How the BGA Grading Committee Worked

Note: This page describes the system for awarding BGA dan certificates that was in force up to 29th November 2003. It was replaced by a new system based on the European Ratings from that date.

This page is based on the text of an article by Matthew Macfadyen in issue 102 of the British Go Journal.

The Grading Committee

The Grading Committee’s job was to monitor the tournament results of British players graded 1 kyu and above, and to make recommendations to the Council for promotions where appropriate.

This monitoring was done in a loose-leaf folder maintained by Jim Clare, the chair of the Grading Committee for many years. There were 4 or 5 members of the committee. Each player had a page, and extra pages were added as these filled up. Each tournament game was listed, with the opponent’s name, the result, and a number of promotion points.

These points were awarded so that a correctly graded player would average a small negative number of points, while one who would be correctly graded if promoted by one stone would average a small positive number. These promotion points gave the committee a simple way to sort out those players worth considering for promotion.

In practice at least half of the promotions made were on overwhelming cases in which the exact method of calculation will not matter. The main purpose of the promotion points system was to enable the committee to devote most of its attention to the marginal cases.

Which tournaments counted?

The file contained results of anything they could get with time limits above about 45 minutes each. It may have seemed unfair that a 50 minute game in the last round at Wessex counts the same as a 3 hour game in the European Championship, but in practice most players record pretty similar results at all time limits, and if a player is doing consistently better (or worse) at shorter time limits this wiould show up easily enough by looking at the file (an advantage of a manual system over a computer based one). If a player was on the border line for promotion they certainly did give the more ‘serious’ games more weight.

Once a player had improved enough to reach the next grade the most likely problem was that they have not played enough tournament games to prove it, and including as many games as possible in the book helped to reduce this problem.

How many points did I need?

More points for higher grades. Roughly, shodan promotion required three good tournaments or two excellent ones (but a very good result in a long tournament, for example 6/8 in the London Open might have done). 2 dan required at least four good tournaments, and higher promotions required consistently good results over a year or more including some good wins against a range of players preferably including foreigners. But exact numbers of points were not so important; the system was highly subjective in border line cases.

European Grades

Nowadays there is a well established European Rating List, which came into existence in 1996. This provided a useful cross-check on the dan grades awarded by the grading committee, and it allowed a comparison between the strengths of players with a particular grade in different countries. This shows that on the whole, British dan grades were quite close to the European average, but a little bit weaker.

The BGA Council decided it would like to move towards a situation where BGA grades were comperable to the European average. To this end it introduced the BGA rating list, and the Grading Committee tended to be cautious when considering border-line promotions. In addition, promotion to higher dan grades required some tournament results against opponents from other European countries.

The secret list

Over a long period, there will inevitably be players who no longer play as well as they once did. We do not demote people and this situation was handled by keeping a list of players who are considered not to be up to their grade. Promotion points scored by beating these players were correspondingly reduced.

Occasionally a player may have been on the secret list at a grade above their public one. For example the late Terry Stacey (5 dan) was on the secret list as 6 dan for a period—he had not clocked up the requisite wins in international tournaments for a public promotion, but his consistency at beating British 4 dans seemed to justify a reduction in the amount of damage they sustained by losing to him.

General remark

If you found that it was quite hard work to pick up promotion points, and you had to include games from several years ago to justify your belief that you need promoting, then you would be a pretty weak player at the grade above. Better to have concentrated your attention on becoming strong for the grade above, then the promotion points would flood in of their own accord.

The points

For what they are worth, the points gained/lost by a 1 kyu against other grades were:

Opponent’s gradepoints for a winpoints for a loss
3 kyu+0-35
2 kyu+10-35
1 kyu+25-35
1 dan+35-25
2 dan+35-10
3 dan+35-0

For a shodan, just move all the grades up one, etc. A correctly graded player should have got about -5 points per game. A minimum requirement for promotion was about 150 points collected over more than 10 games.

Last updated Tue Dec 21 2010. If you have any comments, please email the webmaster on web-master AT britgo DOT org.