Friday, August 29, 2008

Week 1 Game of the Week

This year we have three judges for Game of the Week, each ranking their top five games. The games are then given from one to five points, based on these rankings, and whichever game receives the most total points wins the award. First place each week will receive a $100 bonus prize, second place $50, and third place $30. Our three judges are: IM Greg Shahade, NM Arun Sharma, and NM Jonathan Hilton. Click here for more details.


1st Place: GM Alex Shabalov (NY) vs SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (BOS) 0-1

Greg Shahade: This season my main criteria for Game of the Week is how likely do I think a game has of coming in the top five of the Game of the Year Contest. Personally I felt as if no other game had even the slightest chance while this one definitely does. There was some controversy started about this game by one or two people, but I believe the league's stance on all of this is clear by our rankings. (1st place: 5 points)

Arun Sharma: This decision wasn't very close as to me this was far and away the best game of the week. One of the most complex positions seen in the USCL which made it unclear if Black was winning or about to get mated for many straight moves. Like all his games, Sammour-Hasbun really did an amazing job in successfully navigating this tactically charged position as the slightest inaccuracy anywhere likely would have quickly ended the game in his opponent's favor. Again, both in how well played and exciting this game was, it was the clear winner to me and may well score highly in the Game of the Year contest later on. (1st place: 5 points)

Jonathan Hilton: I don't understand one move in this entire game, but Sammour-Hasbun pulled off an incredible upset with the Black pieces against one of the country's top players in an incredibly complex struggle. I would have ranked this game first had it not been the first week. As Elizabeth Vicary has taught us, Shabalov always loses in the first round. (And the more I say it, the more likely it is to be true!) Expect Shabalov to finish the rest of the season with no less than a dozen wins or so. (2nd place: 4 points)

Total Score of Shabalov vs Sammour-Hasbun: 14 points


2nd Place: FM Bruci Lopez (MIA) vs GM Gregory Serper (SEA) 1-0

Greg Shahade: Originally I found this game to be a distant second place and really had a tough time determining places two through seven. After more reflection I feel this game deserved 2nd place for sure, but I still don't believe it would have a chance in the Game of the Year contest, so I'm happy there was another game to take the first spot. Hopefully my words aren't poisoning the minds of the future Game of the Year judges. In any case, it was a hard fought game with a lot of energy from Lopez and a few really cool sidelines like 37... d2 38. Rxd2 Rxa2 39. Rb8+, and White is winning. (2nd Place: 4 points)

Jonathan Hilton: After playing a very unassuming opening, Lopez took advantage of the complications Serper dealt him. His breakthrough on the Queenside was aggressive, and his taking advantage of Black's open Kingside terrific. I don't know myself if Lopez saw the line with 37... d2?! 38.Rxd2! Rxa2 39. Rb8+!, winning on the spot, but even if he didn't, he was still very composed in time trouble. Chalk up 3.5 for Miami over Seattle, by far the most decisive match of the week. (3rd Place: 3 points)

Arun Sharma: Just a very nicely played game by Lopez who navigated several difficult moments very well, despite some constant time pressure. I especially liked 26. c6! creating some nice play for himself on the Queenside where it didn't look immediately apparent how he might go about doing that. (4th Place: 2 points)

Total Score of Lopez vs Serper: 9 points


3rd Place: IM Levon Altounian (ARZ) vs IM Jan Van de Mortel (CHC) 1-0

Jonathan Hilton: Altounian's maneuver in the Symmetrical English with d2-d3, Nf3-d2-f1-e3-d5, and h2-h4, while not entirely new, is surprising and good. His handling of the slight attack and slight initiative was superb-particularly his decision to play 17. Bg5!?, mixing things up a little and ultimately retaining that slight pull. He had to see 18... Bxh5?? 19. f3! f5 20. e4!, most likely winning a piece, in order to play it. Altounian won the game despite never moving his King from e1! (1st place: 5 points)

Arun Sharma: Although this game had some critical mistakes late in it due to the time pressure (most notably, Black missing 32... Rb8!), it was still quite well played on the whole along with containing some other nice tactical tricks near the end (White's deadly 36. Qb4! and then Black's nice attempted swindle 41... f3+! just to name a couple). (5th place: 1 point)

Greg Shahade: Hmm, I mainly didn't rank this game because Van de Mortel had such a strong move right before the end in 32... Rb8!, and after that White's moves were relatively obvious. It was definitely a very interesting game for the crowd, and I suppose it's reasonably deserving of a 4th - 5th place ranking, but that's as high as I'd go. (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Altounian vs Van de Mortel: 6 points


Other Considered Games (judges' scores in parenthesis)

4 points (Arun 4):
IM Bryan Smith (PHI) vs IM Eli Vovsha (QNS) 0-1

4 points (Arun 3, Greg 1):
GM Sergey Erenburg (BAL) vs GM Joel Benjamin (NJ) 1-0

3 points (Greg 3):
IM Eric Tangborn (SEA) vs FM Marcel Martinez (MIA) 0-1

2 points (Greg 2):
FM Robby Adamson (ARZ) vs NM Jon Burgess (CHC) 1-0

2 points (Jon 2):
FM Todd Andrews (TEN) vs FM Oleg Zaikov (CAR) 0-1

1 point (Jon 1):
NM Victor Shen (NJ) vs FM Ralph Zimmer (BAL) 1-0


FishyMcpatzer said...

If I am not mistaken, last year there were quite a few complaints about GOTW judges. So how come we have the same judges again? Greg+Arun are ok, but Hilton should stick to writing about chess, NOT commenting on actual games. Ranking a game in which White just blunders a piece (Andrews-Zaikov)...gimme a break...and who gives a damn its week one? If you can't appreciate quality, don't be a judge!

Ilya said...

agree with fischy 100%, Hilton showed his incompetence last year, why bring him back?

Elizabeth Vicary said...

At least he generates controversy....

Greg Shahade said...

His incompetence is not a fact but is simply a matter of opinion.

He is a 2200 player and he obviously has some understanding of chess. Just because he may sometimes find games fascinating when others don't, doesn't mean that he is incapable of being a judge.

Also I'm pretty sure that his joke about Shabalov and week 1 was not seriously used as a judging criteria.

Ilya said...

I disagree with Greg it isnt about rating or your chess understanding, its about your understanding as a judge. Yes it subjective but when everyone sees how awful his picks have been, it is very hard to argue.

Jonathan Hilton said...

Hi all!

If I always agreed with the other two judges--or with the public, for that matter--what would be the point of having me on the team? I bring a flavorful blend of eccentric tastes to the League, often pointing out games that would (rightly or wrongly!) be underrated.

Why bring me back, after being hated for my picks last year? Despite my perceived incompetence as a judge, I think I've clearly demonstrated my loyalty and dedication to the League. Whether through my (admittedly failed) attempt to have it covered on Chess.FM Radio along with FM Robby Adamson in 2007, or through the influence I exhibit with other publications, I'm always out there advocating the League. I do it for the players, and NOT for the critics and spectators. I love and admire many of the people in the League, including folks like Dan Yeager, Sam Shankland, Warren Harper, and Mac Molner. I actually DON'T care about the people who stand on the sidelines and yap in the chat box while the games are going on. If I did, I wouldn't work nearly as hard as I do to give the League a leg-up.

However--and this is particularly to Ilya--if you can anticipate my incompetence beforehand, you can simply drop me a message correcting me ahead of time after the games finish on Wednesday. My ICC handle is KindlyCoach. Thanks! :)

Jonathan Hilton

Ilya said...

LOL John

Patrick Wolff said...

I am puzzled by this choice for game of the week. Shabalov obviously just forgot to play Bg4 before Qc2, and his move order blunder was easily exploited. I think Black played well to drive the point home but I don't think it is a "game of the week."

Greg Braylovskiy said...

I agree with Patrick. In Jorge's game, first 15 moves are theory; moves 16 to 22 are very close to being forced; and then Alex is just lost. Not sure what's being rewarded here. Krasik got robbed.

Greg Braylovskiy said...

In all seriousness, I cannot understand how Wolff-Zivanic received NOT A SINGLE VOTE. And Lopez-Serper got second place? Makes no sense to me.

Jbeatty said...

Well, personally I dont know much about the problematic situation last year. However, Ive watched most of the Game of the year videos that were done by FM Dennis Monokroussos(hope i spelled that right, please forgive me if not). My personal opinion is Game of the week, should be judged by the players of the USCL. I think any player on any team in the USCL should be able to vote for any game each and every week. Now while this may lead to some favortismn, I tend to believe that strong chess player like to be objective and appreciate beautiful chess games. I do not however think that judging of games should be in the hands of *a few* simply because of the lack of objectivity, nor that *everyone* should have a vote because of general favortism and inexperienced expertise. Johnathan Hilton in my opinion from what I have seen has did a fine job, and although I havent been around for the ride, he is definitely right about showing his support to USCL. That should count for something! I dont fairly agree with GM Wolff out of all due respect. Im not a big fan of Sammour-Hasbun but his "defensive mind at the jaws of defeat" must be rewarded. I did not see a lot of *qualified* games to be honest. Obviously there were good games, but not great games. Joel Benjamin I believed had a chance to make a great game against Erenburg, even though i was rooting for my hometown heroes Baltimore. But Joel missed Bd8-h4 idea which would have made white's task very difficult in my opinion. Thanks to USCL and all commentators for making this a priveledged chess experience!

Ilya said...

I got robbed huh? Greg B. do you mean that I should have won GOW :) ?

Von_Igelfeld said...

Since this is Game of the Week (GOW) and not Brilliant Game of the Week, why not use a more creative and slightly more innovative method of selecting the game.

One possible suggestion is to choose the game with the greatest computer assessment swings. For example, choose something like Fritz 11, run all games through and monitor the variance (up to some reasonable point where the game just turns into a flat out win). This game could even be analyzed by one of the super-league players explaining why the evaluations changed so much. Of course, blunders should be essentially deweighted because it's a single move and not multiple swings etc..

Just one possible idea ...

Anonymous said...

i don't understand what the last poster is suggesting. the game which had the biggest swing? that would generally amount to picking the game which had the biggest blunder as game of the week and how does that make any sense?

Elizabeth Vicary said...

his name is von_igelfeld. do you think he's real?

Chris said...

Just for kicks I used to run games through a computer program (like Fritz) and award points based on the number of !!, ! and !? moves that were played and deduct points for the ??, ? and ?! moves. I cannot recall exactly what my scoring system was as it was a very looooooooooong time ago, when I was definitely much more "into" chess. Anyway, that would be a great way to put an unbiased perspective on the Game of the Week. Anyone have a super computer that can run 28 games pretty quickly?? :)

Jbeatty said...

Obviously, I totally disagree with having computer programs analyze games for Game of the Week. I dont think Greg would ever even consider this idea. Computer programs are very strong, but you have to understand this is mainly due to their ability to calculate variations. Calculating many different lines and seeing many different positions in their horizon they are usually able to choose a strong continuation, albeit not always the "best continuation" as has been proven on many occasions, especially in positions where strategic and intuitive accuracy is needed. Therefore a computer analyzing some games, which may have more of a strategic basis than a tactical basis, it wouldnt even do a fairly good job. Programs are ok for certain things in chess, they have provided us with a fairly strong analysis partner and crushed some of the top players, however people have become too obsessed with "programs being the final answer". I recommend that chessplayers be objective even though their program partners enthuse, ammuse, and enlighten us. This is definitely not the answer to the Game of the Week. However, you could label it "Geek of the Week"

Ilya said...

I dunno if its just me, but did anyone else notice the huge amount of gross blunders in USCL games so far...even when players have enough time and even when those players are 2300-2500 uscf.