24 July 2017

The First USCF Rating List

The 5 January 1950 issue of Chess Life (CL), the first issue of the new decade, announced a new USCF service.

A National Rating System Planned To Cover Local And National Events
Vice-President, United States Chess Federation

For the past several years the United States Chess Federation has contemplated the adoption of a system for rating the chess players of the United States. The work involved in setting up a practical rating plan has, of necessity, been time-consuming; it was important to give consideration to rating practices used in certain other countries, as well as to examine and study original ideas proposed by American players, for we were determined that the system finally adopted would be the best obtainable, and one eminently fair to all of our country's players.

The studies and the preliminary detail have now been completed, and your Federation officers will shortly he presented with a definitive rating plan for their approval; it is, therefore, our confident hope that a national rating system will be in effect early in 1950. Full details of the final plan adopted will he published in future issues of CHESS LIFE -- but right now we can assure you of certain features of the plan -- features you have every right to expect under a fair and practical system of rating:

1) It will be a rating system designed for all chess players in the United States and will give weight to performances in club, local, and state competition. as well as in the large national tournaments.

2) It will be a completely fair system, entirely mathematical in operation, and only the player's actual performance -- not anyone's personal opinion on his chessic prowess -— will be taken into consideration.

3) It will provide the easiest possible method of -- and incentive for -- improvement and advanceent to the aspiring player.

4) Last, but not least, it will finally solve the perplexing problem of which American players can properly be dubbed "masters", a question which has certainly led to some heated controversies in the past.

We believe that such a rating system will prove extremely popular with the chess players of the United States. We feel that practically all of you are anxious to learn of your strength and standing in the national chess community (the popularity of the various correspondence rankings amply substantiates this view) and we are confident that our national rating system will meet with your instantaneous support and wholehearted cooperation.

The first rating list was published in the 20 November 1950 issue of CL.

The list was the subject of an editorial in the same issue.


With this issue we introduce the long-promised and long-awaited National Rating System for U.S. chess players; and it will not be amiss to comment briefly upon certain aspects of this system which might possibly be misunderstood by readers who have had little occasion to study the many problems which confront the designers of any such system of mathematical evaluation.

We do not intend to discuss the methods whereby these rating are established, but will leave these explanations to experts more qualified to speak; instead we will content ourselves with a few more general remarks upon the system as a whole.

First, to avoid possible confusion, let us emphasize the fact that the USCF system is independent of any international designation of titles -- the fact that the two U.S. Grandmasters in our list are also FIDE International Grandmasters is a coincidence in the sense that the USCF might qualify other U.S. players, whose performance earned the rank, as U.S. Grandmasters without FIDE conferring upon them the titles of International Grandmasters.

In consequence, there immediately appears an apparent discrepancy in the fact that those players recognised by FIDE as International Masters appear upon our list variously as Senior Masters and Masters. Some might question why all the Senior Masters are not International Masters and why all the International Masters are not Senior masters. The answer lies largely in the fact that a number of U.S. players might well be qualified as International Masters, if they had had sufficient international experience and reputation; but since they have confined their talents to this country, they cannot be recognized by FIDE as International Masters whatever their ability. But we can and do recognise their standing by according them the title of Senior Master upon their performance in this country. Even such an outstanding player as C.J.S. Purdy of Australia is not an International Master. because be has not played outside of Australia in international events.

Second, to still any charge of discrimination from those who may feel certain players have been over-rated or under-rated on this list, let us emphasize now the fact that these initial ratings are based upon tournament play over a number of years and that the ratings have been established by purely mathematical formulas upon actual performance. No committee has arbitrarily decided the standings of any player upon a personal opinion of his ability. But, it is admitted, that this first list cannot be considered absolutely comprehensive for the one fact that the complete details of all tournaments played during this period were not available for computation. Therefore, it is possible that a number of players have been deprived of full recognition in this initial list, merely because the data was not made available whereby to accord them complete ratings. This will be a self-remedying fault as the clubs and association submit in proper form the required details of their various events.

Naturally enough, this first listing does not cover all USCF members, for besides those whose practice has been in inaccessable tournament records, there are many members who have never competed in any formal tournaments. These must compete in formal tournaments, whether club, state or national, in order to acquire a standing.

Montgomery Major

Major was the first editor of CL. For more about him, see Shaping Chess History (September 2016).

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