Did you know that the world of chess ratings can be as intriguing and mysterious as the game itself? How significant are tactics, game analysis, and a consistent opening repertoire for players rated below 1800? We go a step further, shedding light on the pros and cons of competing in higher rating sections and the unreliability of online ratings. As we wrap up, we serve up practical tips and strategies to help bolster your rating, including the pitfalls to avoid like dual-rated games. But above all, we celebrate the sheer love for the game and the joy of tournament play.
00:00 - Intro
01:17 - Listener Mailbag
28:55 - Playing Up
32:46 - Online Ratings
37:34 - Rating Deflation
42:48 - Dual-Rated Games
51:44 - Outro
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This week it's all about ratings. Some tournament players claim they don't care about their rating. Is that really true? Are over the board ratings the only ones that matter? Are online ratings meaningless, or do they have credibility? What exactly is rating deflation? We're going to look at this and a whole lot more so stick around.Narrator:
Welcome to the chess angle. This is not your typical chess podcast. If you're an amateur or club level player, the chess angle is for you. Our content is aimed at busy adults who are serious about the game but have limited study time. Featured guests include both amateur and titled players alike. And now here's your host, director of the Long Island chess club, .Neal:
Welcome everyone. Thanks for tuning in. This episode will hopefully be an interesting and likely provocative discussion about chess ratings and our attitudes towards them and how they're affecting the current amateur tournament landscape. But first let's see what you had to say. Now a reminder all listeners are welcome to email me regarding the podcast. If you have a question or a topic idea, something you want me to talk about, feel free to email me at info at thechessanglecom. I'll put a link in the show description. I can't promise that your question or topic will be addressed, but I will certainly read everything that is sent my way, so keep that in mind. Once again, info at thechessanglecom. Our first email is from Brian and he writes Hi, neil, I love your podcast. It has inspired me to play more chess. I have a question for you. I was wondering if you know of any books or online resources for the visually impaired. I am interested in puzzles, tactics and game practice. I am visually impaired in my 60s and I have just purchased a Braille chess board. I am a recreational player and I am currently using the verbal chess app to play games against the computer. I rely 100% on audio accessibility on my Android phone and listen to audiobooks. Any resource, information or recommendations would be helpful. Thanks so much, brian. Brian is from Canada, so shout out to our friends up north, and I do have some recommendations. I don't know too much about this, but I looked into a few things. To get you started, at least. There are a couple of podcasts you may want to check out. One is the Blindfold Chess Podcast. What they do there is they take a look at classic games that are usually about 20 to 25 moves in length, and they go through those. It's audio only, and the beginning of each episode also has a brief history. Something similar is Audible Chess, which is also a podcast. I'll put links to both of those in the description. I know they're definitely on Spotify, which is what I use, but I'm sure they're available wherever you get your podcasts, so I'll put links for those. And as far as apps now, you said you're using the Verbal Chess app. I know there are a couple of other apps on Android that you might want to check out. One is Blindfold Chess Offline and the other is Blindfold Chess Training. I will put links for those as well, and those are available on Android, which is what I know you use. I'm an Android person myself. So I will put those links for Brian and anyone else interested. And thank you so much, brian, for your email and for listening to the podcast. I really appreciate it. Our next email is from Caleb, also from Canada. So again, another shout out to our friends up north, and this email it's a bit lengthy but it is interesting. I'm going to read the whole thing because I think it makes for a good discussion and it does sort of tie into our overall subject this week about rating. So this is what Caleb writes Hi, neil, I am an amateur, unrated player who has been listening to your podcast for over a year and I really enjoy it. I have never played in a tournament for financial reasons, but I would consider myself an intermediate player. I play online sometimes and there is a group I meet with and play casually OTB every Saturday afternoon at the local library. We average 10 to 30 participants per week. I have several friends who play in tournaments rated 1900 to 2200. They are class A to national master players. They are all better than me. However, I don't lose every game and I can hold my own in analysis with them. I hope to join a few tournaments in the next year or two when I have extra cash, but for now I am studying and playing regularly and enjoying the game. I am from Calgary and this summer we hosted the Canadian Open Chest Tournament. I wasn't able to play in the tournament. However, I attended some GM lessons and GM simals hosted through the tournament, which were quite reasonably priced. The highlight of the tournament was my game with Alexei Shirov. I came out of the opening equal playing the Pirts and eventually I blundered a five move combination where I lost an exchange for a pawn and then entered an indefensible position two nights versus knight and rook, with an open center and pawns on both sides of the board. I accepted the end game lesson and resigned on move 45 when it was clear I cannot stop a promotion. Enough about me. My question is about study methods. One of my main study methods is to analyze Grandmaster games. I usually select these games myself to find games which are in my openings and particularly interesting. I often study them without the assistance of published annotations. For example, I have selected a list of games, five from each world champion, from Steinitz to Carlson in the Roy Lopez, which is my favorite opening. As I write this, I have finished just over 10 games. I have done Steinitz and Lasker and I have started Capa Blanca. I usually spend three to five hours per game. I do some research about their opponent if they have played before and the champions normal lines, to try and discover where the opening novelty is or where the players are out of book. I go move by move through the early middle game to see how their opening is supporting their plans and compare it to modern theory. Maybe there is a better continuation. That is well known now but the theory is not developed at the time of the game. I am looking for the tactical ideas, how each side is playing for a positional advantage. If there is an attack, I look in detail about the situation before the attack and how the attack was prepared. If there is an end game, then I get out my end game book, a guide to chess endings by you and Hooper, which I have found used. I read about the appropriate end game, then study their moves with the ideas presented in the book. I often save additional theoretical end game positions which more simply present the same ideas the masters were playing out in their game. The Roy Lopez is my favorite opening because it is so broad. You can have an open board tactical slugfest, a closed center maneuvering position, a king side attack, queen side expansion and rook infiltration along the A file and almost any type of end game. I don't think I will ever run out of interesting games to study and moves to play. My hope is that if I learn how to play the Roy Lopez well, then I will be able to play everything well. This particular project is only a part of my study. I don't even do a game a week. However, I am not in a rush and I think it is a good exercise. I have a friend, a 1900 rated player who is definitely better than me but I am working to catch up who completely disagrees with me. Simply put, without annotations, how can I be sure I'm not missing an important detail? I have seen him study games with annotations and it feels like he hardly thinks he will read that Black plays a five to undermine white's queen side expansion before continuing with the plan in the center. And Then, on the next game, when black plays a five, instead of saying, oh, I know why he did this, because of what I learned in the last game he will check the annotations to see what the author says about it. It is possible. I am missing some details in my games. However, I am spending enough time to be thorough. Of course, with annotations I could study the game in 30 minutes rather than several hours. To me, the time Spent is the main difference. I have heard that learning chess isn't enough. You have to practice chess, and this is why I want to spend the time to do my own research and analysis about the moves a master played, to compare the opening to other games and Open the end game book to understand the right plans in a position. To me, this active approach to chess study is worth slowing down and not covering as much material. I am studying a position and puzzling over different candidate moves, tactical considerations and exposing myself to strong positional ideas, which is closer to playing a game than Reading someone else's notes. This is my focus in other chess study as well. I am currently reading the art of attack and chess by Vyukovic, and I set up my board of my clock and give myself a set amount of time in each position to calculate as many possible attacking lines as I am capable of, and Then I compare my attacking ideas and calculations to the book and write down what I have missed. This is much more like practicing chess, because I am spending time Calculating and evaluating, although it can feel like I am progressing through the book painfully slow. So the question is to analyze with or without written annotations? I have used annotations before I have to game collection books but I don't think they are necessary and I think that analyzing without annotations is a good exercise. I don't think the possibility of mistakes in my analysis is a reason to stop, because at least I am practicing analysis. My friend thinks it is a waste of time. I shouldn't spend so much time looking at a game without additional direction Because for all that time I might still miss an important idea. What do you think Do you analyze Grandmaster Games and how do you do it? Thank you for your time. All right, caleb, I appreciate your thorough email. I was gonna edit it and not read the whole thing, but I decided to just do so just because it was kind of hard to just chop certain sections. A lot to unpack there and I'm gonna give you my own thoughts based on my experience both as a player at TD and my own personal progress, because I remember when I first started playing Up until now I had a lot of issues Early on, when I first started, and there was certain things I did to help improve and I'll give you some ideas. But keep in mind this is just my own opinion as a fellow amateur player. Remember, just to give you some context, my peak rating is Is almost 1900. It was about 1885. A Grandmaster or someone higher rated than me, even someone of my own reading, may completely disagree with what I'm about to say. So just know that this is just my own opinion. What I'm saying is in Bible. This is just my own personal thoughts as a player and a tournament director and someone who sees Amateur games at the club week after week. All right, so again, this is just one person's opinion. That's very important. Don't take my word as sort of an authority. I'm just giving you one point of view. All right, caleb. So rather than give you some type of like prepared bullet point answer, I'm just kind of kind of speak off of the top of my head. Let me talk about studying in general, what I think is the most important thing for someone at your level, and then I'll address the whole idea of studying like Grandmaster games in General. So here's the context. If you or anyone listening is, say a 1,000, 1,200, 1,300 somewhere around there, and you're looking to get to like 14, 15, 1600, something like that. That's who this applies to. So anyone listening, if you're already say 16 or 1700 and you're looking to get to like 1800, that's probably a different thing. But as far as moving up, like you said, from an intermediate player or an advanced beginner I'm not sure you mean by intermediate intermediate could mean that you're already 1400, like when people say intermediate. That's kind of what I think of maybe 13, 1400, but some people might consider intermediate higher or lower. Here's the thing. Your study plan should mostly be tactics and Reviewing your game. Tactics are huge. Now I'm not going to give the speech that everybody gives, which is you know, until you're 1800, your first name should be tactics, your middle name should be tactics and your last name should be tactics until you're 1800, only study tactics. Don't study openings, don't worry about strategy, just study tactics. Man, I'm a man, I'm a man. Right, that's what everybody says now. Yes, tactics are very important and that's what you should be focusing on as a major party of your study. But it should be that and it should also be reviewing your games with an engine. So I do believe you should use an engine. That's important. You know I'm a big fan of that. I've mentioned that before. If you analyze your own games with just your own annotations, without the engine, which is fine, that's a good exercise. But if you do that alone, you don't really know if you're developing a ronious thought processes. So if you want to analyze it on your own with an engine Caleb your games, that's fine, but you need to check it with an engine or a coach, just to make sure you're not developing any poor habits. Now, it also depends on how much time you have. I don't know your situation, but you seem to have a decent amount of time, which is great, because you said you're spending several hours per game. So since you have the time to do it when you analyze your own games, I would definitely also use an engine. You can do your own analysis first, which is what you like to do, which is fine, but you need to have a coach or an engine. Look at it, just so you know that you're not analyzing incorrectly and that you're not developing any Poor habits. All right, I'll talk about analyzing Grandmaster games in a moment. But for most amateurs, for most players who are looking to get to like 1415, 1600, like that typical class C type of player. It's really about tactics and and analyzing your games with an engine. Those are the two most important things you can do as A tournament player. Now some other things. You have to have a good opening repertoire. Of course, I don't recommend Doing a real deep dive into opening analysis and looking at all these Branches and lines. What you do need to do this is very important and this is a big theme with me you need to develop an opening repertoire that you like and stick with the same openings Until you're about 1800 or so I'm just putting out a rough number until you're about 18 or 100 or so, I would not really Experiment with openings. I would only experiment to the point where you have a set repertoire. So once you know exactly what you're gonna play as white, are you gonna open with e4? You're gonna open with d4, and then what are you gonna do from there as Black? How are you gonna respond to e4? How are you gonna respond to d4? Once you have your set opening repertoire, stick with it and the truth is, at the amateur level, pretty much any opening is gonna be fine. Now I have my opinions on certain openings and on e4 openings and d4. I won't get into that now. That's a separate discussion and I've discussed it before. But again, the most important thing is that you have a consistent opening repertoire and you stick with it Once you're maybe over 1800. In my opinion, if you want to start expanding your horizons and stretching out your opening repertoire, you can, but I think if you Experiment too much with it and if you spend too much time just studying these Obscure opening lines that your opponent's never gonna go into, I think it can be a waste of time. Now, of course, you also need to know your basic end game theory King and pawn versus king and the opposition, and All the basic rook and pawn theory, bishops of opposite colors, all that stuff. Your middle game strategy, right. Initiative, the battle of the minor pieces, fighting for you know, square control and material versus initiative, right? I'm just kind of doing this off the top of my head. All those sort of middle game ideas you need to know as well. But the truth is, at our level I think you're gonna learn more from Amateur games and exercises and puzzles than you are from going over Grandmaster games. Now here's the thing. I'm not criticizing what you're doing. If you're enjoying it and you're improving, like you said, some of those 1900 players you're holding your own with. If you're seeing improvement, then stick with what you're doing. I mean, I don't necessarily believe in cookie cutter study plans. The real test, caleb, are you improving? Are you getting good results as you're reading going up? If you're seeing an improvement and you're seeing growth, then stick with what works. Stick with what you're doing. I know for myself Analyzing Grandmaster games and going through them and going through annotated game collections really didn't do much for me. I think you better off studying amateur games because it's going to be a more Realistic representation and a more realistic preparation for what you're actually gonna face. So I might look at a game by Copa Blanca or several games by Copa Blanca, but when I go to the club what I actually face is gonna be something completely different Because most amateur opponents they're not gonna play the way that you would expect, they're not gonna give the standard response, they're not gonna give the book move or if they do play book moves, at some point they're gonna deviate. And I'm also biased because a lot of the openings that I play You're really not going to see in a lot of these traditional game collections, right, when you look at, like Copa Blanca and Lasker, you're not going to see London systems, you're not going to see French advanced variations. Maybe you might see a few of those, you might see a couple of Nimzo's, but a lot of it is E4, e5 and D4, d5 stuff which I don't really play. So for me, and the openings I play, I'm better off just studying amateur games and and Exercises. I remember chess life had the column back to basics by Lev Albert. I think I spoke about this. They canceled the column but that was my favorite column to turn to. I thought it was more Instructive than even the analysis of Grandmaster games because what Lev Albert would do, he would take a game Between two amateurs. The amateurs submitting the game would put his or her own annotations and then Lev Albert would add his. And it was incredibly instructive because you would see the types of themes that typically arise in Amateur games and as someone who runs a chess club I see you know all sorts of games week to week, not just the games that I play, but when my game is finished I'll walk around and look and You're not going to see the types of things and ideas necessarily that you're going to see and, let's say, grandmaster game collections. I just think at this point it might be better to focus on more practical Ideas that are actually going to show up in your games. Now, that being said, many players, both fellow amateurs and Grandmasters and coaches with much more experience than I, are going to say that I'm wrong about that. They're going to say that you should study Grandmaster games, that that's a major part of your development and all that stuff. I'm not so sure that that's true, because when I was first playing in tournaments I mean, I remember I was maybe in my late 20s, early 30s I have to look it up and I was doing the whole like game collection, study, grandmaster games, and I was getting crushed. And then when I started focusing more on practical matters and tactics and just Analyzing and not blundering and that type of thing, rather than looking at some obscure Grandmaster game, my results were a lot better. So it's a mix and it really depends, caleb, on your own progress and what you find is helping you. But also, if you're enjoying this self-analysis of Grandmaster games, do it, but I would consider Continuing that. Do your own analysis, but I would check it with an engine or coach. I mean, if I'm following your email, you're kind of just doing your own annotations and analyzing but not really checking to see if it's Correct you might want to add that component to it. So again, I think for most amateurs under 1800 Beginners, advanced beginners, intermediate players, club level players, whatever term you want to use your real focus as far as your study plan should be tactics and reviewing your games with an engine and having a set Repertoire that you stick with. Those are the main things. Of course, again, you have to know your basic end games, your basic mates, basic middle game ideas, but that's sort of the main Focus. And again, I'll repeat what I said I do believe that studying amateur games and studying your games with an engine is going to be more valuable than studying Grandmaster games, where a lot of those themes, even if you kind of understand it when you study the books, actually applying it and using those ideas yourself is often difficult in an actual tournament Situation. And then again, caleb, as far as your own annotations, I think that's excellent If it's helping you stick with it, but I would check those annotations with an engine or coach Just to make sure that you don't have any erroneous thinking patterns in your own analysis. Very thoughtful email. It sounds like you're on your way. I really appreciate it, caleb, and I wish you the best of luck. Thank you All. Right now let's talk about Readings for a bit. Now. The title of this episode Everybody loves ratings. I don't know if anybody from Long Island caught that. I took that from the TV show Everybody loves Raymond. Now, for those of you not familiar Maybe some of you not in the States, everybody loves Raymond was a sitcom. It ran from, let's say, the late 90s, early 2000s. I mean it was like nine or ten seasons, which is a lot for a TV show. It was a huge hit. Very, very funny show. You need to check it out. If it's available to like stream on Amazon or Netflix or something, check it out. Everybody loves Raymond great show. It's actually about a family on Long Island that's where it takes place, I think in the show there from Limbrook. So shout out to Limbrook. But Everybody loves Raymond, check it out. Really, really good show. It's actually one of the few shows and I'm not the first person to say this where you know, as far as Hollywood and television portraying marriage, it's actually pretty accurate. It's actually a pretty accurate portrayal of like marriage and Relationships you may want to check out. Everybody loves Raymond. If you're looking for a show like end of the night, all your works done, kids are in bed and you just want to unwind and just laugh, check it out and because there's ten seasons of it, you can easily binge it. I had watched it back in the day just very, very funny show. But anyway, I digress. Just a little side note about where I got the title from, little play on words. Now something upfront about reading those of you listening who are hobbyists and I'm defining a hobbyist simply as a chess player who does not play Entournaments, who plays strictly for fun, and there are many of you out there listening to this podcast and we appreciate it. We do have a lot of hobbyists who are listeners. You're probably the sanest of us all. Yeah, if you're a hobbyist and you don't play in tournaments and have no intention of playing in tournaments, you're probably the smartest and sanest of us all, because the rest of us are sort of obsessed. Well, maybe obsessed is a strong word, but we're concerned about our reading and it often causes a lot of problems, and let me just say that this episode will be a bit opinionated. I mean, I think most of them are especially my solo ones. But I'm gonna kind of say it like it is. I'm almost gonna be thinking out loud, like a stream of consciousness type thing, if we were sitting in a Starbucks Just kind of wrapping out about rating. That's what this is gonna be. That's the approach I'm taking. I'm just gonna kind of let loose. I'm not really following Any sort of notes or outline. These are just some thoughts. So let me start with this. All Tournament players remember I'm not talking about hobbyists all tournament players Care about ratings. All right. It's my firm contention that if any tournament player claims otherwise, liar, liar, pants on fire. Okay, everybody cares about reading and that's okay. And I see evidence of this all the time. Look at how many people drop out After just one round because they had a bad loss. Or they take a hiatus from playing altogether because of one bad tournament. I see this all the time 2000 rated player in round one loses to a 1400 and they drop out. Happens all the time. Or Someone has a bad tournament, maybe they take like a 30 or 40 point rating hit and then they disappear from tournaments for like six months. For many people, the USCF ratings calculator is the first bookmark on their phone or computer. Come on, I know you do it. The game is over and boom, you rush to that ratings calculator and you see how many points you gained or lost. I know you do it, we all do it. Think about all the players who check their opponent's tournament history right when the pairings go up. The pairings are posted and boom, they go on their laptop or their phone. They look up their opponent Is he or she on an upswing or a downswing? I can go on. So the idea that there are tournament players out there who don't care about their rating, I'm not quite buying it. But again, that's okay. It's not a bad thing to care about your rating, and I'm going to talk more about that in a minute. It's perfectly normal. So let's talk about a number of readings, related topics that often arise in the discourse about chess. All right, so let's talk about playing up, and by playing up I mean that you're playing in a class category that is higher than your rating. A lot of players do this. So, as an example, if you rated 1400, if you were to play in, say, the over 1600 or over 1800 sections, something like that. That would be playing up. And why do players do it? They play up because if they win, they get more rating points. They do it because they don't want to play low rated players. So the question is should you play up? And my answer is yes. I think it's a good idea if you can, but don't overdo it. Ideally, you want to play opponents this is just my opinion now about 150 to 200 points higher than you. I think that's actually something you should do. So if you're rated 1400, if you want to get better and learn and still have a good chance of maybe scoring some points, you want to play players about 1550 to 1600. So again, if you're 1400, you want to play players about 1550 to 1600, about 150 to 200 points higher. Why do I say that? If it's much higher than that, I think you're going to be in for a world of hurt, as they say. In other words, if you're rated 1400 and you play in the over 1800 section, that's going to be really tough, especially at these major events where the players just seem very strong, and rather, if you play only 150 to 200 points higher. It's a couple of things to keep in mind. Number one all your games will be instructive. So, win or lose, you're going to have a good instructive game, as opposed to being 1400 and playing maybe someone 1300 and he hangs his queen on move nine or something. So you'll have good games. Number two if you win you will get a serious amount of rating points and if you draw you'll still get some points. So you have draw odds and if you lose, the hit to your rating is not going to be too bad. It's minimal. That's the advantage of playing up. But when you play opponents who are only about 150 to 200 points higher, you actually do have a chance of winning. You're not really that much of an underdog. If you're 1400 and your opponent is 1580, there's a good chance you could win the game and you'll get a decent amount of points. But if you're 1400 and your opponent is like 1980, that's going to be tough. So I don't recommend playing up. More than one class and about 150 to 200 points higher would be your ideal opponent. So I do believe in playing up in that regard. Now what some people will do is they'll say, ok, well, I'm rated 1600. You know, I'm going to play in the open section. I just want the experience. You say that now, but when you do that and you lose every game, trust me, you're going to regret doing that. So I would play up again about 150 to 200 points ish around there. I do think that's a good idea because, again, it's a win-win-win situation. I've spoken about this before in the past. If you win against a higher rated, you get a good amount of rating points. If you draw, you still get some rating points right, they call that draw odds and if you lose, the hit to your readings minimal, regardless of the result. When lose a draw, you get an instructive game. It really is a win-win-win situation. When you play up again about 200 points or so. Something else I would like to address is the idea of online ratings. Now, I know I've spoken about this before, but I do not like the way that online ratings are being legitimized and they're being given by some people anyway the same integrity as an over-the-board rating. Now you may say well, why am I being so rough on the online ratings? It's simply because you don't really know how the person got there. Am I saying everyone with a high rating online is cheating or something like that? No, but it really is from both ends. In other words, you don't know if they're getting help or if they're cheating. That's true. You don't know what's happening on the other end. Are they winning games because their opponent is multitasking or doing something else? I've had games where I've played 18 or 1900 players online where they make these ridiculous blunders and not even in time pressure early on, and it's obviously they're either multitasking or doing something else. Now, yeah, I win and I get the rating points, but is that really as valid where, for an over-the-board rating, you're in person, both players are trying, they're presumably not multitasking. It's a completely different ecosystem and that's why it bothers me. And what I especially don't like just my opinion maybe I'm going to sound like a grouchy old man is when people talk about chess improvement and it's their chesscom rapid rating that seems to be the new thing now. Oh, my chesscom rapid rating. I increased my chesscom rapid rating by 100 points. I increased my chesscom rapid rating by 200 points, but we don't really know. There's no real way to police what was going on with that for that player or their opponent. What I'm seeing online is a lot of these, especially on YouTube. You see some of these clickbait titles. I read this book and my chesscom rapid rating went up 100 points. Or I used this opening and I got my chesscom rapid rating to 1400. Or I tried this end game technique and I got my chesscom rapid rating to 2000. You don't really know. And yet some of these people who are boasting about their improvement and their chesscom rapid rating, they've never played in an over the board tournament. So there's really no way to compare. There's no yardstick for comparison to know. I just find that strange when people talk about their online ratings but they've never played over the board. I always wonder about that and we've had people at the club with these quote unquote higher online ratings right, these chesscom rapid ratings but then they come to the club and they're over. The board rating is much lower and it's definitely much more realistic. So that's why I don't really like online ratings being given so much integrity, because you really don't know the story behind it on either end. Now I'm not criticizing the online sites. I use them myself. I'm on chesscom all the time. I enjoy their instructional material. I don't really play that much anymore. The online sites are great. Don't get me wrong. That's not what I'm saying. My criticism is that people are giving something like a chesscom rapid rating the same integrity as a USCF over the board rating, which you really can't do. Now, I get it, I completely understand, because I'm trying to be fair about this. I know that for many people, because of their work schedules and because of location and because they're simply not an OTB club near them, they don't have a choice but to play online. I get it, I totally get it, that's fine. But even with that I mean, I understand that, but even with that you can't speak about an online rating with the same integrity as an over the board rating. Just a little sort of being my bonnet I sound like I'm 80 right now, but just a little pet peeve of mine that I just wanted to put out there. Call me crazy. I'm sure some people are going to disagree with that. That's fine, that's what makes the world go around. It's all love if you disagree, but I'm just putting it out there. Let's talk about rating deflation. Everyone's talking about this. It's a big part of the discussion right now. What is rating deflation? Basically, it's being caused by players entering tournaments who are much stronger than their actual rating, or they're listed as quote unquote, unrated, but they're much stronger. As a result, for those of us who are experienced tournament players, our ratings are decreasing. In other words, you have this influx of new tournament players who are much stronger than what we would expect from a new tournament player, because their rating doesn't reflect their actual strength, their initial rating. Everyone else's rating goes down, so, in other words, that's why you may find, when you're playing newer or unreaded opponents or low-readed opponents, that they're tougher to beat now or they're much, much stronger players. That's what's happening and now, what's causing the players to be so strong before entering their first tournament? A lot of it is the increase in online chess, the large amount that they're playing online and playing chess in general before entering their first tournament. A lot of it stems from the pandemic, queen's Gambit, that whole thing. We can go on and on about that, but that's what's happening now. The newer tournament players are much stronger, so it's causing everyone's reading to deflate, and that's real, because a lot of people, like myself, when it was first happening, we thought it was just some kind of fluke. But reading deflation is a real thing and there are some proposed solutions to this which I actually agree with. Some of them are pretty good, but we definitely need to do something, and one proposed solution that I heard is to give all existing players a reading boost. I actually agree with that. I mean, nobody wants a free lunch or an unfair advantage. But I think, just to put a number on it, if you were to give players, say, 150 points or 200 points increase across the board, I think that's fair. I think more than that might be too much, but like 150 to 200 points I think makes sense. Another proposal that's out there that I really like is to increase the starting reading for unrated players. We start them at 1300 or 1400 instead of unrated. I think that makes a lot of sense and along those lines and this is something that probably bothers me more than anything change how an unrated player affects the reading of an opponent retroactively. Because what happens now? Someone joins who's unrated let's take a typical reading deflation example A quote unquote new tournament player who's really 1700 strength is quote unquote unrated plays a bunch of high rated opponents or similar rated opponents beats them, their ratings are going to take a big hit. But rather if there's some way that they could retroactively correct it once that unrated player has 26 games and his ratings no longer provisional. That would make a lot of sense. I'm not saying that they should just make it easy, if you lose to an unrated player, that you shouldn't be putting. No, I'm not saying that. I'm not saying it should be like give everybody a 2000 rating. I'm not saying it should be a gift, but there are mathematical ways that this can be handled that make sense. Again, the suggestion to give players a rating boost I think 150 to 200 points is good. I really like that To increase the starting rating of unrated players. I really like that as well. And then my other suggestion again would be to somehow retroactively adjust your result against an unrated opponent when it's clear that he started his or her tournament career essay 1800 or 1700. There's got to be a way to do that. But some thoughts on rating deflation. It's definitely a tougher tournament scene now but in some strange way I almost like that because I like the challenge of that, like the challenge of knowing I can hold my own with this new crop of players that are entering tournaments and they're really strong. I like that challenge. Definitely keeps you on your toes. But as far as the actual ratings themselves and how they're often unfairly affected because of the deflation. That is frustrating. But some of these suggested things that I've heard of, I think they're very, very good. I agree with them. So I want to end with some odds and ends as far as things that affect your ratings, some things you might want to keep in mind or maybe avoid. So one thing is to avoid or I recommend avoiding so-called action chess, those Game 30s and other dual rated controls like Game 20 or Game 25. Even if there's a delay, I think those games, those like Game 25s, game 30s those are some of the best ways to decrease your rating and really damage your rating. So I would say this if you're very defensive and very guarded and very hypersensitive about your regular rating, I would avoid those time controls unless you know you're really really strong speed player which most people aren't, and I know a lot of people fell into this where they do those Game 25s and their rating just takes a hit. And the reason people do it. It's tempting because with those Game 25s there's usually like three or four games in a night, so it's almost like doing a five round tournament in one night instead of spreading it over five weeks. And that is attractive to people because if they do well their rating can shoot up overnight literally. But if you do poorly it's going to go down. And most people usually don't do that well in those action chess tournaments, like I said, unless you have a knack for speed chess. So I would avoid again all those Game 25s, game 30s. And when I say dual rated, what that means is that it affects both your quick rating and your regular rating, which those do. If the initial control on the delay add up to 30, then it's dual rated. So, for example, if you have Game 25 with a five second delay, 25 plus five is 30, which means it would affect both your dual, your dual rated, your regular rating excuse me and your quick rating. I would avoid those. I would stick with just regular rated games for your regular rating. And if you want to do quick rated games, do something like a game 10 where only your quick rating is at stake. That's what I would suggest Again, especially if you're very, very sensitive and very defensive about your regular rating. Those Game 25s is one of the best ways to mess it up. Second thing don't play when you're on tilt. Okay, when you're on tilt, that means that you're coming off of a loss or more than one loss, and you sort of lose your self control and your normal discipline game and then you start getting impatient. You start playing to catch up rather than just enjoying the process and just playing a regular discipline chess game. Everything is about catching up and winning and when you're tilting and you're not emotionally in the right mindset for a chess game, it's just going to make your rating worse. Another thing you don't want to play in a style say, positionally or tactically that doesn't fit your personality and your comfort zone. I think it's one of the best ways to lose a game. Now, yes, I get it. I know what some people are going to say. Well, in order to increase your rating, there are going to be times you have to play outside of your comfort zone. I get it, but I think players often take that too far. For example, if you are a solid positional player and you're a grinder, such as myself, and you decide I'm going to play more tactically and more aggressively, if you're not really comfortable with that, if that really makes you nervous and it really makes you uncomfortable and unsure and the moves come more slowly and you're really feeling insecure about it, that's one of the best ways to lose a game. Now, I don't like those kind of tactical games. I can be very tactical and I've done it well, but I usually only go into that if the position calls for it and what you don't want to do is sort of force the game into a style that you're not comfortable with because somebody told you you need to be more this or more that. You also don't want to play the wrong openings quote, unquote the wrong openings, that is, openings that don't fit your style, or openings where you're sort of experimenting too much. As I said sorry to sound like a broken record, I really believe until you're about 1800, you should develop an opening repertoire, choose openings that you like and stick with those same openings. There's really no need to change them. We're all going to do well at the amateur level, but if you're changing your opening each game, you're going to be so caught up in. Well, I need to learn this and learn that, rather than stick with the same openings, get a momentum with that and that way, the extra study time you have because you're sticking with the same openings you can use on tactics and other things. The other thing and this may seem almost too simplistic, but we violate this all the time. You have to be careful about playing when you're tired or distracted. You might be better off just taking a bite. Now I get it because I go through this too. Some of you are going to say, if I only play chess when I'm not tired or distracted, I would pretty much never play. I get it right Because there's always something going on and I get it. And for me too at the club it's tough because I'm playing and directing. So I deal with that every week. But if you're just really really mentally exhausted, like if you're just trained, you might be better off just taking a bite, assuming that you care about rating. Again, if you don't care about rating I think everybody does but if that's really something you don't care about, fine. But if you are concerned about your rating and you don't want to lose a game to a much low rated player that you normally wouldn't, you don't want to play when you're tired or distracted. You need to have the discipline to know that you might be better off taking a bite. The other thing is psychological. You need to do sort of a chess psychology, tune up and make sure that you're in the right mindset. Now episodes 16 and 29 of this podcast. I discussed Chess for Tigers and the Seven Deadly Chess Sins respectively. Those are probably the only two books you'll ever need on chess psychology, at least until you get up to 2000. Just for Tigers and the Seven Deadly Chess Sins I'll link them up as a reminder. But again, if you want to check out episodes 16 and 29, I talk about that in detail, I won't get into it now, but some of the things they discuss are perfectionism, like constantly looking for the perfect move. That's a trap you don't want to get into. They talk about winning in the simplest manner possible. You might see two ways to win. One you completely understand, but it's going to take longer. The other one you kind of know. You quote, unquote, know it's going to win, but it's much more complicated, but it's shorter. In Chess for Tigers he says you're better off just taking the long route because you understand it and it's simpler. That's what you want to do, those sort of psychological ideas. That's the next thing. I'll leave you with this. You have to care about the results. If you want to improve, if you want your reading to improve, you have to care about the results. In other words, a loss should bother you, and that's okay. But if you have that sort of aw shucks, you know that's not going to help you improve. Aw shucks, I lost the game, oh well. Bum-ba, I mean, yeah, that's okay, but if you walk away from the loss and it doesn't really bother you, you're probably not going to improve that much. If I'm being honest, some people may disagree with that, but being upset at a loss, that's what causes you to work harder and motivate you to improve and really look at the game. What did I do wrong? Now, during the game, though see, it's interesting you need to care about the result, but during the game, you should be focused on the process, because, again, that's one of the sins in Seven Deadly Chest Sins is wanting, where you're so concerned about the result that you're not really focusing on the position and identifying with the position. So you have to keep that in mind during the game. I'm simply saying, generally speaking, you do need to care about the result, and when the game is over you know, if you lose the game, that should bother you. That's all I'm saying. During the game, focus on playing the best moves, but then, when the result is over, kind of step back, look at the big picture. But if a loss bothers you again, that's a good thing because it'll motivate you to get better. So I hope you found this interesting. It's definitely provocative. I've completely realized that a lot of what I said people are going to disagree with. I'm sure people are going to agree, but many people will also disagree with some things I've said. That's okay. Again, I'm just basing this on my own experience, my own improvement as a player, someone who runs an amateur chess club. That's just my take. Nothing I'm saying is Bible. I'm not saying that. What I'm saying is quote, unquote, right or the only way. I'm just giving my viewpoint and if anyone disagrees that's totally fine. That's what makes the world go round and I know that we talk about reading on this podcast a lot. I just want to be clear about something. Yes, we're concerned about reading and tournament chess and getting better, but the most important thing and I sincerely mean is you do have to enjoy the process, because otherwise just don't bother. Like I'm talking about reading and you know I've spoken about my own crazy rating swings and various, but the bottom line is I love the game, I love playing in tournaments, I love running the club. I love doing the podcast and yet there are times where, man, I will have some painful losses. I mean, just like you got to be kidding me. Trust me, I've been there, I've had some. You know, to this day and this is part of being a tournament player you're going to have some painful losses where it just hurts. It was either just an embarrassing loss, or you got your clock clean by a much lower rated player, or you had a completely winning position against a high rated opponent and you blew it. Or you made 30 amazing moves and on move 31 you make one little misstep and you lose the game. Or somebody offered your draw and you declined it, and then you lose the game and you're like, why did I? You know, trust me, it can be infuriating at times. All right, and that's the reality. Tournament chess can be absolutely infuriating at times, but the good times and the enjoyment of it and the challenge of it far outweighs that and it trumps that. I absolutely love it and you should too. So I just want to kind of put a sort of a bookend on this with don't let the whole rating thing and improvement get to the point where it's taking away from your enjoyment of the game. I spent a lot of time on it only because, let's face it, it is a reality of playing in tournaments and we need to talk about it. But just remember, we play this game because we love playing, we love the challenge. We're blessed to have this hobby because a lot of people don't have these types of interests in their lives. So always remember because I know, sometimes maybe I get a little dark, I get a lot of opinions I absolutely love the game. You should too, and always remember that's why we're doing it, that's why we're on this journey. So, that being said, I really appreciate you listening and, as always, I hope you win your next game. Have a great day, everybody.