Tuesday, November 13, 1973

#4 Vermont

November 5, 6, 12, 13, 1973
Shortsleeve Chess Classic
Burlington, VT

2 wins
2 losses

Rating: 1169

I arrived in Burlington for my freshman year at the University of Vermont in early September. However I didn't play in my first tournament in Vermont until November. It wasn't that I was being a hard working student concentrating on her studies by not playing chess. Nope, I played one tournament in New Hampshire, and two in Massachusetts that occur ed before I played in Vermont. I don't even remember how I got to those initial out of town tournaments my freshman year. I didn't have a car.

Unlike today's kids who apply to 10 different colleges, I had only applied to three four year colleges. I got into all of them, but I wasn't totally sure where I wanted to go. I had spent a good amount of time at Skidmore hanging out with my sister, and a good amount of time at the University of New Hampshire hanging out with my boyfriend, but had never even been to Burlington until I got the acceptance. All three schools had good programs in what I was interested in. I decided I needed to visit Burlington, and check out UVM, before making any decision. I fell in love with the city of Burlington, and really liked the campus. I pretty much decided after my visit, I wanted to go there. Another factor that I did take into consideration was, the Burlington Chess Club ran chess tournaments at the University. I hadn't seen any tournaments advertised in Durham, NH or Saratoga Springs, NY.

As it turns out, my first Vermont tournament was not run by the Burlington Chess Club at the university. Instead it was a tournament run on a couple of week day afternoons at the local junior high school. The social studies teacher, Bill Mc Grath had a chess club at school. He had a good sized group of kids who would come to classroom after school and play chess. Many of the kids also played at the Burlington Chess Club. I met Bill at one of the Thursday evening meetings of he Burlington Chess Club. He encouraged me to stop by the school in the afternoon and play with the kids from the Edmunds JH chess club. Bill was rated around 1450 at the time. He and the kids would work together to study chess. The core group of 4 of those kids would go on to win the National High School Championship in 1977 against chess powerhouses such as Bronx Science. One of the Burlington kids, Chris Richmond beat 16 year old Yasser Seirawan.

One of my college classmates who lived in the same dorm as me also came down Edmunds to play in the afternoon. As luck would have it, we got paired against each other in the first round. Alex and I played a lot of blitz at the dorm, so he had a good handle on how I played. He was rated 1600, so he clearly had my number. Often we would play guillotine chess and he still beat me in 5 to 6 games. Guillotine chess is a blitz match where both players start with 5 minutes each on the clock. After each game, the winner loses a minute. With two players of equal strength it usually comes down to the last game with both players having a minute each. That was not the case with Alex and me. He often would win the match with one minute on his clock versus 4 to 5 minutes on my clock. In other words, I'd be lucky if I won one game.


An interesting thing happened in this tournament. In round three I played one of the kids from the junior high school. I won, and he was devastated by losing to a girl. He quit chess after that tournament. I wasn't aware of that until one his classmates told me that was why he stopped coming to chess club. Hopefully I didn't scar him for life, and that he's been able to deal with females being beter then him at some things.


es_trick said...


Seems like a fun way to reminisce. I continue to be amazed by the Burlington HS team that rose up out of nowhere.

I've played in 10 states, but doubt if I'll be adding to that total in a substantial way. Good luck to you in getting to fifty, anyway.

I lost to a girl on Nov. 30. I think it's the first time I've ever lost to a female in a rated game. (Maybe I've only played 3 or 4.)

Would you mind looking at her history and giving me your opinion as to whether you think someone who has an established rating in the 1100s, and had never beaten anyone rated above the 1300s, could suddenly string together four wins in a row against 3 Class C players and a Class B?


In her previous tournament, only three weeks before, she played like an 1100, i.e. her perforance rating was in the 1100s.

I believe it's possible to score one or two upsets over players rated 300 - 500 points higher in one event, but not four in a row. As a TD, have you ever seen anything like it?

I've been searching the tournament histories of a lot of highly rated kids, and so far haven't found another intance of someone with an established rating coming up with such a stupendous performance that they gain more than 300 rating points in one event. Provisionally rated players, yes, but not ones whose ratings have been established.



Polly said...

Eric: With the bonus point system you will players with established ratings pick up huge amounts of points for a tremendous performance. I saw a kid rated 1450 score 5-0 in an under 1600 section and pick almost 200 rating points. He beat 3 high 1500s in a row. This same kid scored 6-3 in the under 1800 section at the world open and jumped another 100 points. In a year his rating went up over 400 points. Now he's dropped down to mid 1700s.

I lost to a kid who went 1-3 in a tournament who picked up 52 points for that score. He lost to a 2500, 2000, 1900 and beat me. He was rated 1100.

Looking at your opponent's history, she has done the typical kid thing up to the point of the Pillsbury event. Then she had the stellar performance of her very brief chess career. With kids who start off playing only in scholastic events it's very hard to get a handle on their rate of improvement. If you take a look at her 1st tournament in 2008 that was played after almost 9 months after her previous tournament you'll see she beat 3 players rated over 300 points higher then her. Her rating jumped over 200 points. Granted her 800 rating was provisional on 22 games. There look like there were gaps in her playing time until the two tournaments in November.

Is possible to jump the way she did, given her history? Up to this tournament it doesn't appear she ever played anyone rated over 1400, so hard to say how she would do against such competition.

Years ago I'd say this was not possible, but given the strength of chess playing engines, and the availability of higher rated competition on the Internet I would say it is possible. For four months between her last tournament in July and her first tournament in November it's possible she was playing on ICC or sparring with Rybka. Maybe the first tournament in November she was off, and the Pillsbury was a little more indicative of her potential.

It will be interesting to see how she does in future events. If she starts losing to a bunch of lower rated players, then one will have to wonder. However for the time being, I will give her the benefit of the doubt, and tip my hat to her coach.

es_trick said...

Hi Polly,

Thanks for your response.

I certainly believe that kids can gain more than 400 points in a year. But that almost always involves playing in many tournaments, on a regular basis.

I've started looking at case histories of 'high achieving' USCF Junior players, –the most likely "suspects" for this kind of performance. (No need to look at low achievers, right?)
So far, I've looked at about 60 cases. A few were at Class C after playing in their first, or first few tournaments, and then stayed there, or continued to rise, so their cases are not comparable.

The majority started playing when very young, and took years and usually scores of tournaments to get up to 1100, by which time their ratings were of course, established. It then took these high achieving players an average of about 20 tournaments to go from 1100 to 1400+. Just counting the tournaments they played in after breaching the 1100 mark, about 1,200 tournaments are covered. There are only three instances where one of these players gained 200 rating points from a single tournament. One out of 400 is a pretty rare occurrence in my book. (Thanks again, for citing the most exceptional case you’ve seen.)

Not one of these players ever had a performance that resulted in a gain of 300+ points from one tournament. This indicates that making the jump to Class in only the second tournament after reaching 1100, with a gain of 320 points is way off the charts. It’s a stupendous, and in my view not credible achievement.

I'm not saying it's "impossible," as perhaps nothing is completely impossible. But I maintain that when upsets of 400 or more points occur, there are extenuating circumstances that explain them. And there were certainly no extenuating circumstances present in the last round when Valerie scored her biggest upset of the day, overcoming a rating gap of 500 points. It is very unlikely that the circumstances which create opportunities for big upsets will be present round after round. You can see someone pull off one or two big upsets in a 4 – 5 round event (maybe 3 or 4 in an event with 7 or more rounds) but not four in a row.

I suppose that if an exhaustive search of all USCF players since the inception of the ELO rating system were conducted, some other cases would probably turn up. If the dice are rolled enough times, eventually the stars will align so that even the most unlikely of sequences occur.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. I see that I have more than an uphill battle to convince anyone who has the authority to look into this matter that there was something fishy about Valerie’s performance.



Polly said...

Eric: Email me at ppwchess at gmail to discuss this more. I'm interested in a few other details that I would prefer discussing privately.

hellcat97 said...


This is one of those four members of the Burlington HS team!

You remember me, I think- we last met at the Grand Prix event in NY 1994. Went on to the World Open, but don't remember seeing you there.

In 2001, I gave up playing chess for poker, had some success with that, http://pokerdb.thehendonmob.com/player.php?a=r&n=124368, but am not playing now with online play temporarily, at least, barred.

Thinking of playing chess again, and have tried a few rapid games. How rusty I am!

Best of luck in your quest to play all fifty states!