively better than 1999 Keith Arkell, lots of people have just gone past Keith in the intervening 20 years. I think that's why his rating isn't as high as it once was.
It's always worth checking the accuracy of throw away statements.

In the active list I am currently number 17 in England. In July 1999 I was outside the top 22. This paints a different picture to 'lots of people going past me'. My rating ( 2460, live) is about the same.

There has of course been a worldwide chess explosion. You've only got to look at India and China, for example, but England has maintained or even improved it's status in the chess world, regarding team performances, so there is no reason to believe that we are falling away.
It wasn't throw away, although I accept your peak may not have been in 1999.

In 1999, you were ranked 793 in the world: http://www.olimpbase.org/Elo/Elo199907e.html
You are now ranked 1295 in the world: https://ratings.fide.com/profile/400270

The final comment was based on your world ranking rather than your national ranking.

Jonathan Rogers
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Re: Is rating deflation a thing?

Post by Jonathan Rogers » Mon Dec 23, 2019 12:45 pm

Presumably Alex was referring to players world wide overtaking you, Keith; and since you do play a significant number of FIDE rated games against non-UK players (Rausis, for example - no, forget I said that) it may be that this is why you are not gaining points, despite being stronger. (I now see that Alex has replied to this effect)

I hate to say that it might be entirely in your imagination that you are stronger now than in 1999. Maybe in some respects yes, but in others, not, and overall the level IS about the same? (Which would still be something to be proud of, incidentally).

Apparently the Tal of the late 1970s would muse that he was so much stronger than his self which became World Chamion in 1960; he would rip apart his younger self, if he could somehow play him.

But would he? Or would his nerveless younger self have proven to be remarkably "lucky"?

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Is rating deflation a thing?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Mon Dec 23, 2019 12:59 pm

Jonathan Rogers wrote:
Mon Dec 23, 2019 12:45 pm
Maybe in some respects yes, but in others, not, and overall the level IS about the same?
It's a reasonable assertion that opening theory has moved on as has understanding of how to assess and play some middle-game positions, in some openings at least. Where the game effectively starts has moved on a few moves. Against that some hitherto rejected or unconsidered early deviations have proved playable, so you can get confronted with something unusual at a very early stage.

There's a theory that ratings stretch, in other words the gap between the world champion and challengers at the top and the average player in the middle widens over time and similarly the gap between the average player and the beginner. It may need to, as standards improve. It's not something I've ever seen studied, but how consistent is the minimum FIDE rating of 1000 in relation to chess ability? That's both geographically and over time.

Keith Arkell
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Re: Is rating deflation a thing?

Post by Keith Arkell » Mon Dec 23, 2019 1:42 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote:
Mon Dec 23, 2019 12:41 pm


In 1999, you were ranked 793 in the world: http://www.olimpbase.org/Elo/Elo199907e.html
You are now ranked 1295 in the world: https://ratings.fide.com/profile/400270

The final comment was based on your world ranking rather than your national ranking.
Apologies for misunderstanding your argument, Alex, but this was why I referred to the Worldwide Chess Explosion. It is my contention, and the contention of many others too, that there are simply many many more strong players around today. This is why I prefer to measure my progress ( or otherwise) against my fellow nationals. I see England as being in a reasonably steady state.

There are three separate concepts here: 1) Danny's original post about ratings deflation. 2) The presence of many more strong players these days, and 3) The continuous rising of playing standards worldwide, simply because humanity continues learning more and more about the game.
Jonathan Rogers wrote:
Mon Dec 23, 2019 12:45 pm


I hate to say that it might be entirely in your imagination that you are stronger now than in 1999. Maybe in some respects yes, but in others, not, and overall the level IS about the same? (Which would still be something to be proud of, incidentally).

Apparently the Tal of the late 1970s would muse that he was so much stronger than his self which became World Champion in 1960; he would rip apart his younger self, if he could somehow play him.

But would he? Or would his nerveless younger self have proven to be remarkably "lucky"?
Thanks for the intended compliment, Jonathan, but I still maintain that any active player who maintains their rating and national ranking over time is therefore getting stronger by objective criteria, based on concept 3), above. I would be prepared to bet a significant amount of money that if my play was engine checked, say from move 9 onwards (which, I believe, is the standard way of doing this) it would be proven to be at a higher level today than it was 20 or 30 years ago. I would, however, cede that my blitz level has dropped a bit.

Daniel Gormally
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Re: Is rating deflation a thing?

Post by Daniel Gormally » Mon Dec 23, 2019 2:48 pm

I have to agree with Rogers here. I think it's easy to delude yourself into thinking you are better now than you were before, but to me that goes against all logic, to think that a 58 year old would be stronger than a 34 year old.

It's easy to overlook and ignore hidden stuff like the amount of energy you have for a game/preparation, the amount of motivation you have, the fact that you have better nerves, all advantages that younger players have over those who are older.

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: Is rating deflation a thing?

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Mon Dec 23, 2019 3:02 pm

Or to simplify even more - an older person understands the game better, but doesn't play it as well?
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Jonathan Rogers
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Re: Is rating deflation a thing?

Post by Jonathan Rogers » Mon Dec 23, 2019 3:15 pm

something like that, yes. Or maybe just precisely that. I came across the Portisch v Tal game in 1964 on chessbase recently

https://en.chessbase.com/post/sally-and ... ng-of-ways (scroll down)

Now, I am sure that the Tal of the early 1980s would never have gotten himself into such a mess from the early opening/middlegame. But he would also have never gotten himself out of it, as did his mid-20s self.

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Re: Is rating deflation a thing?

Post by JustinHorton » Mon Dec 23, 2019 3:22 pm

One thing - I know that my recall isn't remotely as good as it used to be when I was much younger. For instance, although my capacity to remember games has never been anything much compared to that possessed by strong players, I always used to be able to recall the moves of the previous game I'd played, even if it was weeks or months previously. Now I'm lucky if I can recall most of them an hour after a shortish game.
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JustinHorton
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Re: Is rating deflation a thing?

Post by JustinHorton » Mon Dec 23, 2019 3:24 pm

I'm guessing, by the way, that with the use of computers we could come to some kind of conclusion about the comparative strengths of players today and x years ago, but it'd involve the input and analysis of a very large number of games.
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Keith Arkell
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Re: Is rating deflation a thing?

Post by Keith Arkell » Mon Dec 23, 2019 6:04 pm

JustinHorton wrote:
Mon Dec 23, 2019 3:24 pm
I'm guessing, by the way, that with the use of computers we could come to some kind of conclusion about the comparative strengths of players today and x years ago, but it'd involve the input and analysis of a very large number of games.
The site Chessdb does a weaker form of this, by taking a, presumably, random sample of all of our games and putting a percentage on our level of accuracy.

I'm not going to bother debating who has a better understanding of Tal, when the options are either us guys or Tal himself, but I stand by my offer of a bet on whether the objective level of my own play increases with time. There are all sorts of reasons why this can be the case - some personal, some more general. And I don't claim to stand out regarding this. I think it is true of all active players who's results are not getting any worse.

Many players of all levels say to me that they feel they are stronger than they ever were (and I mean players of all ages), but their grades don't reflect it. As a thought experiment just consider that If everybody is getting stronger simultaneously then of course that cannot be reflected in their grades!

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Re: Is rating deflation a thing?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Mon Dec 23, 2019 6:18 pm

Keith Arkell wrote:
Mon Dec 23, 2019 6:04 pm
JustinHorton wrote:
Mon Dec 23, 2019 3:24 pm
I'm guessing, by the way, that with the use of computers we could come to some kind of conclusion about the comparative strengths of players today and x years ago, but it'd involve the input and analysis of a very large number of games.
The site Chessdb does a weaker form of this, by taking a, presumably, random sample of all of our games and putting a percentage on our level of accuracy.

I'm not going to bother debating who has a better understanding of Tal, when the options are either us guys or Tal himself, but I stand by my offer of a bet on whether the objective level of my own play increases with time. There are all sorts of reasons why this can be the case - some personal, some more general. And I don't claim to stand out regarding this. I think it is true of all active players who's results are not getting any worse.

Many players of all levels say to me that they feel they are stronger than they ever were (and I mean players of all ages), but their grades don't reflect it. As a thought experiment just consider that If everybody is getting stronger simultaneously then of course that cannot be reflected in their grades!
If you can supply me with a PGN of all your games in (say) 1999, and then another one for 2019, then I will see if I can persuade someone to put them through some software. All that will do is compare 1999 Keith Arkell against Stockfish, and then 2019 Keith Arkell with Stockfish, but it might be an interesting way of seeing how well you score in each year.

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Re: Is rating deflation a thing?

Post by Keith Arkell » Mon Dec 23, 2019 6:23 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote:
Mon Dec 23, 2019 6:18 pm


If you can supply me with a PGN of all your games in (say) 1999, and then another one for 2019, then I will see if I can persuade someone to put them through some software. All that will do is compare 1999 Keith Arkell against Stockfish, and then 2019 Keith Arkell with Stockfish, but it might be an interesting way of seeing how well you score in each year.
Thanks Alex. I'll be very happy to do that :D I hardly make a secret of the fact that I get deeply offended by ageism in chess, so hope this experiment will go a little way towards fighting it. I'll send the games to you as an email link...

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