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  Rogulj's Blitzkrieg: A Long-lasting April Fool's Joke or a New Rating FIDE-ology?

Rogulj's Blitzkrieg: A Long-lasting April Fool's Joke or a New Rating FIDE-ology?

14.04.2013 /   Andrejic, Vladica (2209)

Rogulj's Blitzkrieg: A Long-lasting April Fool's Joke or a New Rating FIDE-ology?

As usual, at the beginning of a month (actually - on March 31st) FIDE published its new Rating List for April 2013. However, when I saw the list of Top 100 Blitz players on the prestigious e3e5 website, I could not believe my eyes; take a look yourself at the list of the world's "top" ten blitz players.

ID#       Name                              T   Fed  Blitz  Gms BYear   
14500213  Rogulj, Branko                    IM  CRO  2920   130 1951    
14109603  Karjakin, Sergey                  GM  RUS  2873   0   1990    
 4126025  Grischuk, Alexander               GM  RUS  2858   0   1983    
 1503014  Carlsen, Magnus                   GM  NOR  2856   0   1990    
 2016192  Nakamura, Hikaru                  GM  USA  2844   0   1987    
  623539  Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime           GM  FRA  2825   0   1990    
 4158814  Andreikin, Dmitry                 GM  RUS  2824   0   1990    
13300474  Aronian, Levon                    GM  ARM  2817   0   1982    
 4168119  Nepomniachtchi, Ian               GM  RUS  2813   0   1990    
14500337  Mrdja, Milan                      IM  CRO  2811   110 1954    

Was it a delayed April Fool's Day joke? How could it be possible to have Croatian International Master Branko Rogulj atop the official FIDE Blitz Rating List (ahead of Karjakin!), with a staggering Elo of 2920? I double-checked it on the official FIDE website, and it confirmed that Rogulj really had 2920! Now, how could that be possible? My first impulse was to attribute it to the generally imperfect FIDE system, where an individual could amass many Elo points as a result of playing 130 games in a rating period.

For rapid and blitz games rating calculations FIDE uses the same development coefficient K=20 for all players. However, since the development coefficient (for 2400+ players) in classic games is K=10, it would be reasonable to expect that the coefficient for blitz games should be even smaller, yet instead FIDE chose to double it (following the same “logic”, it might not even be too surprising to see FIDE adopt K=60 from the Chessbase April Fool's joke). Consequently, with such a coefficient a win over a player with the same Elo currently earns 10 points. Let's now imagine a player whose actual playing strength is about 200 Elo points ahead of his rating at the time of our little thought experiment; alternatively, he can simply be much better in blitz than in classical chess (let's set it at 200 Elo-points difference in favor of his blitz strength), because the official FIDE blitz rating system currently “borrows” one's classical Elo as the initial value for the blitz rating calculation. Simply put, for such (i.e. blitz vs. classical) 200-point strength difference the expectations for our player would be to score (on the average) a win and a draw in two games against equally rated opposition; a completely regular outcome of our hypothesis is that, under given circumstances, the player will earn about 650 Elo points in 130 games, which would then be 450 points ahead of his real strength in blitz.

Did something like that actually happen in the above mentioned case? Croatian Chess Federation submitted 15 blitz tournaments for the April 2013 list, including 11 played in Zagreb, where 4 of them had actually been played in January 2013 (which means that they were rated with a 2-month delay)! However, these minor irregularities are not the reason behind Rogulj's blitzkrieg (pun intended), or – for that matter – Mrdja's current “Top 10” emergence based on “his” 2811 rating points displayed in the April 2013 official FIDE Blitz Rating list.

Player dossiers on the FIDE website offer statistical insight into individual Elo changes for the April 2013 rating list. There are four Croatian players in the FIDE Blitz Top 100, though I believe that the problem does not lie in their national affiliation, but (more likely) has something to do with a huge number of games played. My guess would be that FIDE software has a serious overflow that overlaps the number of games with player's rating, and then the resulting calculations simply go astray.

ID#       Name            T   Fed  March Change     April    Gms BYear   
14500213  Rogulj, Branko  IM  CRO   2498   -77   =  2920     130 1951    
14500337  Mrdja, Milan    IM  CRO   2368   +47   =  2811     110 1954    
14515741  Blazeka, Matej      CRO   2330  +215   =  2675     96  1995    
14501007  Zecevic, Dean       CRO   2375   -32   =  2673     140 1962    

As you can see, although Blazeka actually managed to earn 215 Elo points (which is, of course, highly commendable in its own right, but – sadly – chess-related achievements had already been hopelessly lost in miscalculations somewhere along the way), where FIDE's blissful ignorance of some simple mathematical operations, or complete negligence and disregard of any responsibility for the accuracy of their calculations and the ensuing implications, become a springboard for catapulting ratings of keen blitz aficionados. For instance, Rogulj had 2498 on the March 2013 blitz list, and despite him actually losing 76.6 points, FIDE has awarded him with a new rating of 2920 and the April 2013 World Blitz Crown! All it took was the unbearable lightness of the 2498-77=2920 FIDE calculation.

A few days ago (on April 9th 2013, to be exact), I sent an e-mail to FIDE, informing them of the problem; my inquiry still remains unanswered (which is not particularly important per se), but it's been two weeks since the publication of the FIDE April 2013 rating lists, and all the glaring errors are still there. How can they possibly expect us to treat the new blitz rating lists with any respect after such (mis)treatment? I understand that we are not living in a FIDEal world, but an ocassional effort to make things right would be a welcome step in the right direction. Is it too much to ask?