Sunday, March 3, 2019

Chess Educator of the Year Talk

Heres a talk I gave for the Chess Educator of the Year Award at UT Dallas.
https://youtu.be/__CPZu4ckjM

Monday, February 25, 2019

"Absolutely Unforgivable"

My hat is off to the USCF Ethics Committee for coming to the correct decision in the Henderson case, also for some beautiful writing and incisive reasoning.

In copying the text, some formatting was removed so I attempted to add the section breaks and headings back in. It looked much nicer in the original and I apologize to everyone for that. I removed the page numbers and a few letters from the minors' last names.  Otherwise the letter is exactly as received.

In case you don't feel like reading the whole thing, here's the conclusion:

The committee majority finds this behavior by Coach Ramirez to be absolutely unforgivable. This majority takes the position that an adult who uses his position of authority to influence children to commit unethical acts has committed the most serious violation of the Code of Ethics. It is also worth noting that while he was apparently trying to enhance the self-esteem of his players by gaining them undeserved prizes at the national scholastics, he was simultaneously crushing the dreams of players from other schools, many of whom were also poor and facing serious challenges at home. The committee majority therefore agrees that its recommendation of a permanent membership revocation is fully justified.


February 22, 2019
Ms. Elizabeth Spiegel

Dear Ms. Spiegel:
The US Chess Ethics Committee has considered the complaint by John Galvin and eighteen other complainants against Saul Ramirez and sixteen other respondents. We first give the basic decisions and recommendations with respect to each respondent, followed by an overall case summary and the committee’s analysis of the evidence.
For ease of reference, here is a list of the Code sections under which the various charges fell, accompanied by a brief quote of the relevant language from each:
Section 6 (preamble) – “…action or behavior that is …inconsistent with the principles of fair play, good sportsmanship, honesty, and respect for the rights of others…”
Section 6 (a) – “Intentional violations of tournament regulations, or of any other regulations pertaining to USCF activities and goals…”
Section 6 (c) – “Deliberately losing a game for payment, or to lower one's rating, or for any other reason; or attempting to induce another player to do so. Deliberately failing to play at one's best in a game, in any manner inconsistent with the principles of good sportsmanship, honesty, or fair play.”
Section 6 (d) – “Deliberately misrepresenting one's playing ability in order to compete in a tournament or division of a tournament intended for players of lesser ability…”
Section 6 (e) – “…submitting a falsified rating report.”
Section 6 (g) – “Purposely giving false information in order to circumvent or violate any rule or regulation or goal recognized by US Chess.”
Now the decisions:

Coach Saul Ramirez

By four identical votes of 10-0, with David Hater recused, the committee finds that Saul Ramirez has violated Code sections 6 (preamble), 6 (a), 6 (c) and 6 (g). By a further vote of 8-2, with David Hater recused, the committee recommends that his US Chess membership be permanently revoked.

TD William Barela

By a vote of 9-1, with David Hater recused, the committee finds William Barela not guilty of violating section 6 (a) of the Code.
By a vote of 8-2, with David Hater recused, the committee finds William Barela not guilty of violating section 6 (e) of the Code.
By a vote of 8-2, with David Hater recused, the committee finds William Barela not guilty of violating section 6 (g) of the Code.
Notwithstanding these findings, the committee recommends (at Mr. Barela’s own request) that his entire TD history be referred to the Tournament Director Certification Committee for review.

TD Augustine Valverde

By three identical votes of 9-0, with one abstention and David Hater recused, the committee finds Augustine Valverde not guilty of violating sections 6 (a), 6 (e) and 6 (g) of the Code.
Former Assistant Coach/Assistant TD David Alvarado
By three identical votes of 9-0, with one abstention and David Hater recused, the committee finds David Alvarado not guilty of violating sections 6 (a), 6 (e) and 6 (g) of the Code.

Thirteen Members and Former Members of the Henderson Middle School Chess Team

By a vote of 10-0, with David Hater recused, the committee finds that Devante A***re has violated at least one of Code sections 6 (preamble), 6 (c) and 6 (d). By a further vote of 10-0, with David Hater recused, the committee recommends that he receive a reprimand.
By a vote of 8-2, with David Hater recused, the committee finds that Dereck Al***a has violated at least one of Code sections 6 (preamble), 6 (c) and 6 (d). By a further vote of 9-1, with David Hater recused, the committee recommends that he receive a reprimand.
By a vote of 10-0, with David Hater recused, the committee finds that Chris C* has violated at least one of Code sections 6 (preamble), 6 (c) and 6 (d). By a further vote of 10-0, with David Hater recused, the committee recommends that he receive a reprimand.
By a vote of 9-1, with David Hater recused, the committee finds that Pedro C***ar has violated at least one of Code sections 6 (preamble), 6 (c) and 6 (d). By a further vote of 9-1, with David Hater recused, the committee recommends that he receive a reprimand.
By a vote of 10-0, with David Hater recused, the committee finds that Aileen Ma****z has violated at least one of Code sections 6 (preamble), 6 (c) and 6 (d). By a further vote of 10-0, with David Hater recused, the committee recommends that she receive a reprimand.
By a vote of 10-0, with David Hater recused, the committee finds that Steven M***a has violated at least one of Code sections 6 (preamble), 6 (c) and 6 (d). By a further vote of 10-0, with David Hater recused, the committee recommends that he receive a reprimand.

By a vote of 10-0, with David Hater recused, the committee finds that Carlos P***no has violated at least one of Code sections 6 (preamble), 6 (c) and 6 (d). By a further vote of 9-1, with David Hater recused, the committee recommends that he receive a reprimand.
By a vote of 6-4, with David Hater recused, the committee finds that Nathan R***s has violated at least one of Code sections 6 (preamble), 6 (c) and 6 (d). By a further vote of 9-1, with David Hater recused, the committee recommends that he receive a reprimand.
By a vote of 10-0, with David Hater recused, the committee finds that Juan R****ez has violated at least one of Code sections 6 (preamble), 6 (c) and 6 (d). By a further vote of 9-1, with David Hater recused, the committee recommends that he receive a reprimand.
By a vote of 10-0, with David Hater recused, the committee finds that Saul R***ez Jr. has violated at least one of Code sections 6 (preamble), 6 (c) and 6 (d). By a further vote of 9-1, with David Hater recused, the committee recommends that he receive a reprimand.
By a vote of 10-0, with David Hater recused, the committee finds that Eduardo Re**na has violated at least one of Code sections 6 (preamble), 6 (c) and 6 (d). By a further vote of 10-0, with David Hater recused, the committee recommends that he receive a reprimand.
By a vote of 10-0, with David Hater recused, the committee finds that Angelica V**ez has violated at least one of Code sections 6 (preamble), 6 (c) and 6 (d). By a further vote of 10-0, with David Hater recused, the committee recommends that she receive a reprimand.
By a vote of 10-0, with David Hater recused, the committee finds that Allesandra R**z has violated at least one of Code sections 6 (preamble), 6 (c) and 6 (d). By a further vote of 9-1, with David Hater recused, the committee recommends that she receive a reprimand.
The Code of Ethics defines a reprimand as follows: “A determination that a member has committed an offense warranting discipline becomes a matter of record, but no further sanction is imposed at the time. A reprimand automatically carries a probation of at least three months, or longer if so specified. If the member is judged guilty of another offense during the probation, he or she is then liable to further sanctions for both offenses.” The entire Code may be found here: http://www.uschess.org/content/view/7538/189/

Additional Recommended Sanctions

The committee makes the following additional recommendations:
1. All prizes won by Henderson Middle School players at the National Junior High School Championships, held in April 2018, shall be revoked. The US Chess Director of Events shall have responsibility for deciding whether or how to adjust scores and reallocate prizes. (Approved by a vote of 10-0, with David Hater recused.)
2. All of the thirteen junior respondents charged in this complaint shall be barred from “under” sections at all national scholastic tournaments for a period of five years. They may enter only championship sections. (Approved by a vote of 6-4, with David Hater recused.)
3. Henderson Middle School shall be placed on probation for a period of two years. During this time, all entries to “under” sections at national scholastic tournaments by Henderson players not named in this complaint shall be subject to review before they are approved. The US Chess Director of Events and the Scholastic Council shall have joint responsibility for this task. (Approved by a vote of 10-0, with David Hater recused.)

Case Summary

The complainants in this case are coaches and players from several schools who had teams participating in the National Junior High School Championships, held in April 2018. They allege that in January 2018, Coach Saul Ramirez of the Henderson Middle School in El Paso, TX arranged several tournaments in which he instructed his players to lose games deliberately, with the purpose of lowering their ratings enough to make them eligible for “under” sections at the nationals – and in some cases at the Texas Scholastic Championships, held in March 2018. They also present evidence purporting to show a similar pattern of events before nationals in prior years. They further allege that three TDs participated in the scheme in 2018, by mis-coding tournaments and designing sections in a way intended to maximize rating changes.
In support of their charges, the complainants present an elaborate statistical analysis focusing on the three events from January 2018. In the first two events, the Texas players (most with well- established ratings) faced opponents from New Mexico who mostly had lower, provisional ratings. In the third event, the Henderson players faced their own coaches and other adults. The adults had a slight average rating edge in the third event. The combined score of the Henderson players in these three events was one win, 49 losses and one draw. The complainants assert that this result is impossible with fair play.
The complainants also draw attention to a book written by Saul Ramirez, where there appears a story about an incident in which he pressures one of his players to pre-arrange the result of a game. They note that while the game result in the story is a draw, the actual result (which appears in the MSA tournament record) was a loss.
In their replies to the complaint, the respondents deny all charges. Coach Saul Ramirez does not address the statistical evidence directly but merely asserts in several places that such inconsistent results are normal for scholastic players, especially those who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and face extreme challenges in their personal lives.
With respect to the story and other items related to his book, Ramirez provides a statement from the publisher, John Seidlitz, who claims that many inaccuracies related to the publicity were due to his staff’s unfamiliarity with chess. Seidlitz also explains that many parts of the book, based on interviews with Ramirez and the players, were subjected to “editing” and “polishing.” Ramirez cites
this letter and asserts that, “The Leo vs. Brandon story in the book, as John Seidlitz mentions in his letter, was polished for story purposes.”
The TDs all assert that they merely reported the results that came in and that they did not mis-code these events deliberately.
The junior respondents provide a mixture of statements from the parents and the players. The players all insist that they play honestly; several relate personal issues that they say periodically produce dramatically negative results in their play. The parents uniformly extol the honesty and integrity of their children and express indignation at the charges. Many also describe in great detail the relentless hard work they say their children have invested in the study of chess. All assert that Coach Ramirez has had a huge positive influence on the children.
In the final set of comments from stage 4, a statistician associated with TD Augustine Valverde finally addresses the analysis provided by the complainants. He notes that the various rating scenarios analyzed by the complainants’ statistician do not take into account that many of the ratings of the non-Henderson players in the three specified events are provisional. Provisional ratings based on only a few games can be hundreds of points more inaccurate than in even the most extreme case analyzed by the complainants. In other words, he argues that the provisionally rated players could be tremendously stronger than those ratings, making the lopsided results seen in the three events much more likely.

The Jurisdiction Process

When the committee first received this case, it was noted that two of the potential respondents were age 12. This made it necessary for the committee to activate a new procedure for parties under the age of 13. Under this procedure, an Ombudsman elected from among the members of the Ethics Committee contacts the families of the young individuals and attempts to resolve the matter in an informal way, without resorting to the full ethics process.
Unfortunately, only U.S. Mail addresses were available for these two individuals, so there was no opportunity for a quick back and forth in communication. The committee’s Ombudsman, Mr. Harold Stenzel, wrote to the two families but, when they received these letters from someone they did not recognize as an official U.S. Chess contact, they responded only with suspicion and hostility. With no substantive response to report, Mr. Stenzel recommended that the two age 12 individuals join the other potential respondents in the normal jurisdiction process. The committee then voted unanimously to accept jurisdiction as to all respondents.
In subsequent discussions with the US Chess Executive Board, it was agreed that if such a situation should arise in the future, the first contact will be made by a member of the Executive Board, on official US Chess letterhead. The Ombudsman can then take over the discussion.

The Committee’s Analysis

After reviewing all the evidence, the committee unanimously agreed on two core conclusions:
1. The results seen in the three cited tournaments could not have occurred unless most of the Henderson players lost games deliberately.
2. The Henderson players who lost games deliberately did so on the instructions of the Coach, Saul Ramirez.
Some additional conclusions were reached by a majority and will be detailed below.

Coach Saul Ramirez

The committee does not agree with Coach Ramirez that the observed results in these tournaments are in any way normal or that they can they be explained by serious personal issues of the players. As documented by the complainants, many of their players are also minority students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, who also face difficult challenges in their personal lives. However, none of them display the same wildly fluctuating results as the Henderson players - in particular, very poor results in small events just before the rating cutoff for the national scholastics, followed by dramatically stronger results at the nationals. Further, while the committee certainly understands that players can and do have bad tournaments, the committee did not find it credible that all of the Henderson players had a bad day in each of the three cited tournaments.
The respondents did not provide evidence of specific issues that would have affected each of the Henderson players and instead simply chalk up results of one win, 49 losses, and one draw in three events to three “bad days” that just coincidentally occurred right before the rating cutoff. Following these results, several of the respondents then went on to play in the under sections at the 2018 National Junior High School Championships, at which Henderson won the team prize for both the U1000 and U750 sections and at which certain respondents captured the individual first and second overall in the U1000 section and first overall in the U750 sections, along with other results indicating a level of strength considerably higher than that shown by the respondents in the three events cited above.
The committee also takes issue with the implication that the charges are somehow influenced by some sort of bias. At one point, Coach Ramirez states in passing, “It may be unfathomable to some to see low-income, Mexican American students succeed at a game like chess…”, while at another, one of the parents makes a remark about “minority teams” getting a fair shake. The statistics cited by the complainants are drawn from the US Chess database of rated game results, which span over 25 years and includes the records of thousands of players from every conceivable racial, cultural and socio-economic group. They apply to everyone.
The committee also notes several points where Coach Ramirez and other respondents seem to suggest that all the statistics are just meaningless numbers that don’t have any applicability to real human beings. However, the charts, graphs and math are just a way of describing a very simple,
real world truth – that when any large group of humans engages in a skill-based activity, after you
accumulate enough data (as the MSA does with thousands of game results over 25 years) the results tend to fall into predictable patterns. This in no way infringes on the concept of free will, it just illustrates that the total range of human performance, at anything, is finite. While there are always a few small deviations from expected results, the larger the group being studied, the more unlikely certain events become. Beyond a certain point, in the absence of any common factor which might influence the results, some things are just impossible. The three tournaments mentioned in this complaint, especially the EP vs. EG event with its 0-28 result for Henderson players, are such a case.
In the statement from the book publisher John Seidlitz, he writes, “None of our team has previous experience with chess and the particular language used by the U.S. Chess Federation. Because of this, we made some mistakes in our promotion of the book.” Fair enough. The committee accepts this explanation and agrees that it shows that Coach Ramirez did not have any financial incentives associated with the success of the book and that much of the “hype” associated with the book publicity was not his doing. However, the publisher can’t have it both ways.
The publishing team can’t both be unfamiliar with chess but yet knowledgeable enough to search the MSA, pick out a specific tournament and game, and put together the “Leo vs. Brandon” story with the correct names of the players. There is one and only one place that story could have come from and that is Coach Ramirez. No amount of “editing” or “polishing” could provide the level of detail that appears in that story. The whole thrust of the story is Ramirez’ pride in having pressured one of his players to pre-arrange a game result, “for the Team.” That he changes the actual game result from a loss to a draw in the story only demonstrates that he knew what he was doing was wrong.

The committee majority finds this behavior by Coach Ramirez to be absolutely unforgivable. This majority takes the position that an adult who uses his position of authority to influence children to commit unethical acts has committed the most serious violation of the Code of Ethics. It is also worth noting that while he was apparently trying to enhance the self-esteem of his players by gaining them undeserved prizes at the national scholastics, he was simultaneously crushing the dreams of players from other schools, many of whom were also poor and facing serious challenges at home. The committee majority therefore agrees that its recommendation of a permanent membership revocation is fully justified.

TD William Barela

The complainants allege that the mis-coding of the first two January 2018 tournaments (in which Barela was Chief TD), as well as the odd design of the sections, prove his complicity in the rating manipulation scheme. However, it turns out that the mis-coding of events by TDs is a lot more common than one might suppose.
The committee studied Barela’s entire TD history, going back to 2015, and learned that he has routinely mis-coded events, including many where he would have no incentive to do it deliberately, as they were of no special significance. In fact, he seems to get it wrong more than he gets it right. There are also some strangely designed sections similar to the second 2018 event (UU 1_19_2018), in which
there appear strangely distributed unplayed games, byes and half-point byes – and even some instances where players are listed who play no games at all. The overall impression is of a TD who has a very poor understanding of both pairing software and the MSA. It was not unanimous but the majority of the committee concluded that the mis-coding of the tournaments and the unusual section design were the result of simple incompetence.
Barela himself suggests that his TD history be referred to the TDCC. The committee accepts that suggestion and will make the referral. Mr. Barela will be expected to cooperate fully with their inquiry.

TD Augustine Valverde and Assistant TD David Alvarado

Mr. Valverde directed the third event from January 2018, the Borderland Cubes, with David Alvarado assisting. They also each played three games in the event, scoring a combined 6-0 against Henderson players. This event was also mis-coded.
Mr. Valverde has no direct connection to the Henderson chess program and while Alvarado formerly did, his testimony shows that he had no contact with the school for several months before the January 2018 event he participated in. The committee saw no incentive for these individuals to be involved in rating manipulation and concluded that they were most likely not informed about what Coach Ramirez had instructed the players to do. While there were some misgivings about it, in the end the committee majority acquitted both on all charges.

The Statistical Defense

Mr. Valverde recruited a statistician who argues, in effect, that the provisionally rated non-Henderson players could be far stronger than in any case examined by the complainants, making the observed game results plausible. As it happens, in the many months since those January 2018 tournaments, some (but not all) of the non-Henderson players have played a significant number of additional rated games. If these players were really much stronger than their Henderson opponents, one would expect to see evidence of it. The committee studied the MSA records of these players, spanning about six months after the January 2018 tournaments.
In the first of the three tournaments in question, “EP vs EG”, seven Henderson and former Henderson players faced seven non-Henderson players from New Mexico. Each Henderson player contested two games each against two NM players. All told, the Henderson players scored 0-28.
Of the seven NM players, only one had an established rating. Only that one player shows a subsequent rating increase (from 1058 to 1360) large enough to make it plausible that he might score 4-0. However, even that must be questioned, as one of his opponents that day has subsequently increased his own rating from 1054 to 1402, over the same time span. None of the other players show any sign of being much stronger than their January provisional ratings. The same pattern holds for the non-Henderson players in the second January tournament, “UU 1_19_2018.” The evidence simply doesn’t support the suggestion that the non-Henderson players were strong enough to make the observed results even remotely possible.

It is worth noting that the statements provided by some of the Henderson parents also undermine this scenario. They outline in great detail the relentless study of chess put in by their children, over many months and even years. This makes it even less plausible that all of these children would simultaneously have a “bad day”, losing repeatedly to far less experienced players.
Thirteen Members and Former Members of the Henderson Middle School Chess Team
While the committee agreed unanimously that the results from the three January 2018 tournaments could not have occurred unless most of the players lost games deliberately, there was also agreement that a few could have played honestly. However, the majority could find no way to distinguish between those who participated in the scheme and those who did not. The statements from the parents and the players were all very similar.
The committee also considers it significant that none of the Henderson players submitted game scores, to permit the committee to judge for itself the relative strength of the various players. Those game scores do exist; there is a photograph in the case packet of the EP vs EG event in progress, showing all the players on both teams keeping score.
The committee majority came to an agreement that even those who did not participate would have known about it. Even if Coach Ramirez spoke privately to the involved players, we consider it likely that the others would learn of it. Ramirez own testimony reveals that the Henderson chess team was a tightly knit group, who were together on a daily basis for months. The kids would naturally talk to each other and word would get around. Given the universal denials of all charges, this means that all 13 juniors have lied about the scheme either to their parents, the committee or both. The committee considers that a violation of Code section 6 (preamble). Accordingly, the vote was configured so that members of the committee could vote on whether they found a violation of any of sections 6 (preamble), 6 (c) or 6 (d), without specifying which ones applied to each respondent.
The junior respondents were all found guilty of something. Some may have violated only 6 (preamble) while others may have violated all three sections. In selecting sanctions, the committee chose what it thought was most appropriate for the least serious offense, 6 (preamble). That way, no member of this group who did not participate in the scheme receives a more serious sanction than he or she deserves. The committee also takes into consideration the fact that these juniors were under the influence of their highly respected coach. For these reasons, the committee recommends a reprimand for each member of the group, which is the least serious sanction. The committee also considers its additional recommendations for the players and school to be appropriate steps.
By a vote of 10-0, with David Hater recused, the committee agrees that this letter fairly represents its position.
Sincerely, Hal Terrie (2018-19 Ethics Committee Chair)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

no nillion for you


We had two math and statistics professionals look into the likelihood of the New Mexico/ Henderson events occurring.

The first report is from an experienced data scientist, who prefers to remain anonymous, but whose professional opinion I sought and whose report I will be forwarding to the ethics committee. The data scientist examined three scenarios in the Jan 15 tournament, one using pre-tournament ratings, one using post-tournament ratings, and a third using the lowest published rating in the past year of the Henderson students and the peak ratings of their opponents. The data scientist found that the chances of the Jan 15 tournament occurring, assuming pre-tournament ratings were accurate, is 0.000000000000000000000000000000888, which is less than one in one nonillion (1 with 30 zeroes after it). That is approximately a billion times the number of stars in the observable universe.

Assuming post-tournament ratings led to a probability of 0.000000000045, which is less than 1 in 100 billion (note that 100 billion is the approximate number of stars in our galaxy).

And the third (most favorable to Henderson) scenario, assuming the Henderson students were at their past-year weakest and the opponents were at their lifetime strongest, still found a likelihood of only is 0.000000037, which is less than 1 in 10 million.

A second analysis was done by a parent on my team who works in computer programming and statistics. I present his work and conclusions below; for obvious reasons they are very similar to the above. They are slightly different in scenario two because the first statistician assumed post tournament ratings of both sides and the second analysis assumed only post tournament ratings of the New Mexico players. (This scenario was run because an argument is being made that the New Mexican players' ratings were provisional and inaccurate, see below.)



Base Analysis

The main argument is that the EP vs. EG tournament is highly implausible. The ratings difference between the winners and losers is much too wide for such a number of simultaneous upsets to occur.

This analysis looked at each individual game, calculated the odds of losing each game, and then calculated the odds of a 0-28 score based on those odds. The odds of losing a given game is given by the USCF ELO model (see resources below). Specifically, the odds of losing a given game is 1 minus the odds of winning a game given two ratings:



This analysis excludes the possibility of draws, but if we included those odds the odds of losing any given game would be lower, so would only strengthen this argument.

Given the above, the odds of such a lopsided tournament occuring is once in 1.13 x 10^30. In plain English, that's once in a nonillion chance of occuring (We had to look that up; see resources below).


5 sigma is often used as an extreme hurdle to determine validity or significance. Scientists used it to validate the discovery of a new particle (see article). 5 sigma is an event that occurs once in 3.5 milliontimes. Not billion. Not trillion.


Post-event Peak Analysis

One argument in defense of the upset team is that the opponent ratings were provisional and therefore meaningless. It's true that six out of the seven winners had provisional ratings. We ran the same test as the above, but this time using the peak ratings of the opponents after the above suspicious event.

Sure enough, most of the provisionally rated opponents had their ratings move up (even though much of it occured by beating their much higher rated opponents in the above event!). As of April, 2018, four players still had provisional ratings, but two of those had 24 and 25 games respectively, so their ratings are close to non-provisional (26 games needed for non-provisional rating).

Using these peak ratings of the opponents, running the same analysis shows the odds of a 0-28 sweep/upset is one in 1.44 x 10^16.

Or, in plain English, one in 14 quadrillion.

This seems like a fair analysis; if you look through the histories of the provisionally rated players, there isn't much to indicate that they are materially, grossly underrated. They do show patterns of consistently losing to low rated players etc.

Even-match Analysis

Finally, all this math aside, the simplest analysis is to just look at the odds of a 0-28 sweep of an evenly matched team, which is far from the case here. The odds of such an upset is simply 0.5^28.

Using this method, we get the odds of this occurring as one in 268 million. Remember, 5 sigma is a once in 3.5 million event, good enough to validate the discovery of a new particle.

Conclusion
Given the above analysis, and especially even the last 'even-match', sanity-check analysis, it is safe (or exceedingly, astronomically safe) to say that this was not a valid event.


We have seen various analyses on this (including one from a math Phd, professional quantitative analyst/statistician), and numbers may vary due to rounding and other issues, but the conclusion is basically the same; this event is an astronomically unlikely event to have occured normally.


Friday, April 20, 2018

"but I can beat him, Mister"

       Let me say first that my assistant principal, John Galvin, is the greatest detective in the world. He's the one who originally caught the Henderson cheating, basically figured out everything they did going back a couple years.

      So yesterday I see him hunched over his desk, reading a small book. It turns out to be The Champions Game, by Saul Ramirez.
     Let's read along:


In my mind, telling a kid who wants to play to draw is unethical. You can ask, if it means the team wins. But if the kid wants to play for a personal championship, you have to respect that. He earned the chance. Leaning on him is an abuse of power.

But now think for a minute about this story. Why would it hurt the team for the top two scorers to have a decisive result vs a draw? It can't. Either way, the team gets one point. In fact, they were up five points going into the round -- they had already clinched it.

Now look at the crosstable (MS Novice);


  1 | LEO GONZALEZ     |6.0  |W   9|W  33|W  24|W   5|W  11|W   6|L   2|
   TX | 15707532 / R: Unrated-> 976P7   |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    2 | BRANDON CABALLERO  |6.0  |W  27|L   7|W  19|W  24|W  13|W  12|W   1|
   TX | 15707553 / R: Unrated-> 931P7   |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |
-------


He didn't tell Leo to draw; he told him to lose. Why? It boggles the mind. I guess he wanted two co-champions rather than one. Reread the dialogue, this time knowing the kid is begging to play the game honestly and he's being told to throw it. The chutzpah of writing "He understood it, but his ego was fighting the concept of sacrificing in order to achieve something greater" just blows my mind.



Also, this isn't cheating, but did you guys watch the video about Henderson girls in Mike's article? Where Ramirez says "I'm not going to lie, I had to read a lot of books about how to coach a girls' team ...They mess up their positions in a whole different way"  wtf?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

I'm sorry, what?

USCF President Carol Meyers issued a statement that began

"1. No cheating happened, nor is alleged to have happened, at the 2018 National Junior High Championship; the alleged incident took place prior to our event."

I'm sorry, what????????
We're accusing them of intentionally losing games to lower their rating in order to enter the National Junior High in inappropriately low sections. They did this and won the tournament.

Intentionally entering the wrong section is cheating.
They began their cheating with the tournaments on 1/15* and 1/19, but this was done only in order to cheat at nationals. In some sense, nationals is the real cheating because the earlier events have no victims in and of themselves.

The statement Carol Meyer issued is now being used by the Henderson coach to claim he has been exonerated.
Honestly, it's hard for me to fathom what she could have been thinking, but the statement needs to be retracted immediately.

Friday, April 13, 2018

spineless

So the USCF put out this statement, which I consider an laughable shirking of their responsibilities. 

"The US Chess Federation has not received a written complaint to initiate our procedures for factual inquiry and ruling on any allegation of cheating pertaining to this event."


And you don't care enough to do anything on your own?? After you have been begged in a timely fashion to by no less than 12 coaches? After your own national championship becomes an outrage and a joke?


It's the casual denial of responsibility that kills me.


You have all the facts you need, Carol Meyer, USCF et al.  Cheating obviously occurred and ruined YOUR national championship. People complained to your organization in time to remove the kids from the section and fix the problem. If your rules are really set up to make you powerless  to investigate on your own, then I feel sorry for you. 


Pretty soon no one is going to pay money to attend your national championship if you don't fulfill your fundamental responsibility of enforcing the rules. 



Thursday, April 12, 2018

Cheating at the National Junior High

Last weekend, at the National Junior High School Chess 
Championship, Henderson Middle School from El Paso 
Texas "won" the under 750 and Under 1000 sections
 with teams of obviously sandbagged players. This 
was brought to the attention of Chief TD David Hater 
by many coaches, but he felt it was not his
 responsibility to act. 


Let's examine the evidence. 
The Under 1000 team members are
Ra***ez, Saul (7.0, 899)
Ra***ez, Juan (6.5, 867)
Pal***no, Carlos (6.0, 760)
Ar**jo, Carlos (4.5, 884)


Why are their ratings under 900, you are thinking? 
Because that allowed them to play in and win the 
Texas Under 900 championship. 

To get their ratings under 900 for these events, 
they claim to have played a two round match in
 Las Cruces, NM, where they lost 26-0, most of 
which were 400+ point upsets. 
This was rated as a tournament, rather than a match;
 perhaps accidentally or perhaps because there's an 
anti-sandbagging rule that says you can only lose 50
 points in a match. 

My assistant principal, John Galvin, reported this at 
7 pm Saturday. At the 2:30 meeting the next day, there
 was some disagreement about whether these results
 were spectacularly unlikely or actually impossible
A parent from my team who is also a mathematician 
was kind enough to run some numbers for me (results 
have been reviewed by a few of his colleagues and 
detailed discussion is in the comments. )
His analysis showed the odds of losing 26-0 with the 
rating differentials is 1 in 3x 10^21 
(3,000,000,000,000,000,000,000). 
Without considering ratings, it's 1 in 263,000,000. 

When asked, the Henderson coach attributed his team's
 poor performance to "being kids" and coming from 
underprivileged homes.  



The Under 750 team is 

R**z, Alessandra (7.0, 734)
Arga***na, Aime (6.0, 585)
Ag***re, Devante (5.0, 632)
Ji***ez, Jose Luis (5.0, 654)
Valadez, Angelica (5.0, 683) 



On Jan 19, 2019, they held another tournmanent / 
match in New Mexico in which the Texas players 
again did very very poorly. This time their under 
750 team goes under. Notice how the MSA report lists 
the players' states in the left hand corner so you can 
easily see how badly Texas fared. 


The TD supervising these tournaments, Will Barela, 
 is also the President of the New Mexico Chess Association.
Looking through his directing history reveals some, 
lets' say ... "purposeful" events. Between Dec 28 and
 Jan 5 of 2017/2018, he rated a series of 15 multi 
section tournaments, in which a master who was 
dropping dangerously close to 2200, beat kids rated
 100-1000 in hundreds of games, thereby obtaining 
his life master title.
Congratulations to Life Master Benjamin Corarreti, 
cheater.

I have never seen more obvious evident of sandbagging.
 There is no attempt to hide the thrown games, not a 
single draw. 
USCF officials could have moved their sections and saved
the integrity and reputation of their tournament; they 
were told at the beginning of round 5. Instead, they 
insist it needs to be handled by the Ethics Committee.



Handing it off to the Ethics Committee has enormous
costs. The entire credibility of the tournament 
experience is ruined for everyone. A confidential 
committee decision six months later does nothing 
to fix this. The cheated teams will never get to walk
 across the stage; they'll never get the newspaper 
articles, or the homecoming celebration, or the 
exhilaration of that night. 



I know there will be cases where the evidence is not
 clear and the TDs can't, in good conscience, act. But
 this is not that situation. This is the clearest, most 
unambiguous case of cheating POSSIBLE. 

If you aren't going to act on this, you can't claim to 
be enforcing the rules. 

It's unfortunate it wasn't handled well at the time, 
and more unfortunate (see next post) that the 
USCF is doubling down on their new stated policy of
 not interfering in cheating in progress.  
The USCF ought now to announce the cheating 
publicly and congratulate Metcalf and Thomas 
Edison on their wins in the U750 and U1000 
sections, and Scotty Gordon and Sameris Desvignes 
on the individual triumphs. 

In future, under sections should use peak rating.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

How to Solve Coaches Cheating at Nationals

Use peak ratings as eligibility for under sections at nationals.
Children's ratings should not be going down. This solves the problem and is easy to understand and enforce.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Noah gets his first chess lesson

We discussed the names of the pieces and which he likes (he dislikes the knight and likes the "little tiny pawn," consistent with his love of small things). I explained that chess is a game and one of my favorite games, and that you play by moving the pieces around from one square to another. We practiced that. We agreed to take turns. I told him about taking pieces, how to do it, and that you get to keep the piece.


After the lesson, it was nap time, and he took a pawn to bed with him.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Have Respect for Mattresses, Citizens!

A mattress is insatiable.  It demands sacrifices. At night it makes the 
sound of a bouncing  ball. It needs a bookcase. It needs a table with 
thick stupid legs. Creaking its  springs,  it demands drapes, a door 
curtain, and pots and pans for the kitchen. It shoves people and says to them:
     "Goon! Buy a washboard and rolling-pin!"
     "I'm ashamed of you, man. You haven't yet got a carpet."
     "Work! I'll soon give  you children. You need  money for nappies and a pram."
     A mattress remembers and does everything in its own way.
     Not even a poet  can escape the common lot. Here he comes, 
carrying one from the market, hugging it to his soft belly with horror.
     "I'll break  down your resistance,  poet," says the mattress.  "You  no
longer need  to run to the post  office to  write poetry. And, anyway, is 
it worth writing? Work and the balance will always  be  in your  favour. 
Think about your wife and children!"
     "I haven't  a wife," cries the  poet, staggering back  from his sprung
teacher.
     "You will have! But I don't guarantee she will be the loveliest girl on
earth. I don't even know whether she will be kind. Be prepared for 
anything. You will have children."
     "I don't like children."
     "You will."
     "You frighten me, citizen mattress."
     "Shut up, you fool.  You  don't know  everything.  You'll  also  obtain
credit from the Moscow woodworking factory."
     "I'll kill you, mattress!"
     "Puppy! If you dare to, the neighbours will denounce you to the 
housing authority."
 

That's an excerpt from a very funny comic Russian novel Twelve Chairs,
which you can read online.

Recently, Jonathan and I attempted to buy a mattress.

It's always been my dream to own a king sized bed. Plus Zoe sleeps with
us and Noah manages to as well sometimes. (i.e. we need it).

In 2001, I bought my sister a Tempurpedic mattress as an engagement
present. She's always loved good bedding. She didn't end up marrying
the guy, who was an inventor and invented the blue ink in American
Express Blue cards and made fake passports for the CIA, and she didn't
like the mattress either (too firm), so she gave it back to me and I'd
been sleeping on it ever since.

Jonathan loved it so we thought we'd buy another Tempurpedic. We 
did, the Contour Supreme (heavenly, firm), but it smelled terrible and 
we started reading frightening articles online about the neurotoxic 
chemicals it's made of. Zoe was just a few weeks old and we were 
afraid for her. We tried to air it out: removing the cover and standing 
it by the window every day for weeks, but when it hadn't stopped 
off-gassing after a month and a half, we returned it. 

After further research on the heath hazards of memory foam we 
decided to splurge and buy an Essentia, which is organic memory 
foam. They are crazy, crazy expensive, but we justified it with 
the idea that we would spend 8 hours a day on it for twenty years. 

Unfortunately, it was not very comfortable. Fortunately, it too was 
returnable. 

By now we are feeling defeated, tired of mattress shopping and unsure 
of what we wanted. So we headed to Sleepys. It's just very confusing, 
buying a mattress. You go to the showroom and lie down on ten or 
twenty of them and by the end you have no idea what you want 
anymore or how comfortable any of them really are. Do we really like 
"firm" mattresses, or have we simply always had one? The salesperson 
talks a lot of mumbo jumbo about coils and latex and alignment. She 
tried to convince me that firm mattresses are for fat people. Then 
later, after we'd bought the mattress, she starts telling me how her 
obstetrician kept harassing her about weight gain and gestational 
diabetes during her first pregnancy so she skipped prenatal care 
entirely for her subsequent children. I didn't even know you could do 
that. 





In the end we picked the first one we'd lain down on. And then we 
discovered that you can make an offer for a mattress. Sleepys prices 
are not fixed, you actually bargain with the regional manager via 
the salesperson. The mattress was $2900, on sale for $2600, we 
offered $2200 and that was fine. 
update: 4/2018: I went home that day and found the same mattress on Amazon for $1100.