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Old 05-21-2020, 12:49 AM
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In which sport is there the least/greatest disparity between a professional and an average layman?


From a skill perspective, that is, not about physical size or height - in any sport, an average layman (with little experience in the sport) would be utterly outmatched by a professional player of course, but in which sport is the difference the starkest? (and also, the sport in which there is the least disparity?) Asking about specific positions, too.


My WAG would be hockey; not only do you have to be excellent at skating (which 99% of people aren't,) but you also need great command over your stick and how to send the puck accurately with it.

A runner-up would be basketball; most average people, under real pressure, can't make a basket from any meaningful distance to save their life, whereas the NBA pros sink three-pointers one after another with ease any time they are left wide open.
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Old 05-21-2020, 01:14 AM
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Chess
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Old 05-21-2020, 01:15 AM
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I'd say hockey and basketball are among the easiest sports for a layman to play. I haven't worn a pair of skates in 30 years, but I don't remember it being that difficult a skill to learn. And I'm pretty sure my 3 point shooting average is better than Shaq's.

Now a gymnastics routine with bodyflips and tumbles, or swinging around on the rings - I wouldn't know where to begin.
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Old 05-21-2020, 02:42 AM
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F1 would be right up there. An average person would hardly be able to get off the grid and barely manage a lap without tanking it.

But to be honest, any sport performed at the very highest level is so far removed from the capabilities of the average human as to be akin to magic.
I've played 11-a-side football for nigh on 40 years and I've been pretty talented in my time.........I've played with some pros of fairly modest levels and they are almost superhuman compared to me.
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Old 05-21-2020, 02:52 AM
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Old 05-21-2020, 03:43 AM
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Least? I'll say curling.
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Old 05-21-2020, 04:32 AM
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Baseball. I challenge anyone to get into the batters box and try to hit an 95mph fastball.

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Old 05-21-2020, 08:14 AM
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Ski jumping maybe? You're not going to actually kill yourself if you try to play basketball against Lebron James.
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Old 05-21-2020, 08:39 AM
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The smallest disparity, I'd go with bowling. There's an absolute highest score possible in bowling, and a serious amateur (like, the best bowler at your office) can hit that perfect score sometimes. But even the top pros don't always, or even often, bowl a perfect 300 (if they did, there'd be no point in tournaments).
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Old 05-21-2020, 08:44 AM
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The majority of people do not actually know how to ride a horse, so the difference between "Average" person and a professional jockey is basically 100%.
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Old 05-21-2020, 08:48 AM
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Are we assuming the average layman can swim well enough not to drown? Otherwise, various swimming sports come to mind - maybe water polo since you need to do other things as well. Speaking of polo, I'm assuming that in various equestrian sports a layman wouldn't be able to get the horse to do anything at all, and might have problems staying in the saddle. Which brings up rodeo as another sport where the layman could easily get him (gender reference chosen deliberately) self killed.
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Old 05-21-2020, 08:56 AM
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These questions are always fun. And there are two different levels to this - what's the actual definition of "layman"? Is it your average Joe off the street, or is it someone with a passing knowledge/ability? Because as RickJay pointed out - your average person doesn't know how to really ride a horse. But even then, someone who's taken a few riding lessons is still never going to even resemble a jockey.

I'm curious what the gap would be for various shooting sports (skeet, archery, etc.).
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Old 05-21-2020, 08:58 AM
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So I think polo gets top marks among team sports - not only do you have to manage a horse, something most people have no idea how to do, you also have to hit a small ball with a long stick, and that doesn't even get into the most basic questions of tactics.
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Old 05-21-2020, 08:58 AM
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I was going to say bowling for the least disparity. What about darts? Really good amateurs are really good, and pros miss all the time similar to bowling.
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Old 05-21-2020, 09:10 AM
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Sports where competitors compete side-by-side will be much easier for a novice to compete against a pro. For sports like golf, bowling, swimming, archery, etc. No matter how good a pro is, the amateur will still be able to compete at their own level since the pro won't be able to impede the amateur. Sports which are head-to-head will be much harder for an amateur to have a chance. The pro will be able to overwhelm the amateur. So along those lines, I would say that fighting sports would have the most disparity. A laymen going against a pro sumo wrestler, boxer, MMA fighter, will have no chance and the match would be over in seconds.
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Old 05-21-2020, 09:27 AM
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But to be honest, any sport performed at the very highest level is so far removed from the capabilities of the average human as to be akin to magic.
Exactly. Professional sports have become so highly evolved and its top participants so finely tuned that the "average person" would be obliterated in any competition.

To answer the question, however, I would say that soccer would be the least difficult. I think professional tennis would be the most difficult. I'm a pretty good player for an "average person", but any of the top 25 women in the world would obliterate me.
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Old 05-21-2020, 09:30 AM
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To answer the question, however, I would say that soccer would be the least difficult. I think professional tennis would be the most difficult. I'm a pretty good player for an "average person", but any of the top 25 women in the world would obliterate me.
That was going to be my answer as well. I really don't enjoy watching men's tennis, because I can't even comprehend how fast those serves are. It's such a different game than women's tennis, which more closely resembles the pace and flow of an amateur game. And even then, I know my knees would buckle 2 points into a match.
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Old 05-21-2020, 09:36 AM
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I’ll second gymnastics. How many people posting in this thread are confident they could perform even a simple cartwheel?
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Old 05-21-2020, 09:40 AM
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I was thinking golf for the easiest. Some amateur players sometimes just have an incredible round.

Curling is a lot more difficult than one might think, however, occasionally amateurs can also curl a 100% game, or close to it.
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Old 05-21-2020, 10:18 AM
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There are some sports where I don't even know how they do it. Gymnastics, pole vault, diving come to mind.

Boxing has got to be a nightmare for an amateur up against a pro.
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Old 05-21-2020, 10:19 AM
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I was thinking golf for the easiest. Some amateur players sometimes just have an incredible round.
Agreed, hence the plethora of pro/am golf tournaments around. You couldn't exactly do the same for a rubgy match.
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Old 05-21-2020, 10:22 AM
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F1 would be right up there. An average person would hardly be able to get off the grid and barely manage a lap without tanking it.

But to be honest, any sport performed at the very highest level is so far removed from the capabilities of the average human as to be akin to magic...
Road and Track article from 2019, about journalist Sam Smith's experience taking hot laps in the 2007 McLaren F1 car that Felipe Alonso used to drive so well: https://www.roadandtrack.com/car-cul...rmula-one-car/ Neat article.

There's another article I remember, but can't find, where one of the teams was showing off something new at Estoril, Portugal. They had a two seat F1 car, and were letting journalists ride in back while a tire test driver whipped them around the course at 8/10ths. There also offered select journos to, if they wanted, to do 1 lap solo and slow. One guy, who I want to say had some sports car racing background, tried the solo lap and got humbled. Though he didn't wreck.

My own experience is watching pro golfers and semi to pro poker players. The golfers hit the same shots I do, or at least they did in the mid 90s before distances in the age of Tiger got so ridiculous. They hit those every shot though, while I had to be content with two or three a round. Every ball got up, every ball bent the way they wanted, and they shoot at 4 x 4 foot areas of greens, tighter if they're feeling it. As Johnny Miller said, when he was on top of the world in 1973, "I only needed 183, not 185, so I took a little off that 6 iron." I think I've also mentioned the Seve Ballesteros sand wedge piece of memorabilia: shiny and chrome everywhere, except for a pitted, rusted out egg shaped part exactly in the middle of the club face.

For the poker players, it's the memory of hands they've played, and all of the details they can recall. Take a given hand from another session, and they can remember all of the bets, who ended up with what at the showdown, and the reactions of the involved players as the hand progressed. I try, but I can't even keep a hand from a few minutes ago straight.
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Old 05-21-2020, 10:34 AM
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I would offer cycling. The pro roadies are orders of magnitude better than even the most fit competitive weekend racer, never mind your average recreational rider, commuter, or guy that rides his bar bike on Saturday nights. Billions of people ride a bicycle every day around the world, but the pros make-up a tiny percentage of them.
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Old 05-21-2020, 10:40 AM
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I would offer cycling. The pro roadies are orders of magnitude better than even the most fit competitive weekend racer, never mind your average recreational rider, commuter, or guy that rides his bar bike on Saturday nights. Billions of people ride a bicycle every day around the world, but the pros make-up a tiny percentage of them.
Same with running. Go to a local track and run a 200 in 35 sec/400 in 70 sec. Congratulations. You're running slower than marathon world record pace.
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Old 05-21-2020, 10:40 AM
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I’ll second gymnastics. How many people posting in this thread are confident they could perform even a simple cartwheel?
For gymnastics in particular, the distinction between strength and skill/technique is almost academic. I'd guess that for most people in this thread, their rings routine would consist of the "hang straight down with arms extended" pose, with a few of us managing to pull up to like sixty degrees or so.
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Old 05-21-2020, 11:32 AM
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But to be honest, any sport performed at the very highest level is so far removed from the capabilities of the average human as to be akin to magic.
I've played 11-a-side football for nigh on 40 years and I've been pretty talented in my time.........I've played with some pros of fairly modest levels and they are almost superhuman compared to me.
That's really the answer- in general, most sports or activities like that at the highest levels are FAR removed from everyday participants. Even stuff like e-sports, where you'd think that your average good video game player wouldn't be that far behind the pros, proves that wrong. Those guys are QUICK, and very well versed in how to play the game.

Same for most any other competitive activity.

The real question isn't "average layman" it's "skilled amateur" I think. Because I can think of some sports where skilled amateurs and pros aren't THAT far apart, and I can think of others where they are.

For example (and I may be wrong on this), I suspect that in shooting sports, the difference between a top level shooter and a good "amateur" isn't as dramatic as say... the difference between a good Autocross driver and a F1 or NASCAR driver.

And I don't know that you can say that golf is the lowest difference because some amateur may have a spectacular round. By the same token, a pro can have an abysmal round as well. Determining who's really good in golf, just like any other sport, is determined by performance over time. I mean, I could get in the batter's box and crank a center field home run off Justin Verlander. It would be a total fluke, but it could happen. But could I put up a .300+ batting average? Hit more than one home run? Doubtful.
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Old 05-21-2020, 11:34 AM
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For sports like golf, bowling, swimming, archery, etc. No matter how good a pro is, the amateur will still be able to compete at their own level since the pro won't be able to impede the amateur.
Speaking of golf, I wonder how many strokes it takes the average layman (with just about no golfing experience) to sink a ball in a hole. Tiger Woods can probably reliably sink a ball in 4-6 strokes for any hole on the planet, but would the average person take 30 strokes to do the same?
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Old 05-21-2020, 11:50 AM
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Speaking of golf, I wonder how many strokes it takes the average layman (with just about no golfing experience) to sink a ball in a hole. Tiger Woods can probably reliably sink a ball in 4-6 strokes for any hole on the planet, but would the average person take 30 strokes to do the same?
Until notfrommensa and TonySinclair show up...I'll try.

The average lay person, never having touched a golf club before, isn't going to be able to get the ball up. There's a minimum level of skill to hit a golf ball, even with something like a pitching wedge.

Assuming they have that level of skill, and assuming all of the rules of golf are followed, my guess is that most people play about quadruple bogey golf. I.e., if par is 4, they'll shoot an 8. Difficult holes, ones with forced carries over obstacles, severe obstacles by the hole (water, out of bounds), can make that number skyrocket. To infinity, I guess, if the golfer simply can't make a 240-ish yard forced carry over an obstacle.

But a garden variety, 360 yd par 4 from the whites? Shoot, 3 or 4 pitching wedges, and you're on the green. Three or four putts, and you're in, and on to the next hole. No need for 30 shots.
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Old 05-21-2020, 11:55 AM
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The smallest disparity, I'd go with bowling. There's an absolute highest score possible in bowling, and a serious amateur (like, the best bowler at your office) can hit that perfect score sometimes. But even the top pros don't always, or even often, bowl a perfect 300 (if they did, there'd be no point in tournaments).
It's the only sport I can think of that I could have been a pro if I began training at a young age. I'm glad I didn't, since the PBA has struggled, but I could have made some pro tournaments for sure, maybe even made a living. I mean, if my Dad owned an alley and I bowled 10 games a day starting as a kid, I think I'd get good enough to be pro.

Note: I recommend "A League of Ordinary Gentlemen", a great documentary on the decline of bowling. Partly filmed at a bowling alley my colleague's dad owned.
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Old 05-21-2020, 12:05 PM
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An interesting way of quantifying this might be via ELO. A 100 point ELO difference is meant to represent the higher ELO player winning 64% of the time.

Comparing an average layperson directly against a world class competitor is not likely to yield illuminating information but we can instead ask, for a world class player, what type of person would they win against 64% of the time, and for that person, what type of person would they win against 64% of the time and so on until you reach the average layperson. The number of links in that chain would be a good proxy for the "disparity" in skill.

If 64% is too fine a gradation to evaluate against, a 200 point ELO difference is a win % of 76% so you could instead look at matchups that one person wins roughly 3 out of 4 times.
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Old 05-21-2020, 12:07 PM
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I’ll second gymnastics. How many people posting in this thread are confident they could perform even a simple cartwheel?
**Raises hand.**
If by “could” you mean Could do it 25 years ago
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Old 05-21-2020, 12:14 PM
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To answer the question, however, I would say that soccer would be the least difficult
it is a deceptively simple sport, as so many are.

Having played amateur to a decent level it would be tempting to think that the pro sport is just a little notch or two further up but it really isn't.

Sure, you could hide from the action (and be a burden) but if you wanted to try and get involved in a serious way you'd not get a touch of the ball, or the speed of pass and movement and the lack of time to think means you'd be kicked from arsehole to breakfast-time and puking your guts up within the first ten minutes.
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Old 05-21-2020, 12:26 PM
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How would a novice chess player do against a grandmaster? Obviously they would lose 99.9999% of the time, but how many moves would a grandmaster need to finish off a true chess novice?

Last edited by Telemark; 05-21-2020 at 12:26 PM.
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Old 05-21-2020, 12:31 PM
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For gymnastics in particular, the distinction between strength and skill/technique is almost academic. I'd guess that for most people in this thread, their rings routine would consist of the "hang straight down with arms extended" pose, with a few of us managing to pull up to like sixty degrees or so.
The single athlete sports could probably be broken up into activities which only the pros can do versus activities which the pros can do better. Sports like gymnastics, ice skating, and diving have unique moves which take a lot of practice to be able to complete. A lay person isn't going to be able to attempt moves that are common in those kinds of sports because they haven't had any training. But other single athlete sports are the kind where the pros and amateurs do the same activity, but the pros do it much better. So lay people could at least participate in sports like golf, running, and bowling with virtually no prior experience.

It might be a bit unfair to consider sports which require extensive training to even be able to do the most basic move. With some modest amount of practice, it might be possible for a lay person to be able to do some set of basic moves. That's true for many activities and skills. Take computer programming as an example. A lay person won't be able to write a line of code, but after a 1-hour class they could write some basic programs.
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Old 05-21-2020, 12:39 PM
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How would someone who was an excellent shot in the military do if s/he was suddenly thrust into the Olympics?
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Old 05-21-2020, 12:58 PM
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How would a novice chess player do against a grandmaster? Obviously they would lose 99.9999% of the time, but how many moves would a grandmaster need to finish off a true chess novice?
I'm a FIDE Master (two levels below Grandmaster.)

It's not really about how quickly you win - e.g. if you're a piece up in a simple ending then you win 100%, even if it takes a while.

I have given many simultaneous displays (where you play 20-30 people, one move at a time.)
If they are all novices then you can win 100% just using technique (no real calculation required.)
(In practice, I usually give one player a draw - since you don't get invited back if you crush them!)

But you asked about a face-to-face game.
A friend of mine (novice standard) asked to play me and told me not to go easy on them.
I was Black and checkmated them in 6 moves.

The game went 1. f4 e5 2. fxe5 d6 3. exd6 Bxd6 4. Nc3 Qh4+ 5. g3 Qxg3+ 6. hxg3 Bxg3 mate.
The game is here.

I should mention that I was playing blindfold (i.e. visualising the game in my head.)
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Old 05-21-2020, 01:03 PM
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How would someone who was an excellent shot in the military do if s/he was suddenly thrust into the Olympics?
Unless they were of the caliber to be on the Army Pistol or Rifle teams, it would be a long shot at best.
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Old 05-21-2020, 01:28 PM
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How would someone who was an excellent shot in the military do if s/he was suddenly thrust into the Olympics?
Near vanity candidates from very minor countries, if they're merely excellent shots. Excellent shot is one thing, it's the repeatability and precision that makes Olympic shooters.

OTOH, medallists in Olympic shooting disciplines frequently are members of their country's military. The military pays them to practice all day, essentially. Guys like Rajmond Debevec, Sergei Martynov, the US Olympians who also are members of the Army Marksmanship Unit. Or you can be like Niccolo Campriani, and be the coach of a shooting team (biathlon) as well as a multiple gold medalist.
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Old 05-21-2020, 01:34 PM
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it is a deceptively simple sport, as so many are.

Having played amateur to a decent level it would be tempting to think that the pro sport is just a little notch or two further up but it really isn't.

Sure, you could hide from the action (and be a burden) but if you wanted to try and get involved in a serious way you'd not get a touch of the ball, or the speed of pass and movement and the lack of time to think means you'd be kicked from arsehole to breakfast-time and puking your guts up within the first ten minutes.
There used to be a show on ESPN where athletes from different sports would do some big multi-sport competition. For some reason I recall the penalty kick competition. Other than athletes that also grew up playing soccer, not a single one knew how to kick a ball. Eli Manning in particular looked ridiculous. In the US I think the median person off the street is the same.

Sometimes I think about ability differences in tiers where a tier above basically doesn't have any reason to play a tier below. Like barring an insane fluke, the higher tier always wins. For soccer (in the US) it's probably like:

Never kicked a ball -> recreational league -> bad youth club team -> mediocre club team ->excellent youth club team ->bad college team - >good college team -> quite bad pro league -> mid tier pro league (MLS or something) -> CL knock out rounds.

Excluding people with disabilities you probably have something like 10 tiers of ability in the world. Not all of that is skill vs athleticism, and I have no clue what it's like for other sports, but maybe a good way to think about things?
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Old 05-21-2020, 01:35 PM
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How would someone who was an excellent shot in the military do if s/he was suddenly thrust into the Olympics?
Depends on where you put the 'excellent' line at, but probably pretty poorly.
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Old 05-21-2020, 01:53 PM
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I'd throw in test cricket.

There is a big disparity between professional league cricket and international test cricket. There have been many batsmen who dominate at league level for their club but when called into the arena of test cricket completely falter. The level of bowling is faster, more accurate, more skilled. The level of expectation is higher. Cricket is a team sport but when you're out in the middle facing the music being a batsman is lonely.
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Old 05-21-2020, 02:41 PM
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I'd actually expect that a game between a chess grandmaster and a novice would last longer (as in, more moves) than a game between two grandmasters. In serious chess, it's customary to concede once you realize that your situation is sufficiently bad that you can't recover... but if you actually played the game out to its bitter checkmate from there, it might still take quite a while. A skilled player watching the game between the grandmaster and the novice might realize after a very small number of moves that it's hopeless, but the novice might not realize that, and might also not be familiar with the culture of conceding.

And yes, it's also possible win after six moves on each side, as glee mentioned. I did something similar, once. Heck, it's possible to win after two moves each. But even with a wide disparity of skill, that's far from a typical case.
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Old 05-21-2020, 04:40 PM
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I'd actually expect that a game between a chess grandmaster and a novice would last longer (as in, more moves) than a game between two grandmasters. In serious chess, it's customary to concede once you realize that your situation is sufficiently bad that you can't recover... but if you actually played the game out to its bitter checkmate from there, it might still take quite a while. A skilled player watching the game between the grandmaster and the novice might realize after a very small number of moves that it's hopeless, but the novice might not realize that, and might also not be familiar with the culture of conceding.
Glee, what's your take on this? I would be absolutely shocked if this were true, but I'm very much a layman here.
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Old 05-21-2020, 04:41 PM
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I'd actually expect that a game between a chess grandmaster and a novice would last longer (as in, more moves) than a game between two grandmasters. In serious chess, it's customary to concede once you realize that your situation is sufficiently bad that you can't recover... but if you actually played the game out to its bitter checkmate from there, it might still take quite a while. A skilled player watching the game between the grandmaster and the novice might realize after a very small number of moves that it's hopeless, but the novice might not realize that, and might also not be familiar with the culture of conceding.
I agree that top players understand when it's hopeless and therefore resign rather than suffer.
However this is massively outweighed by e.g. professional opening analysis. There are many examples of Grandmasters playing 20 moves of preparation - then the true battle begins.
Novices would undoubtedly have been checkmated by then.

I've given simultaneous displays for over 50 years and most novices are lost by around move 15 (material down or facing a checkmating attack.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
And yes, it's also possible win after six moves on each side, as glee mentioned. I did something similar, once. Heck, it's possible to win after two moves each. But even with a wide disparity of skill, that's far from a typical case.
I should explain that I gave that as an example of how easy it is for a master to beat a novice (as I said, I was playing blindfold.)
The swift mate only came about because the novice played a risky opening.
But I was always going to win just using my experience.
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Old 05-21-2020, 04:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gray Ghost View Post
Until notfrommensa and TonySinclair show up...I'll try.

The average lay person, never having touched a golf club before, isn't going to be able to get the ball up. There's a minimum level of skill to hit a golf ball, even with something like a pitching wedge.

Assuming they have that level of skill, and assuming all of the rules of golf are followed, my guess is that most people play about quadruple bogey golf. I.e., if par is 4, they'll shoot an 8. Difficult holes, ones with forced carries over obstacles, severe obstacles by the hole (water, out of bounds), can make that number skyrocket. To infinity, I guess, if the golfer simply can't make a 240-ish yard forced carry over an obstacle.

But a garden variety, 360 yd par 4 from the whites? Shoot, 3 or 4 pitching wedges, and you're on the green. Three or four putts, and you're in, and on to the next hole. No need for 30 shots.
I've been known to take 30 shots just getting it past that little windmill.
  #46  
Old 05-21-2020, 04:55 PM
Velocity is online now
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I would also imagine that most chess experts are well aware of certain "instant traps" that novices can blunder into from the very beginning.

Traps like:

How to checkmate in 2 moves
How to checkmate in 3 moves
  #47  
Old 05-21-2020, 04:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glee View Post
A friend of mine (novice standard) asked to play me and told me not to go easy on them.
I was Black and checkmated them in 6 moves.
My father also played at a Master level. Whenever we played he complained that I lost because I could never develop a decent middle game. I reminded him that when I was a kid and he was teaching me, he always beat me in fewer than ten moves, so I never had a chance to even learn a freaking middle game.
  #48  
Old 05-21-2020, 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by bump View Post
I could get in the batter's box and crank a center field home run off Justin Verlander. It would be a total fluke, but it could happen. But could I put up a .300+ batting average? Hit more than one home run? Doubtful.
(sorry - missed the more recent chess posts - catching up now)

An earlier poster mentioned chess. An amateur with a little bit of experience COULD beat a grandmaster in one game (as above - a total fluke) - but in a longer series
(100? 1000? games) would not win another game. Of course - in chess (especially online chess) there are different time controls - one of the most popular being "bullet" in which each player has one minute to complete all their moves. In the case - an amateur's chance of victory might be slightly higher.

Last edited by Mark Finn; 05-21-2020 at 05:09 PM.
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Old 05-21-2020, 05:46 PM
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While it's theoretically possible for a novice to beat a grandmaster in chess (a possibility I've alluded to myself, in other threads), the odds of it are beyond astronomical. The most likely scenario under which it would happen would be if the grandmaster suddenly fell unconscious for some medical reason, and his time ran out.

Now, what you could have is a person who's studied the basics of opening theory, but who's still unskilled enough overall to still qualify as a novice. Such a player might plausibly make it through the first eight or ten moves of the game in decent shape, and then deteriorate only relatively slowly, so as to avoid a quick mate. And then still lose eventually.
  #50  
Old 05-21-2020, 06:33 PM
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I started a thread about NFL kickers a while back, and I think that a small gap in the abilities of the best and a decent amateur is part of the reason kickers are the least valuable member of a team. For any position I can think of in the NFL, there are scenarios where I can see someone from that position being the #1 pick, except for kicker and punter. If Joe Thomad, Deion Sanders, Charles Haley, or Lawrence Taylor are available in an otherwise average draft class, then a lineman or cornerback or linebacker could be the first pick. The reason is because those guys were notably better than even the second and third best players at the position when they were in their primes. With kickers an NFL team could probably get away with playing the back up kicker from
Northwest New Mexico Tech and not have too much of a drop in performance.

Last edited by FlikTheBlue; 05-21-2020 at 06:36 PM.
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