Thursday, September 18, 2008

Week 4 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.


**Due to Jonathan Hilton being out of the country currently, for this week and this week alone we will have only two judges, Greg and myself.

1st Place: IM Lev Milman (CAR) vs GM Alex Shabalov (NY) 1-0

Arun Sharma: Like last week, despite giving this game the top ranking, I have to admit I wasn't especially enthralled by it as once again this week seemed to have real lack of good candidates. I eventually went with this one since it did seem like a very well played game by Milman throughout, utilizing a slight endgame edge quite well and ending the game with a nice mating net. (1st place: 5 points)

Greg Shahade: Milman played very well, but you have to admit this wasn't the most swashbuckling affair you've ever seen. I think the following factors are all very important in choosing a GOTW winner:

1. Quality
2. Excitement
3. Drama due to match situation etc.
4. Upset (If a lower rated player surprises a higher rated player etc.)
5. Whether it was an "event". This might be similar to number two or three, however last year's win by Bhat over Nakamura was a good example. That was clearly not a perfectly played game by any means, but everyone was talking about it for so long that it simply had to win. GOTW does not = most perfectly played game of the week, however I do like to avoid games with hideous blunders.

Anyway, those are some of the factors I think are important. This game basically only qualified for the 1st + 4th criteria so that's why I gave it only three points.
(3rd place: 3 points)

Total Score of Milman vs Shabalov: 8 points


2nd Place: NM Denys Shmelov (BOS) vs IM Dean Ippolito (NJ) 0-1

Greg Shahade: Since Mr. Hilton is out of the country, I suppose Arun felt he had to say twice as much to make up for his loss. I agree with a lot of Arun's points, in the sense that I was probably more impressed with Shmelov's play this game than Ippolito's. However Ippolito never broke, he only bent, and I just found that there were a lot of interesting moments in this game. Even Shmelov's main mistake of 34. f6, while bad, was not hideously losing or anything. It just gave Black a very pleasant position, whereas instead White would have had a very pleasant position. Mistakes are obviously going to happen, and I thought this game showed a lot of fighting spirit by both players (ok, that's a bit unfair since Dean was basically happy with a draw at many points, but it made sense given that Benjamin was up a Queen on move 9). Anyway, I definitely wasn't jumping out of my seat to give this game the top prize, but given the other games I decided to. Also, since I fully expect to get blasted for this pick, if you feel like doing so please give an alternate game that should have won and a detailed explanation as to why, thank you! (1st place: 5 points)

Arun Sharma: First off, I apologize in advance for the length of this comment. While I was watching this game, I felt it would be a strong candidate for GOTW honors, but the way the game ended really turned me off of ranking it. From my assessment, it seemed like White was much better, maybe even close to winning before the blunder 34. f6 which completely turned the game around. It turns out that assessment wasn't quite correct as White may only have been a bit better at that point and was likely quite far from winning. But the real problem to me was that when watching a game and feeling during it that it's a good GOTW candidate, it's often the play of one of the two players who's inspiring you to think as such. For me, in this game that player was Shmelov, both for the way he bravely turned down the draw earlier, and the way he seemed to be pressing a very minuscule edge to the brink of victory before he blundered (once again, "brink of victory" was almost certainly a bit of an over assessment). When the player you feel has exhibited most of the play which makes the game a good candidate ends up losing to a one move turnaround, it's hard to justify still ranking the game. Perhaps that's not a fair thing to detract for, as after all a game I did rank, Friedel vs Smith, had a colossal blunder by both sides near the end (White's 47. Kh2 and Black's 48... Kg7), and had Smith found 48... Kxg5 and went on to win or draw that game, I probably would not have ranked that game either. Again, that might be a ludicrous thing to downgrade a game for (as in some sense I'm rewarding the Friedel game for having the additional blunder 48... Kg7), but as a spectator, when the player who's really impressed you with their play ends up losing the game due to a 180 turn in one move, it's hard psychologically to still feel that game is worthy. I should also note that I really didn't like ranking the Nakamura vs Mitkov contest, as considering the caliber of those two players, that game was obviously not anywhere in the realm of being a "quality" game. As earlier noted, I felt then (and now) that there was a real lack of good candidates this week, and that game, while obviously not a high quality game, was definitely quite a crowd pleaser with many interesting turns, twists, and important moments and that along with the fact that Nakamura did seem to play the endgame very well was enough to push the game up to that fifth spot for me. In retrospect though, I think I definitely should have either picked this or the Ehlvest game to be in my Top Five instead. (NR: 0 points)

Total Score of Shmelov vs Ippolito: 5 points


3rd Place: IM Davorin Kuljasevic (DAL) vs GM Julio Becerra (MIA) 1-0

Arun Sharma: Like the Milman game, I can't say I was enthralled about picking this game so high as it too wasn't exactly a very exciting affair (and had the added detraction of having a fairly big blunder, 25... c4, from the losing side). But, like the Milman game, it seemed like a very well played game by the victor (Kuljasevic in this case) who really just played very cleanly and solidly throughout in knocking off a very tough player in the two time MVP in the only decisive game of the match and helping Dallas to such an important win over Miami. (2nd place: 4 points)

Greg Shahade: Nice game by Kuljasevic but really nothing too exciting happening here. Kuljasevic wins a few pawns, goes on to win with relative ease, not deserving of a top ranking IMO, even against the two-time MVP. (5th place: 1 point)

Total Score of Kuljasevic vs Becerra: 5 points


Other Considered Games (judges' scores in parenthesis)

4 points (Greg 4):
GM Jaan Ehlvest (TEN) vs IM Rogelio Barcenilla (ARZ) 1-0

3 points (Arun 3):
FM Ralph Zimmer (BAL) vs NM Parker Zhao (QNS) 0-1

2 points (Arun 2):
IM Josh Friedel (SF) vs IM Bryan Smith (PHI) 1-0

2 points (Greg 2):
FM Daniel Naroditsky (SF) vs NM Elvin Wilson (PHI) 1-0

1 point (Arun 1):
GM Hikaru Nakamura (SEA) vs GM Nikola Mitkov (CHC) 1-0

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