Are the sections correct?

Discussion about all aspects of the ECF County Championships.
Sean Hewitt
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Re: Are the sections correct?

Post by Sean Hewitt » Sat Jul 14, 2012 6:15 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote: The suggestion I've made re a U170, getting rid of U180/160, is that there aren't enough players of that ability to fit. The evidence for this can be seen from:
(1) The distribution of grades.
(2) The fact that 25% of players in the national stages of the U180 were actually < 160, so were eligible for another section.
I'd support that. I wonder whether an average of 180 is low enough to make 'real' minor counties competitive in the minor counties competition.

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Re: Are the sections correct?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 6:28 pm

Sean Hewitt wrote:
Alex Holowczak wrote: The suggestion I've made re a U170, getting rid of U180/160, is that there aren't enough players of that ability to fit. The evidence for this can be seen from:
(1) The distribution of grades.
(2) The fact that 25% of players in the national stages of the U180 were actually < 160, so were eligible for another section.
I'd support that. I wonder whether an average of 180 is low enough to make 'real' minor counties competitive in the minor counties competition.
That issue has been debated in the other thread.

The suggestion there was that the Open/Minor could be increased from 16 to 20 boards. If you did this, then fine, but you'd almost certainly have to lower the standard from 180, probably to something like 175, because the new four players brought into the (say) Leicestershire team would drag the average down.

Brian Valentine
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Re: Are the sections correct?

Post by Brian Valentine » Sat Jul 14, 2012 7:35 pm

Alex,
This is a useful debate, but I would be interested in how you get the numbers. I mention this because the numbers for Bedfordshire (where I am county secretary) do not ring true to me. I realise there a different methods of counting, but for instance, looking at the Bedfordshire CCA filter on the grading website gives just 34 active players of which only about 10 fall in the 160-180 band. I thought we put out about the strongest team we could for the quarter final.

I'm wondering if some of the players you count are qualified and play for Herts for instance.

My reading of your regression graphs is that Beds put out a relatively weak team, whereas on my filtering of the grading list we got out 6 of the 10 optimum group and you could read it that this was better than teams with a bigger constituency who went below band

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Re: Are the sections correct?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 7:40 pm

Brian Valentine wrote:Alex,
This is a useful debate, but I would be interested in how you get the numbers. I mention this because the numbers for Bedfordshire (where I am county secretary) do not ring true to me. I realise there a different methods of counting, but for instance, looking at the Bedfordshire CCA filter on the grading website gives just 34 active players of which only about 10 fall in the 160-180 band. I thought we put out about the strongest team we could for the quarter final.

I'm wondering if some of the players you count are qualified and play for Herts for instance.

My reading of your regression graphs is that Beds put out a relatively weak team, whereas on my filtering of the grading list we got out 6 of the 10 optimum group and you could read it that this was better than teams with a bigger constituency who went below band
The original data can be seen here: http://www.ecforum.org.uk/viewtopic.php ... 502#p93604

It is basically picking the number shown on this page minus people who are eligible for more than one county. Where players are eligible for more than one county, they've been allocated by the county of the club for which they play most games. I've already explained this isn't perfect for various reasons, but again it's the best we can do with the data we've got.

You're just looking at players who have played for Befordshire CCA, rather than the number of players in Bedfordshire.

Bedfordshire appear in the first table, and fielded a weak team relative to their opposition, yes. This is explained by the lack of players you had who were eligible to play for you. About this, there is not a lot you can do.

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Re: Are the sections correct?

Post by Brian Valentine » Sat Jul 14, 2012 8:45 pm

I've now alighted on the other thread - but thanks for the extra information. I think the points about (very understandable) data deficiencies being made there have at least as much force here.

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Re: Are the sections correct?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 8:54 pm

Brian Valentine wrote:I've now alighted on the other thread - but thanks for the extra information. I think the points about (very understandable) data deficiencies being made there have at least as much force here.
I'm very aware of the data not being perfect, but please don't make it sound as though the rest of the statistics are nonsense. If a dozen players are misattributed to the wrong counties, it doesn't in any way detract from the conclusions that are reached, because none of the information has been used to that degree of accuracy. (OK, some of the graphs here push that slightly, but even there the pattern remains the same even if you change the numbers from a point to a range of numbers.)

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Re: Are the sections correct?

Post by Brian Valentine » Sat Jul 14, 2012 9:08 pm

I do not regard the statistics as nonsense - what I'm not clear in my own mind it whether they are the right statistics. I may comment on the Herts issue on the other thread, rather than continue parallel threads on the same issue.

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Re: Are the sections correct?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 9:12 pm

Brian Valentine wrote:I do not regard the statistics as nonsense - what I'm not clear in my own mind it whether they are the right statistics. I may comment on the Herts issue on the other thread, rather than continue parallel threads on the same issue.
That's fine, there's just been a lot of negativity about the data. So I'm feeling a bit agitated after spending hours pouring over them. :oops:

Mick Norris
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Re: Are the sections correct?

Post by Mick Norris » Sat Jul 14, 2012 9:40 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote:I've been seeking to provide some numbers for this question, too.

I started with a fundamental principle: That a county should be able to field a full team without dipping into the next grading band down. For example, a U180 team should be able to field a team filled entirely with players graded 160-179. The reason for this is that at the national stages, a strong county ought to be able to field teams in every section without one team stealing players from another. (Yorkshire and Lancashire do this at the moment with admirable success.) For that reason, I've ignored the U100, on the basis that there is no section below it creating a floor.

So I've totted up the number of players in the wrong band playing for a team. There are two potential things that may distort this:
(1) A reserve. Neil Graham, for example, leaped from the concession stand to fill in when a Nottinghamshire player was absent.
(2) Improvement. A county may be putting in someone graded 70 into the Under 120 because he's genuinely improved significantly from the start of the season, and they don't have an Under 100 team to put him in. This could be resolved by looking only at players under the limit of the section minus 20 who are on boards at the bottom, but I decided not to do that for this, because this only occurred to me after I'd got the data for two sections out of four, and I was too lazy to go back and correct everything. I don't think this will be that significant.
(3) Some reports had January grades, not July grades. I couldn't be bothered to change them, so didn't. This only affected two games out of everything, so far as I could tell.

First, the Under 180 section. The following table shows everyone who qualified for the national stages, sorted by the number of players available within that boundary.

Image

This makes the far-from-startling discovery that the biggest counties went the furthest in the tournament. It also shows that the counties that reached the Final used far fewer players from other sections than other teams.

Why did Surrey dip into the < 160 players so much? Given their size, they had enough bums to put on seats within the boundary. They can't blame their Open team for taking the players away; only 1 player in the Open was under 180 last season. I'm not sure I can think of an explanation for that.

On average, 4.25 boards were below 160. That's about 26%.

Next, the Under 160.

Image

There's a much less intuitive relationship here between progression through the event, and the number of players from the wrong section. This can be explained by Kent losing to Yorkshire in their opening match; both of which ought to have gone far in the competition had they avoided each other. The Semi Finalists were about as good as each other in terms of putting out players in the right section.

On average, 3.01 boards were below 140. That's about 18%.

Image

Same again, this time Under 140. The counties with the most players from below 120 were Leicestershire and Yorkshire. Neither county made it beyond the Quarter Finals.

This time, an average of 1.75 boards were below 120, which is just 11%.

Image

Finally, the Under 120. Again, Staffordshire and Norfolk went out early, and they had the most players under 100.

2.02 boards under 100 on average, 17%.

I've attempted to summarise the above as a table.

Image

It seems to me that there is a problem with the Under 180 section, in so much as the counties that field teams in it have to dip into the pool of players below 160 too much. I would argue that the Under 160 and Under 120 were also too high, whereas the Under 140 figure is probably reasonable. This would suggest to me one of two things: Either (a) There are too many sections, or (b) The teams are too big.

I'm going to see if there's a relationship between the size of the county, and the number of players in other sections they have to use. I'd be amazed if there wasn't, but I think it's worth doing to clarify!
Alex

Just come to this thread after 2 successful trips through passport control into Yorkshire and back, despite beating one of their teams last week :wink:

Is your data September or January grades?

I was wondering, as the G Man board 2 was 136 in the former and 167 in the latter, and how that fitted into your stats
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Re: Are the sections correct?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 9:48 pm

Mick Norris wrote:Is your data September or January grades?

I was wondering, as the G Man board 2 was 136 in the former and 167 in the latter, and how that fitted into your stats
It's using the August 2011 masterlist. So the 136 is counted as a player < 140. I realise that he was picked as a player who was genuinely picked because he was considered to be better than 136, but there are so few of these that I didn't think it was worth worrying about. (I think there were 3 in total.)

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Re: Are the sections correct?

Post by Mick Norris » Sat Jul 14, 2012 9:49 pm

OK, just at a glance I wasn't sure of your info i.e. we look weaker than the other U160 teams, but we won it
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Martyn Harris
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Re: Are the sections correct?

Post by Martyn Harris » Sat Jul 14, 2012 10:56 pm

Hi Alex,

I assume that the two threads you are promoting about inter-counties chess are aimed at helping to discover what changes, if any, could usefully be made to the competitions so as to increase entries or at least make it easier to maintain current levels of participation. If on the other hand you are content with entry levels and just want to make sure you get the 'right' winners, or the 'fairest' competition, or even to spread titles around a bit then this post is eminently skippable.

Is there any evidence that other counties are not entering the minor competition because of Hertfordshire's strength? Would you be better trying to find a polite way of suggesting to the NCCU that they mimic the MCCU who run their Open in two divisions, major and minor? In the north this could mean Lancs v Yorks in the major with the other counties immediately avoiding these behemoths by playing in a minor division.

Names shouldn't matter, but if you feel that there are some strong players not wishing to play in an event labelled 'minor', try renaming it semi-open as it is open on an individual basis, but not for the team as a whole.

Without resorting to handicapping, presumably undesirable, the large counties will in general have an advantage. In an open event large counties are likely to have more and more powerful resources. When grade restricting on an individual basis this shows up on the lower boards where the smaller counties are more likely to have to dip well below the limit than their larger brethren. Making wider bands, say U175/U150/U125/U100 does not cure this. Where the grade restriction applies on an average basis, the larger county will often have greater flexibility in selection enabling them a better chance of hitting the limit.

To have a functioning team requires captain and players. Loss of captain will result in the disbanding of a team unless a new leader can be found, and the captain is more likely to resign when he feels that he has little support from the players so that the task becomes one of simply fulfilling a fixture. Players may withdraw support from a team for non-chess reasons such as changes in work pattern leaving them unavailable on Saturdays, or because of bad experiences (rude opponents, grotty venues, default wins) or loss of interest for playing in a non-competitive team. There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence that some players are allergic to long journeys, where long can be anything from 'out of my home town' upwards.

The weapons you have at your disposal to help keep the less enthusiastic onside are
i) Reduce team size.
ii) Switch grade limited sections to limits on an average rather than individual basis.
iii) Create 'minor counties' events in the grade limited sections for smaller teams and/or ones defined on an average rather than individual basis.

Each of these comes with its own hazards, not least the law of unintended consequences.

Persuading a county to create a team from scratch is even harder, and whilst it is sensible to strive to make the competitions as attractive as possible, ultimately you will be dependent upon an enthusiast on the ground to bring the team into existence.

So good luck with your task, but be wary of trying to read too much into the numbers - some counties have simply lacked a supply of captains able to maintain continuity of entry.

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Re: Are the sections correct?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat Jul 14, 2012 11:07 pm

Martyn Harris wrote:I assume that the two threads you are promoting about inter-counties chess are aimed at helping to discover what changes, if any, could usefully be made to the competitions so as to increase entries or at least make it easier to maintain current levels of participation. If on the other hand you are content with entry levels and just want to make sure you get the 'right' winners, or the 'fairest' competition, or even to spread titles around a bit then this post is eminently skippable.
I don't think it's going to increase entries, to be honest. The two posts combined have the aim of seeing if we have the right balance between sections and team sizes. My personal opinion is that we don't, and these posts have set out some statistics to that effect. I don't like bland statements that aren't backed up with numbers when it comes to things like this...

If people conclude that what we have is the correct balance, that's fine by me. I just think it's worth having the discussion now we have had three years under the "new" system.
Martyn Harris wrote:Is there any evidence that other counties are not entering the minor competition because of Hertfordshire's strength? Would you be better trying to find a polite way of suggesting to the NCCU that they mimic the MCCU who run their Open in two divisions, major and minor? In the north this could mean Lancs v Yorks in the major with the other counties immediately avoiding these behemoths by playing in a minor division.
There is no evidence whatsoever that teams aren't entering the Minor because of Hertfordshire. (Arguably, there's far more evidence of teams entering the Minor because they don't want to play in the Open!) To be clear, the MCCU doesn't have an Open and a Minor, it has a Division One (which nominates teams to the Open) and a Division Two (which nominates teams to the Minor). Both divisions are played to Open rules, even if all of the teams in the Minor don't exceed the 180 average threshold.
Martyn Harris wrote:Without resorting to handicapping, presumably undesirable, the large counties will in general have an advantage. In an open event large counties are likely to have more and more powerful resources. When grade restricting on an individual basis this shows up on the lower boards where the smaller counties are more likely to have to dip well below the limit than their larger brethren. Making wider bands, say U175/U150/U125/U100 does not cure this. Where the grade restriction applies on an average basis, the larger county will often have greater flexibility in selection enabling them a better chance of hitting the limit.
I'm sure large counties have an advantage. I've got graphs in this thread to show that! In fact, the advantage is much less in the U120/140 than it is in the U160/180, because there are far more players available to use in the U120/140, which balances the teams somewhat.
Martyn Harris wrote:The weapons you have at your disposal to help keep the less enthusiastic onside are
i) Reduce team size.
ii) Switch grade limited sections to limits on an average rather than individual basis.
iii) Create 'minor counties' events in the grade limited sections for smaller teams and/or ones defined on an average rather than individual basis.
I'm strongly against (i). I'd rather reduce the number of sections, but increase the team size. If you need a team of 24 or 8, you'll still be short of a player or two the night before. If anything, 24 is easier because you've got a larger pool of contacts. You also need fewer people to volunteer to run teams.

(ii) is interesting. I think you're right that it improves flexibility a lot, and could allow more teams to enter. That's possibly worth looking into.
Martyn Harris wrote:So good luck with your task, but be wary of trying to read too much into the numbers - some counties have simply lacked a supply of captains able to maintain continuity of entry.
I agree with this. As I've said, I can't model that, so I haven't tried to. This is why I think fewer sections is desirable; the total number of volunteers required is fewer.

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Re: Are the sections correct?

Post by Martyn Harris » Sat Jul 14, 2012 11:51 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote:I don't like bland statements that aren't backed up with numbers when it comes to things like this...
I fear that in this case all the numbers really tell you is that there is a wide variation in the playing resources available to counties so that your rules, which have to be one size fits all, will not fit all equally well.
Alex Holowczak wrote:
Martyn Harris wrote:Is there any evidence that other counties are not entering the minor competition because of Hertfordshire's strength?
There is no evidence whatsoever that teams aren't entering the Minor because of Hertfordshire. (Arguably, there's far more evidence of teams entering the Minor because they don't want to play in the Open!)
No surprise there! I suspect that adjusting the definition of 'minor' in an attempt to force Herts either to be eligible only for the Open or to field weaker teams will create bad feeling in that part of the country without achieving anything positive elsewhere.
Alex Holowczak wrote:
Martyn Harris wrote:The weapons you have at your disposal to help keep the less enthusiastic onside are
i) Reduce team size.
I'm strongly against (i). I'd rather reduce the number of sections, but increase the team size. If you need a team of 24 or 8, you'll still be short of a player or two the night before. If anything, 24 is easier because you've got a larger pool of contacts. You also need fewer people to volunteer to run teams.
The suggestion was purely aimed at reducing the bottom board advantage of the larger counties with intent to reduce the number of players who see no point in competing because their team is outgunned. As I say, each of the weapons comes with disadvantages, and you have highlighted some.

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Re: Are the sections correct?

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sun Jul 15, 2012 9:09 am

Martyn Harris wrote:
Alex Holowczak wrote:I don't like bland statements that aren't backed up with numbers when it comes to things like this...
I fear that in this case all the numbers really tell you is that there is a wide variation in the playing resources available to counties so that your rules, which have to be one size fits all, will not fit all equally well.
I agree with this. I don't think there is a perfect solution give the limitations of the tournament as currently organised (i.e. zones of different size). That doesn't mean to say the current position is necessarily the best of the possibilities, though.
Martyn Harris wrote:
Alex Holowczak wrote:
Martyn Harris wrote:Is there any evidence that other counties are not entering the minor competition because of Hertfordshire's strength?
There is no evidence whatsoever that teams aren't entering the Minor because of Hertfordshire. (Arguably, there's far more evidence of teams entering the Minor because they don't want to play in the Open!)
No surprise there! I suspect that adjusting the definition of 'minor' in an attempt to force Herts either to be eligible only for the Open or to field weaker teams will create bad feeling in that part of the country without achieving anything positive elsewhere.
I should probably be clear that this isn't an anti-Hertfordshire drive on my part. I've no principled objection to them being a Minor county at all; they just so happen to be the best example of a county considered to be Minor that is much larger than all the others.

There may be alternative definitions of "Minor" that make Hertfordshire a major county. These may be preferable to people...
Martyn Harris wrote:
Alex Holowczak wrote:
Martyn Harris wrote:The weapons you have at your disposal to help keep the less enthusiastic onside are
i) Reduce team size.
I'm strongly against (i). I'd rather reduce the number of sections, but increase the team size. If you need a team of 24 or 8, you'll still be short of a player or two the night before. If anything, 24 is easier because you've got a larger pool of contacts. You also need fewer people to volunteer to run teams.
The suggestion was purely aimed at reducing the bottom board advantage of the larger counties with intent to reduce the number of players who see no point in competing because their team is outgunned. As I say, each of the weapons comes with disadvantages, and you have highlighted some.
A few months ago, I might have agreed with smaller teams. Then it came to the two county AGMs I attended, where it became apparent that there was a higher demand for county chess than there was a supply of captains...

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