Special Cases for Provisional Ratings
Summary provided by Jim Krycka

This page summarizes how special cases in calculating provisional ratings work after January 1, 2001.

Players who have played less than 8 games, or those that have won or lost all of their games, get their provisional rating calculated using a special formula.  Generally, the special formula results in the same rating as the old provisional formula. However, if the new player plays against those rated more than 400 points different than their initial or pre-rating, then the new provisional formula can result in a significantly different rating than the old formula would produce.

The idea behind the new special provisional formula is that a player should not lose rating points by beating a much lower rated player, and conversely he should not gain points by losing to a much higher rated player.

Another change is that a new player gets an initial rating based on his age. The formula is (age x 50) + 300 where age is between 4 and 20.  Thus, a person 20 or older has an initial (or pre-tournament) rating of 1300.  Assuming that a player is an adult, if he plays all games against players rated 900 or less and wins them all, his provisional rating will be 1300.  That is, he is not penalized for beating much weaker players.  We simply do not know what his playing strength is.  In the next tournament, if he wins all of his games and one or more of the players is rated above 900, then his rating will be approximately 400 points higher than the highest rated player he beats.

On the USCF site at  http://uschess.org/ratings  page, are links to two papers by Professor Glickman, chairman of the ratings committee (a detailed explanation of the ratings system and a simplified one).  You need to read the detailed one to find all about the special provisional rating calculation.