Youth Committee Report - March 2020

WESPA Youth Subcommittee was formed in 2005, to focus on attracting and developing young players. We have run 11 annual World Youth Scrabble Championships, and 3 WESPA Youth Cup events. The first WYSC had 50 players. This year’s version had 250+, across two sections. Each year, it becomes more hotly contested, to the point where a number of countries are limiting access to only their very top players (hence the need to incorporate a second section, for the first time).

We are slowly adding more and more countries to WYC – some notable additions over the years have been Pakistan (joined 2010) and Hong Kong (2015). Both these nations have experienced exponential growth since their inaugural appearances in our world youth event. A typical intervention package, such as provided for Pakistan (where I was assisted by my son, Dr Alastair Richards, ranked 8 in the world) is to teach them how to teach beginners, plus running separate workshops for experienced players, followed by organising a tournament (using tournament software), and establishing a local rating system.

Nepal are joining WYS this year, and we intend to have players from China and Myanmar join in future (training sessions are already planned for all three of these countries).

In Asia, numbers of youth are rapidly expanding. African countries are also growing their youth component (but find it more difficult to compete internationally, due to finances and visas) They share our vision for more young players. Europe has been slow to take off. However Catalin Caba (Romania) has now introduced a youth circuit, with his YES! event including players from a number of countries, like UK and Netherlands. This is expected to provide the impetus for an increase in numbers of young players in Europe over the next 5 years. North American youth are somewhat isolated, for two reasons: using both a different format (pairs) in school Scrabble events, and also using a different dictionary (“School”/censored version). However, there are small pockets of young players starting to experiment with Collins, including a group in Ontario, Canada. We would love to take WYC to Canada sometime soon, although that would mean smaller numbers (too expensive for most Asians).

Regarding the interface with Mattel, there was an interesting development in Malaysia this year, when a sales representative from Mattel decided to stimulate sales by setting up a Scrabble competition. He chose schools which do not already have a Scrabble presence (many already do, given the Ministry for education endorsement of Scrabble as an educational activity). He then set up 4 tournaments, one in each state, and took the best players (all new to Scrabble) from those four events, to play in a championship event. Because Mattel approached MSA (Malaysian Scrabble Association) to assist with running these events, MSA were able to insist that the tournaments were run to normal rules, and that each group received a few hours coaching from experienced players like Vannitha, prior to competing. Many of these players then migrated to the normal Malaysian Scrabble Association events, translating into approximately 100 new tournament players. This cooperation between Mattel and an established (WESPA-member) Scrabble organisation could also provide a model for Mattel in other countries.

Collins Dictionary are also actively involved in a schools program being run in India, under the leadership of Shaikh Ahmed, from Indian Scrabble Association.

Alchemist Cup, considered the most prestigious Scrabble event in the world, featured 17 of 50 players who were alumni of WYSC. That proportion (one-third), is expected to double over the next 10 years.

Our focus has not only been to increase the number of players worldwide, but also to encourage the development of excellence. Apart from running actual training programs, we have a website which features resources to help individuals develop their own study programs (eg hooks and stems to study). It also provides some coaching sessions, eg the Scoring Tutorial, which are frequently used by teachers in group settings. Dr Trevor Hovelmeier (South Africa) contributed many of the mnemonics.

Recently, in Malaysia, a beginner visited a tournament, to see how things work. The youngster (10), asked, dumbfounded, as he surveyed the room, “Do old people also play Scrabble?” Scrabble is viewed as a game for young people in most of Asia. Young players are our future. They are already running events for the rest of us, as well as taking on leadership roles in WESPA (eg John Hamilton: WESPA Rules Committee, TD for events like Seniors World Championship and Australian Championships. Jessica Pratesi: Chair of WESPA Rules Committee)

The youth committee will continue to reach out to more countries, and support the training and development of young players (focussing mostly on schools and universities).

The end-goal is:

More youngsters, more skill (both in playing and in admin) for young players and their leaders, and greater credibility given to Scrabble as an educational pursuit, worldwide.

CURRENT YOUTH COMMITTEE (some slight changes are pending approval by WESPA committee)

Karen Richards, Australia (Chair)

Martin Teo, Malaysia
Shan Abbasi, Canada
Akkarapol Kwansak, Thailand
Tariq Pervez, Pakistan
Ruvini Fernando, Sri Lanka
Cornelia Guest, USA
Ruth Groffman, NZ
Neeta Bhatia, India
Chris Lau, Hong Kong

The following three are potential new members:

Yong Jian Rong, Singapore
Catalin Caba, Romania
Aditya Iyengar, India

An invitation has also been extended to Sumbul Siddiqui (currently in UK) who will advise her availability once she has secured work.

Karen Richards

As each month passes, all Committee reports will move to here.

Tournament and Rating Committee (TRC) Report February 2020

In recent times, there has been much player discussion about the output of the rating system WESPA uses (called Aardvark). There have been observations as to its effectiveness by trying to bring in certain players and their apparent performance (or lack thereof) as a means to justifying said observations.

WESPA has followed this discussion and the following changes will take effect from September 1, 2020.

This FAQ list will explain.

What are the changes?

The formula used to display who is RANKED where based on their rating will change from the current formula (played a minimum of 40 WESPA rated games and played a tournament in the last two years) to a new formula: played a minimum of 30 WESPA rated games in the last 12 months.

To clarify, this formula is to apply for which players will appear on this link (which lists the ranking of current players): https://www.wespa.org/aardvark/html/rankings/full_rankings.html

When will it come into effect?

This will come into effect on 1 September 2020.

Why not do it now?

This is to allow the opportunity for players who may end up affected by this change to enter upcoming rated events and thus maintain currency throughout.

Why 30 games? Why not, say, play one event in a year?

30 games is the point at which a player is no longer considered provisional in the Ratings.

It also allows a better opportunity that a player will have played enough events/games to suggest their rating is still a reflection against others who play less/similar/more. The minimum event size for rating is also far lower. A player could play an early bird event for the year and thus be treated in the same way as someone who played a 30 game main event. The game number was considered a fairer measure.

Why is this change being made?

It is being done to ensure that if you appear on the World Rankings of our sport as a current player in our sport, that you will have played a suitable number of WESPA rated games within a certain period.

Whilst external discussion has centred typically around a very select number of players; this is greatly unfair to single out those players as the data reveals a more widespread problem.

On our current formula:

* 14% of the top 100 players listed in the World at the moment played zero WESPA rated games in 2019.
* In most cases, their zero games allowed them to increase their ranking.
* This trend extends to the entire list. Around 15% of the over 1500 players, based on the Rankings link highlighted above, played no WESPA rated events in an entire year.

A change in the ranking display formula needed to be done to ensure that if a player appears on the WESPA Rankings page, that they can be reasonably considered a "current" player on the WESPA rated circuit (as compared to local ratings if they continue to remain active at a local level).

A player, to be considered to be current enough, could no longer rest on the games they played in an event over a year ago when others around them played may more in the same period.

What happens to my rating? Where can I see my data if I do not appear on the Rankings?

Nothing happens to your rating. Your player data does not disappear from the WESPA website.

It only impacts whether you are considered current to be included on this page: https://www.wespa.org/aardvark/html/rankings/full_rankings.html

To access your own player data, do the following:

* Visit this page: https://www.wespa.org/ratings.shtml
* Go to "Find a Player" and start typing your name in.
* If you have a rating you will be found.
* Click Submit.

All your data is there.

OK, I have done this, and there is a number in the link. What is that?

That number is a unique number to you. It will eventually form a Player ID system to ensure data integrity in the Ratings itself.

Data integrity has been mentioned before. Wasn't that just to do with scores in events?

No. Data integrity covers most aspects of a tournament outcome. Not only do scores need to be accurate for statistical and rating purposes, we need to ensure that the names of the players entered match what we have on the Rankings/Ratings.

Inconsistencies in names adds an unnecessary workload to the Ratings Officer and means further time required for what should be a relatively "straight through process". This needs to be fixed too.

OK, but I want to play in events. Where do I find what's coming up?

Go to this link: https://www.wespa.org/tournaments/index.shtml. The current calendar is here.

As at 18 January 2020, there were 38 events on the calendar from 15 countries and there are always additions being made regularly.

The opportunity to achieve the minimum by 1 September is therefore achievable.

What if I want to play in my home country and no events are listed?

If your home country is a member of WESPA (https://www.wespa.org/associations.shtml), then your country currently has a quota allocated to them that they can offer as local events. In most cases, that quota is 4 but for some nations, it is 8.

If you are an Association and want to know what your quota is, contact TRC Chair Nick Ivanovski (nicksfbemail@gmail.com).

If you are looking to exceed your nation's quota, contact the WESPA TRC Chair (on the same contact details) to discuss.

The Tournament and Rating Committee has been charged to look to get more events on the WESPA Calendar.

Further measures are being considered to get this to be the case.

In closing:

Our focus is wanting to have more of the World's Ranking players playing in a vibrant, global circuit.

We believe that by changing who makes up our Ranked players as displayed on our website, this will encourage greater participation and thus support tournament organizers in running their events worldwide.

When considered with other initiatives, this will assist in growth in the sport worldwide.

-- Many thanks
Nick Ivanovski

Tournament and Rating Committee (TRC) Report Jan 2020

2020 promises to be a big year for WESPA as far as the Tournament and Rating Committee is concerned.

Late in 2019, the project to modernise the Aardvark displays was implemented and has been well received: it is a fitting reminder of the excellent work of the previous Chair (and now WESPA Chairman) Chris Lipe.

More tournaments are now being hosted by more nations. TRC has been charged with the responsibility to ensure we get as many nations meeting their annual quota of events, and provide more players in the Scrabble community across the globe with the opportunity in participating in the global Scrabble scene.

As the new TRC chair, there are four major initiatives that will look to be implemented by end 2020, with a final item taking a longer term view.

- Data integrity of TOU files.
- Online tournament approval submission
- Player Registration and Player ID numbers
- Uniform Tournament Entry form to reflect the Player IDs
- Very long term view - to get rating of events online as well.

Data Integrity

Data integrity is paramount for a rating system, and especially one with which our tournament statistics are taken. For whatever reason, some historic records contained artificial results, something which thankfully has become less and less over time as tournament software and acumen has grown.

The priority for data integrity needs to be increased to ensure those historic examples remain just that: historical.

To that end, TRC is introducing a policy effective January 1, 2020: a TOU file containing adulterated data will not be processed. Tournaments where scores are modified (eg to give an artificial maximum spread) will be returned.

Online Tournament Rating Approval System

There remains much confusion about how to submit tournaments for rating - at present, there is an excellent guide on the WESPA website (located on the WESPA website here) which covers all the info an organizer would need.

I encourage all organizers, and potential organizers, to familiarise themselves with this page and get events into the calendar early.

By the end of 2020, it would be desired to give organizers the opportunity for a website where they can submit their tournaments for rating online, rather than use the PDF provided in the above link.

The WESPA TRC will be interested to hear from anyone with the appropriate web design skills to be able to get this completed.

Player Registration and Player Entry forms

One of the great opportunities that has arisen from the excellent work done with the Aardvark modernisation project is that each player now has a player number.

WESPA TRC will be working on policies to ensure that all registrants for WESPA rated events enter under the name we have listed for them against their player number.

This may take the form of a universal player entry form to make things easier for tournament organizers, especially those who have to handle multiple international entrants.

Players will need to be familiar with their unique identifying number - TRC will also consider the possibility of sanctions for those who deliberately enter under false/different names

Interested players who want to be a part of this venture with TRC and formulate policies that ensure fairness for those who do the right things, please contact me via email.

And Finally...

On a final note, an eventual long term goal will be to get the entire rating system online, and that includes tournament file submission. TRC’s goal is to get there sooner rather than later - and with that, we need to overcome the challenges mentioned above.

Data needs to be accurate - from results to entrants. Once we get there, and with the continuing support of TRC being provided to all Associations, we can reach the next stage in a truly modern Tournament Calendar and Rating structure.

Nick Ivanovski


Many changes are happening soon, so here is an update:

WESPA Executive Committee has three Officers:

I will be stepping down as Chairman at the Biennial General Meeting in Goa, and Chris Lipe has kindly volunteered to take over.

Jason Broersma is our Treasurer, and it is proposed that he continues in this role.

Cheah will be stepping down as Secretary after an astonishing fourteen years, and he has been in this role since the start of WESPA. I thank him most warmly for his steadfast support during my chairmanship. There is therefore a vacancy for the role of Secretary, which mainly involves liaising with our member associations. Please let me know if you are interested in becoming Secretary.

Our Constitution allows up to eight further committee members, who are proposed by our member associations, and we like to have all continents represented. If more than eight people are proposed, and indeed if more than one person is proposed for an Officer role, then elections will take place at the BGM in Goa. The more volunteers the better, so please let me know if you are interested or have any suggestions.

If Chris does become Chair, he will likely relinquish his role as Head of Tournament and Ratings, so we would need a volunteer for that too.

As you may know, Nick Ivanovski, who has done such outstanding work on Promotions will also step down in Goa, and although he has indicated that he would be willing to stay on as Webmaster, we need someone to take over from him in promoting WESPA and Scrabble generally, as well as organising content for our website. Any volunteers, please let Nick or me know.

Elie Dangoor

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