TrueSkill Through Time: Revisiting the History of Chess

Neural Information Processing Systems

We extend the Bayesian skill rating system TrueSkill to infer entire time series of skills of players by smoothing through time instead of filtering. The skill of each participating player, say, every year is represented by a latent skill variable which is affected by the relevant game outcomes that year, and coupled with the skill variables of the previous and subsequent year. Inference in the resulting factor graph is carried out by approximate message passing (EP) along the time series of skills. As before the system tracks the uncertainty about player skills, explicitly models draws, can deal with any number of competing entities and can infer individual skills from team results. We extend the system to estimate player-specific draw margins. Basedon these models we present an analysis of the skill curves of important players in the history of chess over the past 150 years. Results include plots of players' lifetime skill development as well as the ability to compare the skills of different players across time. Our results indicate that a) the overall playing strength has increased over the past 150 years, and b) that modelling a player's ability to force a draw provides significantly better predictive power.

HR Analytics and the Kaggle competition March Madness


This month I spent part of my free time to go through the'March Machine Learning Mania 2016' competition, by studying the subject and by attending two meetups here in London. The objective of the Kaggle competition was to predict the 2016 NCAA Basketball Tournament, called March Madness. It was a very enjoyable experience. You might think, what the heck has this to do with HR Analytics, the subject in which I am normally interested in. Predicting performance through machine learning algorithms is a crucial aspect for HR Analytics.

ReACTR: Realtime Algorithm Configuration through Tournament Rankings

AAAI Conferences

It is now readily accepted that automated algorithm configuration is a necessity for ensuring optimized performance of solvers on a particular problem domain. Even the best developers who have carefully designed their solver are not always able to manually find the best parameter settings for it. Yet, the opportunity for improving performance has been repeatedly demonstrated by configuration tools like ParamILS, SMAC, and GGA. However, all these techniques currently assume a static environment, where demonstrative instances are procured beforehand, potentially unlimited time is provided to adequately search the parameter space, and the solver would never need to be retrained. This is not always the case in practice. The ReACT system, proposed in 2014, demonstrated that a solver could be configured during runtime as new instances arrive in a steady stream. This paper further develops that approach and shows how a ranking scheme, like TrueSkill, can further improve the configurator's performance, making it able to quickly find good parameterizations without adding any overhead on the time needed to solve any new instance, and then continuously improve as new instances are evaluated. The enhancements to ReACT that we present enable us to even outperform existing static configurators like SMAC in a non-dynamic setting.

Learning from Group Comparisons: Exploiting Higher Order Interactions

Neural Information Processing Systems

We study the problem of learning from group comparisons, with applications in predicting outcomes of sports and online games. Most of the previous works in this area focus on learning individual effects---they assume each player has an underlying score, and the ''ability'' of the team is modeled by the sum of team members' scores. Therefore, all the current approaches cannot model deeper interaction between team members: some players perform much better if they play together, and some players perform poorly together. In this paper, we propose a new model that takes the player-interaction effects into consideration. However, under certain circumstances, the total number of individuals can be very large, and number of player interactions grows quadratically, which makes learning intractable. In this case, we propose a latent factor model, and show that the sample complexity of our model is bounded under mild assumptions. Finally, we show that our proposed models have much better prediction power on several E-sports datasets, and furthermore can be used to reveal interesting patterns that cannot be discovered by previous methods.