Since Ollie LaFreniere's death in 2002, Kirk Winges has maintained the Washington Scholastic Rating System (WSRS) and most of you who will read this have accessed these ratings on this website in the past. The WSRS was a good system and served a valuable function for many years, but the time has come for change. The major limitation of the system is the size.
The Student ID Code
We are somewhat limited to an 8-digit ID code. It is true that newer versions of SwissSys will allow 10-digit IDs, but there are many TD's out there running with older (in some cases, very old) versions of SwissSys. With that said it would disrupt things too much to switch to a longer ID code. We have always used the first three digits of the ID as a school code and the 4th digit as a grade code. These uses are essential for many of the tournaments where school and grade determine sections and trophies. Although a cross-reference could be set up for that purpose, it would again disrupt the way many of the tournaments are run. So, that leaves the last 4 digits of the ID as the unique part of the ID, and we have always used that as a number. Since we don't use numbers below 1000 (no leading zeros) that effectively meant the practical limit on the number of students in the system was 9000. We run up against that limit every year and I must make difficult decisions on removing players from the system to reduce the numbers.
In addition, I was approached by organizers in Oregon who wanted to establish a state scholastic rating system there. Since we already have a number of Oregon, BC and Idaho players in the system at present, it only made sense to consider a combined Northwest rating system using the WSRS as the basis, but expanding it to include the other states/provinces. Initially, this system will service Washington and Oregon scholastic tournaments but could ultimately service tournaments in Idaho, and BC as well, if there is an interest in those states of participating in the NWSRS.
But the problem was space. I ultimately decided that the least disruption of the system would be to modify one of the four digits in the ID to be an alpha-numeric, rather than just a pure alpha. That simple change will expand the capacity of the system to 35,000 students and will easily handle the four states/provinces. So, the fifth digit of the ID, previously the first numeric digit, will now be either a number (from 1 to 9) or a letter (from A to Z). A further benefit of this system will be that this 5th digit will also tell you which state or province the person is from. If the 5th digit is a number, or if it has the letter A through K, it will be a Washington resident. If the 5th digit is a letter from L through W, it will be an Oregon resident. If the 5th digit is an X, it will be a BC resident. If the 5th digit is a Y, it will be an Idaho resident. Finally, if the letter is a Z it will be a resident of some other state, province or country. Here's how I made the change:
- If you are a Washington resident and had an existing ID, your ID should not have changed. New Washington residents, will begin receiving letter codes between A and K, so after today, any new player from Washington will likely get an alpha character in the 5th digit since there are very few unused numeric codes available.
- If you are an Oregon resident with a previous ID, your ID has changed. If the 5th digit of the ID was 1, it is now an “L”. If it was a 2, it is now an “M”, and so on… (3 = N, 4 = O, 5 = P, 6 = Q, 7 = R, 8 = S, 9 = T). (Note there are no ID's in the system with a zero for the 5th digit, since the system does not allow leading zeros.) The other digits of your ID should be the same.
- If you are a BC resident, your 5th digit was changed to an “X”, and the remaining digits were kept the same (there were a couple of exceptions where I had to slide the ID one number up or down to keep from having duplicates).
- If you are an Idaho resident, your 5th digit was changed to a “Y” and the remaining digits were kept the same.
- If you are a resident of another state, your 5th digit was changed to a “Z” and the remaining digits were kept the same.
The existing WSRS registration program should work fine with this change. SwissSys will also work fine, since it does not care whether characters in the ID are alpha or numeric. For tournament directors, you will continue to enter unrated players using the same method: the three digit school code followed by the 1 digit grade code, and either blank or zero for the remaining four digits. HOWEVER, it is imperative that all TD's give me school code information when creating a new school code. A player's state is determined by the school code (there are a few exceptions for students who live in one state, but attend school in another, but these are handled on a case-by-case basis). So, whenever reporting a tournament to me, it is critical that any new school codes be documented with the following information:
- The 3-digit school code that you created (make sure it is unique)
- The name of the school
- Whether it is an elementary school, a middle school, a junior high or a high school, if it can be characterized as one of these (if not, you may omit this information, but tell me that you have omitted it on purpose)
- The city the school is in (if known)
- The state the school is in - this information is critical and the ratings program will not run without this information.
I think this new system will allow us to move forward for many years. The NWSRS should encourage trans-boundary play, bringing Oregon kids up to Washington to play, and Washington kids down to Oregon. Oregon people will rate their own tournaments, and ratings fees collected there will be used to support chess in Oregon, just as the ratings fees in Washington are used to support chess in Washington. Plus, Oregon ratings personnel are fully trained and can rate the same tournaments as I do, so I will no longer have to be the only person who can do ratings. Amy Coughlin firstname.lastname@example.org in Oregon will be the point of contact for rating Oregon events, but can also fill in for me on Washington events when I am not available.
I know change is always difficult and even a small change like this can cause disruption for people. But I hope all will see the long-term benefits and stability of having a northwest system.