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If I understand the Elo system correctly, the outcome of a game produces a zero-sum change in ratings between the two players. But in the case of when the losing player is at his floor, new rating points are created for the winner without deducting from the loser.

So take a hypothetical scenario of a player in cognitive decline who is at his floor (say 2000) and plays in many tournaments and loses every game. So all the lower rated players salivate at the chance of playing him because they stand to gain massively.

Is there anything that can be done to mitigate the rating skew this situation creates?

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    It seems like a "pick your poison" sort of situation. As I understand, the floor was implemented to prevent a different exploitation: Some players would play in small prize/low cost tournaments where they would (allegedly) lose rating points on purpose, then enter a tournament with big prizes and play in a section significantly lower than their strength, so they could win one of those big prizes.
    – GreenMatt
    Feb 8 at 14:16
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    Nitpick: Elo, not ELO. It's not an acronym.
    – D M
    Feb 9 at 21:19
  • ELO is also a unit, so 'ELO', 'elo', and 'Elo' are all acceptable.
    – user35472
    Feb 10 at 17:45

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the outcome of a game produces a zero-sum change in ratings between the two players

It's not zero-sum in the USCF. Due to the rather convoluted way K is calculated, it's likely that the lower rated player will have their rating change more than the higher rated player. For example, a 1700 player in a 4 round tournament might have a K value of 33.33, while a 2355 player might have a K value of 14.81.

But in the case of when the losing player is at his floor, new rating points are created for the winner without deducting from the loser.

This is correct. Some consider it a flaw in the USCF rating system. It's essentially bonus points for those lucky enough to play such a player.

So take a hypothetical scenario of a player in cognitive decline who is at his floor (say 2000) and plays in many tournaments

The argument in favor of the rating floor is that this player, who with that sort of floor is likely a master, is more likely to participate in lots of tournaments if they aren't facing the possibility of a massive rating drop. It also combats rating deflation to some degree.

So all the lower rated players salivate at the chance of playing him because they stand to gain massively.

A win against someone rated very many points above you typically gets you the same number of points you'd get from turning any one game from a loss to a win. It's not nothing, but it's not that massive, and you can only play him once per tournament at most. Unless you are playing in tiny club tournaments or tend to lose almost every game as well, most tournaments you'd never be paired against him.

Is there anything that can be done to mitigate the rating skew this situation creates?

Assuming you play other games, any artificial rating increase won't be kept; you'll eventually revert to the level your play justifies. If instead of a tournament you decide to have a match against such a player (so that you're only playing this one player), there are limits as to how much rating you can gain that way, and if the match would have put him below the rating floor, it's treated as a request to have his floor lowered by 100 points, so you wouldn't be able to keep doing that forever.

And if a player becomes a problem, this clause may be invoked:

The US Chess Executive Director may review the rating of any US Chess member and make the appropriate adjustments, including but not limited to imposition of a rating “ceiling” (a level above which a player’s rating may not rise)

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