Title norms held by English players

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John Cox
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Re: Title norms held by English players

Post by John Cox » Tue Dec 17, 2013 12:35 pm

Given that these days there are 1,500 or so GMs and 3,500 or so IMs, I think it's fair to say that by present-day standards more or less literally every historical English player we've ever heard of was of IM strength or more.

As for Jonathan Penrose, in a proper world slaughtering the reigning world champion in an Olympiad would see one promoted to grandmaster on the spot.

I find it hard to believe RDK was actually much involved in the 1970's in promoting the case of someone who couldn't be any use to him (unlike Golombek), less hard to believe he has subsequently seen fit to promote the story that he was. Which rather fits with the Leonard/Stewart difference in recollection.

Paul McKeown
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Re: Title norms held by English players

Post by Paul McKeown » Tue Dec 17, 2013 12:42 pm

John Cox wrote:more or less literally every historical English player we've ever heard of was of IM strength or more.
I disagree, John. Most English players before the the 1970s were nowhere near the standard of today's IMs. Standards have been vastly higher since the late 1960s, with the arrival of the Hartston and Keene generation, than in any previous generation. Some, not many, players from that generation failed to obtain the IM title through lack of opportunity. The number of English players from before that period who failed to obtain the IM title who would have if they could be magically transplanted from their peak to the present day is very limited indeed.

Take ARB Thomas, just as a for instance. He played in a great number of British Championships, with reasonable results. He is well known to anybody with a knowledge of English chess, as a typical representative of the English sub-top in the post war years until the Fischer boom. I cannot conceive, though, that he would be considered today as a plausible candidate for the IM title. Seriously, Thomas, at his best, would have been very capable of taking points of you, but in a match over ten games, say, there would have been a clear score in your favour. Same with, say, Frank Parr and Richard Bates. Or Gerald Abrahams and Simon Ansell, say.

Angus French
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Re: Title norms held by English players

Post by Angus French » Tue Dec 17, 2013 2:07 pm

John Cox wrote:Given that these days there are 1,500 or so GMs and 3,500 or so IMs, I think it's fair to say that by present-day standards more or less literally every historical English player we've ever heard of was of IM strength or more.

As for Jonathan Penrose, in a proper world slaughtering the reigning world champion in an Olympiad would see one promoted to grandmaster on the spot.

I find it hard to believe RDK was actually much involved in the 1970's in promoting the case of someone who couldn't be any use to him (unlike Golombek), less hard to believe he has subsequently seen fit to promote the story that he was. Which rather fits with the Leonard/Stewart difference in recollection.
Ray Keene in The Spectator, 5 November 2005 wrote:Consider the condition of British chess in the mid-1960s. We suffered from the curious paradox that our strongest player--by far--was also the greatest obstacle towards national progress. Dr. Jonathan Penrose, the only player in living memory to have obtained the international master title (in those days IM meant far more than GM now!) was clearly the best British player and the only one to be of potential grandmaster strength. He went on to win the British championship a record ten times, but he had a problem. He hated travelling and tended to perform badly in strong foreign events where the food and language were alien to him. He was also not a great communicator, annotated very few of his games, and was not involved in the slightest way in training young players. This was left to IM Bob Wade (who eventually received the OBE for his efforts) and national master Peter Clarke, the author of two influential books on Tal and Petrosian.

Added to Penrose's playing lustre was the fact that in the 1960 Olympiad he inflicted the sole defeat on the newly crowned world champion Mikhail Tal. And Penrose did not just beat Tal; he crushed him in his favourite Modern Benoni Defence, a line which Tal had already used to annihilate Geller, Averbakh, Gligoric, Gurgenidze and many other fine players. The outcome was that foreign tournament organisers wanted one British player and one only to compete in their events--and if they could not get Penrose, they did not want anybody. Given Penrose's aversion to foreign travel, the usual outcome was that no British player appeared and younger masters with great talent but little experience continually missed out. This unfortunate group included Hindle, Norman Littlewood, John Littlewood, Peter Clarke and Peter Lee. Amazingly, none of this group even won the IM title.

John Cox
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Re: Title norms held by English players

Post by John Cox » Tue Dec 17, 2013 2:20 pm

Paul McKeown wrote:
John Cox wrote:more or less literally every historical English player we've ever heard of was of IM strength or more.
I disagree, John. Most English players before the the 1970s were nowhere near the standard of today's IMs. Standards have been vastly higher since the late 1960s, with the arrival of the Hartston and Keene generation, than in any previous generation. Some, not many, players from that generation failed to obtain the IM title through lack of opportunity. The number of English players from before that period who failed to obtain the IM title who would have if they could be magically transplanted from their peak to the present day is very limited indeed.

Take ARB Thomas, just as a for instance. He played in a great number of British Championships, with reasonable results. He is well known to anybody with a knowledge of English chess, as a typical representative of the English sub-top in the post war years until the Fischer boom. I cannot conceive, though, that he would be considered today as a plausible candidate for the IM title. Seriously, Thomas, at his best, would have been very capable of taking points of you, but in a match over ten games, say, there would have been a clear score in your favour. Same with, say, Frank Parr and Richard Bates. Or Gerald Abrahams and Simon Ansell, say.
Oh, sure. Obviously we play better moves than they did. But then so does everyone. The title is a measure of relative strength vis-à-vis contemporaries, not some absolute measure of ability.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Title norms held by English players

Post by Roger de Coverly » Tue Dec 17, 2013 5:07 pm

John Cox wrote: The title is a measure of relative strength vis-à-vis contemporaries, not some absolute measure of ability.
The Sonas ratings at http://www.chessmetrics.com/cm/CM2/Play ... 0029210100
have ARB ranked 119th in the world in July 1941 at 2479. To put that into context, Sonas has Botvinnik at number 1 with a 2786 rating, so that's 300 points below the best. The method used by Sonas always seems to set the top player at around 2800, so it's not much value for comparing absolute strength.

In a national context, Milner-Barry was 65th at 2549, Alexander 82nd at 2527 and Sir George Thomas 97th at 2501.

Going forward a few years, Sonas has Barden at 187th with a 2497 rating in January 1958. Top of that list was Smyslov at 2784. There were no British players at all in the top 100.

Owen Hindle was 213th at 2490 in March 1965. That's compared to Fischer at 2768. Penrose was 75th at 2581. In general Penrose was 10 or so BCF points better than domestic opposition for most of the 1960s.

The current required IM rating threshold is approaching 500 points less than the World Champion and the GM standard approaching 400 points below. I'd suppose a number of historic English players could have met that standard in comparison to Botvinnik and his contemporaries, but what of their absolute strength?

It might be an interesting research project for someone to reconstruct the FIDE ratings, say from 1945 onwards, doing it "properly". In other words, rating players when they had 9 qualifying games and applying K=10, 15, 30 etc. Provided the reconstruction emerged in the 1970s with ratings that were close to the actual ones, there could be reasonable confidence in the results.

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: Title norms held by English players

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Tue Dec 17, 2013 6:02 pm

Briefly, was I right that the conditional titles are not listed anywhere easy to find on the FIDE website? I'd still like to know if there is an updated list anywhere of which ENG players have rating-conditional titles.

NickFaulks
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Re: Title norms held by English players

Post by NickFaulks » Fri Dec 20, 2013 1:41 pm

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:Briefly, was I right that the conditional titles are not listed anywhere easy to find on the FIDE website? I'd still like to know if there is an updated list anywhere of which ENG players have rating-conditional titles.
I do have access to such a list. I think it is only by accident that it is behind a password, and shall ask if that can be changed. The only ENG name on it is Peter Sowray.
Last edited by NickFaulks on Fri Dec 20, 2013 3:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Title norms held by English players

Post by Roger de Coverly » Fri Dec 20, 2013 2:34 pm

NickFaulks wrote: The only ENG name on it is Peter Sowray.
Back up thread, Lawrence had identified a few others. But as far as the ECF are concerned, I believe they only put in a title request when the players ask for it.

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