Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Game of the Year 19th Place Critique

So I'm two for two. Well sort of I guess. This was the game I was expecting to see, but I never would have expected to be so far off on the number of points it would receive (predicting eleven but it receiving twenty nine). What does this mean? Well had the judges' rankings been reasonably in sync with each other, it would have been natural for the 20th place game to have gotten around five points, 19th place around ten, 18th place about fifteen, and so on. Now that the 19th game has shattered that theory completely in receiving twenty nine points, I think we can draw a few conclusions:

(1) The games in general, other than last place and perhaps the top few, will be much closer in terms of points than I expected (I predicted point jumps from thirty three to forty, from forty eight to fifty five, and from fifty eight to sixty six). It seems very unlikely based on the jump from 20th to 19th that there will be almost any further reasonably sized jumps of that sort (certainly not as many as I hinted at). This could of course be a hope for most of the people remaining in the contest since the scores being more tightly packed means it takes only a small amount of luck for any game to squeak into the Top Five.

(2) The judges definitely have very different rankings for the most part. Why? Well as mentioned, the amount of points we would have expected for this game and the next few would have been along the lines of ten, fifteen, twenty, etc. Since that's clearly not going to happen, the most logical reason is that the next few games all received a mix of high, medium, and low rankings (just as this game did) which of course implies there was some fair difference in opinion.

(3) Another (perhaps simpler) way of looking at (2) is that all of the future games will average at least six points per judge while four out of the five judges have yet to have their two or three point game (i.e. their 18th and 19th place games) eliminated. Naturally wherever those particular rankings happen to be, the corresponding games will also have to have received some much higher rankings to balance out their average. Barring something unusual where one judge ranked a game close to the top and all the others ranked it near the bottom, this likely means the judges had very different rankings for several of the games.

It also seems, up to this point, that the majority of the judges are weighing a game's quality factor as its most important trait. Again, it might be too early to make that assumption based on only two games, but given their comments on the Bonin vs Shmelov game along with three of the five judges giving the Friedel vs Milman game a reasonably high ranking (a game whose only real attraction was the fact that Milman played a very high quality game throughout), it seems to be a natural conclusion that quality was weighing heavily on the judges' minds. Only time can tell for sure, but if that's the case it seems probable that the following games might happen to do worse in this contest than most expected: Becerra vs Boskovic, Bhat vs Nakamura, Molner vs Kaufman, and Mikhailuk vs Schroer while the following games might do better than most expected: Friedel vs Serper, Tangborn vs Kuljasevic, and Smith vs Perelshteyn. Personally I would hope that assumption is actually true as I really would prefer the GOTY rankings to be centered mostly around quality and that the judges not be polluted by the Commissioner and his brilliant "Stop worrying about quality and worry more about fun sacrifices" line.

Let's take a brief look at the judges' comments on this game.

Robby Adamson: Not much to say here, just that I'm surprised he made no mention of the 39. Rxc5? blunder.

Alex Shabalov: Ahh, now this is more like it! After all, these nicknames are the real reason we keep GM Shabalov on as a judge (I mean being US Champion, pfff). I must say I don't quite understand the fascination he had with the game's final position (and I'm surprised that he, like FM Adamson, didn't make mention of 39. Rxc5? either). But then, he's the GM, and I'm not, so who am I to argue?

Dennis Monokroussos: His comments were basically dead on with my train of thought on this game. Why though if we seemed to share the same basic mindset about this game did he give it a fairly reasonable ranking while I felt it shouldn't have been in the contest to begin with? You know, I'm really not sure, but maybe his comments on future games will provide some insight as to why he felt some of those deserved to be ranked lower.

Ron Young: Well I can't say I know much about workmen, but I agree with his ranking so I won't dispute the theory.

Jennifer Shahade: Ok, I've officially regained my trust in Jenn as she, like NM Monokroussus, seemed to pretty much mirror my feelings about this game. I'm glad though that she, in addition to matching my feelings, also essentially matched where I felt this game deserved to be ranked.

I should also note that while I'm glad to have regained my faith in Jenn, I am somewhat surprised that she essentially mirrored Ron Young in his "You're all Winners" speech. While I can appreciate them wanting to give the game they award last place an easy letdown, I have a feeling most readers (including myself) would get more enjoyment out of a harsher critique of such games (even if such commentary happens to get them censored like GM Shabalov last year).

Stay tuned for another installment of this next week as we eliminate another game!


Greg Shahade said...

Word on the street was that he felt the final position was some kind of Zugzwang, but I didn't really see it like that.

Shabba said...

It might not fit a book definition of zugzwang,but it is definitely a nice example of practical zugzwang.
White's only option is 49.Rf6+ Kg7
50.Re6 (50.Ke6 Ra7),but then after 50...a4 51.Re8 Kf7 52.Re6 we're back where we've started and black just pushing a-pawn.