Players on the British tournament circuit compete not only for the prizes and trophies in the particular tournaments they enter, but also for the Grand Prix, a system by which players accumulate points, over a period July to June, according to their performances in those events - or their best performances if they play more than a certain number of events. The rules are here and the competition currently enjoys the support of Tradewise. I think the principles are easily enough understood.
In the halcyon days of UK chess the Grand Prix was a fiercely-contested affair with generous and much-coveted prizes. Even now, the competition carries a lot of prestige - not least at its lower levels, since there are sections for lower-graded competitors: 160-179, 149-160, 120-139 and under-120, using our eccentric grading system.
The lowest of these sections, as you can see, is the under-120, which was won, in the 2011-12 season, by one Stephen Crockett.
The following season, 2012-13, he won again.
And blow me if he didn't do the hat-trick in 2013-14.
By 2014-15 his grade was just too high for him to be entered in the under-120 lists. No matter: he won the next section up anyway.
Not everybody was delighted by this long string of success. Some time into the 2015-16 season - last October, in fact - a thread appeared on the English Chess Forum in which a lot of doubt was cast on the integrity of some of the results which Mr Crockett had achieved in the course of his four-year success story. Do read the thread if you have the time: it goes off-track round about page seven, but it's worth sticking with, especially for the last few postings.
Posters on the thread drew attention to a curious aspect of Mr Crockett's results, which was how rarely he seemed to achieve a mediocre score - i.e. the sort of middle-ranking score that most players achieve in most tournaments.
It wasn't that he scored 4.5/5 or 5/5 that occasioned surprise - he was, after all, legitimately winning competitions. It was that when he failed to achieve a high score, he didn't seem to get, say, 3/5 or 2.5/5 very often. He did, however, manage to score 0, or 0.5, quite a lot. (To view his ECF grading and tournament records, click here, request Crockett and then click on 279615G. If you then click on Games you may view tournament results, season-by-season, as you please.)
Whatever the specific reasons for pattern of results, one potential outcome of losing a lot of games as well as winning a lot is that a player may end up with a grade much lower than it might have been otherwise - and hence retain the ability to play in the lower sections of chess tournaments..
As it happens, not long after this thread had run its course, Mr Crockett, in his own words, "quit being a circuit regular".
In subsequent postings, we'll take a closer look at some interesting aspects of Mr Crockett's tournament record. In the meantime, though, once this controversy was out in the open you might have expected the ECF to have taken some action with regard to Mr Crockett and the Grand Prix.
And so they did.
They put him in charge of it.
[Entirely anonymous comments will not be accepted on this series of articles.]