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Keywords:

  • Approximate Bayesian estimation;
  • Bradley–Terry model;
  • Chess;
  • Ranking;
  • State space models;
  • Tennis

Paired comparison data in which the abilities or merits of the objects being compared may be changing over time can be modelled as a non-linear state space model. When the population of objects being compared is large, likelihood-based analyses can be too computationally cumbersome to carry out regularly. This presents a problem for rating populations of chess players and other large groups which often consist of tens of thousands of competitors. This problem is overcome through a computationally simple non-iterative algorithm for fitting a particular dynamic paired comparison model. The algorithm, which improves over the commonly used algorithm of Elo by incorporating the variability in parameter estimates, can be performed regularly even for large populations of competitors. The method is evaluated on simulated data and is applied to ranking the best chess players of all time, and to ranking the top current tennis-players.