Elo, as the name suggests, is an abbreviation of the English word ‘eloquent’, which means ‘of powerful and impressive speech’ and was first used in reference to the legendary chess player and IBM founder, Arthur Cecil Holmes. While Elo is most definitely a chess player, he is also known for his ability to speak and argue persuasively on any topic, which many have credited with making him one of the greatest debaters of all time. Today, Elo is a registered trademark of the International Grand Prix Association (IGPA) and is used by many different companies and organizations around the world to determine the relative skill levels of players in their games. If you’ve ever played chess or been to an organized chess tournament, you’re probably familiar with Elo. If not, here’s a quick primer on how to play and what the Elo rating system is all about.
What is Chess?
Most people are familiar with the game of chess, which was first played in Russia during the 15th century and has since become one of the world’s most popular and influential games. The object of chess is simple: use your brain and your fingers to take out your opponent’s king, or in other words, make your opponent unable to continue playing. If that seems easy, that’s because it is easy. It’s also a game that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels, which, as we’ve established, Elo is designed for. Chess is one of the first games that most people think of when you say ‘chess’ and it still is today, which makes sense, because it’s one of the oldest games ever created.
The Rise of Computer Gaming
If you thought that chess was the only game played on computers, then you would be wrong, because the hobby of ‘computer gaming’ emerged in the 1950s and ‘60s with the arrival of modern computer technology, such as the PDP-1 from University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and the EDSAC from the University of London. The PDP-1, which stands for ‘Programmed Digital Procenser’, was one of the first commercial computer systems and was programmed to play a version of chess, which it did with ease. This was a massive feat for the time, because unlike today’s computers, the PDP-1 had neither a hard drive nor enough memory to store a game’s full complexity. Instead, it ran on a single 4Kb of memory, which was shared between the two players. Still, it was considered a major achievement for the day, because most computers of that era were intended for calculating scientific and mathematical formulas and were far more complex than the PDP-1. The memory card was frequently changed to allow the computer to run faster and the game was over when the board was full. The PDP-1 was also one of the first to feature an integrated circuit (IC) board selector and a plug-in memory card, which made it much easier to expand its storage capacity. The computer’s processor was a 4-bit device and it could only run through eight calculations per second, which is extremely slow compared to modern computers, which can perform over 60,000,000 calculations per second. Nevertheless, having a computer play chess at that time was considered a monumental achievement and was even listed as one of the ‘Top 10 moments in chess history’ by the Encyclopaedia Britannica. The EDSAC was a smaller, simpler computer with fewer resources, which nevertheless proved to be more successful and has since become one of the most famous and influential computers of all time.
Elo: A Brief Introduction
To continue with our primer on Elo, let’s dive into the basics of the game. Simply put, Elo is a way to rate the relative skill levels of players in chess, other games like Go and Draughts, as well as other disciplines, like music and language. When you login to play on an Elo-enabled website, you will be presented with a board displaying pieces and spaces, which you will use to represent your opponent. The object is to remove your opponent’s pieces and spaces, which will render them unable to continue playing. When all of your opponent’s pieces are removed from the board, the game is over and you have won. A game between two computer players will automatically be rated at an Elo of 2000, so users of online chess servers can expect to play against people of similar skill levels. This number represents an Elo rating system, which was first designed by Arpad Elo in 1975 and is used worldwide today. In fact, the Elo rating is the most used system for comparing chess players’ skill levels, because it is fast, easy to implement and understand, which many would argue makes it more objective and fair than other rating systems.
Each player in a game of chess starts with the same piece called an ‘honey pot’, or ‘rook’. When the game begins, each player will place their rooks in the middle of the board, which, aside from establishing the starting position for the game, also serves as a symbol of good will. The next thing to do is to make your first move, which you will do by selecting a space on the board that you would like your piece to occupy. This first move establishes the context for the game. After this initial phase, the players will take it in turns to make their next moves, with each new move being made in the same way as the one before it. When a player makes a move, it is called a ‘turn’, which will be followed by the player’s opponent responding with a move of their own and so on, until a player has made their last move. Once a player’s last move is made, the game ends and the player with the most pieces remaining on the board wins. In a nutshell, this is the fundamental idea behind Elo. For more information on Elo, check out the link below.