An ECF Junior Squad

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Paul Sanders
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An ECF Junior Squad

Post by Paul Sanders » Wed May 04, 2011 4:16 pm

As a contribution to a more forward looking debate I thought I might make a place for people to discuss what an ECF Junior Squad might look like, what it might do, and how it might be funded and organised.

To kick off I will suggest that membership could be limited to the top 4 boys and top 4 girls, as measured by FIDE ratings, in each birth year from U8 to U18. If my maths is right, that's a pool of 80 children. A short list of some of the things it could do would be; provide information about tournaments, track and benchmark rating improvements, organise regional group coaching, organise international challenge matches, raise money, organise mentoring in schools and clubs. I am sure others will have many more and better ideas.

A small monthly subscription would be perfectly reasonable in my opinion as nobody should expect to get something for nothing these days. It would be very helpful to be able to pay someone to do the basics as relying on voluntary labour seems to guarantee compromises all round. I suspect that the average annual spend on chess for an active junior comes in at somewhere well above £2000, so it would not be outlandish to suggest that national squad activities could add another few hundred pounds per year.

Selection for representative tournaments should most certainly not be limited to squad members, in my opinion.

Angus McDonald
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Re: An ECF Junior Squad

Post by Angus McDonald » Wed May 04, 2011 5:02 pm

Sounds like an excellent proposal.

I hope you get as many as possible of those parents on board to support such a squad.

Chess is still a very prestigious international sport/game and a country as influential as England should be striving for the top. Getting
our children to believe that they can be the best is a start and supporting them to do just that is a worthwhile thing to do in my opinion.

I suggest though that it needs a chief organiser who isn't a parent but who is clearly supported by the parents.

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Rob Thompson
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Re: An ECF Junior Squad

Post by Rob Thompson » Wed May 04, 2011 5:30 pm

Whilst the basic idea of a squad is a decent idea, as proposed it has many problems
Paul Sanders wrote:To kick off I will suggest that membership could be limited to the top 4 boys and top 4 girls, as measured by FIDE ratings, in each birth year from U8 to U18.
You may have fun forming a squad using those criteria. For example, fide-rated U-8s are hard to find. I'm pretty certain that there aren't even enough girls with 1993 birthdays (U-18 this year) for your squad. Also, what would to those who are closely competing for the 4th spot? Do you have them oscillating in and out of the squad every few months? Do you provide services to them, then withdraw them because of others temporarily overtaking them? This doesn't seem massively encouraging, more punitive.

Also, what to do about those with high ECF ratings but no fide rating? Location makes getting a rating very difficult for some. Furthermore, this all assumes that fide rating is a valid way to rank English juniors. I would disagree with this, and call upon the example of the Wang sisters to make my point: Maria is rated 1728 and Anna 1735. So is Anna a stronger player? Clearly this is ridiculous. Making Fide ratings the entry criterion would run into many, many more examples like this.
Paul Sanders wrote:I suspect that the average annual spend on chess for an active junior comes in at somewhere well above £2000, so it would not be outlandish to suggest that national squad activities could add another few hundred pounds per year.
Are you being serious to suggest that £2000 is well below average? As an active junior with large travel costs due to location the annual spend on my chess rarely, if ever, £1000. To suggest that the average is well above £2000 is quite frankly ridiculous. Squad activities costing another few hundreds of pounds per year be far more than you think a large proportion of parents can afford to pay, particularly if there are other children's activities to pay for.

So basically, my conclusion is this: using fide ratings alone for membership is invalid and membership should instead be based on a combination of ECF grade, fide rating and recent results. The squad should only be updated annually. Setting a fixed number is too rigid, there may well be a particularly strong year just as easily as there being a year with less than 4 players of "elite" standard. Membership should be awarding on a much more flexible basis. Thirdly, if the squad is to be at all effective it will need to be cheaper for those who find it difficult to pay, imo.
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Krishna Shiatis
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Re: An ECF Junior Squad

Post by Krishna Shiatis » Wed May 04, 2011 5:32 pm

Paul Sanders wrote:As a contribution to a more forward looking debate I thought I might make a place for people to discuss what an ECF Junior Squad might look like, what it might do, and how it might be funded and organised.

To kick off I will suggest that membership could be limited to the top 4 boys and top 4 girls, as measured by FIDE ratings, in each birth year from U8 to U18. If my maths is right, that's a pool of 80 children. A short list of some of the things it could do would be; provide information about tournaments, track and benchmark rating improvements, organise regional group coaching, organise international challenge matches, raise money, organise mentoring in schools and clubs. I am sure others will have many more and better ideas.

A small monthly subscription would be perfectly reasonable in my opinion as nobody should expect to get something for nothing these days. It would be very helpful to be able to pay someone to do the basics as relying on voluntary labour seems to guarantee compromises all round. I suspect that the average annual spend on chess for an active junior comes in at somewhere well above £2000, so it would not be outlandish to suggest that national squad activities could add another few hundred pounds per year.

Selection for representative tournaments should most certainly not be limited to squad members, in my opinion.
I think this is a cool idea.

You might need to take a look at how you might select your candidates if the top four in a particular year group are changing. It might not be good to throw someone out if he/she is no longer top 4 but top 5 or 6 when new grades come out.

Also, someone might have a high FIDE, but might not be active. Whereas somebody might be improving, but have a low FIDE.

In addition, many of the younger juniors do not have FIDE grades. So perhaps ECF grades would also need to be examined?

How might you deal with these issues?

Perhaps, you can have an element of judgement and/or be flexible on numbers if you have a particularly strong year group?

Selection for tournaments is always likely to be contentious. I do think that a Squad like this would help in the long term to strengthen chess in England. If it is particularly successful and the demand/commitment is high, then it could be expanded in the long term to include more children.

Sabrina Chevannes
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Re: An ECF Junior Squad

Post by Sabrina Chevannes » Wed May 04, 2011 6:00 pm

I think this is also a great idea. The ECF should be doing something like this anyway. The JD should definitely arrange an official England team and arrange international matches.
We could take the best international events each year and have a calendar for them, and take a team each time representing England. On each trip we could have official coaches so that the children benefit from coaching too.

I think more international matches would be very nice for the children. The team needs to be an official ECF England team though.

I am not sure about your selection process though Paul, as for the reasons mentioned above. I think rating isn't the only criteria for selection but one of the many. Also, it would be nice to get some of our talented juniors without ratings on the FIDE scene. So there should be a selector who picks the top few in each age group to make the team. I think that there doesn't have to be 4 in each age group as some have more than 4 very strong players (I think Isaac's group is one of them!). These trips are lovely ideas for team bonding too

Paul Sanders
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Re: An ECF Junior Squad

Post by Paul Sanders » Wed May 04, 2011 6:02 pm

I suggested using FIDE ratings as in my opinion it is very important to have a single measure of performance that is internationally valid. There are now many more FIDE rated tournaments in England, and a FIDE qualification would presumably increase demand for more. Perhaps some of the tournament organisers could manage to stage a few 'get me a rating' tournaments. At under 1600 tournaments just need to have 60 minutes on the clock to be valid for rating, so it's not as though there are many hoops to jump through.

Also, there would be no problem leaving places vacant - a vacant place is a pretty attractive target for a strong young player to aim for. Perhaps in the first few years some mixed selection might be necessary, but I think it would be important to transition to a simple rating based criteria as soon as possible.

As for the limited numbers, another way to go might be to set a minimum rating per birth year, and accept everyone who met the standard. However there would be constant contention over where the rating should be set as inevitably people would fall just outside it. Exclusion for an improving player on the basis of 1 rating point while a less improving player stayed in for the next year would be very demotivating. So would being 5th, but I think children would accept that better. I might well be wrong!

Costs are very important I agree. I was basing my estimate on what I know parents are paying for the selection grand prix, as well as for the tournaments I see them at regularly. Many organisations find ways to help people less able to pay, and so I would hope that the ECF or other bodies might be persuaded to make small grants, and players and parents I know would be willing to join in with fund raising. An achievable amount, which is necessarily limited by virtue of the limited numbers in such a squad, might well persuade benefactors to come forward.

I completely agree with Rob that annual re-selection would be essential, to give players a chance to develop properly as well as to weed out the cruisers. It would be absurd to have players dropping in and out. Maybe however some smoothing of rating periods would help avoid an end of year panic.

Sabrina Chevannes
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Re: An ECF Junior Squad

Post by Sabrina Chevannes » Wed May 04, 2011 6:15 pm

I just think that any extra activity is better than none! So what you are proposing is good and hope that someone will take this forward.

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David Shepherd
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Re: An ECF Junior Squad

Post by David Shepherd » Wed May 04, 2011 6:48 pm

I think to base on FIDE ratings in the short term is just unrealistic - they are simply not correct in many cases and based on too few games in the whole.Why should a rating based on say 24 FIDE rated games per year (which is more than many of the younger top juniors will play), be better than one based on say 70 or 80 ECF graded games which many active juniors will play. What is so wrong with the ECF grades, the majority of the long play junior grades now seem reasonable to me.

I do however agree it is good for the juniors to get FIDE grades and play more FIDE rated events in general.

LozCooper

Re: An ECF Junior Squad

Post by LozCooper » Wed May 04, 2011 7:06 pm

I think Paul's idea is very good and I'm also pleased to see many chess parents getting involved in this and other threads. I think rating performance over a period of 12 months could be at least one of the criteria used. This gives a measure of recent results and thanks to the FIDE rating site listing all rated games it is easy enough to keep track of.

With the ECF grades only being produced once a year it is much harder to keep track of results although one solution may be for parents to submit results to the Junior Director.

I also think it's important that players looking to compete in events such as the World & European Youth and World Junior have experience of playing internationally rated chess and playing with increment. That is why I would favour performances in rated events being included in any selection process.

Alex Holowczak
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Re: An ECF Junior Squad

Post by Alex Holowczak » Wed May 04, 2011 7:08 pm

LozCooper wrote:With the ECF grades only being produced once a year it is much harder to keep track of results although one solution may be for parents to submit results to the Junior Director.
ECF grades are going to be produced every six months from now on. :wink:

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David Shepherd
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Re: An ECF Junior Squad

Post by David Shepherd » Wed May 04, 2011 7:13 pm

McPhillips, Joseph M 12 Bolton A 177 167 D 169 167
Sanders, Isaac B M 12 Highgate School A 176 159 X 176 189
Foo, William J M 12 Berkshire Junior A 171 148 A 179 167
Broadley, Henry M 12 Chorley A 169 154 D 159 155
Fitzgerald, Robert C M 12 Sussex Junior A 164 151


Taking Isaacs year the top 5 players on the ECF grading list are above- is this so far wrong

FIDE ratings
Joseph (ungraded)
Isaac 2074
William 1876
Henry 1860
Robert ungraded

Not that I did stats or anything but to get a bit technical not the best of correlations I have ever seen :D Anyway I think the concept is good to get swamped in detail is bad - sorry.
Last edited by David Shepherd on Wed May 04, 2011 7:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Paul Sanders
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Re: An ECF Junior Squad

Post by Paul Sanders » Wed May 04, 2011 7:17 pm

Lawrence - could you imagine running a shadow ELO system alongside the ECF grading with any degree of confidence that you were capturing performance reasonably well?

The danger as I see it of using ECF grades is that a FIDE based selection system for anything could inadvertently set up a disincentive to get a rating, if the ECF grade was higher than the expected FIDE. However as soon as the player starts to compete in internationals they will end up with a rating anyway. Perhaps a temporary local ELO rating could be offered for a year or two.

It would be good to see some more ideas on what a squad might offer, and how it might operate.

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Re: An ECF Junior Squad

Post by Alex Holowczak » Wed May 04, 2011 7:25 pm

Paul Sanders wrote:Lawrence - could you imagine running a shadow ELO system alongside the ECF grading with any degree of confidence that you were capturing performance reasonably well?

The danger as I see it of using ECF grades is that a FIDE based selection system for anything could inadvertently set up a disincentive to get a rating, if the ECF grade was higher than the expected FIDE. However as soon as the player starts to compete in internationals they will end up with a rating anyway. Perhaps a temporary local ELO rating could be offered for a year or two.
The considered wisdom is that the ECF grade is actually a far better estimate than Elo for juniors. Without diverging this too much, in a game between two juniors, the junior gets credit for the improvement of his fellow junior, whereas the Elo system doesn't. If you're going to do this, I strongly recommend going the ECF-grade route only over the FIDE-rating route for the younger juniors.

Paul Sanders
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Re: An ECF Junior Squad

Post by Paul Sanders » Wed May 04, 2011 7:25 pm

David Shepherd wrote:Not that I did stats or anything but to get a bit technical not the best of correlations I have ever seen :D Anyway I think the concept is good to get swamped in detail is bad - sorry.
Joseph has a part rating: http://ratings.fide.com/card.phtml?event=422487

It looks to me like he will come in at around 1950 - 2000, so the top four would be the same if his performance could be included. It would not be difficult for him to achieve a rating now, and I'd suggest that the ECF should not be setting up any incentive for him to avoid it!

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David Shepherd
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Re: An ECF Junior Squad

Post by David Shepherd » Wed May 04, 2011 7:26 pm

I think a good approach would be to have targets in both ECF and FIDE for example in that year say ECF 160, 165 or 170 FIDE 1850 or 1900 (the FIDE target being below the converted ECF figure to encourage more FIDE games), both being subject to a different minimum number of games.

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