03 November 2012

Correspondence Chess Ratings and Chess960

On the right side of this page I maintain a list of of online chess960 play sites. A site to be added to the list of 'Correspondence (Turnbased) Chess960' sites is ICCF.com, the International Correspondence Chess Federation. Their page, ICCF Diamond Jubilee 1st Chess 960 World Cup, recently announced that
All preliminary sections are now completed! After 1 year and 522 games, the preliminary rounds are finished.

along with a link to the 'ICCF Games Archive'. I downloaded the file for 'Complete 960 chess until 2012-07-31' and found that it contained 560 games in PGN format.

On top of the required game info -- Event, Site, Date, etc. -- the PGN headers for each game included rating information for the players. Since there was no chess960 rating history on the site, I guessed that the ratings were carried over from the players' experience at traditional chess, making this a good opportunity to check the frequently asked question, 'Does skill in traditional chess carrry over to chess960?' I am almost certain that it does, but it never hurts to check one's assumptions.

I loaded the PGN header info into a database and did some simple calculations. Of the 560 games, there were 488 with ratings for both players. I couldn't think of a clever way to present the data graphically, so I just produced the table shown on the left.

The first column in the table shows the rating difference between White and Black, rounded to the nearest 50 points. The next three columns show a count of the results for that rating difference. For example, the first row shows there was one game where the White player outrated his opponent by about 1050 points, and White won. The last row shows one game where the Black player was higher rated by 1050 points and Black won. In total, White won 216 games, Black won 190, and 82 were drawn.

The table appears to show that the higher rated player of traditional chess does indeed have some advantage when playing chess960. I'm not sure how significant is a sample of 488 games and I'm not sure how well the findings compare to the familiar bell curve of difference in Elo ratings. I'll leave that investigation for another day.

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