Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Discussion about all aspects of the ECF County Championships.
Alex Holowczak
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Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 9:36 am

I've been looking at some statistics this morning regarding the County Championship. I've acquired a database of all the graded players and the county they fall within.

Due to the limitations of the information, the only eligibility criterion that can be used is the player's primary club, i.e. the club he plays most for.

From there, a few other things were done:
(1) Huntingdon & Peterborough was merged within Cambridgeshire
(2) Bristol & District was split into Somerset and Gloucestershire
(3) London was split into the various counties that surround it

The first question that interested me was the issue of "What constitutes a Minor county".

The following table shows:
(Blue) Counties that played in the National Open in 2011/12
(Yellow) Counties that played in the National Minor in 2011/12

Image

Clearly from this data, it's obvious that Essex and Hertfordshire, the two SCCU qualifiers, are far larger than the counties from other Unions in the same competition. So is the other SCCU county, Kent, who qualified from the same competition.

I next looked at players who are > 160, which are the sort of players who would make up a Minor team, on account of needing to be an average of about 180.

Image

This shows much the same pattern: The SCCU counties are far larger than counties in the rest of the country. In fact, they have twice as many 160+ players as the next Minor qualifier, Cambridgeshire. This makes it increasingly likely that they should win the Minor, on account of having a larger pool of players to select their team from.

I guess the question arising from this information, which I present without comment, is whether or not the current definition for Minor counties is a fair one? If not, how can it be improved?

Mick Norris
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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Mick Norris » Sat Jul 14, 2012 9:46 am

Alex

if you could provide accurate stats, then fair enough, but we know in practice that Lancs have many more players to choose from than G Man, because a number of clubs in G Man are affiliated to Lancs

As you know, the MCCU attempted to work this out across the Midlands counties to try and revisit the calculation of the levy charged to counties by the MCCU - they gave up because in a number of Midlands counties, clubs (and their players) were geographically in 1 county but actually played in leagues in other counties

Having said all of that, maybe the membership scheme will improve this data collection? Maybe counties should be asked to register players as "theirs" and dual registration be not allowed - you would then have a "player base" to look at for calculations

Clearly, if you want the Minor to work as a competition, specifically to attract entries from counties that currently don't see the point of entering against the large SCCU counties, then yes, you need to change the rules
Any postings on here represent my personal views and should not be taken as representative of the Manchester Chess Federation www.manchesterchess.co.uk

Alex Holowczak
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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 9:53 am

Mick Norris wrote:if you could provide accurate stats, then fair enough, but we know in practice that Lancs have many more players to choose from than G Man, because a number of clubs in G Man are affiliated to Lancs
The subject of affiliation isn't relevant here, because it doesn't take affiliation as its main purpose. (At least, it shouldn't do!) What I asked for was the number of players for a particular county (such as this: http://www.ecfgrading.org.uk/?countyfull=CGRM ) but taking allowances for dual eligibility and picking one or the other.

I did make it clear in the spiel at the start that this was one of the limitations of the data I was provided. :wink:
Mick Norris wrote:Having said all of that, maybe the membership scheme will improve this data collection? Maybe counties should be asked to register players as "theirs" and dual registration be not allowed - you would then have a "player base" to look at for calculations
You could do that in theory, if counties signed MO agreements. Or failing that, if one of the things requested was a county that you will play for in the County Championship. You'd then be bound to play for that county only, but you'd be allowed to change it if you haven't played for that county in the season until then. Other organisations which are county-based do that kind of thing.

Richard Bates
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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Richard Bates » Sat Jul 14, 2012 10:44 am

Alex Holowczak wrote: (3) London was split into the various counties that surround it
What does this mean?
I guess the question arising from this information, which I present without comment, is whether or not the current definition for Minor counties is a fair one? If not, how can it be improved?
Is there any 'definition' for Minor County, other than perhaps "counties which fail to qualify for the National stages of the Open competition"? It could perhaps be noted that the last time a current SCCU county other than Hertfordshire won the Minor Counties Championship was 1996. But Herts rarely have a realistic chance of qualifying for the main Counties championship, so this is the only thing they are ever likely to win - and they (and more importantly their eligible players) probably take it far more seriously than the other SCCU counties as a result.

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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 11:02 am

Richard Bates wrote:
Alex Holowczak wrote: (3) London was split into the various counties that surround it
What does this mean?
When I originally got the data, London was listed as a county in its own right. Since they don't play county chess, I asked if there was anything that could be done to split out London into the likes of Surrey, Middlesex, Kent, Essex, and any other county that is part of what we'd call Greater London. I'm not entirely sure how this was done, but it is exclusively based on clubs that players have played for.
Richard Bates wrote:
Alex Holowczak wrote: I guess the question arising from this information, which I present without comment, is whether or not the current definition for Minor counties is a fair one? If not, how can it be improved?
Is there any 'definition' for Minor County, other than perhaps "counties which fail to qualify for the National stages of the Open competition"? It could perhaps be noted that the last time a current SCCU county other than Hertfordshire won the Minor Counties Championship was 1996. But Herts rarely have a realistic chance of qualifying for the main Counties championship, so this is the only thing they are ever likely to win - and they (and more importantly their eligible players) probably take it far more seriously than the other SCCU counties as a result.
There is a restriction placed upon Minor counties: That the mean grade does not exceed 180. Hertfordshire ought to have enough 180+ players to field a team which exceeds this. In fact, they're fourth in England in terms of 180+ players. Every county in the MCCU, apart from Staffordshire, met the under 180 criterion throughout the MCCU stage.

I don't see a justification for Hertfordshire being a Minor county as whether or not it "is the only thing they are ever likely to win". Hertfordshire is far more likely to win the Minor than any county outside of the MCCU because it's twice as big as them.

I think there are two possible classifications for Hertfordshire:
(1) It's a genuinely Minor county
(2) It's a Major county that can't get its best players out to play for it, which brings it under the current definition of a Minor county

I don't think (2) is a justification for a county being a Minor county, but the question is whether or not (2) is true.

A good example of this is Warwickshire. No one would think of it as a Minor county, but it averaged under 180 last season in both its matches (Union and National). It is a very good example of a county falling under definition (2).

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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Ian Thompson » Sat Jul 14, 2012 11:32 am

Alex Holowczak wrote:Due to the limitations of the information, the only eligibility criterion that can be used is the player's primary club, i.e. the club he plays most for.
I suspect this limitation makes the data so inaccurate that you can't draw any reliable conclusions from it. For example, for my county Hampshire, you will have missed two 180+ players who regularly play for the county, and two more 180+ players who would have played in this year's Minor Counties Quarter Final if our opponents hadn't defaulted. If you look in the grading list at those players who have played for Hampshire in the past, 5 out of the 12 180+ players listed have primary clubs that aren't in Hampshire.

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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 11:39 am

Ian Thompson wrote:
Alex Holowczak wrote:Due to the limitations of the information, the only eligibility criterion that can be used is the player's primary club, i.e. the club he plays most for.
I suspect this limitation makes the data so inaccurate that you can't draw any reliable conclusions from it. For example, for my county Hampshire, you will have missed two 180+ players who regularly play for the county, and two more 180+ players who would have played in this year's Minor Counties Quarter Final if our opponents hadn't defaulted. If you look in the grading list at those players who have played for Hampshire in the past, 5 out of the 12 180+ players listed have primary clubs that aren't in Hampshire.
I don't think it's quite as gloomy as you suggest. I concede it reduces the accuracy of any conclusions that are drawn, but general trends can be seen. After all, if I've missed 5 Hampshire 180+ players, you've still got half as many as most SCCU counties.

I could refine this so that anyone who played for a county automatically counts for them, regardless of their club.

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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Richard Bates » Sat Jul 14, 2012 12:21 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote:
I don't think it's quite as gloomy as you suggest. I concede it reduces the accuracy of any conclusions that are drawn, but general trends can be seen. After all, if I've missed 5 Hampshire 180+ players, you've still got half as many as most SCCU counties.
Well if the only conclusion to be drawn is that the SCCU counties are big, then that is common knowledge. Frankly it would be astonishing if any grading data, however manipulated, didn't show that.

However i would query stats that show Hertfordshire are really as big/strong as Kent on paper. I also suspect that your figures will be massively skewed by the London Leagues. Many people play in London League(s) because they are a convenient fit with where they work. What is convenient for an evening league game is quite likely not convenient for a Saturday County game (if they even want to play!). People often play county chess for different reasons, and, especially at the national stages when travel is compulsory (except for MCCU...), players are possible often more likely to make themselves available for counties of birth rather than counties of residence/club etc. And this is a problem - club eligibility is not the only qualification criteria. But it is the one you have used for these statistics.

Perhaps the SCCU should be given another nomination to the main draw, if all the other counties have given up on their chances of winning? ;)

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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 12:37 pm

Richard Bates wrote:Well if the only conclusion to be drawn is that the SCCU counties are big, then that is common knowledge. Frankly it would be astonishing if any grading data, however manipulated, didn't show that.
It shows just how much bigger SCCU counties are than others though, which isn't quite so amazing.

This is more important with the sectioning debate, which I'll start a separate thread on elsewhere.
Richard Bates wrote:However i would query stats that show Hertfordshire are really as big/strong as Kent on paper. I also suspect that your figures will be massively skewed by the London Leagues. Many people play in London League(s) because they are a convenient fit with where they work. What is convenient for an evening league game is quite likely not convenient for a Saturday County game (if they even want to play!). People often play county chess for different reasons, and, especially at the national stages when travel is compulsory (except for MCCU...), players are possible often more likely to make themselves available for counties of birth rather than counties of residence/club etc. And this is a problem - club eligibility is not the only qualification criteria. But it is the one you have used for these statistics.
It's the only eligibility criterion I can use, because it's the only one there's data available for.

If we're comparing on a Union by Union basis, which this seems to be evolving into, then the London issue isn't an issue; although I concede it could for counties. I have the original data with London separate. This made no significant difference to Hertfordshire's numbers at all (the total went up by 1 with London split up).

I know from experience in Worcestershire that it's very much based on clubs affiliated to it. The only player they have who doesn't play for a club affiliated to Worcestershire is probably me! I suspect many other counties operate on the same basis, and that the problem you describe of players playing for different counties is actually a minority of people. I don't know how much of a minority they are in, of course.

But yes, I'm aware that the data isn't perfect, but it's the best we've got, and I think the data can aid this discussion. I think it's better than a purely qualitative discussion.

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Sat Jul 14, 2012 2:19 pm

Ian Thompson wrote:
Alex Holowczak wrote:Due to the limitations of the information, the only eligibility criterion that can be used is the player's primary club, i.e. the club he plays most for.
I suspect this limitation makes the data so inaccurate that you can't draw any reliable conclusions from it.
I agree. I'd be interested to know where I was classed (though I suspect identifying information may have been stripped out before the data above was produced). Several of my team-mates at Richmond and Twickenham Chess Club play for Surrey (R&TCC are actually affiliated to Surrey County Chess Association, I believe), but many are eligible to play for Middlesex (as I and a few others do). This can be by both residency and by chess club (I think). As far as I know (though I've never double-checked this), members of R&TCC are eligible for both Surrey and Middlesex. I suspect this may apply to a few other clubs as well. Also, in and around London, you will have many players eligible for two counties, so how you ensure the data above is accurate, I don't know. You should, at least, cross-check with who actually played in the competition this year (at all levels and all stages).

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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 2:37 pm

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
Ian Thompson wrote:
Alex Holowczak wrote:Due to the limitations of the information, the only eligibility criterion that can be used is the player's primary club, i.e. the club he plays most for.
I suspect this limitation makes the data so inaccurate that you can't draw any reliable conclusions from it.
I agree. I'd be interested to know where I was classed (though I suspect identifying information may have been stripped out before the data above was produced). Several of my team-mates at Richmond and Twickenham Chess Club play for Surrey (R&TCC are actually affiliated to Surrey County Chess Association, I believe), but many are eligible to play for Middlesex (as I and a few others do). This can be by both residency and by chess club (I think). As far as I know (though I've never double-checked this), members of R&TCC are eligible for both Surrey and Middlesex. I suspect this may apply to a few other clubs as well. Also, in and around London, you will have many players eligible for two counties, so how you ensure the data above is accurate, I don't know. You should, at least, cross-check with who actually played in the competition this year (at all levels and all stages).
None of this actually matters when drawing conclusions though.

If you look at the size of the populations here (for Surrey and Middlesex, we're talking the thick end of 700 players), the percentage of people who will be misclassified is bordering on insignificant. The players in the sections are far more for those counties than they are for any of the others. So if the odd 10 per section are misattributed, it doesn't make any difference, because they're both so big that it's relatively negligible.

I've made no conclusions here that are made from calculations treating the numbers shown as perfect. The closest I've come to that is accusing Hertfordshire of having 38 180+ players.

So while I agree the data isn't 100% perfect, it's still perfectly good enough to draw reasonable conclusions from. You're looking at relatively insignificant elements, and are missing the bigger picture.

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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Richard James » Sat Jul 14, 2012 2:41 pm

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:As far as I know (though I've never double-checked this), members of R&TCC are eligible for both Surrey and Middlesex.
Correct.

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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Sat Jul 14, 2012 2:56 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote:So while I agree the data isn't 100% perfect, it's still perfectly good enough to draw reasonable conclusions from. You're looking at relatively insignificant elements, and are missing the bigger picture.
Thank-you for clarifying that (says me, looking up at the sky now, rather than the forest floor). :D

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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Jonathan Rogers » Sat Jul 14, 2012 3:01 pm

It has long been a bugbear of mine, as the late Richard Furness would have confirmed, that we should not assess the winning chances of teams based solely on the ratings of the players available to them (and not only because these players do not necessarily play in practice). Some way of taking into account past performance must be found. Hertfordshire hardly ever qualify for the final stages of the Open, and I am sure that many regulars in their team would agree that thinking of them as arguably the fourth strongest in the country is about as plausible as thinking of the English football team as third or fourth in the world ...

To me they are an obvious minor county and I would have thought that Leicester would have beaten them in the final if their top two boards in the semi-final (who both won) had been available for the final too (instead the Scottish ch and the schools championships took them away). (And no, I have not forgotten the 180 average rule, but doing well at the top matters an awful lot. Results on the bottom boards can be rather random and you can easily get away with or even benefit from fielding some erratic 40s instead of 160s).

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Re: Is the definition of a Minor county the correct one?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 3:15 pm

Jonathan Rogers wrote:It has long been a bugbear of mine, as the late Richard Furness would have confirmed, that we should not assess the winning chances of teams based solely on the ratings of the players available to them (and not only because these players do not necessarily play in practice). Some way of taking into account past performance must be found. Hertfordshire hardly ever qualify for the final stages of the Open, and I am sure that many regulars in their team would agree that thinking of them as arguably the fourth strongest in the country is about as plausible as thinking of the English football team as third or fourth in the world ...
I'm not assessing their winning chances at all, let alone based solely on the ratings of players available to them. I've simply made the comment that they have 38 180+ players eligible to them at least. They may have more via other criteria. Looking on the SCCU website though, hardly any of them actually seem to play for them regularly. I don't know the reasons for this.

I'm certainly not saying they're the fourth strongest team in the country. I said they had the fourth most 180+ players available to them. These might all be graded 181! What it does show, however, is that they have far more chance of getting close to 180, on the basis they have more 180+ players available to them if others can't make it. This isn't a luxury that a county like Leicestershire had.

It could be possible, for instance, that 180 as an average grade limit is too high since the grades were recalibrated (which is when Hertfordshire's mini-dynasty in the Minor begun).

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