Subject: Elo rating - Polgar concerns
From: (Donald Schultz)
Date: 17 May 1996 01:06:46 GMT
Message-ID: 4ngjf6$

I just saw a posting, from I believe a Mr. Dorsey, regarding the 1986 FIDE rating adjustments. He seemed to have the right fundamental ideas but was not aware of some of the details. As I can best remember here are some thoughts:

At the time of the adding of points to the women, Judith was just 10 years old and most likely didn't even make the cut for appearing on the main list or the women's list. I say 'main' since there was just one FIDE rating system and printing out a women's list was just like printing out a junior list or a list of rated players from a certain country.

I don't recall ever hearing any idea to take points away from Susan Polgar but rather only to add points to other players. Certainly in Elo's October 15, 1986 letter to the FIDE Qualification Commission he clearly recommended only increasing ratings of other women by 100 points. I have no knowledge of any other recommendation of Professor Elo.
Zsuzsa Polgar, Woman's World Chess Champion

In 1986 women and men in the FIDE rating system were treated differently in one special way. Men had a floor and start point of 2200 and women had a floor and start point of 2000. So if you ran a FIDE rated tournament and had two non-rated players enter, a lady and a man, the man entered at 2200 and the woman at 2000. This had the obvious effect of limiting the number of women entering rated tournaments since they would only reduce the category of that event and make it more difficult for players to receive IM and GM norms. In effect there were virtually no women playing men for FIDE ratings at that time. The women got their ratings primarily from the Women's Olympiad, some national championships for women and the women's world championship cycle (Zonals, Interzonals and Candidates matches). All of these were strictly women against women. There was virtually no FIDE rated competition between women and men at that time. There were a couple of exceptions: Susan Polgar only played against men and about four or five other ladies such as Pia Cramling had any significant competition against men in FIDE rated tournaments.

Many felt the 2000 rating entry for women caused a discrepancy because it made the average ratings of women less than men. Elo agreed and recommended corrections declaring Susan Polgar exempt since she had more than enough competition against men to negate the effect of her low entry and she also had no competition with women that would contaminate her rating. The Qualification commission dominated by some pretty good technical experts agreed and recommended that FIDE adopt there proposal which the FIDE General Assembly of member nations did by consensus without vote or objection.

Was FIDE right to do this? I'm a layman and not a technical expert in ratings but frankly I must say the logic makes sense to me. The downside was that adding 100 rating points to Women's World Champion Maya Chiburdanidze rating moved her from second place to first on the women's rating list as printed out as a subset of FIDE's master rating list. This didn't seem fair to Susan but would be and was corrected over time. On the other hand if you added the rating points to Susan's rating she would have moved up on the overall list replacing someone with an otherwise higher rating in an Interzonal. There probably was no easy way to correct the rating without causing some inequities somewhere. In any event, it certainly didn't stop Susan Polgar from becoming the "World Champion" of women and her younger sister Judith from becoming one of the great chess players of our time and perhaps a future world champion. Personally, nothing would please me more than to see Judith win the world championship and to see Susan and Sophia continue to excel as well. I know the Polgar family a little bit and root for them all the time.

10 years is a long time, but the above is my best understanding as to why the 1986 rating adjustments for women took place.

Don Schultz


I am sorry to see that Don Schultz has suffered such a severe memory loss over an issue which he has debated during these past ten years.

Don claims that all but a handful of women competed in strictly women's tournaments. This is not true. Only a few of the Soviet Georgian Women did that and then only because their KGB handler, Eduard Gufeld, told them to do so. The rest of the women primarily got their ratings from open Swiss tournaments.

Don claims that Judit Polgar was "didn't even make the cut" to have a rating. This was not true. When Judit was only 9 years old, she was strong enough to have a FIDE rating. On the January, 1987 FIDE rating list, Judit, age 10, was rated 2355, and Sofia, age 11, was rated 2240. Fortunately, Don Schultz was too stupid to notice this, because otherwise he would have stopped them from receiving the 100 free points as well.

Don says that there was only one rating list at that time. This is not true. There were two distinct lists.

The purpose of the lower rating floor of 2000 for women was not to degrade their ratings but rather to encourage them to play. At that time, there were around 5000 men on the FIDE rating list but only about 600 women. Most of those women were not strong enough to hold a 2200 rating on the men's scale. Had women been required to adhere to the same standard as men, less than 100 of them would have had ratings at all! Also, this had absolutely no effect on International titles, because the minimum norm requirement of 2450 for the International Master title was well beyond the reach of all but those few women who were well above the 2200 level. Finally, almost everybody agreed at that time that the women were overrated, not underrated. In San Francisco we have a woman named Joan Arbil who held a FIDE rating of 2005 at that time, and yet her USCF rating is only 1760.

Most importantly, Maya Chiburdanidze played extensively in men's tournaments and virtually never played in women's tournaments during this period. The only time that Maya played against other women was in World Chess Olympiads and in matches for the Woman's World Championship. This fact can be verified by anyone who cares to check the Chess Informants from that time. The last time Maya competed in a woman's tournament was in Tiflis 1984. Thus, Maya was fully rated on the men's scale.

Don says that "technical experts" approved this decision. Who were these "technical experts?" I was present in the room in Dubai when the 100 free rating points were awarded and I did not see any. In fact, there were no such technical experts. Almost all of the players present were outraged by this decision which the chess politicians had taken to undermine the rating system by giving points to players who had not earned them.

Don says that Zsuzsa wasn't hurt because she won the Woman's World Championship anyway. That was ten years later, in 1996. Why don't you ask Zsuzsa if this political decision to deprive her of her hard earned position of number one rated woman player in the world didn't hurt? Friends of Zsuzsa state that she almost gave up chess when the 100 free rating points were awarded because, after all the other things which had happened to her, she was convinced that they would never allow her to reach the top.

Don says that he knows the Polgars "a little bit". This is exactly true. I was present at the Zsuzsa Polgar Victory Party at the Marshall Chess Club in March, 1996 where Don Schultz met Zsuzsa Polgar for the first time. Zsuzsa later told me that she shook his hand only because she had never seen him before and did not realize who he was. Don Schultz has since invited Zsuzsa to come to his home in Florida, but she has declined.

The main thing Don fails to mention is that he supported Campomanes in this in order to help Campomanes get re-elected. The 100 free rating points for all women except for Zsuzsa Polgar was essential to get the Soviet Block's 13 votes. Campomanes then rewarded Schultz by having him elected to the FIDE Executive Council.

Sam Sloan

Here are links: Professor Elo's Notorious Memo dated October 15, 1986

Zsuzsa Polgar's New Book

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Sam Sloan's Chess Page

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