So you want to be a Grandmaster

The Singapore Scrabble Association (SA) maintains the data for all rated Scrabble tournaments in Singapore, with data on all their members publicly available in their website, Toucanet. To recognise players who have shown consistent performance at a certain level, SA awards various titles to its members when they hit various ratings milestone. The highest title a player can attain is Grandmaster (GM), which requires a player to obtain a rating of 1900 or above at the end of a tournament three times (not necessarily consecutively).

So, how difficult is it to become a GM?

I decided to pull the data of all current GMs from Toucanet to create the interactive dashboard below for some exploratory data visualization. They are all listed in the chart below in chronological order of their first rated tournament in Singapore. (Note: while SA maintains record of all GMs, I only have access to what is made publicly available on Toucanet. Hence, inactive GMs who are no longer SA members such as Goh Jiang Pern and Benjamin Chow are not featured here.)

You can click on any of the names on the chart to perform various filtering/highlighting of related charts and averages. You can also hover the mouse pointer on the bar / lines to see the actual data values.

Some initial info gleaned from playing around with the above:

  • On average it takes 5.25 years (i.e. 1919 days) and 446 rated games to attain the GM status.
  • The number of rated games played (red bar) seems to be a better indicator than time duration to indicate the distance to go towards GM, with fewer outliers. As seen in quite a few cases the blue bar can be much longer than red, signifying lower frequency of participation in tournaments. An extreme example is Henry Yeo, whose residence in Malaysia limits his playing opportunity here and causes him to need much longer time to reach GM despite needing amount of games quite close to the average.
  • Your starting rating is not that important. Marlon Prudencio’s rating chart on the right is uniquely straight because he started off with an initial rating of 1853 befitting his initial ability honed before coming to Singapore. Yet it still took him 3 years to finally get the elusive GM.
  • The 1900 rating threshold level seems to provide a suitably challenging barrier. Excluding players who have prior Scrabble experience before their first rated tournament here (i.e. Tony, Cheah, and Marlon), All the rating charts on the right show a plateauing at around 1850-1900, and any further increases from there are at a much more gradual rate (see below)
  • Tony Sim was the only person to attain GM title in less than 1000 days. Toh Weibin was the only person to reach GM in less than 200 games (barely!).
  • Getting GM is the easy part.Looking at the charts on the right, only Hubert and Kian Boon were able to maintain their ratings consistently almost all the time above 1900 after getting their GM titles.

On average there is one new GM title awarded every year, so I hope to see one in this year also. There is a noticeable gap between the starting point of the line chart of the last two GMs: nobody starting their involvement in tournament Scrabble between 2006 to end 2009 have attained GM yet. I hope someone from that cohort will earn the title this year. I will save analysis to predict the next GM candidate for another post.

In the meantime, have fun with the dashboard and do share any interesting insights you may discover.

3 thoughts on “So you want to be a Grandmaster

  1. Pingback: The Singapore Youth Scrabble System Is Broken | In Which I Argue About Scrabble

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