Journal of the Emerald Specter 64: Emerald Specter Chess Club

After a nearly 3,000 word rambling on my first draft of this column, I have decided to rid myself of the innocuous terminology from the first attempt to just go forward with something far easier to read. The other one was detailed, it explained a lot, I just didn’t really format the thing in a way that was productively explaining what the topic intended to explain.

So, here we go again with the second attempt! After a brief preamble, I’m hoping to keep things moving in a specific and cohesive direction.

On this day, November 16, 2017, I am announcing the official formation of the Emerald Specter Chess Club. I’ve had a chess club with the previous domain that wasn’t successful, but that had more to do with the lack of a specific direction than anything else. The Emerald Specter Chess Club, or ESCC, is going to combine two things that I love into one wonderful experiment of chess awesomeness. What are those two things? Chess and sumo.

The origin of this idea came to me when I was coming up with different methods of holding chess events towards the common goal of producing a competition that could be completed annually. While I came up with quite a few methods to accomplishing this, the one that really stuck with me was the sumo format.

Sumo Grand Tournaments, or honbasho, are held six times per year. Each honbasho pits every member of the top division against 15 opponents, one per day. After the 15 days have elapsed, a winner is crowned and from that series of results a ranking is produced. Without filling you with too much information, only the top division does 15 matches.

When I started working on this idea, I’d given it the working title of “Chess Basho.” Since I have made a few important decisions on how to translate the sumo honbasho format for chess, there are noticeable differences in how things are going to develop.

That’s the point of this column. I need to give the rules for the ESCC, or the previously referred to Chess Basho Project.

Divisions

The ESCC will be organized into divisions of 12  with each player playing every other player twice (once with white and once with black). Every player will play a total of 22 games to try to score the highest possible results to compete for the tournament win, as well as titles.

Divisions in the ESCC will be titled after metals on the periodic table, with the top division being the Gold Division. As membership grows, other divisions will be added and given their own designations (such as Silver, Copper, etc). Each division will have 12 players.

In the Gold Division, players will be ranked according to their performance based off of previous tournament results. Initially, the ranking will be strictly done from Chess.com‘s Elo rating, but only for the initial launch.

When there are more than one division, the top four finishers in the lower division will be promoted into the higher division, and the bottom four finishers will be relegated into the lower division. Only the Gold Division will have no promotion for the top finishers, as there is no higher division to be promoted into.

Titles

The players in the Gold Division will be ranked from one to 12, alternating “east” and “west” (with east being higher than west), except for the titled players.

In order to avoid providing titles beyond the scope of the club, the terms “master” and “expert” will not be used. In order to avoid providing the sumo versions of titles, none of the sumo titles will be granted within the ESCC. The ESCC will provide titles, in ascending order: Sapphire Adept, Ruby Adept, Emerald Adept, and Diamond Adept. Each Adept title will have requirements in order to be promoted into or demoted from.

A player can be promoted into a Sapphire Adept (SA) simply by earning 5.5 points in a tournament. Players can be demoted from this rank by simply failing to score at least 5.5 points.

An SA can be promoted into a Ruby Adept (RA) simply by earning 5.5 points in a tournament. Players can be demoted from this rank simply by failing to score at least 5.5 points. Once achieved, there can be no less than two Sapphire and Ruby Adepts (combined) at any one time.

An RA can be promoted into Emerald Adept (EA) by achieving specific benchmarks. First, the RA must have scored at least 24 points over the last three tournaments, with the last tournament being at least a score of 8.5. There can be no results in these tournaments less than 5.5 points and a tournament win will eliminate the requirement of 24 points over three tournaments, simply allowing the RA automatic promotion to EA. Demotion from EA is a two step process: failing to achieve 5.5 points in a tournament will mark the EA as “chipped.” A second straight sub-5.5 point result will result in demotion back to RA. A player can return to EA immediately if they score at least 8 points in the tournament immediately following their demotion.

An EA can be promoted into Diamond Adept (DA) by achieving specific benchmarks. First, the EA must have scored at least 32 points over the last four tournaments, with no sub-5.5 point results as well as having won a tournament in the ESCC. Winning two consecutive tournaments as an EA automatically promotes the player to DA, as long as they did not score sub-5.5 points in the tournament prior to their consecutive wins. If there was a sub-5.5 point result prior, then the performance following the consecutive tournament wins must be 9 points in order to receive promotion to DA, else the previous requirements must be met. Demotion from DA is just like demotion from EA, the DA will first be chipped and then demoted with sub-5.5 point scores. In order for the EA to immediately return to DA, though, they must score at least 9 points in the tournament immediately following their demotion, unlike the 8 point score for EAs.

I know that all looks a little confusing but it makes sense. Unlike sumo, there CAN be demotion from the top most title.

ESCC Tournaments

The idea is to hold four tournaments per calendar year, quarterly. They will be Winter (beginning the second Sunday of January), Spring (beginning the second Sunday of April), Summer (beginning the second Sunday of July), and Autumn (beginning the second Sunday of October). The time control for these tournaments is one move per day, allowing for an accelerated pace and wrapping of the tournament results prior to the next tournament starting.

Ideally, players would participate in every tournament every year. Life happens, though, and a provision will be made to miss one tournament per year (12 months) without penalty. This would be treated as scoring 5.25 points (a score not possible in chess) when rankings are considered. If the player misses two tournaments in the year (twelve months), the result will be considered 0 points and rankings will be adjusted accordingly.

Ranking

Prior to the tournament (as far in advance as is possible), a ranking will be released based on the prior tournament’s results. Scoring 5.5 points or more will result in going up the rankings and scoring 5.0 or less points will result in going down the rankings. The missed tournament considered at 5.25 points will leave the player as close to their previous ranking as is possible.

Rankings will always include east and west positions, with titled players being ranked in order at the top. A sample ranking follows:

EAST   #   WEST
John Smith   DA         -vacant-
John Doe    EA   Jane Public
Sally Smith   RA        Jane Doe
Bill Fold   SA     -vacant-
Someone   1   Someone
Someone   2   Someone
Someone   3   Someone

Expansion

Since I’m realistic, I’ve decided to launch divisions with 12 players per division. This would make the rankings only contain 6 lines per division. If the need exists, due to the popularity of the ESCC demanding, divisions may be bumped up to 24 players per division, with two groups of 12 players competing (in an east and west format), with the top two finishers advancing to a special (untracked point) round for the ultimate winner of the tournament.

In the event that this would occur, revisiting the rules would be done in order to ensure that provisions would be put into place for the “advanced round” of play, as well as requirements on how many titled players could exist at any one point in time. 

The reasons that certain things here are spelled out in some detail is because I’d like to personally participate in the ESCC, at least initially. In order for me to do that, and be the “overseer of the ESCC” at the same time, I need clear rules and benchmarks for all of the above in order to avoid the perception of any impropriety. Thus, I am bound by the same laws as the rest, which is how things are supposed to be, without bias.

Is this a gimmick? Sure, and I’ll readily admit that. Is this something designed for super strong players? The intent is that players under 1700, ideally, would be the ones most interested in this (as players that strong or higher tend to be working towards specific chess goals). The tournaments will all be rated and no interested player will be turned away.

This isn’t in the official rules above because I don’t really know if this is going to be an issue in the future, but players who just stop showing up for tournaments all together will be “retired from competition.” Retired players can always come back into play, but they’d start at the bottom (the lowest division, untitled) and have to work their way back up.

I personally am hoping for at least five divisions of 12 players each. I’d love 24 players per division, but I don’t want to get my sights set too high. That would mean we’d have a Gold, Silver, Copper, Nickel, and Cobalt Divisions (with a possibility of bumping up the Gold to Platinum and eliminating the Cobalt). I won’t count my chickens before they hatch, though.

One thing I eliminated from the original draft of this column was the consideration of a “fighting name” (what the Japanese call shikona). Using the handles on Chess.com will be sufficient and eliminate any possible confusion as far as who is who.

I hope you’ll join me in the inaugural tournament and in the ESCC (the link is here). Most likely the first tournament will be open to all, with the results hopefully enticing a few of those players to stick around after being ranked.

Thanks for reading.