Tuesday, October 2, 2007

2007 Midseason All Stars

So given we are at the midpoint of the regular season, I thought it would be a good idea to give you readers an idea of who at this point we feel would comprise the two All Star Teams. The criteria for this selection (as will be the criteria for the end of the year selection) are basically the same line of thought that went into last year's selections. These are of course somewhat rough estimations given the end of the year selections have much more data to base such picks on, but I think they still should give a fair idea as to who's gotten a good jump start into potentially receiving the end of the year award. Please note that for the actual All Star teams at the end of the season, there will be three teams instead of two. Here is how I think things stand at this point.

First All Star Team:

Board 1: GM Gregory Serper (SEA, 2 – 0 – 2). Board 1 was a tough board to select for as there at this point doesn’t really appear to be any truly stand out candidates. I felt the main choices were Serper, Becerra, Christiansen, and Benjamin. The former two have the better records at this point, both having a +2 score while the latter two are +1. However, the latter two I think have really faced much tougher competition overall making all the choices somewhat similar in that regard. Overall though, I think Serper probably does have slightly the strongest mix of these two concepts and add to the fact that both of his victories (defeating Friedel and defeating Milman) have garnered attention from the Game of the Week judges (both being ranked in the Top Five by two of the three judges), I think he becomes the most logical candidate for the First Team at this stage.

Board 2: IM Vinay Bhat (SF, 3 – 0 – 0). This board was fairly easy to choose the two stars as Bhat and Sammour-Hasbun really have a leg up on the all of the other competitors of this board. The only real decision to me was which of them deserved to be on the First Team. Though they have the same record at this point, I feel that Bhat has faced slightly tougher competition (having to defeat Nakamura) and given that he has won Game of the Week twice, clearly his games have been of fairly high quality which makes me think he’s the appropriate choice for the First Team.

Board 3: NM Denys Shmelov (BOS, 2 – 0 – 2). Another fairly easy decision for me as Shmelov has the best current record amongst the Board Three players, and his USCL rating being quite a bit lower than most of his Board Three counterparts, his value so far is extremely clear. The fact that he has a +2 score despite being so out rated and having had the Black pieces in three games out of four makes it quite impressive to me.

Board 4: NM Chris Williams (BOS, 3 – 0 – 0). Yet another obvious choice as Williams also has the clear best record on this board and has defeated two very tough opponents knocking off Wilson, a 2005 All Star, and winning against Lee a strong 2006 All Star Contender. To me there is really no debate that Williams is the current best Board Four in the League, but it still remains to be seen if he can be so dominant when he has the Black pieces as he has yet to have them so far.

Second All Star Team:

Board 1: GM Larry Christiansen (BOS, 1 – 0 – 3) As stated above, to me this wasn't a very simple decision as Becerra and Benjamin also seemed like very worthy candidates for this position. I decided on Christiansen for one because I do think he has faced the toughest schedule overall, but also for the fact that being on the league leading team, his results have clearly meant a bit more to the team's success than the other two.

Board 2: SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (BOS, 3 – 0 – 0) The only other halfway reasonable choice for Board Two All Star as having such an impressive record on any of the higher boards definitely merits watching. It's unfortunate that we won't have a chance to see Sammour-Hasbun take on his main rival in this department, Bhat, when Boston takes on San Francisco this week, in what I'm sure would have been a great match but who knows maybe that will be an encounter which occurs in the Finals. Although Bhat and Sammour-Hasbun were the obvious two choices for the All Stars here, Board Two really has many good candidates who could have fit the bill if one of these two not been around such as Vovsha of Queens and Schroer of Carolina.

Board 3: IM Jacek Stopa (DAL, 2 – 0 – 1) A 2006 First Team All Star on Board Two, I doubt it can surprise anyone to see Stopa performing well on Board Three. He is however Dallas's main ace in this regard (as they are generally lower rated on Boards One and Four to compensate having him on Three) so his performance to me is not quite as impressive as that of Shmelov. He did play quite impressively in both of his victories though and looking at pure strength is probably the strongest Board Three in the league.

Board 4: Joshua Sinanan (SEA, 2 – 0 – 0) This was a bit of a tougher decision to me as I also considered Wilson of Philadelphia for this spot since although Sinanan has the better +2 record at this point, he's only played two games while Wilson despite only being +1, has played every week so obviously in that sense has held more value for his team up to this point. I eventually decided Sinanan should hold that spot at this point as both of his victories have been fairly dominating wins, and he is thus far the only the only person to deal a loss to the young talents on the Mechanics' Board Four (who other than that loss are so far 3.5 / 4 collectively).

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