Monday, 8 October 2012

An observation of SCF's New Training League - by Junior Tay

The SCF's new system of training for their FIDE rated NJS trainees is indeed an interesting development. In order to entice adult FIDE rated players to give their trainees some tough matches as well as the opportunity to increase the latter's FIDE ratings, SCF has come up with the idea of paying the adults $50-$120 for each game played on Saturdays 7-11pm for 8 weekends starting October 20th 2012. The players are put into a group or league where the organizers will try as far as possible, to pair the adults against the NJS players.  In my opinion, in one fell swoop, this addresses several issues that have deterred adult players from participating in local chess events.

1) The timing and schedule
By scheduling the event on Saturdays 7-11 pm, the adult can still spend quality time with family and take time off after dinner to compete. Moreover, he or she will have Sunday morning to recuperate from the game. For the serious tournament player, there is also time to prepare for the matches on Saturday afternoon after the rigours of the week's work. Also, most local events do not have evening rounds. The players can still commit their time to other events if they fall on similar days as the SCF league. Moreover, the participants can be excused up to a total of 3 rounds so there is a degree of flexibility here.

2) The time control (2 hours per side) 
As we age, we are no longer the speed demons we once were (or purport to be) and if we lose, it has nothing to do with 'being blitzed' by the presumably swifter National Junior Trainee.

3) The renumeration
Nothing beats being paid for your time to do something you enjoy. This concept of paying FIDE rated adult players to play is akin to the Japanese Oteai system (defunct since 2004) in go (or weiqi to the Chinese). In the Oteai, the go professionals play 8 to 12  league matches and collect game fees for every match they play. The similarities stop here as the top players in the league get to advance a rank (or dan) at the end of the event. However, in 2004, the Japan Nihon Ki-in Federation and the Kansai Ki-In Institute ended the Oteai and awarded dan promotions based on tournament victories and tournament prize winning records, presumably to 'force' players to strive for excellence rather than to be content to stay within the Oteai. A National Master pointed out that the total game fees for the SCF League  is  substantially better than the top prizes in local swiss events, for example, the 2200 player will get more than 3 times the amount of money IM Luis Chiong earned for winning the National Veterans and Seniors Event last week. The 1600 rated adult will also stand to make more than Luis' $300, assuming he plays all 8 games.

4) FIDE rating as a yardstick for adults' aspirations
This cash for game idea also encourages more adults to aim for FIDE ratings as a target. In an event (FIDE rated), not many can win the trophies and prize money but it is possible to attain FIDE ratings without making the podium

Having extolled the merits of the league with respect to the adults' perspective, let's discuss the downside.

1) Risking one's ELO points.
This is a most likely situation for the rusty adult player as he or she has to start keeping tabs on the current developments in theory, unlike the active NJS player. A current top player (2200+ elo) on the local circuit estimated that for every win, he will gain 1.5 elo points and if he loses, it's 13.5 points down the gutter because most of his opponents are more than 400 points below him.  It is no secret that due to the range of FIDE ratings which start from 1000 onwards, many of the NJS players are underrated. Of course, if the 2200 player can clean up the field he's pitted against, it's plus 12 ELO points for him and an assured $960 assuming he plays all 8 rounds. Also,  those with lower FIDE ratings risk less  ELO points and naturally collect less game fees.

2) Risk of getting outprepared.
FIDE rated adult players are likely to have their games in databases such as chessbase megabase 2012 and this allows the trainee's coaches and private trainers to book up on them with a few mouseclicks. This is a risk one has to accept. There is nothing to stop the adult player from doing some serious preparation to avoid being hit by the theoretical truck. Also, he or she can hire his own trainer to brush him up on theory for a few sessions or buy a decent opening book to prep up. Or the adult players can even collectively form a training group and get a trainer to help them with opening preparation - won't cost that much if they pool the training fees.

In any case, I see this as a positive development as there is considerable effort put into thought and incentive for  the adult chess player to resume chess activities. Browse through the Singapore section of and you can hardly find more than 3 ELO 2000+ rated adults taking part in local Swiss events. The National Championships Premier and Candidates section were also postponed due to the same reason. Will this new initiative work? We definitely welcome contributions and game analysis of the league from players in the tourney.


  1. Actually I think the point of providing adults incentives to get FIDE ratings is not the intent. Rather the intent is for adults who are already proficient FIDE rated to get more FIDE rated games.
    If you are a adult starting out to get a FIDE rating, this system doesn't allow you to do that.

  2. I welcome this new initiative by the SCF. I think it is a bold move and such moves should be encouraged, as only by experimenting can the SCF perhaps encourage the adult and older teenage players to resume active play on the local chess scene. You only seem to see the older teenage players perhaps at the National Schools representing their respective schools and perhaps at the National Rapid and National Blitz. However these older teenage players may have forgotten the excitement generated among younger players at seeing the older teenagers taking part as there would be awe and excitement at seeing the older teenagers competing. The younger players can "connect" more easily with Wei Liang, the Neubronners, Jerome, Edward, Haikal, Shawn, Iskandar, Aplin, and the other wonderfully talented young chess players that are too many to name.

    I hope other readers of this blog can come up with interesting ideas for the SCF to look out, that can encourage our adult and older teenage players to come forward and play.


  3. Hi! Just clarifying. What I meant is that since SCF is willing to pay FIDE rated adults for games, those without FIDE ratings can try to get one and play in future editions of the SCF league.

  4. The weakness in the new concept - not enough chances for adult fide rated players to increase their rating too. Most adult players shy away from playing even if paid if it means they are standing a chance to drop Elo points. One of the reasons very few adults above 2100 are playing rated events is also this fear of losing points. They want big prizes but also easy opponents or unrated games. Elomaniacs!

    1. Are inactive players really that concerned about losing/gaining elo points? I don't think so. The more common reasons would likely be lack of time, lack of motivation to prepare and maybe chess is not high up on these players' priority lists. I do not see what a high rating can do to help an inactive player who has a stable and permanent job.

      One other reason why adult players may decline could be the reluctance to play "kids" who may or may not be underrated. The monetary incentive may help to compensate for this, and coupled with the opportunity to play some classical chess may entice these players. After all, there are really not many events for adult players with classical chess time control.

      Whether this innovation turns out to be successful or not, it is a refreshing and radical initiative and I don't see why it is not worth a shot.

  5. Hi,

    Maybe for those who dont have a FIDE rating but active/strong in playing chess should allow to join in.