Saturday, December 5, 2009

2009 National K-12 Chess Championship

The 2009 National K-12 Chess Championships will be held in Dallas, Texas this year from December 11-13th. Richie will be participating in the Kindergarten section. It took in a couple of months to regain his form from last year, but I think it's safe to say that he's playing quite a bit more strongly now than he was at the time of the Supernationals last Spring and is as well prepared as he could be for the nationals.

The two areas that I think he's definitely progressed in recently are his depth of tactical reading and his comfort with and use of slower time controls. Of course he has lapses all the time, but overall, I would say that his gross blunder rate is much lower than last year and that has resulted in more wins against higher rated opposition.

A word about ratings: In a previous post I had stated that ratings are an unbiased, and highly accurate indicator of practical chess strength. There is, however, a caveat. Ratings tend to better *relative* indicators within an active player pool than they are *absolute* indicators between players from different pools. Of course there is always a gradual adjustment of any misaligned ratings as players cross over from one pool to another but it is still quite easy to have a couple hundred ratings point difference between equivalent players playing in separate pools. I think our own experience has been that in CT, ratings can easily be inflated by 200 points over NYC ratings at the lower levels. In NY, the large player base and tendency for tournaments to have players from many different schools present leads to very consistent and accurate ratings for pretty much the whole city. In CT, it is possible at the lower levels to still be playing virtually entire fields of unrated or novice players even in 2nd and 3rd grade. An experienced player would have no trouble beating such a field, and could quickly achieve ratings of 1000+ but they might still struggle against a 600 rated NY player that has been competing regularly against other 600 rated players with some experience and coaching. Even within NYC there are overlapping, but on the other hand, graduated competition levels based on age group: many tournaments offer K-1, Primary (K-3), and Reserve (K+) sections which all might feature fields with top ratings close to 900, but the older, more experienced sections are without a doubt tougher at the same rating level.

In our case, Richie's peak nominal rating of almost 900 was achieved over a year ago after winning some local CT tournaments, but immediately dropped 250 to 300 points when he started playing tournaments in NYC against more experienced and deeper fields. He's since re-established that level but essentially he's "improved" from a CT 900 to a NY K-1 900 to a NY Primary 900 to a NY Reserve 900, while showing little peak rating change.

It will be interesting to see how things shake out at the Nationals which offers one of the few opportunities for direct comparison between regions (albeit on a small sample set). My suspicion, though, is that New York is one of the more underrated regions *on average.* Having said that, obviously ratings don't win tournaments, otherwise, players wouldn't need to bother showing up at all...

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