Friday, July 1, 2016

Peakrating part 2

In part 1 we have seen that most players are playing chess because they like winning/ improving. Age plays a limited role as even older players are perfectly capable of performing strong. In that context I brought up Luc Winants peakrating at age 53 which I believe is something unique.

Maybe some readers will wonder how unique is such feat. Aren't there more players at +50 obtaining a peakrating or at which age a player is playing the best chess? Both critical questions aren't easy to answer but I give it a try in this article.

It is very hard to compare the strength of players over time. Fide doesn't publish any historical research. Contrary as they only hamper us by blocking the historical data. Some amateurs tried to do some calculations themselves but their results are not very scientific as in this cute video. Maybe a mix of several ratingsystems (edo, cmr, elo) is enough to get a rough classification of the players but it is definitely insufficient to accurately define somebodies peakrating.

It is mandatory to stick to 1 calculation-system. I don't have time to create one myself so I can only rely on the few existing ratingssystems. There are the fiderating and the national ratings. Unfortunately the Belgian national rating also can't be used as our KBSB only keeps track of the rankings from the last 10 years. Maybe older players have more materials in their personal archive but I don't have access.

Viktor Korchnoi played competitive chess for more than 60 years at a (very) high level so an active career can last a very long period. Correct, even the fiderating was created only in 1970 so can't give us a complete answer. Now I do believe that 46 years can already tell us something. However on the condition that we assume the effect of elo-inflation but also elo-deflation is negligible. I also hope to neutralize the statistical fluctuations by using a lot of input.

When I got my first fide-rating in 1998 the minimum-threshold was still 2200. That automatically means that the careers of all players below 2200 can't be tracked sufficiently long. As we are interested in somebodies peakrating we also need to look at people having played actively for several decades. 50+ sounds therefore to me an additional necessary condition in our little study. It neither makes sense to look at players haven't played chess for a long time or that were inactive for many years. If we only take the Belgian players into account then we have a problem as only 15 comply to all the conditions. That is not enough to make any serious conclusions.

To achieve a bigger group, I chose to consider the active + 50 players with a +2500 rating irrespective of the nationality. This way I also get a good idea of how Lucs performance relates to his peers which is obviously something we are interested in. Today there are 1522 grandmasters (June 2016) so I was fearing the magnitude of the work but after the age-filter things were pretty manageable.

In the end only 82 players remained. The first thing which I remark is that almost all the names (except 4) are familiar to me which is something I can't say of the many young grandmasters. Before a grandmaster-title had much more prestige.

The average peak-age is 39 but we see enormous differences between the players. The American GM Maxim Dlugy peaked at age 23 while the Czech grandmaster Igors Rausis peaked only at age 54. The last one is also the recordholder so beats Luc Winant with 1 year.

Another thing which I notice is that a lot of players manage to maintain their rating well after their peak. Averagely 72 points are lost which is relatively not much on the rating-scale. The most astonishing player is for me the German icon Robert Huebner. He achieved his peak already at age 33. However today at age 68 he is still active and incredibly only lost 54 points !

This long-liveliness is an enormous asset for chess. There exist very few sports/ disciplines in which age has so little impact on somebodies results. I do realize that what above is shown for professional players is maybe not fully valid for amateurs. The motivation/ ambitions of the average amateur is surely lower compared to the average grandmaster. I do know quite a number of +50 amateurs having lost 200 points and more of their Belgian peakrating. Besides the statistics only include the players that were active during several decades. I don't know the number of players having stopped playing chess but if you would include those then it would surely change the picture.


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