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Old February 15th 08, 10:44 PM posted to,,alt.chess,,
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First recorded activity by ChessBanter: May 2006
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Default First Draft: Blue Book Encyclopedia of Chess

The Blue Book and Encyclopedia of Chess

Glenn Petersen, editor of "Chess Life for Kids" magazine, former
editor of "Chess Life" magazine, and one of the top tournament
directors in the United States, writes:

"There is no better explanation of the theory behind the Swiss System
than what was written by Kenneth Harkness and Eliot Hearst in The
Official Blue Book and Encyclopedia of Chess in 1956."

This book was originally published in 1957 as "The Official Blue Book
and Encyclopedia of Chess". In reprinting this book, the word
"Official" has been deleted because the official rules in this book
have been superseded. I considered calling it "The Original Blue Book
and Encyclopedia of Chess" but finally decided against it. There have
been many changes in the official rules. Most of these changes are the
result of the development of new kinds of chess clocks, plus the
development of computers which are stronger than any human chess
player. The rules have been changed because of the advent of Fischer
Clocks, Bronstein Clocks and Time Delay Clocks, plus new brands of
clocks such as the Chronos Clock and new type of score sheets such as
the Monroi digital display score sheet.

Currently, the "Official" rules of chess in the USA are to be found in
United States Chess Federation's Official Rules of Chess, Fifth
Edition ISBN 0812935594, by Tim Just and Dan Berg published in 2003.
The inside flap copy of The U.S. Chess Federation's Official Rules of
Chess says, "This is the only official rulebook for chess".

Needless to say, that is not true. There are other official rulebooks
of chess. Probably the most official "Official" rulebook of chess is
the FIDE Handbook. Every two years, the FIDE Rules Commission meets to
decide on changes in the rules. They still cannot agree on how to move
the knight.

However, the United States Chess Federation's Official Rules of Chess,
Fifth Edition rules are no longer official either. There are many rule
changes which have become necessary due to the advent of computer
cheating. The big money tournaments now require that the players agree
in advance to submit to a search, if asked. Some directors use
scanners for radio waves to detect incoming or outgoing radio
emissions. In India, a player was caught with a computer in his
turban. In the 2006 World Open in Philadelphia with $350,000 in
prizes, two players were caught computer cheating. One wore a big
floppy hat with flaps that came down over his ears. The other wore a
fake hearing aid that was in reality a radio receiver. It is now
standard to require suspicious players to remove their shoes. This is
the Brave New World of Computer Cheating. Players could type in the
moves with their toes and then receive the answers back the same way.
In a recent match for the World Chess Championship, both sides accused
the other side of computer cheating.

A controversial new tournament rule passed by FIDE is that a player is
no longer allowed to write down a move on his score sheet before
playing it. The pretext for this change was that it constitutes note
taking. The real reason was the possibility of cheating on
computerized score sheets or when connected to a computerized display
board. After FIDE passed this rule, the USCF Delegates barely passed
it too as Rule 15A at the meeting in Oak Brook Illinois on August 12,
2006. This caused a tremendous uproar (I voted against it) because
many chess coaches teach their students to write down their moves and
think about it again before making the move on the board. The purpose
of this is to slow the kids down, because children often move too
quickly without thinking through the consequences of their moves.

As a result of this rule change, there was a great movement especially
among the scholastic chess coaches to change the rule back. An
amendment of Rule 15A was finally passed at the USCF Delegate's
meeting in Cherry Hill, New Jersey on August 5, 2007, allowing
tournament directors to adopt as a "variation" of the official rules
to allow a player to write down a move before playing it. Note that
the nation's largest tournaments, USCF's National Scholastics, did not
use the new rule even before the variation was recognized.

Meanwhile, the FIDE rules, which only apply to international
competitions usually involving grandmasters, still prohibit a player
from writing down a move before playing it. However, there is no
penalty, other than a warning, for breaking this rule.

This is just one example of how the rules are in constant flux.

Meanwhile, Eric Schiller has published his own rules of chess, which
he calls "The Official Rules of Chess" ISBN 1580420923 . Those are not
really the official rules of chess either, of course. Schiller writes
in defense of his work:

My rules are the FIDE rules with just some language clarification. The
FIDE rules are the official rules. The USCF has provincial rules that
apply nowhere except in USCF events, a small fraction of chess
contests. They cannot seriously be called the official rules.

Today, I called Joe Lux, one of the top tournament directors in the
United States and asked him if he knew anything about the rules of
chess. "A little", was his reply.

Seriously, the top tournament directors sometimes make rulings which
are proven wrong and have to be corrected. These disputes usually
involve time pressure situations. Nowadays, there are no longer
adjournments and sealed moves. This is because computers have become
so powerful that in a sealed move situation the players would just go
home and turn on their computers to find the best next moves.

Therefore, all games are now played to their conclusion in one
sitting. Since it is necessary to have the pairings ready for the next
round, tournament directors need to know that there will be a time
certain when all of the games will be finished. Thus, there are sudden
death time controls. For example, the time control might be 40 moves
in two hours and game in one hour thereafter. This means that a player
will have a maximum of three hours to complete all of the moves in his
game. Even if the player is a queen ahead and has mate on the next
move, if his flag falls, he will have lost the game.

Nowadays, tournaments are often played with a 5-second delay. This
means that a players clock does not start running until five seconds
after it is his turn to move. Since most games are over within 40
moves and it is relatively rare for a game to go beyond 60 moves,
directors say that if a five second delay is used then both players
should take 5 minutes off their clocks. This means that as long as a
player is able to complete his move in five seconds or less, he will
never lose on time. This usually ends the upsetting situations where a
player who is two queens ahead loses on time.

If a player can prove that his opponent has "no winning chances", he
can call the director and declare the game drawn. He may also try to
claim a draw if his opponent has made "no progress". However, there
is no such claim as "no progress." The standard is a position in
which a C player would be expected to draw a Master at least 90% of
the time, assuming ample time for both. This is often referred to as
"insufficient losing chances." Sometimes a TD responds to such a claim
by temporarily denying it and watching for progress, but the claim
itself is not a "no progress" claim.

In these situations, a tournament director will be called to observe
the moves and rule whether there is a "no winning chances" situation.
Sometimes the tournament directors are not strong players themselves,
so they have to call over a grandmaster and get him to tell the
tournament director what is going on in the game.

That is one reason why I decided to reprint The Blue Book and
Encyclopedia of Chess, because this book clearly explains that the
knight moves two up and one over or one up and two over. Simple, see!
Nothing about Fischer Clocks, Bronstein Clocks, or Time Delay Clocks,
or Cats in the Hat who wear big floppy hats to receive their moves.

The big difference in the new rules is the need to accommodate the
huge number of children who play chess. The US Super-National
Championships now have more than four thousand kids playing. Some of
these kids do not know the rules well. For example, they sometimes
cannot tell the difference between checkmate and stalemate. The now
standard rule that was first introduced by Attorney Harry Sabine at
the first Super-Nationals is that the directors do not tell the
players whether they are in checkmate or not. It is up to the players
to negotiate between themselves and decide who won the game, although
the director will guide them in their negotiations. It is now standard
that there should be one assistant director for every 40 or 50 kids or
one assistant director for every 100 adults playing. Thus, in a World
Open with 1500 players, there should be on average 15 floor TDs.

The main differences between the FIDE Rules and the USCF Rules are
that the FIDE Rules call for arbiter intervention. For example, under
the FIDE Rules, if a player's flag falls, the arbiter will have been
standing there watching and will call that the flag has fallen and
that the game has been forfeited.

Under the USCF Rules, the tournament director, or "floor TD" as they
are called in America, will remain silent if he sees the flag fall. It
is up to the opponent to notice and to point out that his opponent's
flag has fallen.

Thus, under the USCF Rules, a much smaller number of arbiters are
needed to referee a tournament. The Big Swiss tournaments with
thousands of players that are held in America would be prohibitively
expensive to run under the FIDE Rules, because every few games would
require a paid arbiter. In the US, those who demand that the USCF
abolish its own rules and adopt the FIDE rules instead are invariably
Goichberg opponents who want to shut down the huge-Mega-Swiss events
that Goichberg runs, because they would be prohibitively expensive to
run under the FIDE rules. There are also a few nut cases who want to
stop young children from playing chess or who try to insist that
children reach at least 1000 in chess strength (which few children
ever make) before entering a serious chess tournament.

This is the reason why these huge Mega-Swiss events have yet to appear
in Europe. Meanwhile, the Europeans are starting to move in the
direction of adopting the USCF Rules for the same reason, which is
that it makes tournaments cheaper and easier to run.

Kenneth Harkness

Kenneth Harkness (1896-1972) was a gigantic figure in the World of
Chess. According to International Master Norman T. Whitaker (who hated
him), Harkness first got to America by jumping ship. He was born on
November 12, 1896 in Glasgow, Scotland, and arrived in America in
1918. He retained a trace of a Scottish accent. According to the March
5, 1955 issue of Chess Life, Kenneth Harkness was a pen name and his
real name was Stanley Edgar. However, the Social Security Death Index
gives his name as Kenneth Harkness. (SSN 109-28-3362).

After a career as an editor and writer of radio articles and
textbooks, he took over the fledging publication "Chess Review"
magazine. He became the editor and co-publisher of Chess Review
magazine in May, 1941. Al Horowitz wrote very little and most of the
writing in Chess Review was by Harkness. Harkness was the manager of
the US Team that in 1946 traveled to Moscow to play a match against
the Soviet Union. He was last listed as "Editor and Publisher" of
Chess Review in the August 1948 issue. He had a falling out with Al
Horowitz, but later they became friends again.

Harkness developed the first chess rating system, which was known as
the Harkness System. He worked on it for two years after he left Chess
Review and it was officially adopted by the USCF in 1950. In 1952, he
was appointed the Business Manager and Membership Secretary of the
United States Chess Federation. He established the first USCF Office
in 1956. Prior to that, the federation was run out of private homes
and offices.

It was Harkness who brought about the popularization of the Swiss
System. Harkness virtually invented the weekend Swiss. Previously,
tournaments were held as round robins. The first ads for "100% USCF
Rated" weekend tournaments appeared in the March 5, 1953 issue of
Chess Life. Because he received little or no salary while working for
the USCF, Kenneth Harkness made his living traveling around to cities
running weekend Swisses, an idea that he had introduced, plus selling
chess books and equipment.

Harkness introduced the radical idea of pairing players in Swiss
Systems by USCF Ratings, which he had developed, rather than by
lottery. All of these ideas, first developed by Kenneth Harkness, are
now standard around the world today. The terms "Harkness Rating
System" and "Harkness Pairing System" were commonly used for what are
now the standard methods.

When Harkness took over as Business Manager of the USCF in 1952, it
had a deficit new worth. It had been losing money every year, had only
about one thousand members, and the only thing keeping the
organization alive was the fact that the printer kept printing Chess
Life even though his printing bills were not being paid.

During the seven years that Harkness ran the USCF, the organization
was profitable EVERY YEAR. The entire delinquent printing bill was
paid off, membership tripled and revenues multiplied eight times. When
Harkness left, the USCF had a net worth surplus for the first time
(and probably the last time too).

Perhaps more importantly, the "Harkness Plan" that had been put in
place by Kenneth Harkness continued to be followed by his successors.
Under this plan, the USCF has experienced steady growth and expansion.
The USCF now has 86,000 members. Every now and then, a new political
group takes over the USCF and one of the first things they usually do
is try to scrap the Harkness Plan. The immediate result is a drastic
drop in membership and revenues and big financial losses. As a result,
the new management is forced to reinstate the old plan, or be voted

Among the elements that Harkness introduced and which are still
controversial today is the requirement that in USCF rated tournaments
every player must be a USCF member. Another feature is that all
members receive a subscription to Chess Life. Even today, there are
groups within the USCF trying to drop these measures. They do not know
the lessons of history.

After Harkness had retired, Glenn Hartleb, made a speech at the dinner
at the conclusion of the 1960 US Open Championship in St. Louis, in
which he said:

"Kenneth Harkness was not able to do everything he said that he was
going to do because, if he had been able to do everything he said that
he was going to do, we would all be Millionaires."

Kenneth Harkness was a big thinker. In the August 20, 1952 issue of
Chess Life newspaper, in an article entitled "USCF PLANS FOR THE
FUTURE", his big expansion plans were explained. It became known as
"The Harkness Plan", or "HP" for short.

When he took over as USCF Business Manager, Harkness worked out of his
apartment at 93 Barrow Street, Greenwich Village, New York City. He
divided his apartment into one section for living space for himself
and his wife Sybilla and the rest for USCF business. By 1955, he had
moved to a building next door at 81 Bedford Street. By the end of the
1955 fiscal year, his salary (or "commission" as it was called) had
risen to the princely sum of $600.40 PER YEAR. This was more than the
Chess Life Editor, Montgomery Major, who seems to have received
nothing at all.

In October, 1956, Harkness was able to move the USCF out of his own
apartment and into an office building at 80 East 11th Street, New York
NY. That move was announced in the October 5, 1956 issue of Chess
Life. (That building is now the home of Fred Wilson's Chess Book
Store, although on a different floor.)

The last issue of Chess Life that listed Kenneth Harkness as Business
Manager was the issue for August 5, 1959. In the following issue,
which was for August 20, 1959, Frank Brady was listed as business
manager. Brady had already been the Acting Business Manager for some
time. In the February 20, 1959 issue of Chess Life, Frank Brady was
for the first time listed as the "Assistant Business Manager".
However, only two weeks later, Harkness left for a round-the-world
trip, leaving Brady in charge. Brady says that he was terrified. He
had no idea what to do, or where to start. However, Harkness had left
an instruction: "Organize as many chess tournaments as you can".
Therefore, Brady started organizing chess tournaments all over the
Eastern Seaboard, from Boston to Washington DC (which is how I first
met Frank Brady in 1960). Brady learned his job the hard way, on the
job. He says that this was instrumental in establishing his career
which he has followed ever since. Dr. Brady is now Chairman of the
Department of Mass Communications, Journalism, Television and Film at
St. John's University, New York. He is Professor of Communication Arts
and Journalism at that university.

The headline of the August 5, 1959 issue of Chess Life announced
"Harkness Retires - Brady In". Apparently, it was not really true that
Harkness was retiring because of the fact that he was in a "physically
run-down condition". In addition to writing the still-popular book "An
Invitation to Chess" with Irving Chernev, Harkness had also written
"An Invitation to Bridge". Harkness was a 1900 player at chess and was
stronger at bridge than he was at chess. Harkness was tall, 6 feet 2
inches, and was an impressive, good looking man. He often took jobs as
the director of ocean cruises where he would give bridge lessons to
wealthy widows. One of the wealthy women whom he met in this way
convinced him to divorce his wife and marry her. Harkness thereafter
lived in a luxurious apartment on Fifth Avenue near Twelfth Street,
across the street from the New School for Social Research, and did not
have to work any more.

His abandoned wife, Sybilla, continued to work for the USCF as its
membership secretary. However, by 1964, she was no longer working for
the USCF. Bill Goichberg, who was the first full-time USCF Rating
Statistician, writes:

I worked at this office from 1964 to 1967. The membership secretary
was Greta Fuchs. The other employees in 1964 were Joe Reinhardt, a
shipping clerk for B & E and myself. Eventually an additional rating
statistician was hired. I never met Sybilla Harkness and am sure she
did not work for USCF then. In 1962-1963 I went to the office
occasionally and don't think she was there then either.

The USCF moved from 80 East 11th Street to its new headquarters in
Newburgh New York in November 1967. Sybilla lived in the Marshall
Chess Club at 23 West 10th Street. The club gave her a small room to
live in after her husband, Kenneth Harkness, had abandoned her.
Sybilla Harkness died in July 1971 at age 73 (SSN 105-26-2426). No
obituary was published.

After Kenneth Harkness left the employment of the United States Chess
Federation effective June 30, 1959, it seems that he went to
Yugoslavia, because the January 5, 1960 issue of Chess Life contains
an article by Harkness reporting from Belgrade the results of the 1959
candidates tournament in Belgrade, that had been won by Tal.

When Harkness left the USCF in June, 1959, there was an editorial by
Jerry Spann, the USCF President who lived in Oklahoma, welcoming Frank
Brady as the new Business Manager. Brady wrote, in effect, that from
now on the Business Manager and Chess Life Editor will obey orders
received from the elected officials, unlike before.

The article by Jerry Spann stated:

During the past two years, we have "suggested" rather than "requested"
as a matter of policy. Actually, this has been no great problem, as
Ken has been quite cooperative. But the difference, though subtle, is
vital! Ken's retirement, therefore, signalizes the restoration of USCF
policy making to the directors and elected officers, where it belongs,
with final authority and responsibility vested in the Federation's
chief executive. I will now fully assume this responsibility.

The above quote tells the real story. USCF President Jerry Spann would
sweep in from the Badlands of Oklahoma, arrive at the USCF Office,
tell Harkness to do this and not that or the other thing and then go
back to Oklahoma. This sort of thing always happen in any quasi-
governmental body. The people who have to actually do the work do not
always see eye-to-eye with those who want to issue the orders.

It would not by surprising to learn that a strong, active and dynamic
person like Kenneth Harkness would have constant run-ins with the
elected but relatively inactive board members.

A perfect example of this is this book, the "The Blue Book and
Encyclopedia of Chess". For years, the USCF Officials had talked about
writing a book of tournament rules. However, they could not agree and
had never gotten around to doing it. Finally, Harkness got tired of
this and just wrote the rules in the book himself, without receiving
permission for anyone. It was published, became a great success, and
established a standard for the rules.

The USCF Tournament Rules chapter in this Blue Book is 42 pages long,
pages 53-95. However, the current edition of the Official USCF
Tournament Rules is 416 pages. Yet the rules are basically the same.
The reason the current rules are so long is that they must deal with
situations involving time delay clocks, sudden death time limits,
pairings, protests and appeals. The best way to avoid having to deal
with these rules is simply do not get into time trouble. Leave
adequate time on your clock so that your flag never falls. Another way
is simply do not play in tournaments with $300,000 in guaranteed
prizes, because it is those big money tournaments where these disputes
usually arise.

A book review published on Amazon of the Official USCF Rules states:

Whereas, "THE USCF OFFICIAL RULES OF CHESS" is written for tournament
directors and experienced tournament players to understand, a book for
the newcomer to chess is needed that covers:

1. Helping the newcomer focus on what is important for practical use
in tournament play. The USCF rulebook has so much material it is
impossible to know what is important and what is not so important for
a tournament player to learn. Help is needed in the massive maze of

2. Some more detail to explain the meanings of some of the rules in
more simple language for the newcomer.

3. Are there certain rules that often create problems? What are these
rules and how can a player protect his or herself?

For the reviewer above, this Blue Book and Encyclopedia of Chess is
the answer, because this book does all of those things, and is short
and readable.

The Blue Book covers a lot of material not readily available
elsewhere, such as the history of establishment of the first
international titles, the Russian Rating System, the Harkness Pairing
System, the Harkness Rating System, the various tie-breaking systems
and their relative merits. There are sections that are definitely out
of date, such as the names and addresses of chess clubs and chess
publications around the country. However, these are retained for their
historical value.

Not much is known about what happened to Kenneth Harkness after he
left the USCF. Perhaps he got a real, paying job. He died on October
4, 1972. The obituary by Fred Cramer states that he died in Yugoslavia
of a heart attack while riding on a train on his way to the 1972 World
Chess Olympiad in Skopje, where he was to be awarded the title of
International Arbiter. He had been living in Boca Raton Florida.
However, another source states that Harkness was actually in the
Belgrade Train Station carrying several heavy suitcases of documents
that he was going to present to the FIDE Congress in Skopje, when
suddenly he dropped dead.

His successor was Frank Brady who, in January 1961, converted Chess
Life from a bi-weekly newspaper to a slick cover monthly magazine.
This was a risky move, as it went into head-to-head competition with
"Chess Review" magazine, but it proved to be a success. Brady became
both the business manager and the editor of Chess Life, starting with
the January 1961 issue. Fred Wren, who had taken over as the editor of
Chess Life in January 1958 when Montgomery Major had suddenly quit,
retired as editor of the Chess Life newspaper in the last issue, which
was dated December 20, 1960.

Previously, Montgomery Major had been editor of Chess Life from the
beginning of that newspaper in September 1946 until the last issue of
1957. In the December 20, 1957 issue of Chess Life, Montgomery Major
wrote an article entitled "At Last We Cry 30", "30" meaning THE END.
It seemed that Major assumed that Chess Life would cease publication,
perhaps because he was not getting paid and he assumed that nobody
else would work for free. However, Fred Wren, who liked to call
himself "The Old Woodpusher" and who lived some of the time in Maine
and some of the time in Nova Scotia, Canada, came out of retirement
and took over. Fred Wren was the editor for exactly three years, from
the first issue of 1958 until the last issue of 1960.

Montgomery Major was definitely not fired, although many assumed that
he had been, as he was not well liked. The USCF management was shocked
when Major quit. Had Fred Wren not jumped in, the USCF would have been
in real trouble. Major was a contentious person who is not well
remembered by those old enough to remember him. According to Bill
Goichberg and others including Anthony Saidy, he attacked many people
in USCF leadership and delegates, but wasn't fired because he was

At the 1960 USCF Business Meeting in St. Louis, the Harkness Rating
System was replaced by the Elo Rating System, developed by Arpad Elo,
a Professor of Physics at Marquette University who had also been the
Wisconsin State Champion. I was there as the delegate from the State
of Virginia (since I was the only player from Virginia who played in
the 1960 US Open) and I was the only delegate who voted against the
change. Since then, the rating system has been known as the Elo Rating
System. The Harkness name has been largely forgotten.

What is also forgotten is that the Elo Rating System was derived from
the data developed by the Harkness Rating System. Professor Elo
studied the ratings and the results of tournaments played under the
Harkness System, observed how the ratings moved up and down based on
the results, and then developed a system to emulate those results. The
basic difference is that under the Harkness System, if a player had
for example a 1600 rating and then played in a 6-round Swiss and
achieved a 1800 performance, then at the end of the rating period if
no other tournaments were played the two results would be averaged and
the result would be a rating of 1700. Stated differently, the Harkness
System had a higher "K" factor than the Elo System.

On the other hand, if a player played in several tournaments in a
rating period, all the results plus his original rating was averaged
together. If four or more tournament were played, what Harkness did
was to average each player's last four performance ratings. The
trouble with this is that a player could perform better than his
rating yet lose points because an even better performance became five
tournaments ago rather than four. The USCF office received many
complaints because of this.

Under the Elo System, each game individually was rated. If a player
rated 1600 played a game against an opponent rated 1800, and the 1600
player won, he would gain 24 rating points and his opponent would lose
24 points. However, if the 1800 rated player won, he would gain 8
points and the 1600 player would lose 8 points. Finally, if the game
was a draw the lower player would gain 8 and the higher rated player
would lose 8 points.

Under the Elo Formula, the sum of the two ratings would always remain
the same.

However, the basic formula to calculate performance rating was the
same under the Harkness System and the Elo System. The real difference
was that ratings could move faster under the Harkness System (which is
the reason why I voted against it as a delegate from Virginia when I
was a kid).

A problem soon became apparent under either system because in general
players improve with experience. New players who established their
first ratings could expect to improve dramatically during their first
few years of tournament play. However, this improvement would take
away points from the long established players with stable ratings. The
result was that everybody's rating went down. Ever since, a variety of
formulas and methods have been tried to stabilize the ratings. The
objective is that if the strength of a player stays the same, his
rating should stay about the same too. There is also politics
involved, as some USCF Presidents have tried to increase their
personal popularity by tweaking the rating system so that everybody's
rating goes up. There have been bonus points and feedback points
introduced, along with rating floors. This has led to periods of great
rating inflation, such as in the early 1980s when it was not uncommon
for a player to gain one hundred rating points in just one tournament.

Bill Goichberg writes:

"About 1980, 'fiddle points' were introduced which caused large rating
gains, especially by lower rated players, even if they hardly played
at all. This was based on a theory that the average rating used to be
1500 and should be restored to that level. Even if the average rating
was once 1500, the theory was flawed because with the great increase
in scholastic activity, the average strength of the rating pool was
much less than it had been, so the average rating being lower than in
the past was to be expected and the fiddle points "correction" caused
unwarranted inflation.

An even more unwise rule was instituted about the same time as fiddle
points, that provided that no opponent's rating could count as less
than 1000. The result was that in events for young children all of
whom were probably under 500 strength, unrateds would often obtain
initial ratings of 1500 or over, at least 1000 points too high. I ran
an elementary school tournament once in which an unrated 10-year old
scored 5-0 and achieved an initial USCF rating of 2093. He was more
than 1000 points too high, as I knew from (among other things) the
fact that he didn't know how to castle. (His opponent didn't say
anything after he castled illegally, and we were using the procedure
that TDs don't call illegal moves unless there is a claim.)

Almost all scholastic players became greatly overrated in the 1980s.
This was a disaster because the first time a kid played in an adult
tournament, he would almost always suffer a heavy rating loss. Word
got around about this and the result was that hardly any kids except
for a few of the very best played in adult tournaments. USCF lost
adult members it could have had because of the foolish "opponent
counts as at least 1000" rule, and some who might have eventually made
GM dropped out instead.

The above quotation may explain why all scholastic players seem to be
underrated. Nowadays, scholastic coaches are complaining that their
players are rated too low. 800 is a high rating for a scholastic
player, but far lower than the rating of almost the weakest adults.
When scholastic coaches complain about this, they are told to enter
their kids in adult tournaments and their ratings will go up. The
reason scholastic players are encouraged to play in adult tournaments
is that they will never get to be really good until they start playing
against Adults.

The great period of rating inflation that started with the "fiddle
points" of the early 1980s, was followed by periods of deflation such
as in around 1999 when everybody's rating seemed to drop 100-150
points. Nevertheless, overall the rating system has remained
remarkably stable, with a rating of 1800 reflecting about the same
strength in 2008 as a rating of 1800 reflected in 1956. There are now
600,000 players with ratings in the USCF Ratings online database. All
of this started with Kenneth Harkness.

The Harkness Rating System was established in 1950. In 1960, the USCF
converted to the Elo Formula. The Elo formula is no longer in use.
Nowadays, Mark Glickman in consultation with Ken ("No Relation") Sloan
is in charge and nobody except for a few specialists know what formula
is being used. The formula that is being used is publicly posted, but
most people other than mathematicians do not understand how it works.

The Elo System was adopted by FIDE in 1970. Since the number of FIDE
Rated players was low, less than 1,000, Professor Elo did all the
calculations at his home by hand using a simple adding machine.

The two systems, the USCF Rating System and the FIDE Rating System
using the Elo Formula, have been running in parallel since 1970.
However, as time has progressed, the actual method of doing the
calculations has diverged further and further apart. Until recently,
FIDE only rated top level elite players. The lowest rating a man could
have was 2200. Because fewer women play top level chess, women could
have FIDE ratings as low as 2000.

In the late 1970s and the early 1980s, USCF Policy Board Member
George Cunningham ran the USCF office as a volunteer Executive
Director after all the top level paid staff quit in protest to some
slight. Cunningham decided to combat the problem of rating deflation
by introducing "bonus points", "feedback points" and "fiddle points".
The idea was to stabilize the ratings, but instead so many of these
"fiddle points" were awarded that the rating of every active player
jumped up. (I was not playing actively during this period, so I did
not get the bonanza of all these free rating points, a fact that I
have lamented ever since.)

Cunningham was then put out to pasture. The ratings committee wanted
to put everybody's rating back down to what it had been, but everybody
liked their new sky-high rating, so this was politically unacceptable.
By then, the average USCF rating was 100 points higher than the FIDE
Rating for players rated under both systems.

FIDE started messing with their own system too. In the mid-1980s, FIDE
wanted to encourage chess in third-world countries, but faced the
problem that many African and Asian nations had no players of the
master standard. So, FIDE decided that by giving out master titles and
ratings to some players in those countries, it would encourage others
to compete for those ratings. The result was that some very weak
players were given ratings of 2205, the minimum under the FIDE System.

An extreme example of this was the US Virgin Islands Chess Team.
Although not really a country, the US Virgin Islands was inadvisedly
allowed to become a FIDE member due to its distance from the mainland.
(FIDE has since established rules to prevent such non-countries from
becoming new members of FIDE.) The captain of the US Virgin Islands
Chess Team was John W. Warlick. FIDE had a rule that anybody who got a
plus score in an Olympiad would be awarded a minimum rating of 2205.
In the 1988 Olympiad in Thessaloniki Greece, the US Virgin Islands had
one of the weakest teams and finished next to last, ahead of only
Seychelles, a country with only 500 persons who know how to play chess
in the entire country. John Warlick, playing first reserve, was able
to pair himself against the weakest possible opponents. Against these
very weak players, he scored 5 1/2 out of 10, scoring wins against the
bottom board players from Sudan, Mauritius, Liechtenstein, Bermuda and
Seychelles. This gave Warlick a FIDE rating of 2205. However,
Warlick's USCF rating was 1584, more than 600 points lower!!!

Professor Arpad Elo was greatly upset at these *******izations of his
rating system. Obviously, giving away free rating points just to
encourage chess in third world countries would have a long term
inflationary impact on the rating system. The FIDE System was not hit
so hard by rapidly improving players as the USCF rating system had
been, because FIDE only rated top-level international tournaments, and
the players in those tournaments were likely to be at or near their
peaks, unlike the rapidly improving ten year old kids who frequented
USCF rated tournaments and who were taking away rating points from
their elders.

However, Arpad Elo could no longer do anything about it. This was
because of a dispute between Arpad Elo and William Goichberg,
organizer of many FIDE Rated tournaments. At a time when less than 600
players in the world had FIDE Ratings, Bill Goichberg started an
aggressive program to qualify US players for FIDE Ratings. Typically,
his tournaments were ten player round robins with four players with
FIDE ratings, the minimum number necessary to qualify a player for a
FIDE Rating. However, it happened by pure chance that Bill Goichberg,
normally a 2350 player, had the best tournament of his life and scored
a 2520 tournament performance. In another event, Michael Valvo, a
strong player who had been inactive, came out of retirement and
produced a performance of 2440. Those who knew Valvo knew that this
was a typical result for him, but Arpad Elo had never heard of Valvo
and thought that this result was suspicious.

Another unfortunate incident was that US Junior Champion Peter
Winston, who had a 2250 FIDE Rating and who was one of the four
players entered in the tournament to establish ratings for the others,
had an incredibly bad tournament and lost all his games, scoring 0-9.
His last round game was against Sunil Weeramantry. The event was held
at Hunter College High School. Peter Winston left the tournament after
having lost all his games and was never seen nor heard from again. It
is presumed that he had committed suicide. His body was never found
and this is a mystery that has never been solved.

The result was that Goichberg submitted tournament results showing
that he had earned a 2520 FIDE rating and Michael Valvo had earned a
2440 rating. Professor Elo had never heard of Valvo but he knew
Goichberg well, due to the many disputes and disagreements between
Goichberg and Elo in 1964-67 when Goichberg was the rating
statistician working in the New York office and Elo in Wisconsin was
overseeing his work.

Arpad Elo did not believe any of this. He thought that this was all a
fix. Therefore, Elo refused to rate these events and to give Goichberg
his 2520 rating and Valvo his 2440 rating. Goichberg complained,
pointing out that if some unknown Russian or unknown Yugoslav had
produced these results, Elo would have awarded these ratings without
question, since Elo knew that there were many players in Russia and
Eastern Europe who were very strong and had not been allowed to
compete internationally.

The showdown came at the 1978 World Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires,
Argentina. USCF Executive Director and Lieut. Col. Edmund B. Edmondson
(1920-1982) protested to the FIDE General Assembly that Elo was
biased, refusing to give ratings that had been earned by American
players (who also had USCF Ratings) while readily giving ratings to
Soviet or Hungarian players.

Goichberg was right, of course. His tournaments were not fixed.
Goichberg's performance, while unusual, was within the expected normal
range of tournament results and Valvo clearly was legitimately a 2440
player even though Elo had never heard of him. Peter Winston had just
gone crazy. Everybody has a bad tournament every now and then.

The result was that the FIDE General Assembly gave Goichberg and Valvo
their earned ratings. Soon thereafter, Elo was stripped of his
exclusive authority to calculate the ratings and FIDE gave him a gold
watch and put him out to pasture. Edmondson was put out to pasture by
the USCF as well.

FIDE took over the calculation of FIDE Ratings. However, there were
new problems. Two examples were giving Class-C players like John
Warlick of the US Virgin Islands a FIDE Rating of 2205 and giving 100
Free Rating Points to Every Woman in the World Except for Zsuzsa
Polgar, as FIDE did at the 1986 World Chess Olympiad in Dubai. In
Dubai, FIDE also decided to award the International Master Title to
the Arab Junior Champion. These awards made FIDE the world's laughing
stock. The USCF helped out too, by botching the July 1988 rating list.
FIDE in its infinite wisdom decided to give the task of calculating
the FIDE ratings to the USCF, since the USCF was already running the
USCF rating system on its computers. When the July 1, 1988 FIDE Rating
list came out, it was jibberish. The two top rated women players in
the world were non-existent persons from Greece. Fully ten percent of
the ratings were demonstrably wrong.

The end result was that the July 1, 1988 rating list had to be
trashed. FIDE took away the authority of the USCF to calculate FIDE
Ratings and awarded it to a company in Yugoslavia.

The FIDE Rating System had one big advantage. It had a fixed,
published formula and was completely recalculated once every six
months. A FIDE Rated player knew that if he played and defeated
another player with the same rating, he would gain exactly 5 rating
points and his opponent would lose the same number of points. If the
rating list came out and was even 5 points off, the player would know
that something was wrong and could protest. This was especially
important because the "Cold War" was still going on. The Americans did
not trust the Russians and the Soviets did not trust the Americans.
This made it necessary that everybody knew exactly what the rating
system was, so that everybody could calculate their own rating exactly
correctly and any cheating would be immediately obvious.

For example, in 1986 I was traveling with Zsuzsa Polgar. She played 59
rated tournament games in the last half of 1986. Knowing all of her
opponents and their ratings, we calculated that her new rating was
going to be exactly, precisely 2495. This was going to make her the
highest rated woman in the history of chess.

When her rating came out on the January 1, 1987 rating list, her
rating was exactly that, 2495. However, FIDE, not Zsuzsa, had cheated.
In order to stop her from being the highest rated female chess player
ever, FIDE had awarded 100 free rating points to every woman in the
world except for Zsuzsa Polgar. This put Maya Chiburdanidze number one
on the woman's list with a rating of 2530, whereas her real rating
without the 100 free points was 2430.

It was assumed that the rating of Chiburdanidze would quickly fall
back to where it had been and Zsuzsa would soon regain her rightful
spot as the number one rated woman of all time. However, after that,
both the rating of Chiburdanidze and the rating of Gaprindashvili were
calculated on the lower standard, even after the 100 free points had
been added. In the July 1, 1987 rating list, the top two women players
in the world were non-existent Greek Women. Excluding those two fake
names, the rating of Chiburdanidze appeared to rise from 2530 to 2560,
thus confirming her higher rating. However, that was not the reality.
In reality, for purposes of calculation, 100 points were deducted from
her rating of 2530, then her games were rated on the basis of a 2430
rating, so her rating went up to 2460, and then the 100 points were
added back, giving her a rating of 2560. Thus, Maya's real rating
under the standard formula was 2460, not 2560, and the real rating of
Nona Gaprindashvili under the normal rating system was 2385, not 2485.

Had it not been for this additional manipulation of the rating system,
the rating for both Maya and Nona Gaprindashvili would have dropped
during 1987 and would have quickly fallen back to their rating levels
before receiving the 100 free points.

As it turned out, it took Zsuzsa three years to pass Maya
Chiburdanidze on the rating list, but by that time her sister Judit
Polgar had passed Zsuzsa, so Zsuzsa had been cheated out of her hard
won title of being the highest rated woman chess player in the world.

Sam Sloan
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Old February 16th 08, 08:46 AM posted to,,alt.chess,,
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On Feb 15, 2:44 pm, samsloan wrote:

A controversial new tournament rule passed by FIDE is that a player is
no longer allowed to write down a move on his score sheet before
playing it. The pretext for this change was that it constitutes note
taking. The real reason was the possibility of cheating on
computerized score sheets or when connected to a computerized display
board. After FIDE passed this rule, the USCF Delegates barely passed
it too as Rule 15A at the meeting in Oak Brook Illinois on August 12,

It's so idiotic! The high level tournaments
should use chess sets which record the moves
by themselves, without players wasting
tyeir time and concentration to write the moves
down on the scoresheets. This way errors
will be avoided, and the moves made in the
time scramble will be recorded too, even
in the case of blitz games.

Sure, there are a few things to discuss but
don't be pedantic in a negative way. What
I've written above makes sense, granted
that a few details should be spelled out.

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Old February 16th 08, 08:52 AM posted to,,alt.chess,,
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On Feb 16, 12:46 am, "Wlodzimierz Holsztynski (Wlod)"

The high level tournaments
should use chess sets which record the moves
by themselves, without players wasting
their time and concentration to write the moves
down on the scoresheets.

The same goes for punching ther clock.
There should be no more of it. The chess
set, including the chess clock, should
record time by itself. And one should not
have to claim winning on time. A player
who has exceeded his/her time limit should
lose automatically (except when no checkmate
is possible).

In short, chess players should just play chess.
Everything else is at the best the necessary eveil
which should be reduced to bare minimum, as much
as possible.

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Old February 16th 08, 01:23 PM posted to,,alt.chess,,
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On Sat, 16 Feb 2008 00:46:54 -0800 (PST), "Wlodzimierz Holsztynski
(Wlod)" wrote:

It's so idiotic! The high level tournaments
should use chess sets which record the moves
by themselves, without players wasting
tyeir time and concentration to write the moves
down on the scoresheets. This way errors
will be avoided, and the moves made in the
time scramble will be recorded too, even
in the case of blitz games.

Sure, there are a few things to discuss but
don't be pedantic in a negative way. What
I've written above makes sense, granted
that a few details should be spelled out.


Would this lead to two sets of rules -- one for high level events with
the new equipment and one for large Swiss tournaments and other
contests lacking the self-recording, self-timing sets?

To maintain a single set of technology independent rules is a big
reason the USCF first took away the option of recording one's move
before making it. Of course, it would have been simpler to forbid
this option only when recording with devices that present the position
graphically, but this would have put the graphic devices at a
disadvantage and made it more difficult to market them. They provided
a raft of other reasons when a firestorm of protest broke out after
the decision, but this little post facto dance fooled only the
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Old February 16th 08, 03:46 PM posted to,,alt.chess,,
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"Wlodzimierz Holsztynski (Wlod)" wrote in message
On Feb 16, 12:46 am, "Wlodzimierz Holsztynski (Wlod)"

The high level tournaments
should use chess sets which record the moves
by themselves, without players wasting
their time and concentration to write the moves
down on the scoresheets.

The same goes for punching ther clock.
There should be no more of it. The chess
set, including the chess clock, should
record time by itself.

I agree for top level players with everthing Wlod wrote before this about
the need to record moves. The trouble with this last one is for a sensory
board to establish when a move is complete?

How does it tell if Qd2-d4 is a 'hover' and if the piece is actually
released onto d4, or held there while thinking of what happens, or
eventually moved to d3?

And one should not
have to claim winning on time. A player
who has exceeded his/her time limit should
lose automatically (except when no checkmate
is possible).

I agree with that.

In short, chess players should just play chess.
Everything else is at the best the necessary eveil
which should be reduced to bare minimum, as much
as possible.

I don't know if Wlod likes this idea also, but the software associated with
the board can also /BLEEP!/ illegal moves - so that it either does not allow
an illegal move to stand as amove.

One other great advantage of allowing softare/hardware to record the game is
not just clarity of moves played, but also how many moves have been played.
A scrawled score sheet, or one with dashes to indicate a move, may not
accurately record if the time limit is reached or surpaseed, without
subsequent analysis and reconstruction of the game - which can be
contentious, no?


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