Sunday, July 20, 2008

Rogers Questions Women's Team

GM Ian Rogers on the Olympiad team in his column today for Sydney's Sun Herald:

[T]he Australian women's team is notable both for its high average age and for the faith the selectors have shown in players with modest Olympic records. It has been six years since a current member of the women's team scored above 50% at an Olympiad and team results have been declining.

In particular, [IM Alex] Wohl must be scratching his head at the twist of fate which saw him - the star of Torino 2006 - dumped while Arianne Caoili, who equalled a record losing streak at the 2006 Olympiad, is promoted to board two in the women's team.

In truth the selectors' hands were tied by the Australian Chess Federation's single selection criterion of playing strength. A number of selectors have already complained that a better team result would probably be achieved if other factors such as past Olympiad performances and team harmony could be given consideration.

Team harmony? I hadn't realised that these guys were having problems on that front the last time around. What's the grandmaster talking about, we wonder.

Seriously - it's difficult to see how "team harmony" could be justified as a factor for selection. For one thing, how are the selectors supposed to know if certain players will form an harmonious bunch? And even if the selectors did have such knowledge, the whole selection process could quickly result in biased outcomes: viz., selecting only those who "get along". It's a bad approach as far I'm concerned.

Instead, the message should be made emphatically clear to these players: you put your hand up for the job, you do it as a team. Leave the bitchiness at home.

Maybe these women need somebody who can sort them out. That risky task will fall to one of these guys - IM Leonid Sandler, IM Andras Toth and Oleg Korenevski - applicants for the women's team captaincy. Good luck boys.

Information about Australia's selection procedure is available here.


Anonymous said...

of course alex wohl should of been selected over xie

Peter Long said...

I guess GM Rogers will not be applying to be Women's team captain!

Anonymous said...

Well said AR - getting the best results for Australia should be what it is about. Hopefully some of the women's team will follow that advice this year and not put their own desires first.

There are a talented group and have the potential to do well.

Incidentally your sources must have been unusually bad two years ago, not to have heard about all the complaints and problems....


Michael Freeman said...

I must agree with Ian on this one. Selectors do need to be able to consider other factors than just playing strength, measured by a single number.

Past Olympiad results must be considered. So must the contents of the reports from the team managers on previous events - which may or may not suggest behaviour by team members that hindered results. As a hypothetical example - out drinking and awaking your room mate at hours they wish to sleep etc. Also, willingness to help analyse with team members.

Results must also be looked at in relation to the Olympiad time control - some players play better at different time controls.

Selectors also need to consider results against different opponent rating bands, ones that match the likely ratings of Olympiad opponents.

In NZ we are also able to consider matters such as development of NZ chess (i.e. juniors vs "over-the-hill" players) and title norm opportunities (i.e. player development for the long term benefit of NZ chess).

The Olmypiad this time is even more of a team event. With the scoring system now on match points rather than game points, a team result each round is going to be much more important than before - a 2.5-1.5 loss is no longer much help, when in the past collecting 1.5 points was sometimes a good result. I hope the captains quickly figure this out.

Kevin Bonham said...

In response to Michael Freeman's comments, some of the points raised are considered relevant to the normal selection criterion of "playing strength" by many selectors. Past Olympiad results can be considered (and indeed information on each applicant's past two Olympiad performances was supplied to the selectors), results against different opponent playing strength bands can be considered, and the time controls at which results were acheived can be considered (eg while a G60/+10 carries the same weight for ACF ratings as a seven-hour classical, obviously the former is less relevant to assessing "playing strength" when selecting an Olympiad.) Basically anything that a selector sincerely considers relevant to assessment of current playing strength can be included and selectors have a lot of freedom in considering or not considering different factors relevant.

Concerning the matter of behaviour, the ACF has now passed a Code of Ethics amendment under which any player who disrupts the performance of a team can be subject to sanctions including being barred from future selections. However, this will only be considered should a complaint be made by an adversely affected player or team captain, and only after a thorough and fair investigation.

Alex said...

Since I am more than 30 points lower rated than George I am not scratching my head. As long as the selection criteria is objective, like rating in Australia or tournament in the Philippines, I'll not Complain.

Compare the German rating list with the German Teams at the European championships to see what happens when non-objective criteria are used.

Now check the results.

Anonymous said...

Rogers observation about the high average age is misleading- board 2, 3 and 4 are all young. It’s the lack of activity on board 1, 2 and especially 5 which is worrying. Looking forward to the day when Australia has a whole bunch of active female players with ratings high enough to force their way into the team!

Anonymous said...

alex wohl, you are a quality act.

shane bonetti

Anonymous said...

Carlsen is young, Wesley So is young but Mrs Moylan playing Olympiad number 4 certainly is not in chess terms.
Both the Aussies and the Pinoys have a habit of picking old guys (Torre, Rogers, Antonio and Johansen) over and over again to head their men's team but at last they have broken the mould. That means the young guys are moving up and that can only be good for both countries.
The Filipino women's team is also heading in the right direction but I can't say the same about the Aussie women.

Anonymous said...

A star spanish soccer player was dumped from the spanish squad to play in Euro 2008 becuase the coach thought he would cause disharmony in the team. Spain ended up winning the Euro this year. There are many examples of where a team has performed exceptionally with not so exceptional talent. Team harmony may not produce results over talent but team disharmony will produce poor results regardless of how talented the team.

Liang said...

Ian did not actually say that he thought that team harmony should be a condition for selection, what he said was that “a number of selectors” have said that a better result would be achieved if this were a criterion. A fine distinction which I think demonstrates his skills as a journalist (in addition to those he has already proven as a chess player)!
As someone who maintains an interest in Australian chess, my main concern is that representing one's country in a sport should be seen as a privilege and an honour and accordingly one should be proud to sing or brag about it, but this is not the case really right now for our chess Olympians, past or present.
Australia does not treat its national chess players with all that much respect (outside of some in the relatively small chess playing community). Therefore, what incentive is there for our own national representatives to treat the whole affair with the gravitas it deserves? Accordingly, my own take on it is not to exhort anyone to leave their “bitchiness” at home (as an aside, AR, I wonder if you would have given this precise advice to the men's/open team...!), but to encourage them to aspire to or look upon themselves as equals to all the great sporting heroes that Australia has produced. Do we expect certain standards from an Ian Thorpe or a Shane Warne? Yes, we do, but at the same time we give them a hell of a lot of respect and as a nation we send them thousands of messages of encouragement in their quest. Anyone with an ounce of intelligence, which I have no doubt all the members of our Olympiad teams more than possess, would see the "quid pro quo" in this sort of arrangement and recognise the consequential responsibility that is then owed to the Australian public to make every effort to turn out a fine performance as an individual and as a team.
Perhaps some would chide me for being idealistic, but I don’t think I am. I once did actually play chess for my own country and I look back on the experience and believe that I did not take it seriously enough and, if I had, my own results could have been very different. (Peter Long in his previous reincarnation as long-suffering chess coach may know what I am talking about, but it is enitrely up to him what he wishes to contribute in this regard!!)
As you may know also, I have recently contributed a reasonable monetary amount to the cause of our Olympians and my only wish now is that our players would recognise, and see it as a natural responsibility that rests on their shoulders, that they should do everything to put up a bloody good fight in every round, for themselves and for Australia. Therefore, if any one of them is reading this, I want them to know that their contribution is valued and respected, that we wish them all the best and that we are proud that they are representing us Australians on the world stage.
Beyond that, they are all big boys and girls, and one would hope they would figure out the rest for themselves!
See you all in Dresden.

Anonymous said...

There's some kind of sexism going on here, especially by the anonymous who speaks of 'Mrs Moylan' (is Laura actually married?!) being old in chess terms... at 25. The average age of the women's team is 33.4. In board order they are roughly 42, 22, 20, 25 and 58 years of age. The average age of the all male Open team is 32.6. Yes, a huge difference. In board order they are roughly 22, 24, 45, 49 and 23 years of age.

Anonymous said...

To Mr 2:06am July 22 "anonymous":
You quote 2 hugely experienced chess players as young, then say I am not young in chess terms because I have a lot of chess experience. Good one.
Maybe we should use your brilliant theory of refusing anyone over 24, or if you've thought better of that stupid comment, just never pick "old guys". Think of all those years we could have not included our clearly best player in the Men's team! What were we thinking?
Some people prefer to think before they write things, you might like to try it.

Anonymous said...

"of course alex wohl should of been selected over xie"

How so? Xie has won many weekenders and proven he is a great player. Take a look at his record two overseas events he gets his IM title. Of course he deserves to be there.

Wohl is also a good player, but in almost every olympiad has not performed.

Anonymous said...

The main criteria for selection should be rating. Only when the ratings of players are similar, should other factors be taken into account for selection.

There has been a lot of talk on this blog over the women's team selection, but using rating order avoids bias of any sort in the selections.

If the ratings of two players are similar, then the following should be taken into account:

a) Recent tournament results.
b) Norm/Title Possibilities.
c) If the 2 players are equal in regards to a) and b), then previous Olympiad performances, general behaviour and other factors should be considered as well.

Even if the selected board order was inaccurate, then on the positive side this would give some players a better chance at a board medal.

Anonymous said...

This is so funny! Imagine thinking of Laura as old. :)

Anyway welcome to the ranks of the wrinklies Laura - it is all downhill from now.... (Although I do think we could wait until she is 40, before consigning her to the scrapheap).


Anonymous said...

I think a few people need to have a bit more respect for some of our selected players. Best wishes to all the players in Dresden.

Anonymous said...

Yes I agree!!!

Good luck to all...all selected people deserve to be in the team and others who didnt make it in could have easily been in there too.

Only when everyone gets along (or at least tries their best) will the Aussie teams perform as best as they can.

More so in chess than in other competitive pursuits, age is not really an important factor in performace. It is clearly absurd to suggest that somebody is 'old' at 24 or even in thier forties when considering chess. The fact is that most chess players peak in their late thirties to early forties and players such as anand and ivanchuk are tribute to this.

Maybe everyone have a great time

...and not cause any punch ups this year :->