Friday, January 14, 2011

Triple Digits

With the influx of children into tournament chess in the past decade or so has come a proliferation of ratings under 1000, or as they are called, triple digits. I know you will find this hard to believe, but at one time it was extremely rare to see anyone rated in triple digits. Now the median rating, as well as the average rating of USCF players, must be in triple digits.

For decades I told anyone who asked, and some that did not, that my first rating was 1064. That is what I believed to be true. One weekend, Senior Master Klaus Pohl, the Sour Kraut, brought some copies of old Chess Life magazines to the House of Pain, aka the Atlanta Chess & Game Center. Included was a rating list. Imagine my surprise upon seeing my name, followed by triple digits! That's right, I had been wrong all those years, I'm sad to report. You see, I had lost all six of my games at my very first USCF rated tournament. The only game I recall now is a game I lost to a fellow named Al Cass. He had an extra pawn and was able to drive it to the last rank, making a queen.

I managed to cross the rubicon, changing my first digit from a '1' to a '2', something that, for some reason, makes me very proud now. I guess it's because one time I got on an elevator at a large tournament after a loss to a NM feeling down. There were two young fellows already on the elevator. Seeing how despondant I was, they asked my rating. I told them it was around 2000. "Wow, I don't think I'll ever make class 'B'," said one. "It's taken me five years to make class 'C' and I don't think I'll have the time to go further," said the other. That put it into perspective. Everything is relative.

From the time I started playing USCF rated chess until I crossed into expert territory, I gained about 1200 rating points. I wonder what the average person who began in 1970 gained during the course of his playing career?

I got to thinking about this after checking out the Graph of Xiao Cheng, whom I wrote about in my recent post:

Is Puberty Killing USCF?
Xiao began as an 1800 and made it into the 2300's. Although he did not 'earn' as many points as did I, his were much harder to come by, I suppose.

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