Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Points, schmoints

This posting is actually a proposal for a way that the ACBL could improve the masterpoints scheme and the corresponding ranks such that decent players who will never achieve Grand Life Master status, would have something meaningful to work for. I'm not wedded to the specifics of the proposal (one precious metal is much like another) and the particular point values I suggest are quite arbitrary. Let me begin with a little introduction.

Who cares about masterpoints? Non-life-masters care a lot. Experts couldn't care less. Other players are somewhere in between, although it's probably not too far from the truth to say that nobody who has achieved gold life master status, cares much about their points. When was the last time you heard a really good player looking at the recap sheet and saying "we got 13 points!"? Come to think of it, when was the last time you saw a really good player even at the recap sheet?

I can't really say what motivates expert players, but I'm sure isn't masterpoints. That wasn't always true – there was a time of course when masterpoints really meant something. At the other end of the spectrum, I know quite a few players who regard masterpoints as a tax: the more they earn the sooner they will be forced to play in flight A. Neither of these constituencies gains much from the masterpoints scheme.

Leaving aside for the moment that an expert player might be being rewarded by getting paid, I think that what motivates such players, apart from the simple love of the game, is winning. Winning is the only path to recognition (and respect) by their peers.

The conclusion that I draw from this is that, if the ACBL really wants a way of recognizing achievement beyond life master, they should come up with a new system of points which recognize winning only. Platinum points, as currently defined, are OK but they are only available at NABCs and not everyone can afford to go to such tournaments. Moreover, fractional platinum points are awarded for placing quite distantly in an NABC+ pairs event.

This month's ACBL bulletin has yet more letters bemoaning the failings of the current masterpoints system. Here's my suggestion for another type of points: titanium, awarded only for winning open events at sectionals, regionals, and of course Nationals. No points for second place, no points for flight B. No points for winning a bracketed KO (unless it's the top bracket). Just winning. Two-session events would score at least double the points for a single-session event. Some exceptions might be made, such as winning a section (26 pairs) at an NABC+ event such as the LM pairs because that's probably at least as difficult as winning a two-session local sectional. Or winning a KO match in the Spingold or Vanderbilt: because of seeding there are no easy wins. I think there should probably be some minimum table requirements too. For example, a 10-table sectional event should probably not count (or maybe the award would be reduced to 1). Perhaps "consolation" events should not count either (that might rule out all single-session regional events).

Here are some possible titanium point values (these are just suggestions):
event typeaward
single-session sectional* 2
double-session sectional 5
single-session regional 4
double-session regional 10
NABC+ section top as now (7)
KO (Spingold/Vanderbilt) win 15
NABC+ as now (typically 120)

* including STAC games provided that there are at least two clubs competing and at least 20 tables.

As you can see, the titanium awards would be about the same, numerically, as you would receive in platinum points. But they would not be interchangeable.

The requirements for silver, gold, diamond, etc. life master rankings could be amended to include a certain number of such points. For example (again, these are merely suggestions):

silver LM 1000 points, inc. 1 titanium
gold LM 2500 points, inc. 10 titanium and at least one two-session sectional win
diamond LM 5000 points, inc. 25 titanium and at least one two-session regional win
platinum LM 10000 points, inc. 50 titanium and at least two two-session regional wins

This would give people who have achieved life master status something meaningful to work for. For those of us who will never reach the rank of Grand LM, there is really nothing to work for beyond LM. Just more and more relatively meaningless points.

I think this would give back meaning to the idea of masterpoints, something more like in the "good old days" that we newer players keep hearing about.

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