Monday, December 22, 2008
2008 Rookie of the Year and Most Improved Player
In 2007 we created the Rookie of the Year Award and the Most Improved Player Award. Starting in 2008, these prizes also come with a $100 bonus.
The 2008 Rookie of the Year Award went to a very deserving player, as IM Alex Lenderman finished with a 7.5 / 8 record en route to the MVP award. Alex also finished atop the Board Three All Star Team, and no other rookie really came close to achieving as strong a score as he did. FM Ron Simpson, just as for the All Star Team, would have been a very fine candidate for this award typically, but again Lenderman's score was just too strong to not give him the award.
The Most Improved Player Award was much tougher. The real meaning of this award was a bit nebulous as we found out when trying to decide on the winner this year, but for now and for the future, it should be considered to be the player who has shown the most improvement compared to the previous year while playing a reasonable number of games in both seasons. So for example if someone goes 0 – 2 in one season, and then finishes 6 – 2 the next season, they would not be considered strongly because they played so few games in the previous year.
After weighing the choices, the winner of this award may be a bit of a surprise, but there was no logical way to deny GM Pascal Charbonneau. It's hard to imagine a former MVP winning Most Improved Player, however he went from a -3 record with a 2401 performance rating in 2007 to a +2 record and a whopping 2721 performance rating in 2008, for a difference of five game points and 320 rating points.
The strongest other contender was WFM Bayaara Zorigt, who went from a +1 record to an amazing +6 record. The main issue in giving her this prize was that to give it to someone who qualified for the All Star Team in the previous season did not seem to be in the spirit of this award, at least what we had envisioned it to be. Also, like Charbonneau, she scored five more game points more than 2007, but her performance only improved by 231 points, which was almost 100 fewer points than the winner. Zorigt did have some great postseason play to lead Dallas to the title, but Charbonneau also had some clutch victories, with wins over Erenburg and Benjamin in the final two weeks of the regular season, both of which were huge in New York's miracle comeback to make the playoffs.
Other serious contenders were GM Alex Stripunsky and NM Craig Jones as both had subpar seasons in 2007, but improved greatly this year, each doing four game points better than before. Some other players who may well have been strong contenders, especially if they'd played more games in 2007, were SM Marc Esserman, NM Ilya Krasik, and FM Thomas Bartell, the latter two also doing better by four game points than 2007, while Esserman of course had a whopping +6 season after being even in 2007 (albeit in only one game). However, Charbonneau's improvement just happened to be more striking than any of the eligible players, in terms of game points and especially in performance rating.
In the end it came down to Charbonneau's superior stats, and the fact that it felt more natural to give this award to someone who had a poor year the previous season, then turned it around and had a good year, as opposed to someone who did quite well in the previous season, and then did amazingly the next year.