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September 29th, 2005

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WAGC points: call for discussion

Dear all,

There has been a proposal for an overhaul of the points system currently used
by SAGA to select the South African representative to the annual World Amateur
Go Championship. This system has gone through several changes in recent years,
and is a hotly debated and sensitive topic, with many people having strong and
differing opinions on it. While the proposal will be debated by the SAGA
Council, it is something that concerns all SAGA members, and as such I think
it is important for the council to base its decision on the opinions of the
membership. I therefore call on all interested members to voice their opinions
on this matter. Please answer any/all of the questions following the discussion below by
posting comments to this post.

regards,
Konrad Scheffler

———–

The current system awards each SAGA member up to
4000 points per year: up to 2000 “placing” points based on results in the South African
Championship, and up to 2000 “participation” points, which are awarded for
playing in rated club and/or tournament games (since there are not that many
tournaments to play in, players scoring the full 2000 points get most of these
from club games).

The argument for the new proposal (my paraphrasing) is that the WAGC
representative is ultimately a tournament player, and should be selected on
the basis of tournament play (with both results and activity of tournament
participation playing a role). The proposal calls for the system to be based
on participation and results in a larger number of nationwide tournaments, for
example by adding the new South African internet championship (details to be
announced soon) to the currently used South African Championship, and
excluding participation points from club games from the formula.

The proposal does not concern the current mechanism of deducting an increasing
number of points each time a participant represents South Africa through this
system. Thus both the current and the proposed system should ensure that there
is a rotation of representatives.

Questions:

1. Do you think that participation in rated club games should be considered in choosing the WAGC representative?
2. Do you think that other club activities (e.g. teaching, administration) should be considered?
3. Do you think that participation (as opposed to just results) in tournament games should be considered?
4. Do you think that games played with non-South Africans (e.g. over the internet) should be considered?
5. Do you think that more than one tournament should be used?
6. Do you think that internet tournaments should be used?
7. Any other comments?

Posted by konrad in SAGA

18 Comments »

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18 Responses to “WAGC points: call for discussion”

  1. Fred Strauss says:

    1. Yes
    2. Yes
    3. Yes
    4. Yes
    5. Yes
    6. Yes
    7.
    I’m very agree-able 🙂
    I think that people who only play tournaments and online games and never attend club meetings shouldn’t “walk away” with the honour of going to the WAGC. This points system should encourage people to support the local go community as much as it encourages getting personal experience in tournaments (online or OTB). After all, it is the local go community in the form of SAGA footing the bill to send people to the WAGC.

  2. Steve says:

    I want to start my response with a quote from an e-mail sent by Chris Visser to the SAGA mailing list in March 2002, since it tries to explain the reason SAGA uses participation points rather than just holding a tournament and sending the winner each year. Without knowing this reason, it is difficult to give good opinions on Konrad’s questions, I think (whether you agree with the reason or not):

    The theme of Tristen’s article is “Are we sending the wrong people to the WAGC?” .

    The association has to work within certain constraints. The first is that only South African citizens may represent South Africa at the WAGC. The second is that all South African citizens must be given a fair and reasonable chance to represent the country.

    The principle underlying the selection procedure has to be merit. However, because of the nature of the game, a purely merit-based system would produce the same representatives each year from virtually all countries. Go is a mind sport, where age doesn’t have nearly as much effect on performance as it does in physical sports. For the world swimming championships, you can be sure to see new faces every year, and only rarely does a champion reign for more than a few years. In board games like Go, Chess and Draughts, the average reign of a champion would be more like a decade.

    The purpose of the WAGC is to promote Go around the world. The objective of the SA Go Association is to promote Go in South Africa. With similar objectives in mind, most countries use a points system to select their annual representatives, to give more players than just the reigning champion the chance to compete at the WAGC.

    [text snipped]

    Participation points have always been a contentious issue. Their purpose is to reward players for participation in club games and regional tournaments. Weaker players can best improve by playing stronger players. A strong player who imparts his/her knowledge and skills to weaker players, is promoting the objectives of SAGA, and is rewarded through participation points. Go can only spread in South Africa if it is seen to be played. Internet games are invisible to people who know nothing of Go. So SAGA rewards all players who participate in “visible” Go.

    * Full text of this e-mail

    * Tristen’s original e-mail, “Dissension from the Ranks”

    These links require you to have a Yahoo! login.

    Now that that’s out of the way, my answers:

    1. Do you think that participation in rated club games should be considered in choosing the WAGC representative?

    Definitely

    2. Do you think that other club activities (e.g. teaching, administration) should be considered?

    If a good way to measure contributions can be found ,yes, but this is usually subjective, so probably impractical.

    3. Do you think that participation (as opposed to just results) in tournament games should be considered?

    Yes

    4. Do you think that games played with non-South Africans (e.g. over the internet) should be considered?

    I think potentially results in internet tournaments could be used, but games just played on the internet against non-South Africans should not be considered “participation in SA Go”.

    5. Do you think that more than one tournament should be used?

    I think the SA Closed is fine, except perhaps the qualifying mechanism.

    6. Do you think that internet tournaments should be used?

    If we’re holding them, sure. AND if everyone has a fair chance to take part in them.

    7. Any other comments?

    I think one way to encourage giving something back is to award participation points for commenting other SA players’ games and making them available. This site is willing to host those games, or they can be mailed on the SAGA list, etc. Another, similar system could be used for players to buy teaching games and lessons from other players with participation points.

    I also feel that there is a void in terms of rewarding top players for improvement in the current system. Even if Welile had absolutely thrashed everyone in the tournament beside Victor, after increasing from 1-dan to 5-dan this year, he would still be limited to 3700 points, with whoever finishes beneath him, still bagging 3400.

  3. konrad says:

    Just two points in response to Fred (I’m not championing any particular point of view, just want to be fair):

    1. Playing in tournaments is not just for personal experience. When stronger players play tournament games against weaker players, they provide an opportunity for the weaker player to learn that is not the same as in an ordinary club game – the stronger player plays with full strength and energy rather than in “teaching” mode.

    2. SAGA does not foot the bill to send people to the WAGC – it is fully sponsored.

  4. tristen says:

    For those who don’t have a Yahoo account, you can see my original text at:

    http://contrarytoauthority.blogspot.com/2005/09/this-is-very-old-thing-and-im-somewhat.html

  5. Lloyd says:

    Questions:

    1. Do you think that participation in rated club games should be considered in choosing the WAGC representative?

    Yes

    2. Do you think that other club activities (e.g. teaching, administration) should be considered?

    Yes, I agree that this is subjective, but it would be nice if additional points could be given for active contribution to the game outside of participation. I am thinking particularly of the newsletter, website, fundraising, organisation of tournaments (especially if not as a player too), etc.

    3. Do you think that participation (as opposed to just results) in tournament games should be considered?

    Yes, but results must count a lot more.

    4. Do you think that games played with non-South Africans (e.g. over the internet) should be considered?

    No. I’m not sure that any internet games should count. Too many factors to weigh, and I would not see this as “participation”.

    5. Do you think that more than one tournament should be used?

    Yes, the more the better.

    6. Do you think that internet tournaments should be used?

    Organised SAGA or club tournaments yes.

    7. Any other comments?
    Whatever system is used should take into account, in order of weighting:
    Playing strength as shown in tournaments
    Playing strength accoring to current ranking
    Participation in club meetings
    Participation in tournaments
    Addditional contributions

  6. Hugo says:

    1. Do you think that participation in rated club games should be considered in choosing the WAGC representative?

    Yes.

    2. Do you think that other club activities (e.g. teaching, administration) should be considered?

    If possible – further discussion is needed here, regarding e.g. teaching… see below.

    3. Do you think that participation (as opposed to just results) in tournament games should be considered?

    Yes.

    4. Do you think that games played with non-South Africans (e.g. over the internet) should be considered?

    No. It is another question whether (non-tournament) internet games between South Africans should be considered. I’m thinking not (this is what is currently the case), the only side effect of this is I won’t go to any particular trouble to play a South African rather than some other opponent. Do we feel that matters?

    5. Do you think that more than one tournament should be used?

    Yes, sure. A lot of these questions are just “should it count”, the answer “yes” is a bit vague, not answering “how it should count”, but that would be the *next* discussion, wouldn’t it?

    6. Do you think that internet tournaments should be used?

    Official South African tournaments, yes.

    7. Any other comments?

    We had a little “brain storming” at the Stellenbosch club tonight. The question was basically “how can we encourage people to contribute, and ‘reward’ them accordingly?”. Specifically the high-dan players in the country, for example Victor. The question I would like to pose is, what is the best way for them to contribute? Someone pointed out you can get games reviewed on GTL, so game reviews are not *that* useful, considering all the administrative problems trying to implement that fairly. I feel a strong player’s time is better spent on a good, proper teaching game.

    So, let’s raise some other interesting ideas for discussion: firstly, in a teaching game with white more than 9 stones stronger, I feel white can get participation points for teaching, but that black should not, the advantage he is getting is the learning experience.

    How about the (sounds like it may be controversial) suggestion you don’t get participation points if you are more than e.g. 2 stones weaker than your opponent – then only your opponent (the stronger player) gets the points?

    Another suggestion that might help battle abuse, maybe define a teaching game, where the teacher (white) gets participation points but the student doesn’t, as a game where black has at least three (for example) handicap stones *too few* – i.e. there isn’t really a fight in the game for white, white then really has to play to *teach* black to play better.

    Of course I don’t mean to suggest that a tough, well-matched handicapped battle isn’t a good teaching aid, I’m just trying to encourage more interactive “teaching”, rather than “teaching” just meaning “hey, let’s play a mismatched 9H free game, and ask a few questions if you want” type game, just that the former might encourage better teaching?

    That other post had the largest number of comments, let’s make this one have the largest comments, hehe. So, for pure spamming purposes (ok, and a little more) here’s a definition of brainstorming stolen from http://www.mindtools.com:

    Brainstorming is an excellent way of developing many creative solutions to a problem. It works by focusing on a problem, and then coming up with very many radical solutions to it. Ideas should deliberately be as broad and odd as possible, and should be developed as fast as possible. Brainstorming is a lateral thinking process (see the introduction to this chapter for further information). It is designed to help you break out of your thinking patterns into new ways of looking at things.

    During brainstorming sessions there should be no criticism of ideas. You are trying to open possibilities and break down wrong assumptions about the limits of the problem. Judgments and analysis at this stage will stunt idea generation.

    Ideas should only be evaluated once the brainstorming session has finished – you can then explore solutions further using conventional approaches.

    Not that we have to implement that directly here, I just want to encourage people to think broadly and to make crazy suggestions. (Purely so we can get the number-of-comments record broken again? ;-P )

  7. Andre says:

    1) No.
    2) No.
    3) The people who get results will obviously have had to participate. I’m for sending people with the best results.
    4) No.
    5) Yes, as many as people can organise.
    6) Yes, if they’re between South African players.
    7) It’s a tournament we’re sending someone to, not a club evening. The person chosen should be one who has performed in tournaments.

  8. konrad says:

    From Sakkie:

    …on a matter of factual accuracy. The 2000 “placing points” actually consists of two parts – 100 points are membership points and the other 1900 points are what the winner of the SA Closed gets. The result is that the participation points is the biggest component of the annual points harvest, which was probably a bit overdone at the time of instituting it. The thinking at the time was along the lines of encouraging playing of games and then to kill a second bird with the one stone by pulling the games into the ranking system as well, thus improving the accuracy and relevance of the rankings.

  9. Rory says:

    I think steve will agree with me that there are many weaker players who would like to participate in the WAGC (me included) but the fact is there are only a top few people who can do so in a meaningfull manner.

    I doubt if sending kyu players will really improve them so much – would it not be better to improve the standard of our dan players and let them return the favor by playing the kyu players in our clubs a bit more?

  10. tristen says:

    1. Do you think that participation in rated club games should be considered in choosing the WAGC representative?

    Yes.

    2. Do you think that other club activities (e.g. teaching, administration) should be considered?

    No. Either people volunteer their time, etc. because they want to, or they don’t. This is also very subjective and hard to decide. I wouldn’t want to make such a judgement.

    3. Do you think that participation (as opposed to just results) in tournament games should be considered?

    Yes, as it is already.

    4. Do you think that games played with non-South Africans (e.g. over the internet) should be considered?

    No.

    5. Do you think that more than one tournament should be used?

    More the better, if there’s capacity to organise.

    6. Do you think that internet tournaments should be used?

    Yes. It is a great way for us to interact.

    7. Any other comments?

    I’m a fan of the current system: top players represent SA (if you’re not a top player and finish well in the SA Closed on a regular basis, you’re not going on participation points), and these top players also give a lot of input through playing regularly.

    I don’t like the SA Closed format, but that’s a different issue.

  11. Leander says:

    1. Do you think that participation in rated club games should be
    considered in choosing the WAGC representative?
    Yes, as is currently the case.

    2. Do you think that other club activities (e.g. teaching, administration)
    should be considered?
    Teaching – maybe, I don’t know. It would be difficult to define ‘teaching’.
    Administration – no, we need to send players, not administrators.

    3. Do you think that participation (as opposed to just results) in
    tournament games should be considered?
    Yes, as is currently.

    4. Do you think that games played with non-South Africans (e.g. over the
    internet) should be considered?
    No.

    5. Do you think that more than one tournament should be used?
    Yes.

    6. Do you think that internet tournaments should be used?
    Yes, but everybody should have a fair chance of participating. (availability of internet etc.)

  12. Reinhardt says:

    1. Do you think that participation in rated club games should be considered in choosing the WAGC representative?
    3. Do you think that participation (as opposed to just results) in tournament games should be considered?

    Yes to both these questions, but the right balance must be struck. I feel that the current system allocates too much weight to participation and membership and too little to tournament performance.

    2. Do you think that other club activities (e.g. teaching, administration) should be considered?

    No. It would be impossible to find an objective measure.

    4. Do you think that games played with non-South Africans (e.g. over the internet) should be considered?

    No. This makes (at best) a very indirect contribution to SA Go.

    5. Do you think that more than one tournament should be used?

    As many as possible, to identify consistent performers. Anyone can have one bad tournament.

    6. Do you think that internet tournaments should be used?

    A system that emphasises tournament performance will have to provide for direct competition between players from different regions. Internet tournaments might be the only practical way of doing this.

  13. Steve says:

    It seems there are 2 issues which most people seem to have. First is the balance between participation and performance.

    I am not sure, but as I see it, the implicit understanding is: don’t participate means you shouldn’t go to the WAGC (or at least considerably less regularly).

    With the current system, to get 2000 participation points, one needs to play around 90 games (assuming 10 are tournament games through the course of the year). Is 90 games a year (i.e. more than 1 a week), considered reasonable participation? My experience at club meetings tells me that a player who comes to meetings relatively regularly, and participates in tournaments may only clock 50-60 games in a year. If you are playing more than that, you may be participating more, but it is unlikely you are injecting that much more Go knowledge into South African Go then the player with 50-60 games – who will often be the player playing longer, more serious games.

    Thus it seems sensible for SAGA to determine a level of participation in terms of number of games to be considered actively participating, and set the awards per game so that participating that often would lead to getting max participation points. Put another way, getting full participation points should be the norm, not the exception, for the typical club player.

    In this case, allowing participation points to weigh heavily (even as heavily as tournament performance) will not be a major issue except to those who don’t participate. Does SAGA wish to send these players to the WAGC? (note also that low-participating players who consistently perform well in the SA Closed will still occasionally win through to the WAGC using this system).

    The second issue is the tournament structure of the SA Closed, which currently makes comparison between players of different regions difficult and can severely punish players on the basis of one bad game in a qualifying tournament. In addition, my feeling is that the current structure strongly favours players with higher ranks, instead of creating a level playing field in the tournament scenario.

    How to address these issues is more difficult, since the obvious solution, playing over the internet, is not generally available to all players, and is also unattractive to a large number of players.

  14. tristen says:

    To add to Steve’s comments, the participation points system is not designed to prevent the best players from representing SA at the WAGC. It is designed to stop good players from winning a tournament once a year, never playing at a local club, and then going off to Japan; for example, when Clive Hunt last went to Japan (before the participation point system), he was living in Perth, Australia, having emigrated there. That was a strange state of affairs.

    The issue here is how should SAGA send people to the WAGC? (yes, I know, by airplane). There seems to be two competing philosophies:

    1)The Best Player that year should go.
    2)The Most Well-Rounded player should go.

    The difference is quite simple. In the Best Player scenario, the strongest player regardless must go to Japan. If this is the case, then SAGA should have one tournament a year, invite all SA players, and the winner of gets to go to Japan. This would mean, in practice, that Victor could go each year if he choses to.

    In the Most Well-Rounded player scenario, what is valued is not only the player’s ability to win a tournament(s), but also the “give-back” factor. In this scenario, a player’s strength plus the player’s involvement in SA go is what is deemed important; for example, Ben Gale has not only won the SA Closed, but also regularly plays and teaches people at JHB Club—he gets to go to Japan and the rest of us learn from him, through playing.

    One other point on this, all of us belong to a community of go players. We don’t (and cannot) exist as go players in isolation, if for no other reason than it takes two to play. When Ben (or Julius) goes to Japan, a piece of me also goes to Japan; I can remember playing both on nine stones, providing a convenient whipping boy. Likewise, when Leander goes to Japan (only a matter of time), I’ll also go, since I taught him to play and have had the enjoyable experience of sparing with him on a regular basis for many years. The point is that whomever goes to Japan is a representative of our community and a product of our combined efforts. Only one person plays the stones, but dozens brought him to the board. There seems to be a moral obligation to “give-back” to the community at large.

    The participation points system uses the Most Well-Rounded scenario as its start. Then it says that the only objective way of determining the “give-back” factor is by the number of games played in a calendar year. Further, it deems this process to be over a period of years (i.e. the points earned are cumulative). The end result? Strong players represent South Africa, and they’re the same players often seen at local clubs and at tournaments.

    Steve’s point seems to be that the credit points are too hard to obtain. If so (I haven’t found so, but I play a lot), then that’s a matter of minor tweaking.

  15. Hugo says:

    What about the suggestion of somehow allowing participation points for teaching games? I don’t think it would be any less objective than a normal rated game.

    For example, I feel if a teaching game is defined as being “too easy for white”, that there will be less abuse. If black isn’t fighting a competitive game, and won’t be getting participation points, black will only ask *good* teachears to play white, not so? If someone doesn’t give good teaching games, he won’t find many “students” to abuse for participation points.

    Or something like that.

    Comments?

  16. konrad says:

    Response to Hugo:

    Such teaching games (where the only difference is that white gives a smaller handicap than indicated by the ranks) are of course treated just like any other game in the current system – so they do count towards participation points for both players. I assume you meant games that would not normally be counted as rated games, e.g. because of ongoing commentary by the stronger player. I see no problem defining such games as teaching games if both players agree on this beforehand.

    The core of your suggestion, then (please correct me if I’m wrong) is that teaching games should be defined as a new category (alongside the current categories of rated and unrated games) and that such games should be unrated but count towards participation points for the stronger player.

  17. Hugo says:

    Generally a teaching game is unrated, since the result isn’t relevant to the ranking (rating) system. My suggestion is that they count towards participation points despite being unrated. I do agree that some unrated games (blitz?) shouldn’t count towards participation points, hence yes, a third category is necessary?

    How to define this category and its points is then the question, in order to best avoid “abuse” (including unintentional abuse. Unrated games don’t count for this very reason). One possibility that I think is a good one is that only the “teacher” should get participation points for a teaching game, not the student.

    I’m less sure of my suggestion of requiring a “smaller handicap”. That could be discussed. I think if a teacher is teaching during a game, the student gets an advantage, and would therefore “play better” than otherwise, hence the possibility of a smaller handicap. Requiring a smaller handicap might just be overly complex though, and some people may want to do their “teaching” as an “after-the-fact review” of previous moves in a way that does *not* benefit the student’s play during the game, thus possibly allowing “correct handicap” teaching games. Doesn’t seem realistic to me though – can you give a good teaching game when the opponent is going to give you a serious challenge even without your help? You’d be tempted to compete. (Which is fine, but play a normal rated game then, rather than calling it a teaching game?)

    Another suggestion I also made, but support the least of the suggestions in this post, was the possibility of only giving white participation points in “high handicap games” (uh, >6H for example). The theory would be that it is in effect a teaching game. I think the theory is flawed though, white can learn a lot about invading, so black is also contributing, and may just as well also get points.

  18. Julius Paulu says:

    Hi all,
    I think a lot should be taken into account,for one-GO in SA doesn’t realy have much to offer as a sport i.e salaries,study pakages etc,yes we are all playing it for fun & that’s unquestionable.But at the moment we all share similar dreams-getting strong but the other one is that of representing SA abroad!My personal view is,one should be actively involved in club&tournaments games&should be given a fair chance of representing SA.Collecting the required points seems fair enough
    I think kuy levels should also be given a chance once they have enough points.The person to represent SA is the one who contributes in the uplifting of GO in SA-playing club games,participating in most of the tournaments,teaching GO etc!CONTRIBUTION IS IMPORTANT!!!!!!!!!!

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