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.]
I am shocked, Shocked!, to find sandbagging in the ECF Grand Prix.
In the interests of full disclosure could EJH state whether or not he knows and is friends with Lee Bullock, a rival of Steve Crockett in the Grand Prix and major contributor to the forum thread?
"ND" = EJH not currently available for moderating comments, but I (JMGB) can tell you that with respect to your questions with regard to Lee Bullock EJH doesn’t and isn’t.
Good to know. Of course I'm sure that you realize that Bullock's accusations could be designed to rid himself of a rival.
"Of course Im sure that you realize ...."
Who is the "you" in this comment? Me (JMGB) or EJH - the author of the post.
On the off-chance that you meant me:-
I’m not the author, I’ve no idea what will be covered in "subsequent postings" any more than you, ND, have. Neither, for that matter, did I know what was coming in this one.
I’ll leave EJH to respond to your comment if he’s sees fit.
Afternoon all. As far as I'm aware I've never met either Mr Bullock or Mr Crockett, even over the board, though I have no intention of going through my past scorebooks to check. It's also irrelevant to the information which this and subsequent posts are providing - and to the questions they'll be asking, which can be summarised briefly as:
(a) are we happy with what we can see in front of us?
(b) what can be done and what should have been done about it?
Readers are reminded to be careful with their comments, as that way it will save us deleting them, and save them writing them only to have them deleted.
Well I'd recommend that before risking some false accusations, and possible negative consequences thereof, you investigate the phenomena of a 'downward spiral' in sports psychology. Everyone has experienced a 'bad run' when they find it increasingly difficult to focus, and some suffer from this more than others.
If this guy is guilty of sandbagging he ought to receive disciplinary measures, and his ability to hold office would have to be questioned.
That said, I haven't examined the statistical evidence. I suppose that should be about as reliable as that which you can find for the computer cheating cases. Examine the probability of his tournament scores, are they realistic?
-theblueweasel, who ought perhaps to read the forum thread
Everyone has experienced a 'bad run' when they find it increasingly difficult to focus
Good Lord, so they have.
Perhaps readers will be able to make their own judgements as to whether the record we are examining convincingly fits that pattern, or whether such a pattern would be more consistent with, say, rather more mediocre results as well as the startlingly good and startling poor ones.
Examine the probability of his tournament scores, are they realistic?
We will have some more on this in the next posting.
ND: Well I'd recommend ....
After getting on for nine years of blogging there’s nothing I find more useful than anonymous recommendations as to how to write posts.
Whether Crockett is sandbagging is a topic that surfaces from time to time in this Facebook group.
After getting on for nine years of blogging there’s nothing I find more useful than anonymous recommendations as to how to write posts.
You're welcome. Assuming Crockett is actually innocent (and there should be a presumption of innocence here) I'm sure that you wouldn't want this fine blog to perform a hatchet job on his reputation.
Thanks once again for your assistance. I am sure nobody would wish to hang an innocent man and I am equally sure both that this blog does not constitute a courtroom and that our readers are capable of judging whether or not they find this blog's approach reasonable. I think though that we are unlikely to benefit from any further moral advice, though any actual information you have for us would be welcome.
What puzzles me here is how you know that the ecf haven't already considered these allegations and the guys background etc before they gave him the job..and what makes you think the fact that he has won grand prix jn the past makes him a bad choice to help administer it?Surely it just means he has a lot of now ledge of how the contest works and how important or otherwise it is to people?
I don't want to state the likely cause of Crockett's results apart from what I mentioned earlier about downward spirals and a total inability to focus when things start going wrong. I should also say that a genuine sandbagger would be far less obvious and more difficult to detect. Thre was a case in the UK many years ago in which the culprit confessed about how he would 'try less hard' in club games so as to keep his grade down, and this then drew a ferocious response from Hugh Alexander.
What puzzles me here is how you know that the ecf haven't already considered these allegations and the guys background etc before they gave him the job
I'm quite prepared to believe they have, except that nobody has said so and that I have seen him make no such claim himself. Had the ECF undertaken any formal investigation I would have expected somebody to point this out when the subject has come up before.
I should also say that a genuine sandbagger would be far less obvious and more difficult to detect
I am unconvinced by an argument that says that misconduct is much more likely to exist if we find it hard even to detect.
(Note for readers: further comments invoking Mr Bullock will not be passed. Please address yourselves to the subject of the post and its actual rather than imaginary author.)
Whoops! A couple of comments accidentally deleted.
Matthew Wilson writes:
Like the page to join the debate:- https://www.facebook.com/groups/chessheaven/
and Chris writes:
Why would or could he ecf point out in public the result of their investigations or views on the guy.doesnt he have some rights too and would it be fair for them to plaster that they'd looked at his results over their Web pages or some non official forum?
Apologies to both!
How much money has he made for winning the gp he last four years and how much do the ecf pay him for his current role?would be interesting to know the scale of the issue we are talking about here..
Also you said yourself in this blog hat Crockett was 'legitimately winning competitions ' so if this is a fact you've given then why shouldn't he also have been allowed to be in the grand prix?what action would you expect the ecf to take exactly?
Why would or could he ecf point out in public the result of their investigation
Because that's what you're supposed to do, because otherwise the integrity of your competition is non-existent, Other competitors have the right to know that where there is evidence of potential misconduct, it is taken seriously, considered seriously and judged seriously. Of necessity, this is not an entirely private matter.
how much do the ecf pay him for his current role
Nil, I should imagine. It is not money that is at issue here.
Is the ECF like FIDE, with the K-factor the same for each game, no matter its importance (club game versus tournament)? Would something like a differential K-factor help the matter?
Justin, are you at the Gibraltar tournament at the moment? whats the reaction of people over there?
But he was winning competitions legitimately..you said so yourself..there's no case no answer..
Chris, I think you need to try and follow the argument.
Pete - no I'm not. Although I live in Spain I have to work at this tme of year and besides, Gibraltar is a very long way from where I live. (For the rrcored, this week I'm in Talavera de la Reina.) I've no idea what people think there and to be honest, my long experience with the chess community is that most players really don't give much of a stuff about anything unless it either affects them or they think it will. So what's happened, or not happened, in lower-graded sections in UK weekend tournaments in the first half of the present decade isn't likely to concern people all that much.
Or so I cynically think. I'd like to be wrong. For me, by the way, the extraordinary thing isn't really what has been alleged, it's the subsequent appointment. That's what really brought about this posting (and the couple to follow).
Ok cool. Shame you couldn't make Gibraltar. It does seem a bit unlikely that they'd appoint him without knowing his record as it's not like it isn't freely available and presumably no one ever appealed successfully against him winning the grand prix in the past so it may well just be they decided that just because there's been a few allegations here is a perfectly legit reason for his inconsistent form?did you check with ecf officials about it?
I don't think you've explained what the misconduct was??what is it exactly that you're alleging this guys done to break the rules?
It does seem a bit unlikely that they'd appoint him without knowing his record
This much I agree with. I am sure his record is known about. As for the "presumably" and "it may well be", well, this is where I don't want to presume, I want to know, because it's not really normal to appoint somebody under suspicion of winning a compeitition illegtimately to head up that competition. Especially without saying word one, in public, about the controversy.
It's a public matter, concerns have ben raised in public and I'd like it explained in public.
Chris - could you maybe read that forum thread and think about it before commenting again?
Chris - the allegation is that he has deliberately manipulated his grade to keep it below 120, thus allowing him to win competitions he should be too strong to enter.
Jack.. I've played in minor sections at chess events myself in the past as a not especially strong player. I've also seen quite a few people whose grade has been higher drop below 120 then enter them still even though they can be stronger than that- but just because they are apparently a 'shark' that doesn't guarantee them to win - even if he was a 130 or 140 I very much doubt he would be guaranteed anything special in keeping below 120 grade- plus there just isn't much financial incentive to do it.
Andrew - the trouble with all arguments of that kind is that these aren't normal results. The combination of extraordinary success and extraordinary failure is striking, and taken over quite a long period, all the more so. Yes, anybody's grade can drop below a point it was before. I can now enter an U2100, for instance, which for many years I couldn't. But this drop hasn't taken place while I've been winning dozens of tournaments.
Is there anything against the rules in getting mainly high or low scores in tournaments? is there a requirement to get a certain number of middling scores a year for example? I'm not sure which rule has been broken exactly and what should have been done? So do you actually enter u2100 tournaments even though your grade used to be higher? Doesn't that make you at least as bad a shark as this Crockett youre alleging to be??
Is there anything against the rules in getting mainly high or low scores in tournaments
Do you know, I'm not sure there's anything I can say in response to a question like this, so I won't.
On that blog of Crockett doesn't he already give an explanation for this some time ago? Sounds like it's largely health related in which case surely it's a bit low to be having a go at him about it in public like this?
"Controller" is a misnomer. Despite the title, he's just the gofer that chases up congress organisers to get their results submitted within the time limit for scores to count in the grand prix. He doesn't determine the competition's structure, rules or prizes. That said, his appointment is a tad embarrassing. But what do you do when no one else has volunteered for the post?
I have to say it would be nice if you ellaborated on what you're accusing Steve Crockett of doing wrong rather than just linking to an old thread which was shut down due to false allegations that went too far etc
Josh - we'll get onto that in a later post and I'm not ging to discuss it in depth before then. You can assume that if I were entirely happy with the explanation, we wouldn't be in this comments box.
Brenog - it's a fair point, but by the same token, why make such an embarrassing appointment when it's only a gofer?
Mark - in your view, which were the "false allegations" which "went too far" and which according to you caused the thread to be closed?
you'd need to ask Carl Hibbard that one as his final comments were that this has probably already gone too far..indeed there do seem to have been a lot of allegations without proof such as him allegedly been a known online cheat but no source to back this up??
Gofers still perform a useful function and, from what I've observed over the last few years, only one person has kicked up a stink in public about C, so the risk of public embarrassment mustn't have seemed great. In fact, it's interesting to see how a number of those commenting here struggle to understand what C is alleged to have done wrong. Add to that the fact that the individual concerned is always polite, smiling, wishing people good luck, asking after their family, etc. and one can see why many, like ND, are inclined to take a charitable view of his bizarre results.
Brenog - that's very well put in every respect, with the rider that for all that, it's still bizarre to put somebody in charge of the very competition to which the allegations pertain.
I mean taking-the-piss bizarre.
Mark - thanks for "elaborating", ta.
I must admit I would like to see the ecf at least 'stand by their man' so to speak and come out with a statement to support their gp controller against the false allegations and show they have faith in him to do the job..
What a good idea that is. It would be even better if it were accompanied by some indication that the allegations had been properly considered.
And with that - and with apologies to readers - comments are closing for the night. They should reopen tomorrow morning.
And so they have.
There are cases where someone has legitimately avoided middle scores, but usually it's something like: they play up a division (or two) and score 0/4, and then want to get their confidence back so pick a "weak" event and clean up 5/5 in their own division. Usually this is not rinsed and repeated, and still would tend to increase their rating over time, as the opponent skill is different, and I take it this is not the case here.
It's relatively rare that games from lower graded competitions are recorded in duplicate and then later published on tournament websites. Someone playing in lots of competitions will over time have a modest collection of games built up. In the tournaments where he does badly, it's remarkable quite how much bad luck the player in question will have. In one tournament, he left a mate in one just out of the opening in the first round. In the second, having fended off an increasingly desperate attack with skill, he then found the only move on the board to lose.
There's material for your "worse move on the board" series.
Rdc, your argument is interesting but a bit contradictory to the view that he is deliberately losing games in crtain circumstances..why for instance would someone throw a game in round one of a tournament they had just paid to enter.I could understand more if it was the last round and he was on 1/5.what are his last round results like in these circumstances? Also the round 2 game why would someone spend ages defending an attack if they wanted to lose..something doesn't make sense here.Are you sure the moves were all recorded correctly etc?
It's one thing to say someone's chess results are unusual.there are loads of players with strange runs or quirks if you scrutinise their results in the same detail or if they played this often. It's another to then suggest something unusual is cheating in any way.what happened to innocent until proven guilty?shouldn't we be trusting the ecf and tournament organisers and arbiters who actually know the players to use their judgement?
What is it worse to be called, a cheat or a patzer? If someone is wanting to manage their grade to a particular level, it takes dedication to lose all their games in a tournament. Less eye catching is to draw with much lower graded players. That's bad for the ego, as it implies really you are no better than them.
The games are out there to draw your own conclusions.
Justin which part of Spain do you live in/what took you over there?I have family out in Malaga and it's great to go over and visit especially at this time of year although work also means I can't right now. Do you have family in the UK and come back often? The articles were interesting thanks,always nice to see an ecf gofer suffer :)
I live in Huesca province. I don't really have any family to speak of. I came over here after receiving an answer to an ad in the Personals!
Just to make a 52nd comment. Certain people will be tickled by this. Why on earth would I want to rid myself a rival anyway? I dont care about the GP. I play for fun and improvement. And to meet friends. I was once friends with Crockett and even then was the biggest voice over his apparent sandbagging. Tim Hilton was the very first person to point out Steve Crockett to me.
My campaign since has gone on 5 years nearly. I could honestly write 52 of these blogs Justin has written on Chess stories about SC. Ok maybe not that many but at least 20. All on things that are facts and evidence for deliberate sandbagging. The best evidence of all is one I cant use as it was him telling me he doesn't always try his best in events. We was friends at this time. This made me very wary and I felt I could not longer be a proper friend to someone who was doing this.
I think the next best evidence is the constant high and low scores and of course his super speedy play when he is not trying compared to his hours and hours long games when he is trying. I have seen him off the chess board in 15 mins in games that should last 5-7 hours.
I have seen this over 50 times over the last 5 years. And the same amount roughly when he is trying the games take ages. You will never see him get a 0/4 0/5 and the games take ages unless he is playing up to prove a point. Anyway just felt I had to answer some of the posts from this thread.
If anyone has any questions I would gladly answer them. I just hope more is going to be done to stop this happening in future and some further action against SC.
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