I'm very encouraged by Brian Valentine's remarks and approach on this and on other threads, including the July 2019 grades one. He seems to be open to discussion and not dogmatic or doctrinaire …
I thought that it might be a good idea to compile a list of the advantages and disadvantages of monthly grading. All too often, the issue is seen as a right or wrong issue or modernisers v conservatives, when the truth is that the issue is far more complex. On balance, I prefer the present system, but if the software could be improved without creating extra work for graders and organisers (I am an organiser and not a grader) then I would be a lot happier to move to a monthly system. My list is as follows:
Advantages or alleged advantages of monthly grading:
- monthly grades would be far less out-of-date than six-monthly; this is especially valuable for juniors who are often fast-improving and so would be particularly helpful for determining board orders, allocating folks to the correct tournament for their ability level, etc.
- monthly grades bring us into line with what FIDE does.
- new players, juniors especially, will be encouraged, rather than having to wait six months.
- online results are instant, after each game, so it makes sense for ECF grades to move in this direction (but why not go the whole hog and have the Yorkshire 'Chessnuts' daily experience?)
Disadvantages or alleged disadvantages of monthly grading:
- if the grading software can be improved to the point where matches are reported under an LMS system and results are then "beamed up" to the grading database without further intervention by congress, league and club organisers, local graders etc. that would be ideal, but until this can happen there will be a lot of regular extra work for local graders and organisers to make monthly deadlines, rather than the six-monthly targets at present. No one should be under any pressure or expectation whatsoever to work 24/7 for the ECF, nor have to explain themselves to anyone or apologise for results not reaching the next monthly list.
- most grades will not change over a month by more than one or two, so it is a lot of input for little output.
- organisers will either have to declare one monthly list as key (like the current August list) or risk upsetting people by reserving the right to transfer folks to another section (e.g. a 168 player enters an U170 event, but by the time of the event another list has appeared and she's 170 and been transferred to the Open, a tournament she has no wish to play in and would not have entered if she had been 170 originally).
- it may encourage cheats to throw games to bring their grade down quickly, maybe with a key lucrative tournament in mind, knowing that they don't have to wait six months for their nefarious practices to bear fruit.
- juniors especially, but really all players, should be encouraged to enjoy chess for its own sake and not become obsessed by grades. How many times does a junior ask an opponent "What's your grade?" even before shaking hands? I saw a game fairly recently where a junior graded 124 was thrashing one of my team-mates graded 192 but accepted a draw in a winning position because he had already mentally banked the extra grading points and was afraid he might not see his way through to victory. The match was drawn as a result. If he had been unaware of his opponent's grade or been playing someone graded at his own level, I'm sure he would have played on and won. In the unlikely event that he had lost, he would have learned far more from playing out the ending than he did by the half-finished game. A cop-out draw doesn't just apply to juniors - I have been guilty myself on several occasions!
- some juniors become disillusioned when they "plateau off" in grading terms and lose interest, eventually drifting away from the game. They have grown up in a culture of improving numbers and can't cope with reaching a ceiling. This particularly applies to stronger juniors who are required to reach a particular grade by a certain age for purposes of England selection. One 160ish England player told me that he realised that he wasn't going to get a lot better, certainly not without a huge amount of study to make 180-190 and he preferred to spend his time on academic studies, rugby, socialising etc. Monthly grading will not arrest this phenomenon.