28 May 2020

TWIC and the Coronavirus

Last month's 'Yahoo' post -- this blog's code word for chess in the mainstream news -- was The Saddest of News (April 2020). I wrote,

I intended to use this post to write about how online chess is prospering during the coronavirus lockdown, but it hardly seems appropriate. I'll come back to that topic another time.

This being 'another time', I wondered if I could somehow quantify the move to online chess. To answer that question, I developed the following chart based on recent TWIC data ('The Week in Chess' by Mark Crowther). The first two columns show a TWIC number and its issue date.

The other columns are defined as follows:-

The size of the TWIC game file (PGN zipped)
The size of the TWIC news file (HTML scraped to text and zipped)
The ratio of 'GameSz' to 'NewsSz'

What do the numbers say? TWIC1312 (30-Dec-19), for example, had a big game file, a normal size news file, and a big ratio between the two files. I imagine this reflects the many traditional open tournaments that take place between Christmas and New Year. To spot such seasonal trends reliably, I would need to develop ratios that cover entire years and compare the calculations back through a couple of decades. This is more preparation than I wanted to do for a single blog post.

The Covid coronavirus lockdowns started mid-March. That means TWIC1323 (16-Mar-20) might serve as some kind of a baseline reference. Note how the subsequent TWIC files decrease in size for both the game file and the news file. The ratio also decreases, perhaps reflecting the size of the events being reported, i.e. events with a small number of elite players. The numbers start to increase at the beginning of May.

Of course, this is all speculation that needs to be confirmed by reviewing individual TWIC files. Maybe I'll do that another time.

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