The most important tool USCF offered is its database of players' tournament history (MSA: Member Service Area). It includes all tournaments since the player starts to play rated tournaments to current date. No other country has done such a good job, not Canada, our closest neighbor, not UK, not China, not even FIDE, because people have FIDE rating only after they are already very good. Whenever I heard someone who claims to play chess, I will look up in MSA. If I could not find her/him there, which means one of the following two things: s/he is no longer in competitive chess (database only has records starting 1991), or s/he has never played in any rated tournaments.
Long time ago I met a coach who claimed to be a chess master. I looked up MSA, only showed that he is a life member (which means he spent $1000 for membership), but no games at all. Couple years later, he began to play in tournaments and his rating was hovering around 1500. The cold number tells the truth.
Back to the importance of MSA. It is the best research tool. I have been using it almost everyday since day one. Whenever I hear about a good scholastic player (no need to limit your research, you can check up young GM/IM too), I want to find out how s/he grows up. I try to answer the following questions:
- When did s/he start? how old? how good was s/he?
- How often does s/he play in tournaments?
- When did s/he hit each milestone? 1000, 1500, 2000, and 2200. How old?
- How long did it take for her/him to hit the milestone?
- What major tournaments does s/he play in? How often?
- Where were her/his plateaus? Why? Other than the natural inevitability, plateaus/setback may be caused by family relocation, getting into middle school/high school/college.
- How long did it take for her/him to get out of plateaus?
- Where is s/he located? This may determine how often s/he could play in tournaments.
- if s/he is really good, any news stories about her/him? You can find out this quickly by googling "name chess".
I want to find out:
- Why some students are successful, and why others are not.
- What we can learn from those successful students, and what we can mimic so hopefully we could get another successful student.
- What we should avoid so we won't lose a potential student for no reason.
All articles on this blog are my research result for last 10 years.