Online grading list: publication of players' game results

Debate directly related to English Chess Federation matters.
Richard Haddrell

Online grading list: publication of players' game results

Post by Richard Haddrell » Sat Aug 14, 2010 12:58 am

I want to return to a topic that appeared briefly in January then vanished over the horizon.

ONLINE GRADING LIST: PUBLICATION OF PLAYERS’ DETAILED GAME RESULTS

Detailed results and more. It’s not happening yet!

I don’t doubt the Board’s intention to do it. Their thinking was reported briefly - see http://www.ecforum.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=1386 - in Adam Raoof’s account of the Board meeting of January 2010. There was some comment, but coverage was slight and the official website report of the meeting (to follow “in due course”) is not yet in evidence. Anyway, plans seem to have ground to a halt and I think the topic is due for an airing. I shan’t be brief.

You probably know what happens at the moment. ECF Full Members get a list of their results, covering the latest grading season, immediately after the July grading list is finalised. This is an entitlement of Membership. The list can also be purchased for £5 by Standard and Junior Members, and for £10 by non-Members. I suppose about 500 lists, including bought ones, went out this year, by post or email. Mostly email. They have elicited 6 queries as to accuracy so far, but a lot of errors had already been picked up by the Preliminary Check done a month earlier. This is done before all the results are in, and is a much bigger operation. It goes free of charge to all emailable Members of any stripe (something over 1,700 emails this year). It isn’t an entitlement of Membership; it is sent as an error-finding exercise. I don’t know how many it found this year, but the responses were queueing for a flat-out week and went on coming long after that.

You’ve guessed my opinion of this. A frenzy of emails once a year is a ridiculous way of doing it when you’ve got a website you could use all through the season. The ECF grading team had a look at it last year and concluded that extending the online list was practicable. Crucially it had the support of Carl Hibbard who would be doing most, if not all, of the programming. The Board met in January 2010. It considered three possible plans which the team had thought reasonable, and chose the fourth. The plans were something like this.

(1)
Publish details for everyone, à la FIDE and Yorkshire. It needn’t be just players’ game lists. Other possible goodies include tournament crosstables and details of league matches.

This was not the team’s recommendation, though it had support. Attractive as it is, it would be politically impossible in the ECF because printouts of games are an advertised benefit of Membership.

(2)
Publish details for ECF Members only, à la Chess Scotland. This was not the team’s recommendation, though it had support. It is open to the objection that, in a sense, it penalises Members by showing their results to all their non-Member opponents, who themselves remain uncheckable.

(3)
Publish details for ECF Members only, but with a password given only to Members. I think this was the team’s recommendation, as far as anything was. It had not escaped their notice that passwords can be passed on. I don’t quite know what the team’s thinking was on this. I’m not sure what mine was. Probably nothing more complicated than “We don’t prevent sharing of the passwords which the ECF uses already, and the sky hasn’t fallen in.” But on reflection, if we’re not publishing the details of non-Members, an illicitly got password won’t give a non-Member his details. He just gets what he gets in (2).

Others may have had more sophisticated viewpoints. The Board had its own, and resolved on

(4)
Publish details for ECF Members, but each Member has access to his own details only, via a unique password. It starts to sound like internet banking.

It certainly removes any incentive to share your password. I believe that was the Board’s intention. Unfortunately it raises other problems. I have no doubt the unique-password thing can be done, but is it worth the trouble and the administrative complications, for the tiny outcome envisaged by the Board? It’s a minimalist plan with a maximum of bother. I don’t think the Board have found a programmer who’ll do it, and they’ve had half a year to try. I know they aren’t expecting any developments in the near future. They had a meeting at the British, and the topic wasn’t even discussed.

I wasn’t going to say the next bit, because it’s a non-issue. Data Protection Act. I have heard it suggested that the Board had the DPA in mind when they chose option (4). It sounds implausible to me. We knocked that one on the head when we published names and grades on the web in the first place. The DPA is the last refuge of the foot-dragger, and I do not accuse the Board of foot-dragging.

Incidentally the Board’s plan excluded Basic Members. I’m not sure this was politically wise, given that Basic Members are included in the email frenzy we’re trying to get rid of.


____________________


Anyway. Where do we go from here, given that the status quo is not an option? The Board, with the best of intentions, have fixed on a plan that no one seems willing and able to program. It must be unfixed, in favour of one that somebody will and can. I have a sort of feeling this means losing the password. My choice would be option (1) if it were politically possible. Since it is not, I will swallow my dislike of (2) and settle for it as the best thing we’re going to get. It’s gettable. Carl is still willing to program it, Board or Council willing.

The list would include players’ current-season results, obviously, so that players could report errors. The site would need to be updated more often than it is at the moment. Once a month, say. Interestingly, it could be multi-tier to reflect the different categories of Membership. For example, Basic Members could get just a list of their games in the current season so far. Standard and Junior Members could get previous season as well, and Full Members could get any season at all. These are only illustrations of what could be done. Other possibilities, for a premium service, might include the goodies already mentioned in (1). All of this is doable without passwords.

It won’t come overnight. It might come gradually, I don’t know. There’s a lot of programming involved, and I won’t be doing it. But I think we might improve on zero progress in half a year.

____________________


For completeness: there are financial implications, which the Board will have considered when they made their decision in January. I don’t know the ECF’s income from sale of lists @ £5 and £10, but whatever it is we will lose some of it. No Standard Member will pay £5 when he’s getting a superior service from the website anyway. On the other hand...

It seems reasonable to hope for large numbers of new Members, considering the much enhanced service on offer. This could turn out to be not just the right way to run a grading website, but a nice little earner as well.
Last edited by Richard Haddrell on Sat Aug 14, 2010 9:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

Sean Hewitt

Re: Online grading list: publication of players' game result

Post by Sean Hewitt » Sat Aug 14, 2010 7:52 am

The best option is of course no.1

It is not politically impossible at all. It may be tricky, but that's quite another thing.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Online grading list: publication of players' game result

Post by Roger de Coverly » Sat Aug 14, 2010 9:04 am

Richard Haddrell wrote:The list would include players’ current-season results,
If you've played any juniors or new players, current season doesn't give you any useful grading progress information. A list of results is for the ECF's benefit as much as anything else, since it enables completeness checking.

Richard Haddrell wrote:Publish details for ECF Members, but each Member has access to his own details only,
.

As a player, I know my own results and I have last season's download already. It is useful to be able to find out who and where unknown opponents have played. If you can't prepare with many of your opponent's past games, a knowledge of their level of experience can be useful. The FIDE site is useful there.

Ljubica Lazarevic
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Re: Online grading list: publication of players' game result

Post by Ljubica Lazarevic » Sat Aug 14, 2010 9:19 am

Publish all results. Membership or no membership, every graded game an individual plays, they have paid for it in some way, whether it be through club fees or tournament entry.

I don't really understand why providing a print out of grades is a 'member benefit'. Having taken a fee for the grading service, the duty lies on the ECF to ensure that new grades are as accurate as possible. If this means you make all results public, so be it.

David Sedgwick
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Re: Online grading list: publication of players' game result

Post by David Sedgwick » Sat Aug 14, 2010 10:28 am

Richard Haddrell wrote:You’ve guessed my opinion of this. A frenzy of emails once a year is a ridiculous way of doing it when you’ve got a website you could use all through the season.
Richard Haddrell wrote:Others may have had more sophisticated viewpoints. The Board had its own, and resolved on

(4)
Publish details for ECF Members, but each Member has access to his own details only, via a unique password. It starts to sound like internet banking.

It certainly removes any incentive to share your password. I believe that was the Board’s intention. Unfortunately it raises other problems. I have no doubt the unique-password thing can be done, but is it worth the trouble and the administrative complications, for the tiny outcome envisaged by the Board? It’s a minimalist plan with a maximum of bother. I don’t think the Board have found a programmer who’ll do it, and they’ve had half a year to try. I know they aren’t expecting any developments in the near future. They had a meeting at the British, and the topic wasn’t even discussed.
The English Bridge Union have just introduced precisely this system; you enter your membership number and your (unique) password and that gives you access to details of the sessions you've played, your Masterpoint record, etc.

So, if that's what the Board want to do, perhaps they should try asking the EBU how they did it. Of course, if the Board had announced their decision six months ago, I could have made the suggestion sooner.

However, if the objective is to avoid the email frenzy at the end of June but only allow members access to their own information, surely there is a very simple solution. Forget about using the website and send emails for checking monthly. Obviously this depends on there being timely submission of results, but that's true whatever system you use. (If there is more general access, but I don't want prospective opponents to know how I'm doing, the congresses I enter will be those which are known to be slow to do their grading!)

If twice-yearly grading lists are introduced, the present system will have to change anyway.

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Re: Online grading list: publication of players' game result

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Aug 14, 2010 10:54 am

I would personally be most in favour of 1).

It's a benefit of membership... so remove it from the list of membership benefits, and find something else to replace it. The fact that it's a membership benefit need not be a reason to stop all progress; it has a very simple solution. I doubt whether most ECF members will suddenly not paying to become a member because they bypass the initial grading printout; most are members because they either have to be, e.g. to play FIDE-rated chess (the 4NCL), play for England, or in the British Championship.

If you're not a member, then I agree with Ljubica, you've still paid something via Game Fee.

Yorkshire and FIDE already do it, so any fears about the Data Protection Act are unfounded. This sort of information can be found out about tennis players, and there are no such fears there.

The other thing is that the results of most players can already be freely obtained on the Internet; at least, in League chess. It takes only a moment or two to find the Birmingham League website, and read last year's bulletins to see all of my results. Indeed, I was able to cobble together estimated grades for some people by visiting league websites and recording all the results. Congresses are slightly less happy to broadcast the information (i.e. results of all the games), admittedly. So why should the ECF charge for this information?

Andrew Farthing mentioned in his brief election statement in the other thread that the ECF is viewed with suspicion by some, the butt of jokes, and seen to be incompetent. Well, here is a chance to provide a benefit that everyone can gain from - an enhancement of services that costs relatively little money (I assume?). It will increase faith in the grading system, because it provides a way for everyone to check their results.

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Re: Online grading list: publication of players' game result

Post by Neville Belinfante » Sat Aug 14, 2010 11:01 am

The obvious solution is to put detailed crosstables of leagues and congresses on the ECF website as soon as Richard receives the results. That way players can highlight errors straight away, and Richard does not have to do his email circular to all members in July. Full members can still get detailed information about their opponents and grades as well as this.

Regards

Neville B

Sean Hewitt

Re: Online grading list: publication of players' game result

Post by Sean Hewitt » Sat Aug 14, 2010 11:25 am

Neville Belinfante wrote:The obvious solution is to put detailed crosstables of leagues and congresses on the ECF website as soon as Richard receives the results. That way players can highlight errors straight away, and Richard does not have to do his email circular to all members in July. Full members can still get detailed information about their opponents and grades as well as this.

Regards

Neville B
Good point!

Sean Hewitt

Re: Online grading list: publication of players' game result

Post by Sean Hewitt » Sat Aug 14, 2010 11:29 am

People mainly join the ECF for 3 reasons.

1) Altruistic. They want to donate an amount of money to the ECF.

2) Financial. They play so many congresses that the discounts they receive make it financially prudent to do so.

3) Compulsion. They play in FIDE rated events or in an MO with a compulsory membership requirement.

All would continue to join the ECF for the reasons stated regardless of the issuing of the printed list. It's not like your taking the information away - you're just giving it to a wider audience.

Andrew Farthing
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Re: Online grading list: publication of players' game result

Post by Andrew Farthing » Sat Aug 14, 2010 11:59 am

Alex Holowczak wrote:It's a benefit of membership... so remove it from the list of membership benefits, and find something else to replace it. The fact that it's a membership benefit need not be a reason to stop all progress; it has a very simple solution. I doubt whether most ECF members will suddenly not paying to become a member because they bypass the initial grading printout; most are members because they either have to be, e.g. to play FIDE-rated chess (the 4NCL), play for England, or in the British Championship.
I'm not so convinced that these are the reasons why most ECF members choose to join. Member benefits must have more impact than this, e.g. congress entry fee discounts for those who play a lot of chess. It's difficult to know how important the grading print-out is to those members who are entitled to it as part of the overall package. Presumably, those who already pay specifically for the print-out do value it.

The tricky thing for the ECF is that it has to fight to keep its finances sound, and income from Game Fee and membership are a big part of this. To be blunt, grading information is a valuable asset, as is - potentially - the prospect of desirable member-only online content. If the ECF did not pursue this particular option as a way to attract and retain members, it would have to ask itself the question, "What else can we do to increase or protect our income?"

If the proposed development did NOT go ahead as a member benefit but instead was made available freely to all, presumably this would mean that most of the increase in the Standard membership rate agreed at Council in April (on the basis that it was paying for enhanced benefits in the form of the online grading details) would have to be rolled back. This would leave a hole in the budget. Would it feel like value for money if instead there was a small increase in Game Fee and in the Basic membership rate?

I don't have a firm view myself; I can see the arguments for both solutions. I'm just trying to make it clear that for the ECF (and, ultimately, for chess players) this is a financial question as well as a matter of services/benefits.
Alex Holowczak wrote:Andrew Farthing mentioned in his brief election statement in the other thread that the ECF is viewed with suspicion by some, the butt of jokes, and seen to be incompetent. Well, here is a chance to provide a benefit that everyone can gain from - an enhancement of services that costs relatively little money (I assume?). It will increase faith in the grading system, because it provides a way for everyone to check their results.
To be fair, I only mentioned the "viewed with suspicion" part, but I wouldn't dispute that there are some people who see the ECF in these terms.

Is lack of faith in the grading system a widespread issue?

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Re: Online grading list: publication of players' game result

Post by Richard Bates » Sat Aug 14, 2010 12:13 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote:I would personally be most in favour of 1).

It's a benefit of membership... so remove it from the list of membership benefits, and find something else to replace it. The fact that it's a membership benefit need not be a reason to stop all progress; it has a very simple solution. I doubt whether most ECF members will suddenly not paying to become a member because they bypass the initial grading printout; most are members because they either have to be, e.g. to play FIDE-rated chess (the 4NCL), play for England, or in the British Championship.
Alex, are you a member of the ECF?

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Adam Raoof
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Re: Online grading list: publication of players' game result

Post by Adam Raoof » Sat Aug 14, 2010 12:29 pm

I am in favour of any enhancement that is achievable. Let us compare like with like, however - Yorkshire and FIDE are publishing everything for everyone because they are compulsory membership organisations. The ECF is not, though we could be.

The password option (4) was my preferred option (password holders access their own enhanced record), because that is the most logical way to encourage membership, and discourage fraud. However that needs some considerable programming, and nobody has volunteered to do that work.

I have suggested the Chess Scotland model (2), which allows anyone to access the enhanced grading data for members, because it works and provides a carrot rather than stick approach. It is also relatively easy to implement. If you are interested in this idea take a look at

http://www.chessscotland.com/grading.htm and click on 'Lookup your latest grade online' then 'online grade lookup'. Then search for the surname 'McNab'.

You will see that those Scots who have joined the membership scheme are clickable. Cick on the record for Colin McNab. (you will notice that the current Scottish Champion is not a member of the scheme). I will let you decide whether the information provided is worth the price of membership to most players.

This is the membership scheme; http://www.chessscotland.com/membership/membership.htm

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Re: Online grading list: publication of players' game result

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Aug 14, 2010 12:31 pm

Andrew Farthing wrote:Is lack of faith in the grading system a widespread issue?
In my area (which as it happens, is roughly your area!), there are some very disparaging comments sometimes. I know players grumble about their grade, but perhaps never quite get as far as paying for a printout to check. Mainly this is younger players, but we know that younger players have more inaccurate grades anyway.
Richard Bates wrote:Alex, are you a member of the ECF?
Yes, I had to under 3) of Sean's three-point reasons-to-become-a-member list. I needed to become a member to qualify as an arbiter, so I thought I'd do so while it was still £50/3 years! As it happens, I subsequently needed it to be nominated as Adam's alternate. I even travelled further than I ever normally would, just to play in an event that was FIDE-rated. So being a member has actually got me to play more chess than I would previously. I'm even considering not entering a local rapidplay in September, because one of Sean's events has a FIDE-rated Major, although this is more because the rapidplay costs £18 to enter... The only thing stopping me entering that already is a possible commitment on the Saturday morning which I need to attend.

Sean Hewitt

Re: Online grading list: publication of players' game result

Post by Sean Hewitt » Sat Aug 14, 2010 12:49 pm

Andrew Farthing wrote: If the proposed development did NOT go ahead as a member benefit but instead was made available freely to all, presumably this would mean that most of the increase in the Standard membership rate agreed at Council in April (on the basis that it was paying for enhanced benefits in the form of the online grading details) would have to be rolled back.
I was at the April council meeting, as of course was Andrew. I don't recall [though I could have been asleep :D ] any mention of the increased membership fees being justified by additional content or benefits. Simply, the ECF needed more money, and the membership had swallowed a previous 25% increase and it was believed it would do so again.
Adam Raoof wrote:I am in favour of any enhancement that is achievable. Let us compare like with like, however - Yorkshire and FIDE are publishing everything for everyone because they are compulsory membership organisations. The ECF is not, though we could be.
This post is entirely correct, apart from the bit about FIDE and Yorkshire being compulsory membership organisations. Neither of them are, and the free information is available to all players irrespective of membership.

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Re: Online grading list: publication of players' game result

Post by Carl Hibbard » Sat Aug 14, 2010 12:57 pm

Adam Raoof wrote:I have suggested the Chess Scotland model (2), which allows anyone to access the enhanced grading data for members, because it works and provides a carrot rather than stick approach.
This was my choice as I felt the ECF had a least an outside chance of attracting some new members or maybe gaining some revenue from people who wished to see their additional grading information?

The work is all being done for free remember :)
Cheers
Carl Hibbard

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