New Chess Rating System in Utah

By the chess coach Jonathan Whitcomb, of Murray, Utah (801-590-9692)

Last week, a new chess rating system was started in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah, with nine players receiving ratings at the Harman Senior Center Chess Club in West Valley City. It is based upon calculations and levels similar to those used by the United States Chess Federation (USCF). The new system is called UCER, for Utah chess estimated rating.

First UCER list (September 30, 2016)

Grant Hodson     1877
Terrell Kerby       1820
Jonathan D. W.   1728
Dick . . . . . . . . . .  1690
Dennis Hansen   1604
Alan Bradbury     1574
Vinn Roos  . . . .   1540
Doug  Miller . . .  1510
Jerry . . . . . . . . .   1449

In addition, a new participant at the Harman Center, Ivan, received a preliminary rating of 1678, based upon two games.

And yet, taking a closer look, all of the above ratings are subject to change and should not be taken too seriously at this early stage, as if they must be accurate. We can expect some changes to the above standings, based upon games played over the next few months.

The Future of UCER in Central Utah

So how do the ratings of senior citizens at a chess club in West Valley, Utah, relate to chess in schools? This is only a beginning, yet we can expect that these new ratings can help chess-playing students in Utah, eventually. Free tournaments in the Salt Lake Valley will be encouraged, with both senior citizens and younger students. These competitions will give ratings to children and teenagers, as rated senior citizens participate.

Why not just start by rating students directly, without the participation of old men? For one thing, a senior chess player usually plays at an even level over a period of months. Starting with them, we can feel more confident that game results between them and younger players can give accurate ratings to students who are newly getting rated. On the other hand, some young students are quickly improving their skills in the royal game, so results from just a few months ago can differ from today’s results.

Early Comparisons to USCF Ratings

Five members of the Harman Chess Club were important in this early stage of UCER, for their USCF ratings were used as a base for beginning calculations. From there, the games played at the chess club (games not rated by the USCF) were emphasized in the early calculations, giving more weight to what happened in informal games that what had happened in formal USCF-rated tournaments.

So are UCER ratings higher or lower than USCF ratings? For now, it seems that they are both higher and lower, depending on who you’re looking at.

Grant Hodson has played in many USCF-rated tournaments for a long time. As of the end of September, 2016, his regular USCF rating was 1600, yet his UCER rating was 1877, which is significantly higher. The best explanation, however, is not that UCER must be highly inaccurate, for Grant actually wins more games in his chess club than he does in formal chess tournament games. Because UCER emphasizes those informal club games, he gets a much higher rating in UCER: 1877.

On the other hand, Alan Bradbury had a USCF rating of 1663, but a UCER rating that is only 1574. Perhaps future game results will increase his UCER rating, but we need not assume that UCER must be inaccurate.

On the other hand, Dennis Hansen has a USCF rating almost identical to his UCER: 1603 versus 1604. A key to understanding UCER is this: Informal chess-game results reported for UCER calculations are eventually given greater weight than USCF ratings.

Conclusions

We can look forward to UCER becoming not only broader but deeper, as it is refined by more chess-game results at the Harman Senior Center Chess Club and as it is eventually used in other areas of central Utah. Many children and teenagers would like to play in a chess tournament and get a rating, yet some of them can be kept out of USCF-rated tournaments because of the entry fee or USCF-membership fee (or both). Free chess tournaments that use UCER can make it possible for many more students to get a rating.

For more information, call the chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb: 801-590-9692.

Harman Senior Center in West Valley City, Utah

Harman Senior Center in West Valley City, Utah

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Chess in School (home page)

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