Friday, December 26, 2008

Greg Shahade's GOTY Picks

Hello everyone, below are my guesses for the order of the top twenty games. For all fans who create such a list, we will have an informal contest to see whose picks most closely mirror our esteemed judges. Please note that I made these selections before any judges made their rankings and proved this by sending them to Arun Sharma weeks ago so if I happen to get all twenty games exactly correct, it's because I'm a huge genius, not because I cheated. As I'm not an official judge I didn't study all of these games for an hour before I made these rankings; just sort of went with my gut in many occasions. After having read some of the actual judges' comments, I'm very impressed with the work the judges put into their rankings.

Arun Sharma's rankings will be published tomorrow.

20th Place: IM Alex Lenderman (QNS) vs IM Emory Tate (CHC) 1-0. I don’t think this game will actually finish last so not sure exactly why I put it here. Just the game felt kind of
random to me. Of course, I also gave it first place for GOTW when it happened, so I’m really confused obviously. To be honest, this season I'm very interested in seeing which game finishes last place as I think there are quite a few contenders this time around. In 2007 it was pretty obvious that one game was likely to finish last, and I felt that the nineteenth place finisher was also pretty clear (although I was right about it, that ended up being a very close vote). This time around I won't be shocked if there are a few surprises at the bottom of the standings.


19th Place: FM Oleg Zaikov (CAR) vs SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (BOS) 1/2-1/2. In reality I believe this game should finish last. Sure it was exciting and dramatic, but the fact remains that both players made some serious mistakes in the time scramble at the end of the game. In fact probably half the moves that made up that portion of the game were clear errors. The only reason this won GOTW was because it was so exciting while it was going on, but IMO it won’t crack the top fifteen and will probably be one of the first games out. I do believe that judges tend to rank playoff games higher than usual so that's why I have it in here instead of last. No offense to these guys, it was very hard to find the correct moves with so little time on the clock, and I did rank this game first that week, but it just doesn’t deserve to finish very highly in this contest.


18th Place: IM Lev Milman (CAR) vs GM Alex Shabalov (NY) 1-0. As nice as it is that Milman defeated the multiple time US Champion, it was an endgame pretty quickly, and I found the game relatively uninspiring from an aesthetic standpoint. I'm sort of biased against games like this though, so I wouldn't be shocked to see it with a higher ranking in the thirteenth to fifteenth range.


17th Place: IM Davorin Kuljasevic (DAL) vs GM Julio Becerra (MIA) 1-0. In theory I prefer this game to Kuljasevic's other victory, however the fact that the other game took place in the playoffs and was extremely important to the team’s Championship run, while this was simply a regular season game, led to me choosing to give a higher ranking to Kuljasevic's win over Bhat. This was a nice strategical demonstration by Kuljasevic in his play against Becerra's hanging pawns and was also Becerra’s lone defeat of the 2008 season.


16th Place: IM Davorin Kuljasevic (DAL) vs GM Vinay Bhat (SF) 1-0. A clutch game from Kuljasevic, sending Dallas into the SemiFinals. Unfortunately if one is honest you have to admit it wasn’t particular exciting at all. Basically zero flashy tactics and no extremely instructive strategically moments. Kuljasevic played quite well, but not amazingly really and so here seems about right.


15th Place: GM Patrick Wolff (SF) vs IM Marko Zivanic (DAL) 1/2-1/2. A controversial game from Week One in that it got zero GOTW votes, and there was some criticism about this. I looked at it while feverishly searching for Wildcards and realized that it was actually a pretty cool game by both sides. I guess that early in the season we are more biased against the draws. Also, I felt at the time that the draw was premature (although I don't think now that it actually was.) Still I'm not sure this really deserved my Wildcard bid, but whatever, since a few people thought that it was robbed in Week One, let's see how it really does. Also note that there was some vocal opposition to the game that did win Week One (Shabalov vs Sammour). Well now we have two other Week One games in the contest in this one and Lopez vs Serper. Let's see how they stack up this time around; I think our result will be confirmed by the GOTY judges.


14th Place: GM Jaan Ehlvest (TEN) vs IM Rogelio Barcenilla (ARZ) 1-0. Sure Ehlvest played great and beat the strong IM, but don’t we expect such play from GM's! It wasn’t particularly artistic or exciting so I don't see the game finishing too highly.


13th Place: GM Pascal Charbonneau (NY) vs GM Sergey Kudrin (PHI) 1-0. This is another game I expected to finish very low in the contest, but after further reflection, it was a long struggle with some good yet obvious tricks at the end. At certain points during the game it felt as though the players were shuffling the pieces around randomly, which certainly doesn't help it’s chances. I'll be very surprised if this game cracks the top ten, and not surprised at all if it finishes around sixteenth or seventeenth as well.


12th Place: IM Alex Lenderman (QNS) vs FM Oleg Zaikov (CAR) 1-0. I sort of thought this game was cool, lots of fun things happening, but the peanut gallery thinks that both sides made lots of mistakes. I'm not sure they were so clear, and I think they are being a bit too harsh. In any case, I'm going to put it in twelfth, but won’t be shocked if it finishes lower due to those things I heard.


11th Place: IM Dmitry Schneider (QNS) vs GM Eugene Perelshteyn (BOS) 1-0. How the hell did this game end up in eleventh place in my rankings? I have no idea. Fact of matter is Schneider played a very nice game. It wasn't exciting or anything, but whatever he played very well against a strong player. This is basically the part of the contest where all the games go where one side played well against a stronger player, winning, but in the process nothing too spectacular happened.


10th Place: FM Bruci Lopez (MIA) vs GM Gregory Serper (SEA) 1-0. I was very surprised to rank this game so highly. I mean I only picked it as my second wildcard game, after a game that I end up ranking much lower! How can I possibly be so illogical? I have no idea! Anyway Lopez played well to defeat a solid GM in Serper, there were a few cool moments, it wasn't really boring or anything, but not super-duper exciting or spectacular. I can't see this game breaking eighth place, but would be surprised if it finishes too low. Honestly if I had to guess, twelvth place would probably be more likely, but these are not just my predictions but also my own personal feelings about how I'd rank the games if I were a judge. In fact it's a mixture of both, my pure rankings may be slightly different, but I will be sure to note when those situations come up. For instance I suspect that the game I ranked in second place is more likely to win the contest than the game I ranked first.


9th Place: GM Sergey Erenburg (BAL) vs SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (BOS) 1-0. A fun game that some judges will rank highly because they love massacres, and others will rank lower because it was too one-sided. I think that'll translate into about ninth place.


8th Place: IM Alex Lenderman (QNS) vs IM Dean Ippolito (NJ) 1-0. This was definitely the best of Lenderman's trio of entries into the contest, but it's hard to say where it will finish. Lenderman played well, but I'm just not sure if it has the firepower to crack the top five. I do strongly suspect it will finish ahead of his other two games, as both sides played quite well from beginning to end.


7th Place: GM Sergey Kudrin (PHI) vs GM Larry Christiansen (BOS) 1/2-1/2. I think this game is going to have a real tough time cracking the top five, because I think that the other big draw, between Ehlvest and Erenburg, was simply more exciting. I suspect most judges will instinctively compare these two games, and rank that one higher, thus putting this game around the sixth to eleventh spot.


6th Place: GM Joel Benjamin (NJ) vs GM Sergey Erenburg (BAL) 0-1. Ok one may wonder why I didn’t rank this game highly when it came up in Game of the Week, but suddenly it now receives sixth place overall? The answer is because I am easily swayed by public opinion. If everyone feels that Erenburg played a great game, who am I to argue? However it's not exciting enough to crack my top five. I won't be surprised if this finishes anywhere from fourth to ninth.


5th Place: GM Alex Shabalov (NY) vs SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (BOS) 0-1. A lot of people said this was mostly theory and as soon as Shabalov diverged that he was simply losing. I don't believe that most watching this game agreed or will agree while judging it. I suspect that this will definitely cause one or two judges to rank it lower than usual however, so wouldn't be surprised to see it finish anywhere from fourth to tenth.


4th Place: GM Vinay Bhat (SF) vs IM Emory Tate (CHC) 1-0. A fun game, with Tate sacrificing a piece for a bunch of pawns and walking his King towards the center. I think that if Tate ended up playing well to win this game, it'd have a great chance of first place in Game of the Year. Since Bhat won, I think somewhere around third to seventh place is more likely.


3rd Place: GM Jaan Ehlvest (TEN) vs GM Sergey Erenburg (BAL) 1/2-1/2. A very exciting and well played draw. In terms of quality and excitement it's hard to do much better than this, although it's a shame that the match had no real effect on the standings. Such things tend to matter more in GOTW and less in GOTY though I believe.


2nd Place: GM Larry Christiansen (BOS) vs IM Marko Zivanic (DAL) 1-0. If you had to ask me to pick the game which will probably win, I'd say this one. Something about the fact that it was an aesthetically pleasing crush from the USCL Finals played by fan favorite, Larry Christiansen, makes me think it's got the best chances. I talked to a lot of random non-judges whom when asked what their favorite game of the year was, brought up this game first, although that could have something to do with the fact that the USCL Final was on their mind as it ended so recently.


1st Place: SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (BOS) vs IM David Pruess (SF) 1-0. A great attacking effort by Sammour. I ranked this game first because he found some pretty difficult to find moves. The idea of simply capturing on e6 and playing Qf4 was very nice. I felt like the game was more hard fought than my 2nd place game, but as stated I think that Christiansen vs Zivanic is more likely to appeal universally.


May as well give my percentages for what games I think might win first place:

Christiansen vs Zivanic (43%) – What can I say, I have a strong feeling about this game, but I'm also more of an extremist, giving huge percentages based on my gut feelings.

Sammour-Hasbun vs Pruess (25%)

Ehlvest vs Erenburg (8%)

Shabalov vs Sammour-Hasbun (7%)

Bhat vs Tate (6%)

Benjamin vs Erenburg (6%)

Erenburg vs Sammour-Hasbun (3%)

Kudrin vs Christiansen (1%)

Lenderman vs Ippolito (1%)

All other games (almost zero chance)

Here are my percentages for each game to make the Top Five:

Christiansen vs Zivanic (98%)

Sammour-Hasbun vs Pruess (85%)

Ehlvest vs Erenburg (55%)

Bhat vs Tate (50%)

Shabalov vs Sammour-Hasbun (50%)

Benjamin vs Erenburg (50%)

Lenderman vs Ippolito (35%)

Erenburg vs Sammour-Hasbun (35%)

Kudrin vs Christiansen (25%)

Lopez vs Serper (9%)

Schneider vs Perelshteyn (7%)

All other games (I know that it's completely unrealistic to believe this, but I just don't see how any of them can possibly finish in the Top Five. Maybe the only game with a prayer is Lenderman vs Zaikov if people think it was sufficiently exciting, so I guess I can give that 1-2%? (We will see if I'm wrong…)

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