22 February, 2018

11am ~ 1:30 - Saturday, April 7 SMASH Tourney! --> Mortal Skwash <--

Kombat in a Bawks
This is no video game... this is real squash.

Test your mightIn the last SMASH Tourney Randy J. (3.5) destroyed 13 competitors, relieved them of $122, and went home a champion.... a SMASH Champion. Think you have what it takes to win a fast-paced, action-packed, nerve-racking, squash tourney? .....I doubt it.

Squash SMASH Tourney
11am - 1:30 April 7, 2018
Lifetime Fitness - Sandy Springs

$20 Entry fee, cash prizes payouts down to 4th, double elimination format, gift cards from Sushi Nami, Marlow's Tavern, and Blue Moon Pizza. Everyone is friendly (except Rehan). Max 16 players. Beginner to advanced players. Boat loads of fun all wrapped in about 2 hours of squash fun!

If you need more info on what a Squash SMASH Tourney is, check out: Squash SMASH Tourney Info

You can see all upcoming SMASH events on the SMASH Tourney Schedule.

Who's #1 on all time winnings? Check Squash SMASH Tourney's Winner's Circle

And for the latest, you can always follow along with live updates and latest info on Twitter @EvenSquashFacebook @EvenSquashInstagram @EvenSquash

 - Bob -
Pro tip: If you don't want to replace your racket strings often, try hitting the ball with the edges...

16 February, 2018

EvenSquash Squash Handicap System - Where did it come from?

Where did the idea come from?

When I started playing squash a couple of years ago, I started as a uber-beginner and had a lot of fun chasing the ball around and meeting a lot of great people. I had no desire to go pro or even to be a master of the game, just be good enough to hold my own on the court, get some exercise in, and generally have fun a few hours a week with a bunch of other people.

One thing I noticed was how there were lots of players but for the most part the beginners played beginners, intermediate played intermediate, and so on. This is most likely and not necessarily the fault of squash snobbery but rather the desire to improve your own skills and to do that, you have to play better players.

Furthermore, tournaments were set up in a similar manner where player of the same skill level were matched up. This can make things are a bit awkward, especially when there are not a lot of players at a specific skill level and the director has to get 'creative' with which skill level box to put you in. You might be a 5.5 level player, but if you are the only one, you will likely end up playing 4.5-5.0 levels - which is really not fair to anyone. Or worse - you might be a 2.5 level player but there are no other 2.5 adults for you to play, so you get to play the juniors.... that's a no-win situation!

So - it came to me that what was needed was a way to make the game fair for everyone, no matter what skill level, playing any other skill level - A handicap system for amateur players was needed. A handicap system that was fair, ensured players felt like they had equal chances of winning and losing, simple and easy to use, and trustworthy and based on data.

On a side note: If you would like to learn more about the skill levels, US Squash has some great info. I have summarized it here: Squash Skill Level Descriptions

How was it built?

Data! First thing that was needed was data: How to get the data? You just can't watch players of varying skill levels play each other because neither player will take it seriously and feel like they have skin in the game. A 4.0 playing a 3.0, the 4.0 is just going to have fun practicing shots and watching the 3.0 run around and the 3.0 is going to feel like they are being toyed with.

Tournaments! Tournaments are a great way to get a bunch of players together, create match pressure and some 'skin in the game' with entry fees and prizes, and collect lots of data. I drafted a starting point handicap system in May 2016 and started having frequent squash tournaments, capturing the scores for each game of each match.
Typical match between players of different skill levels and their games' scores
From over 40 tournaments, close to a thousand games, and with almost a hundred different players with different skill levels, I was able to build out the following data set. It is the heart of the EvenSquash Handicap System
From this chart you can see that a 3.0 playing a 3.5, the handicap to make the play fair would be 8 to 12, in that the 3.0 player would need 8 points to win a game and the 3.5 player would need 12 points to win. You can also see that with this handicap, there are over 76 matches worth of data and from that, the 3.0 wins 46.1% of the time - almost 50%! You can also see that a 3.5 play a 4.5 wins 48.4% of the time - even closer to 50%! Almost EVEN! - and that's the name - EvenSquash

Regression: The cool thing is that since there is historical data for all the matches and games. If you see an imbalance forming where the handicap maybe skewed to one level or the other, you can change the handicap and go back through all the data to see what the effects are to all the previous matches! For example: One race I am currently watching is the 4.0 vs. 5.0. Currently the the handicap is skewed towards the 4.0 player with the 4.0 player winning 62.5% of the time. The rub is that in all the data, there are only 16 times where a 4.0 matched up against a 5.0. There is just not enough data to make it statistically representative of future match ups. (You need more than 31 matches to make it statistically relevant.) This is because there are just not that many 5.0 level players. A change that might need to be made is changing the 4.0 vs. 5.0 race from 13-7 to maybe 12-7, or maybe 13-8, or some variation. With that change as a hypothesis, I can go back through all the matches and see if the new handicap would have changed the outcome of any of the matches to bring the handicap closer to 50%.

First Hard Part. The difficulty with this system is what I eluded to above with the 5.0 level players. The higher you go up in skill level, the fewer players there are. There are only a handful of 5.5 level players and if I had to guess, they probably make up 1% or less of all squash players. This makes it very hard to collect enough data across enough players and matches.

Second Hard Part. The other difficulty is with the 2.5 and 5.5 level players because there are no lower or upper bounds. A new born with a squash racket in their hand could play as a 2.5. A serious player who is just starting out might also play as a 2.5 but will quickly learn the basics to b able to play as a 3.0. So the actual skill level of a 2.5 can very dramatically. Likewise, the 5.5 level player could be Ramy Ashour, easily beating most other 5.5 level players and well, just about everyone else too. The only firewall I have against world-beater 5.5 players is that the handicap system is meant for amateur players and if you have ever made or tried to make a living at playing squash, you probably shouldn't be playing as an amateur.
Ramy Ashour article in the NY Times

What's next?

The answer is: More data! - Well... obviously. Ideally, I'd like to have over 100 matches for each of the possible skill level match ups. That would make the matches rock solid and pretty much a new standard, provide a whole new layer of squash, be very inviting for new players, and challenging for advanced players who sometimes might have a hard time finding that challenge.

On that note. If you would like to help out, use the EvenSquash Handicap System at you club, run your own events, and even help make it better, post a comment below and I'll send you all the tournament templates, forms, and whatnot to get things started.... Just let me know. Think of this as an open source squash project!

Clean wall of squash! Oh and there is a whole new world of things you can do with a handicap system! Think leagues, flash tournaments, team matches, celebrity charity events, goofy and fun events, and even friendly wagers to keep the pressure on.

I will detail more of these ideas in the next post in the coming weeks.

Until then....

Squash SMASH Tourney
11am - 1:30 March 3, 2018
Lifetime Fitness - Sandy Springs
Registration is open! 

You can see all upcoming SMASH events on the SMASH Tourney Schedule.

Check the side bar for the latest Squash SMASH Tourney's Winner's Circle and other info about the EvenSquash handicap system and tournaments.

Until the next event, you can always follow along with live updates and latest info on Twitter @EvenSquashFacebook @EvenSquashInstagram @EvenSquash. And you can always add your email address (see the left side bar) to get emails about the latest posts.

- Bob -
Pro tip: There is a reason not many practice hitting the center rail....