Rating systems are generally intended to put playing strengths into perspective according to universally accepted, fixed and comprehensible rules. This is due to the understandable desire to measure individual participants in a sport. One simply wants to see where one stands, where one’s own team stands or even who is currently number 1 in the world.
If possible, a ranking system must fulfil three criteria: 1. the criteria for compiling the ranking list itself must be as understandable and comprehensible as possible. 2. the ranking list must reflect reality as well as possible. Those who are better are also higher. 3. the ranking list must live and move, it goes up and down depending on the results, in the case of young people mostly up…
Re 1: There are many approaches and attempts to achieve this. Often, however, the criteria remain mysterious or even obvious nonsense. I will examine a few ranking lists from different games and sports to show this in detail.
Re 2: This is definitely the most important criterion, in my opinion. How well it succeeds, however, can also be seen from the examples.
Re 3: Among the criteria, it is the most sensitive and the least tested. It is logical that one wants to be rewarded for good results in the form of a rise in the rankings (we won’t think about bad ones for a moment). That is how it should be, of course. The only thing is: the type and strength of the adjustment to results is usually not verified, I would even say usually arbitrary.
For me, the decisive criterion for the quality of a ranking list would be its suitability as a forecasting system. The existing ranking lists, I maintain, are too often not suitable for this purpose. They are often just numbers games. One looks at them and is amused.
In the following, I examine a few of the ranking systems used in practice. If you also want to get an idea?
By the way, if you are patient enough, you will be rewarded with the universal, all-purpose, area-covering, optimal, mature, perfect system: The Pauli System. And: I’ll keep my address secret so that you don’t have to call the men in the white coats…
In bridge, points are simply added up. You can collect club points or master points. The more you play, the more points you can earn. So the rankings are basically worthless. Certainly, a good player has an easier time collecting many points because he is ahead more often. But playing a lot also helps. But for me, “playing a lot” is not necessarily a criterion for “playing well”. So it would be time to introduce a good system there.
And: I urgently have to get out of the habit of talking about things I have no idea about. I know what you’re trying to say: Unlike those I just don’t have a clue about.
In football there is the FIFA ranking. It is much more than just a little gimmick, as seedings lists are now already derived from it. I have taken the liberty of copying the official FIFA ranking list of 8.10.2008 from the internet. Here are the rankings:
1 Spain 1,565
2 Italy 1,339
3 Germany 1,329
4 Netherlands 1,295
5 Croatia 1,266
6 Brazil 1,252
7 Argentina 1,230
8 Czech Republic 1,134
9 Portugal 1,120
10 Turkey 1,033
11 France 1,019
11 Russia 1,013
13 Romania 1,007
14 Cameroon 999
15 England 991
16 Scotland 976
16 Bulgaria 976
18 Greece 896
19 Israel 874
20 Ghana 864
Sure, the evaluation criteria are all objectively correct and comprehensible, I assume, no doubt about that. And I don’t have the slightest idea of irony. But may I still make a few small comments? Thank you:
First of all: Is it the intention to map the playing strengths? Actually, one would have to assume so, wouldn’t one? I would only wish that FIFA would soon create its own odds according to these rankings and then you can bet there.
With all due respect to Croatia: I would bet blindly with FIFA at the next World Cup that Brazil will do better. Are you listening to me, Mr Platini? Please, please, just a small bet, 10,000 euros or so? Is that OK?
I’ll also take France over Turkey or England over Cameroon. May I?
I just have to question the evaluation criteria. If that’s the best the officials could come up with? You can’t survive on the betting market with that.
Regrettably, I will hardly be able to bet on it. The rankings are compiled, I may even be able to see the criteria by which they are compiled. Nevertheless, almost everyone knows that it is really just a numbers game. Nevertheless, there is now a serious problem with it: these rankings, as well as the rankings of the nations with their successes in the European club competitions, are now partly used for draws or seedings. So if they are not correct or simply bad, at some point there will actually be disadvantages (there already are, only there is no better system so far).
In tennis, the rankings are already much better. If at some point you hear that Federer is number 1 in the rankings, then you can already assume that he is the best player. There was probably a little more investment (or was that just luck?). Nevertheless, we know the curiosity: a player played a very good tournament a year ago. He does not take part in it the following year. The points are cancelled after 12 months. He slips 12 places in the world rankings without having played a ball at all. Objective and correct? I may raise doubts here as well.
4) Chess: The Elosystem
In the first half of the last 20th century, there was a Mr. Arpad E. Elo, a Hungarian physics professor who emigrated to the USA, who thought about how to measure playing strength in chess as accurately as possible. He introduced the Elo system in chess, which is still used today, as early as 1949, which gradually replaced the system used until then by a certain Kenneth Harkness.
How good this system is compared to the others mentioned above can be seen from the fact that the system is applied today to various other games and sports (Go, baseball, also other team sports).
At this point I will spare myself the detailed study of this system. It is the best practically used on a mathematical basis. That there is also a better one, which is examined in comparison with the Elo system and its nevertheless existing weaknesses, can be read in the chapter “Elo-Pauli”.