23 October 2017

Early U.S. Ratings : A Summary and an Exercise

After three months of exploring early U.S. ratings, it's time to move on to other topics. Here is a summary of the posts so far:-

I'll probably continue the rating topic sometime in the future. In particular, the transition from the Harkness system to the Elo system might be worth exploring.


Last week I did a preliminary post on GM William Lombardy. Since the start of the GM's career coincided with the early U.S. rating lists, what can we learn about him from the lists? The third post above, 'Rating Lists in the 1950s', is a useful starting point and we discover that Lombardy's first published rating was in the December 1953 issue of Chess Life.

CL 1953-12-20: EXPERTS (2100 to 2299 points); Lombardy, W.J. (Bronx, NY) ... 2250* (where '*' meant 'Provisional rating, representing performance in only one tournament.')

At the end of the list of published ratings, we find:-

RATED TOURNAMENTS • To compute ratings for the Fall 1953 official ranking list, the performance of 2435 players in 172 tournaments and matches were measured and recorded.

The list included around 20 foreign tournaments, of which the first was the 1953 Zurich Candidates Tournament. The first U.S. event in the list happened to be the tournament where Lombardy played.

U.S. Open, Milwaukee, Wis., Aug. 10-21, 1953, 181 players (marked with '*', which here meant '100% USCF Rated Tournament.'

The result of the tournament, one of the most important annual events on the U.S. chess calendar, had been reported in full.

CL 1953-09-20: U.S. Open, Milwaukee; Final Standings of [all 181] Players
1. Donald Byrne (Brooklyn, NY) +9-1=3 / 10.5-3.5
24. Wm. James Lombardy (Bronx, NY) ... +7-3=3 / 8.5-4.5

The tie for places 13 to 26 was broken by something called a 'Percentage'. CL 1953-10-20 included a full crosstable for the 50 top players. Skipping ahead a few months, we find more mentions of Lombardy.

CL 1953-12-05: 'Chess Life in New York' by Eliot Hearst [...] 'Manhattan C.C weekly rapids now attract about 40 players each Friday night. The contestants are divided up into three classes, A, B, and C, and there are prizes in each three sections; such an arrangement gives one a chance to work his way gradually up the ladder toward 'A' (as Willy Lombardy did, for example), while not missing out on a chance to be a prize winner.'

CL 1953-12-20 [the same issue as the rating list]: 'Chess Life in New York' by Eliot Hearst [...] 'Willy Lombardy of LaSalle High School is unbeaten in the N.Y. Interscholastic Championship and should easily take the title wich last year's champ, Edmar Mednis of Stuyvesant H.S. was unable to defend this year. Lombardy has also scored two straight wins to take an early lead in the annual Marshall CC Junior Championship.'

Lombardy's progress over the next few years can be measured by his USCF rating.

CL 1954-06-05: EXPERTS; Lombardy, W.J. (Bronx, NY) ... 2168

CL 1955-05-05: MASTERS; Lombardy, W.J. (Bronx, NY) ... 2302

CL 1956-05-20: MASTERS; Lombardy, W.J. (Bronx, NY) ... 2349

CL 1957-05-20: SENIOR MASTERS; Lombardy, W.J. (Bronx, NY) ... 2464

That 1957 issue of CL listed him at no.7 of the '15 Top-Ranking Active U.S. Players (1955-56)'. Lombardy mentioned his first rating in his book 'Understanding Chess: My System, My Games, My Life' (see another recent post, Understanding Lombardy, for more about the book). Re the 1953 U.S. Open (p.31):-

I arrived at Milwaukee with my first USCF Rating of 2250! My performance more than justified that preliminary rating and my prize almost covered my living expenses.

Although this doesn't match the facts given in Chess Life, where the 2250 rating was earned during the 1953 U.S. Open, it's a minor detail. It's worth noting that Lombardy's first published USCF rating was the same as my peak FIDE rating, which I achieved after nearly 20 years of playing chess. That's the difference between talent and no-talent.

[NB: While writing this, I noticed that CL 1953-10-05 is missing from the digital file containing all issues of CL from 1953.]

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