USCF Executive Board votes to distort ratings

Following is a letter from the USCF Ratings Committee that appears in the December Chess Life. This committee of rating experts, including many with distinguished credentials in the fields of math and statistics, endorsed this letter protesting the Board's action by a unanimous vote of 13-0.    

The USCF rating system, long one of the most valued services provided to members, was severely damaged in Seattle at the beginning of October.  The USCF Executive Board passed a proposal by a 5-2 margin that, for a year starting this January, will award players below 2000 an additional 2 rating points per USCF-rated game.

The Board motion comes at an odd time, as the USCF office is finally about to implement a Ratings Committee proposal, approved by the delegates many years ago, which will solve the problem of rapidly improving players being underrated.

We are outraged at this irresponsible action by chess politicians, who appear to have little understanding of the technical issues involved.  It is reminiscent of the notorious "fiddlepoints" of 1979-1980, which were also enacted without the support of rating experts, and which caused our rating system to become grossly inflated compared to FIDE and most of the world for many years.  The USCF President has supported these "activity points" as a way to "jump start tournament attendance," but we suspect the effect will be just the opposite.  A few players will become extremely active in pursuit of a rating which far exceeds their ability, but many more are likely to be turned off by the fact that we no longer have a credible rating system.

What's worse is that the Board was given fair warning of the consequences, but dismissively chose to reject the warnings. The Ratings Committee performed analyses that demonstrate how distorted ratings would become after a year of the proposal taking effect.  Under the activity points proposal, players' ratings could increase by hundreds of points simply as a result of playing in tournaments frequently.  The Ratings Committee also invited discussion with the USCF President to consider alternatives to the activity point proposal, but the invitations were refused.  In the end, awarding prizes in tournaments by rating section will become unfair, Top 50 lists (especially for juniors) will be distorted by the prominence of weak but very active players, and players will not be able to determine their relative strength from their own rating after a year's time.

We call upon all USCF members concerned with preserving the integrity of the rating system to contact the Executive Board, and protest their decision to destroy the quality of our system in a futile attempt to promote tournament attendance.

Mark Glickman, Ratings Committee co-chair

Frank Camaratta, Ratings Committee co-chair, ANTD, NM, ICCF IM

Christopher Avery, NM

Harry Cohen

Thomas Doan, STD

Bill Goichberg, NTD, FM

Albyn Jones

Larry Kaufman, IM

David Kuhns, NTD

Alan Losoff, NTD

Andrew Metrick, NM

Kenneth Sloan, STD

Christopher Yaure