Canberra Times, September 9 2001
While sports such as golf and tennis have struggled to put together a reliable ranking system, since the 1970s, the chess world has been able to boast a highly sophisticated rating system.
Devised by Hungarian-American professor Arpad Elo, the Elo rating not only ranks players in order but gives a measure of the difference in strength between any two rated players and therefore the probability of a win for either player in a one-on-one contest.
In contrast, golf has tested a variety of rating systems based on average score per round and prizemoney won, while tennis has preferred a rudimentary points system which seriously disadvantages any player who takes a break for a month or two.
Either of these sports might have benefited by using the Elo system, yet Elo's breakthrough has come from an unexpected quarter - the soccer world.
While not yet adopted by the world soccer body FIFA, the Elo rating list determined by Kirill Shuykin is at least as highly regarded as the official FIFA ranking system.
SBS television, whose announcers seem to think that the system is related to the 1970s pop group Electric Light Orchestra, clearly prefers the Elo to the FIFA system; understandable, since according to FIFA Australia languishes in 51st place amongst the 203 national soccer teams on their list, while the Elo system ranks Australia ninth!
Yet within the chess world, the preeminence of the Elo system is not assured.
Despite the dependence of the title system (Grandmaster, International Master and FIDE Master) on accurate ratings, the world chess body FIDE has, mostly through neglect, created problems which question the integrity of the entire system.
Failure to adequately address problems of rating inflation, corruption - both by individuals and countries - and the failure to rate certain events for political or other reasons, have devalued the FIDE ratings to the point where even the top 20 list is unlikely to be free of errors and interlopers.
Apparently unaware that their ranking system is in need of major repairs, FIDE is on the verge of introducing a plan to multiply the number of world ranked players five-fold within a few years time.
FIDE intend to reduce the rating floor from 2000 to 1000, allowing almost all amateur players to acquire a world ranking.
Unfortunately, most amateurs tend to play very few world ranked tournaments, meaning that their ratings, based on few events, are likely to fluctuate greatly and be generally inaccurate.
This, however, is unlikely to be of great concern to FIDE.
As soon as a player has a rating - any rating - their national federation must play 10 Swiss francs (about $A10) every year for the privilege.
The ratings fee is already a cash cow for FIDE; soon it could be worth a million dollars a year to the world body.
The ACT suffered a 3-7 loss to Queensland in the Dorothy Dibley telechess match, Laura Moylan suffering a surprise defeat to Melba Horwood on top board.