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John Saunders


John Saunders's Chess Pages


[from BCM, March 1954, ppn 73-75]

(Report of the B.C.F. National Grading Sub-Committee—Memorandum A)

The first stage of the work of building up a grading system for British players has now been completed, and this statement sets out the first annual grading list. The method by which this list has been prepared is described in the current B.C.F. Year-Book; the performance of each player over a period is graded according to the average strength of his opponents in all recorded play over the period, and his aggregate percentage result against them.

Two grading lists have been prepared, one covering the whole of the post-war period up to June, 1953, and the other covering performance in the three years ended June 30th, 1953. The only results taken into account are those recorded in the B.C.F. Year-Book, the “B.C.M.” and Chess, and include all play in tournaments in this country and overseas, international matches, county matches, and all serious over-the-board play there recorded.

The total post-war list comprises 52 players, all of whom have played in the British Championship, or have represented the B.C.F. in international events, and have played at least 50 “rated” games during the period. The performance of Crown has been included exceptionally, although he played only 37 games, because of the great promise which he showed, and no list covering the post-war period would be complete without his name.

In the 1952-53 list, based upon performance in the three years July, 1950, to June, 1953, the qualification was 24 or more “rated” games in the period. Gradings have therefore been prepared for the 49 players who have played in the British Championship and who satisfy this qualification.

The players are shown in each grade in alphabetical order. The grades cover equal ranges in performance; the difference may be shown in that a player at the middle of one grade would be expected, on his performance in the period, to beat a player in the middle of the next grade below by about 7 games to 5. Normally, there is a difference of about two grades between the average strengths of the Premier and Premier Reserves at Hastings, and an even score in the Premier would have about the same effect upon a man’s grading as a score of about 6-9 in the Premier Reserves.

In order to take into account British players’ performance in international tournaments and matches, it has been necessary to work out rough gradings for nearly 500 foreign players. This indicates that there is a difference of about three grades between the strongest British players and the strongest dozen or so grandmasters. Thus, the difference between our top players and the best in the world is about the same as the difference between our Grade 1 (a) and Grade 2 (b).

The following is the grading list—

Total Post-war to June, 1953*

Grade 1 (a): Alexander (C.H.O’D.), Klein, Yanofsky.

Grade 1 (b): Broadbent, Golombek, Milner-Barry, Penrose (J.), Sir George Thomas (Crown).

Grade 2 (a): Fairhurst, Fazekas, Horne, Konig, Wade, Winter, Wood (G.).

Grade 2 (b): Abrahams, Aitken, Barden, Bowen, Fuller, Hooper, Israel, List, Mardle, Newman, Penrose (O.), Phillips, Thomas (A. R. B.), Tylor, Wallis (P. N.), Wood (B. H.).

Grade 3 (a): Friedman, Morry, Oakley, Parr, Rhodes, Scott, Sergeant, Trott.

Grade 3 (b): Bonham, Boxall, Cook (P. B.), Harris (P.), Woolverton.

Grade 4 (a): Bruce, Pollitt, Mrs. Pritchard, Miss Tranmer, Ursell.

Grade 4 (b): Goodman, Illingworth.

Performance in Three Years to June, 1953

Grade 1 (a): Alexander, Broadbent, Klein, Yanofsky

Grade 1 (b): Golombek, Penrose (J.).

Grade 2 (a): Aitken, Clarke (P. H.), Fairhurst, Fazekas, Horne, Milner-Barry, Penrose (O.), Tylor, Wade, Wallis (P. N.), Winter.

Grade 2 (b): Abrahams, Barden, Blow, Fuller, Hooper, Israel, Mardle, Paffley, Phillips, Sergeant, Thomas (A. R. B.), Wood (B. H.).

Grade 3 (a): Blaine, Green, Isles, Morry, Newman, Oakley, Rhodes, Russ, Trott, Wise.

Grade 3 (b): Boxall, Bruce, Cook, Harris (P.), Leslie (D.), Scott, Ursell.

Grade 4 (a): Bonham, Miss Tranmer.

Grade 4 (b): Pollitt.

* For Barden, Horne, Penrose (J.), and Wade, their first year in chess (and for Cook and Mardle their first two years) has been omitted from this grading because their performance then was at least two grades below their performance in the following year.

A warning should be sounded about the significance of these gradings. Firstly, the gradings do not purport to measure the intrinsic strength of players; they measure the performance in the period shown. Some players are notoriously inconsistent, but nearly all players show a considerable variation of performance—often as much as two grades and sometimes as much as three—from tournament to tournament; one really bad performance (or one particularly good) can have a tremendous effect upon a man’s grading even in a three-year period. In the three years to mid-1953, Golombek has played 217 “Rated” games, and Wade and Barden have played over 100; but of the 49 who have qualified, only 20 have played 50 or more games—and a difference of 4 points in 50 games is equivalent to one grade. Secondly, there may not be any significant difference between the performance of a man at the bottom of one grade and the man at the top of the next below. The size of the grades and the point where the dividing line is drawn have been chosen in such a way that the divisions coincide as far as possible with gaps in the list of players when they are arranged in order, but it certainly cannot be said with assurance that everybody in one grade has had a significantly better performance than everybody in the next below. It can be regarded as reasonably certain, however, that everybody in any grade has had a definitely better performance than anybody in the next but one grade below.

This first national grading list must be regarded as tentative and experimental; those who have prepared it are satisfied that its technical basis is sound and that it provides the best system that can be devised for grading British players. Modifications will no doubt become necessary as further experience is gained. But the accuracy of the grading depends mainly upon the availability of complete records of the graded players’ results for the whole of the period.

The next grading list—for 1953-54, covering the three years ending 30th June, 1954—will be issued next autumn, and it is hoped that it will be possible before then to organize a more comprehensive flow of records so that the quality of the gradings will improve and more players will be graded.

Grade / Rating Equivalents

The following table gives an idea of how these early BCF grades map on to more modern equivalents. In column 3 I have used the old conversion formula, namely (ECF grade x 8) + 600 = four-figure rating. More recently, the ECF has adopted the formula (ECF grade x 7.5) + 700 and I have given those figures in the fourth column.

BCF Old Grades BCF/ECF Grades ECF Ratings (1) ECF Ratings (2)
1a 241-248 2528-2584 2508-2560
1b 233-240 2464-2520 2448-2500
2a 225-232 2400-2456 2388-2440
2b 217-224 2336-2392 2328-2380
3a 209-216 2272-2328 2268-2320
3b 201-208 2208-2264 2208-2260
4a 193-200 2144-2200 2148-2200
4b 185-192 2080-2136 2088-2140