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Unveiling Fencing’s Winning Odds by Rating

For my first post, I want to look at the win probability between certain ratings. Ratings are a bit strange in fencing because everybody cares about earning a higher rating, but at the same time people also say that they don’t matter. It’s also commonly known that there is a great deal of variability and randomness in how ratings are awarded, as a Division 1 NAC could have the same A4 rating of a local tournament, but the skill level of the people that earn As are very different. In spite of this, ratings are still used for seeding at tournaments, as they are the only standardized method that can compare fencers that live all over the United States without requiring everyone to have a national ranking. This post will address a few questions that I had about ratings, and hopefully a few of your own.

What is the chance of one rating beating another rating?

Here is the table we have all been waiting for: 

Pools (All)ABCDEU
A50.00%71.73%80.39%87.69%93.00%94.90%
B28.27%50.00%63.70%74.43%84.08%90.25%
C19.61%36.30%50.00%63.47%73.88%84.70%
D12.31%25.57%36.53%50.00%65.35%79.69%
E7.00%15.92%26.12%34.65%50.00%71.83%
U5.10%9.75%15.30%20.31%28.17%50.00%
DEs (All)ABCDEU
A50.00%75.82%87.36%92.67%96.49%95.67%
B24.18%50.00%69.14%81.69%89.33%92.48%
C12.64%30.86%50.00%65.45%77.56%88.35%
D7.33%18.31%34.55%50.00%66.70%83.13%
E3.51%10.67%22.44%33.30%50.00%72.86%
U4.33%7.52%11.65%16.87%27.14%50.00%

But continue reading, it gets more interesting.

Which ratings are the most difficult to earn?

People tend to disagree on which ratings are the most difficult to earn. By comparing a rating’s win probability with the rating one below, we can determine which ratings have the largest skill gap. These were the results of the comparison:

The biggest gaps are between U vs E and B vs A for both pools and DEs, showing that the hardest ratings to earn are your first rating and the prestigious A rating. Although the B vs C gap and C vs D gap are nearly identical in pools, the A vs B and B vs C gaps are far greater in DEs, indicating that getting to a high rating requires a lot more skill in 15 touch bouts. 

Are there more upsets in pools?

A lot of people say the phrase “you can beat anyone in pools.” Is this really true though?

The data do support this, with the lower rating being 1-7% more likely to cause an upset in pools vs DEs.

Are there more upsets in epee?

People tend to agree that epee is more random than the other weapons with a high chance of upsets. The graphs for pools and DEs do seem to support this claim:

Gender differences

I was interested in gender differences, which haven’t been discussed much. The data show that upsets are 1-6% less likely in women’s fencing than men’s, which is not a huge difference but is still meaningful. 

View the full data here, and more tables

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