Saturday, October 9, 2010

Week 7 Game of the Week

This year we have five 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 $200 bonus prize ($150 going to the winner of the game, $50 to the loser), second place $75, and third place $50 (both second and third going entirely to the winner). Our five judges are: IM Greg Shahade, FM Jim Dean, NM Michael Aigner, NM Jeff Ashton, and NM Arun Sharma. Click here for more details.


1st Place: IM Jonathan Schroer (CAR) vs GM Giorgi Kacheishvili (NY) 1-0

IM Schroer played the strong 15. Bxe6! With the tactics making the Bishop taboo, soon f7 fell also, and White comfortably converted his two Pawn edge, pulling off a surprising upset.

Michael Aigner (1st place, 5 points): White offers a pair of minor pieces on consecutive moves (fifteen and sixteen) to cripple Black's position and earn a huge upset. This game was shockingly short and sweet because White immediately trades into an endgame up two pawns. Black never had a chance. Students, this is what happens when you don't develop all of your pieces in time!

Greg Shahade (2nd place, 4 points): A strong and brutal performance by Schroer although admittedly despite his opponent's high rating, the resistance shown was not as high as one would have expected. I expect there will be some flack for the judges being hyper focused on upsets, especially this week.

Jeff Ashton (2nd place, 4 points): Maybe Kacheishvili made some errors, but Schroer’s play was precise and enjoyable. It’s nice to see Schroer have a good week since I thought he was due for one.

Jim Dean (2nd place, 4 points):

Arun Sharma (NR, 0 points): Yet again we have another game with a fair "upset disparity" (one of many from this season). I honestly really didn't give this game much consideration when making my picks as I felt Black got himself into trouble very quickly without White really doing anything remarkable to cause it. Schroer did play well, and his tactical exploitation of Kacheisvhili's errors (15. Bxe6 and 16. Nd6) was very good, but none of the moves were at all surprising, and the game on the whole just seemed to be a case of one player playing solidly and then pouncing when the other side went very astray. Congratulations to Schroer and the Carolina team on their surprising upset, but I'm sorry, I still have to strongly disagree with this being Game of the Week, big upset or not.

Total Score of Schroer vs Kacheishvili: 17 points


2nd Place: GM Alex Stripunsky (MAN) vs GM Sergey Erenburg (BAL) 0-1

GM Erenburg played the very creative 32... f6!, paying no heed to his threatened Knight and preparing to double Rooks on the h-file. Eventually White succumbed to the pressure, giving Black a creative victory.

Greg Shahade (1st place, 5 points): I felt this was the top game of the week, as to outplay such a strong player with the Black pieces is always something to be proud of. Ideas such as 32... f6 with the idea of Rh7 were instructive.

Arun Sharma (1st place, 5 points): An easy top pick for me, as this game was interesting from the very beginning with a slightly offbeat opening, White fianchetto'ing a Knight by move twelve, and the middlegame where Black seemed to play exceptionally well. I especially liked the way Erenburg seemed to preparing to break through on the Queenside, yet cleverly switched back to attacking White's King when the opportunity arose (in particular the idea of leaving his Knight en-prise while preparing to double Rooks on the h-file with 32... f6!). The only minor blot on this game was that it seemed like Black probably could have won it at an earlier stage. But in all, I thought it was definitely the best game from the week, outplaying such a strong player with the Black pieces together with using many creative ideas to do so.

Michael Aigner (2nd place, 4 points): Black quietly outplays his opponent, neutralizing the opening advantage by placing his minor pieces on active squares (Bishop on a8 and Knight on f5). Then he instructively opens a pair of lines (c and h files) for his Rooks to attack. White never manages any counterplay and, given enough time, Black's activity proves too much.

Jim Dean (5th place, 1 point):

Jeff Ashton (NR, 0 points): I considered voting this higher. Great play by Black in a unique opening. I found other games more interesting, but the quality of play was impressive.

Total Score of Stripunsky vs Erenburg: 15 points


3rd Place: GM Alex Lenderman (NY) vs FM Ron Simpson (CAR) 1-0

GM Lenderman played the well calculated 21. Be4!, achieving a massive Pawn array to compensate for the piece, which he utilized to good effect.

Jeff Ashton (1st place, 5 points): A typical attack out of the opening, with a creative, sacrificial finish.

Arun Sharma (2nd place, 4 points): Nice game by Lenderman. Simpson's opening play seemed a bit suspect, and Lenderman took advantage quite well, especially the eventual piece sacrifice which resulted in the massive Pawn center that won him the game. I also appreciated the 26. f6! idea which recovered the sacrificed material with interest and ended the game shortly. The thing that might have kept this game from being ranked a bit higher by everyone was that it just seemed a bit too easy as it's quite clear after the piece sacrifice that White has more than enough for it, and it also seemed like White had many ways to finish the game off after that stage with such a dominating position.

Jim Dean (3rd place, 3 points):

Michael Aigner (4th place, 2 points): White executes an efficient victory against the Dutch Defense. However, I didn't rank this game higher than fourth because Black's hyper aggressive Queenside Pawn play (b7 - b5 - b4) left his King with nowhere to hide. With the enemy monarch in trouble, White simply calculates a few tactics to dominate the center (see the Pawn chain d4 - e5 - f5 - g6).

Greg Shahade (NR, 0 points): This one made my shortlist for the top five, but in the end I went with other games. I certainly understand a high ranking for this game, as Lenderman did a great job of breaking through in the center and storming the Black King.

Total Score of Lenderman vs Simpson: 14 points


Other Considered Games (judges' scores in parenthesis)

6 points (Jim 5, Jeff 1):
IM Eli Vovsha (MAN) vs FM Ralph Zimmer (BAL) 1-0

6 points (Arun 3, Jeff 3):
FM Slava Mikhailuk (SEA) vs FM Joel Banawa (LA) 1-0

5 points (Michael 3, Greg 2):
NM Alex Cherniack (NE) vs NM Elvin Wilson (PHI) 1-0

4 points (Arun 2, Jeff 2):
GM Larry Kaufman (BAL) vs IM Lev Milman (MAN) 0-1

4 points (Jim 2, Michael 1, Greg 1):
IM Jan van de Mortel (NE) vs FM Karl Dehmelt (PHI) 1-0

3 points (Greg 3):
NM Joshua Sinanan (SEA) vs NM Ankit Gupta (LA) 0-1

1 points (Arun 1):
GM Jesse Kraai (SF) vs IM Rogelio Barcenilla (ARZ) 1-0


Anonymous said...

Quite an interesting choice by the judges: GM Kacheishvili has simply blundered the Nxe6 strike and White has won on the spot. Well, the funny part of it is that for blundering couple of pawns you get almost the same prize ($50) as for outplaying strong GM (who shared first in US championship in 2004) with black pieces.

Sergey Erenburg

Anonymous said...

Come back, Jeff Ashton! We miss you!

dvigorito said...

Sergey is right. why on earth do you win money for losing?

Anonymous said...

Well you don't if your opponent will win the GOTW.. So its fair to get $50 consolation for losing brilliantly ...Cool

Sam Shankland said...

I certainly see a point in paying the losing side of GOTW as well- In general, the game that wins was a hard fought game by both side where one proved to be particularly exemplary. One of the most common comments seen in GOTW judging is "It's hard to find where black went wrong" or something similar. It takes 2 to make a great game. However, this week's selection was a bit odd from my perspective (I won't say bad because everyone has different opinions and I respect the judges who volunteer their time) Kacheishvili, for once, played poorly this week, and while Schroer can only be commended for finding the best moves, it seemed a bit too easy. The Stripunsky-Erenburg game, however, seemed to have the whole package- It was very well-played by both sides (the victor in particular) with rich positional maneuvering in an unorthodox middlegame followed by some nice tactics (32. ... f6! was a nice shot) and an initiative on white's king and last but not least a brutally accurate technical display in a rook ending. I applaud Schroer for his performance, but I must disagree with this decision.

Rihel said...

I can recall some Esserman games, some that make the short list, some that got a few votes, where the play was so stellar from the opening to the end that his opponents didn't really have a chance, no matter who it was. It seems odd to award the loser in such a game.

More generally, this would appear to be a problem for very strong TNs that lead to a GOTW worthy outcome. Maybe the opponent gets credit for not completely falling apart, but I still think the winner should win the whole prize.

I could see exceptions-- The Erenburg-Stripunsky game is one where both players gave an outstanding effort and maybe both have earned something. Kacheishvili is probably embarrassed to earn anything for this game.

Anonymous said...

It should be noted that the choice made by Mr. Dean and Mr. Ashton was decisive in granting the first place to Schroer-Kacheishvili game. I am just curious what were the considerations behind their choice. If one claims that he found other games more interesting, it would be nice to know what exactly was lacking in my game that made it less "interesting" than his top 5.

Thanks in advance!
Sergey Erenburg

Arun Sharma said...

As I've said before, no anonymous insults please. And for those (if any besides the recent anonymous who I deleted) were wondering about Jim Dean's lack of comments, that was due to an email issue he's been having all weekend which prevented him from getting the results. Jim has always been very reliable with getting his comments in on time.

Erabin said...

I want to add something in Erenburg's favor: When he was playing for the win, the match had all ready been decided with Manhattan 2.5/3... A lot of players would just agree to a draw or not play as hard in the endgame, but he perseverantly pushed for the win

Arun Sharma said...

I don't know how many times I have to say this before everyone gets it, but if you post here and call someone out or insult them (be it a GOTW judge, a player, or whoever) then sign your name to your post, or you will be deleted every time.

Anonymous said...

Arun, you suck. -Josh

Jeffrey Ashton said...

It is not fun being a GOTW judge and learning that people are unhappy with the way it ended, but it is all part of the job. It is difficult when the game in discussion is one that I admired. It is easier when the game that didn’t win is one that I didn’t like. That didn’t happen this week.

Those who believe Erenburg should have won GOTW have valid opinions. I agree with their praise.

The question is really: "Why do you like other games more?" There is no easy answer for this. It is easier for me to explain why I dislike something. I prefer listing negatives than comparing and contrasting positives. I simply can’t say anything bad about the Erenburg game, because I liked it. I happened to like some other games more.

I don’t think the game was “uninteresting” even though I found the other games more interesting.

All judges are gaining experience seeing this "I can't believe __ didn't vote for __" criticism. Often it is accompanied with too much "comment-analysis". I am fortunate that Erenburg and most participants in the discussion are acting with class, but at the same time I am relieved that I chose to be more concise lately. I find it amusing that if a judge leaves no comments due to technical issues, some fans use this to lead an attack on credibility.

If a judge is not investing energy or time, or is just making unfair biased decisions, that is when you have a problem. So far I see no sign of that happening. I have not seen any accusations of this, so I see no problem.

When it comes to my vote, I think my comments explained how I still feel. I can add that that this week I found about 8 games that I enjoyed, and it was not an easy decision.

Every week I know that one of my “no-vote” games might lead to criticism. I feel lucky because I have been dodging the "didn't vote for popular game" bullet this year, but it was just a matter of time before my luck ended.

I had no idea that this would be the game that leads to a fan and player reaction. I always feel slightly uncomfortable leaving any good game out of my top 5.
But again, I can’t find faults in a game that I admired even if people ask me to.

I also can't make a logical argument for why I voted for a piece sacrifice against an error over a game like Erenburg's. But that doesn’t mean my vote is illogical. It was just a tough week with many good games.

I do know that there are other judges that ranked the Schroer game higher than I did, and perhaps this and other similar factors contributed to the fact that it won 1st place. It’s not completely fair to point the finger at two judges here.

I think the judging process is good overall because we have 5 judges who consistently try hard to judge fairly.
I can't deny any claims that some of us write controversial comments at times (I know Greg doesn't always think about who's feelings he might be hurting before he clicks on that 'send' button). But overall, I’m satisfied with the GOTW process and results.


Anonymous said...

I think one game that should have been considered for Game of the Week was Justus Williams Vs. Craig Jones. Eventhough this was a Board 4 contest, both players exhibited guts, and enjoyed playing that game over and over, and this game in my opinion shows what good fighting chess is really all about, with both players calculating out all the complications and moving fearlessly by putting everything on the line. It really is ashame that there had to be a loser in this game.

Sergey Erenburg said...

Dear Mr. Ashton,

First of all, thanks for your posted comment.

I am deeply sorry that some of the fans posted comments that questioned some of the judges' credibility. I don't know what they wrote, since it is all deleted now, but, I understand your frustration. You sacrifice your time to be a GOTW judge without being paid and some of us (including me) have complaints.

Well, but you also need to look at the situation from my perspective. I consider my game against GM Stripunsky as one of the best I've played recently. To outplay such a strong GM without any obvious mistake from his side is an achievement for me.

As Sam and Dr. Sharma pointed out, my game seems to have the whole package, including the piece sacrifice on moves 32-34. Nobody pointed this out, but it was a sacrifice.

Consider the following variation: 33.gxf5 gxf5 (33...Rch7 leads to the main line) 34.Nd6 Rch7 35.Rd2 (In event of 35.Rc2, Black replies 35...Qb3 with following Qd5 and black's threats can't be parried). Before I played 32...f6, I had to find some way to continue my attack after 35.Rd2 and it wasn't an easy job. But then I found 35...Qd7 transfering the queen to g7, after which 36. Qg3 is impossible because of 36...Rg7 and any other move is met by 36...Qg7 with the threat of 37...Rh1+, which results in huge material losses from white's side. In my opinion, to find a move such as 35...Qd7 (before the 32-nd move is played) isn't easy, since psychologically, when you attack, you mostly consider the moves forward.
So, I think that this adds to the value of my game.

Now, you say that I am pointing fingers at yours and Mr. Dean's decision, and in some sense, I do. When three other judges grant me 4.67 on average and two of you grant 0.5, there seems to be something strange going on.

I also think that it is not completely fair to point fingers at "other judges that ranked the Schroer game higher than" you did, because first of all only one of them (Mr. Aigner) ranked Schroer's game higher than you did, and second, Mr. Aigner and Mr. Shahade granted 9.5 points to my game. So, I still think that decision made by you and by Mr. Dean (to grant 8 points to Schroer's game and a point to mine) was decisive in this week's contest.

Have a great week!
Sergey Erenburg

fpawn said...

Mr. Erenburg and others:

Judging is a real challenge from week to week. Sometimes there is an obvious 1st place game (Christiansen vs Kraai in week 6) and other times there are eight or ten choices that seem at least reasonable. Since there are no set judging criteria, we must expect some randomness among the large pool of candidate games.

The judges also weigh the beauty of a positional squeeze against the excitement of a sacrificial attack. In my opinion, the Schroer game, albeit shorter, was far more of a thrill than Erenburg's victory. To be honest, I liked both games and I gave them my top two votes. But I must note that the other judges and league fans have made clear over the past 1.5 seasons that short tactical knockouts are preferred over long positional masterpieces.

I love your games and am trying to learn a thing or two from them myself. :-)

Michael Aigner

Sergey Erenburg said...

Mr. Aigner,

I have never denied that judging is a challenge.
However, it seems that your observation regarding the short tactical knockouts does not apply for the recent GOTW contest. The USCL fans seem to like my game (that did have tactics, a piece sacrifice and a lot of complicated computations among the others) more than the game that won the contest.

Arun Sharma said...

I too don't wish to rag on the other judges' decisions - through the years I have probably made plenty of GOTW choices that the other judges have disagreed with just as they have made some that I have disagreed with. And obviously sometimes this means that the results aren't exactly what I would have picked them to be.

Even so though, it's rare that I'm actually disappointed with the overall results, but I have to say this was definitely one instance where I was.

I and others have already listed the positives of Erenburg's game so no need to do so again, but I have to take issue also with ranking the Schroer game high.

My main problem is simply this: looking at the game, without knowing who the players are, I really see nothing to indicate that that game was played on Board One instead of Board Four - Black simply blundered right out of the opening, and White took advantage.

However, I'm basically certain that if this game had actually been played on Board Four, none of the judges would have even given it a second glance when thinking about their GOTW choices. I just don't understand why, because a strong GM like Kacheishvili happened to blunder in this fashion rather than say a 2200 on Board Four, that that somehow made the game so much more impressive in everyone's eyes so that they all put it near the top of their GOTW picks.

Anonymous said...

Despite repeated comments that there are no set criteria, Sergey and some of the other bloggers seem to be forgetting or ignoring that important point. If he or others have an issue with that, then perhaps he should be communicating directly with Greg or Arun. With that said, I don't think it is unreasonable at all to vote for the Schroer game. I think it has value in displaying how to crush underdevelopment and a careless queen move. But that's my own opinion and each judge is entitled to his own.

Another point that is evidenced in Sergey's post and in Joel Bernjamin's comments on the USCF website is that they are not paying very close attention to the other games. There are usually more than 5 reasonable candidates that the judges must consider and they all have some degree of merit. For example, in week 7, the Lenderman and Vovsha games would have been in my top 3 and yet Greg didn't even rank Lenderman and Vovsha was barely on the radar (only two judges gave it any points). Sergey also discusses a "piece sacrifice" and tries to explain how it was, in fact, a real sacrifice, but IMO it is a "sham sacrifice", because it is obvious that white can't survive by accepting it. And while 32...f6 is a nice move, it is not that hard to find since 33.ef allows black to threaten mate in 1. Again, very nice, but not jaw dropping. Besides, white's opening play left a lot to be desired. Some of the blog comments are also a bit perplexing. Shankland's description of the "...brutally accurate technical display in a rook ending" seems way over the top. Black was up two pawns, right? Most GMs could sleepwalk through that ending.

To conclude with Sergey, I find his comment that "...there seems to be something strange going on" strange, while the judging results don't look strange at all to me. Most weeks show some judges ranking games highly while some don't even have the games ranked. For example (and there are many), Arun ranked the GOTW winner 4th in week 1 and 5th in week 2. Happens all the time.

I think what we can conclude is that (1) there are no set criteria for judging GOTW (2) it's an eyeball test for the most part and (3) many games can make a good case for GOTW.

Sergey Erenburg said...

Dear Anonymous,

Why don't you identify yourself? It seems that if you call somebody idiot anonymously (your post is already deleted but it took place), you should get a life.

I don't know whether last two anonymous comments are made by the same person, but according to the poll, it seems that there are not too many people who think that Schroer-Kacheishvili game deserved to win the contest.

So, Mr. Anonymous, based on your comments on my game, if it is so clear to you that White can't survive after accepting a piece sacrifice, apparently, you have a superior intuition and chess understanding than mine, so, your FIDE rating should be well above 2600.

However, it is more likely that you are one of those people who watch the games between GM's with Rybka and FRITZ and then have phylosophical discussions (of course, on forums, and all your posts are anonymous) about how weak these GM's are if they don't find something obvious (for Rybka and you).

P.S. I have to clarify again: I do appreciate the work done by the judges, even though I strongly disagree with the decisions made by two of them.

Jeffrey Ashton said...

Part 1:
Mr. Erenburg feels that his game should have won GOTW. Maybe he’s right. I have little experience dealing with comments or criticism directly from a participant. I am putting time into this discussion because I have a great deal of respect for Erenburg as a player, but I also think his comments are very intelligent.

All I can say is that I tried to follow the guidelines given to me.

The arguments that I see are strong. The only thing that is missing, or perhaps it is implied, is the answer to the questions: “What do you want from me?” and “What do you want from the USCL?”

If you feel that a judge or two made a mistake, and that we should admit it, then I have to tell you that I personally can’t do that just yet. If you want me to admit that my top 5 games might have valued simplicity, they possessed errors, and just weren’t as difficult as Erenburgs, I can probably admit that.

I feel that I did exactly what I’m supposed to do. Rank my 5 favorite games. I do this being told that it’s a subjective process. It seems like “subjective process” is thrown in the comments weekly now, and it is impossible to forget that it’s a subjective process after all this time. When I’m volunteering my time reviewing and analyzing games, comparing and contrasting them, and then making my decisions, I remember: I’m allowed to pick the games that I like. My job is to not find which game is best, which game is perfect, which game has the highest level of difficulty. My job is to offer a subjective ranking of 5 games. I feel that I did that. If one doesn’t like the GOTW process, then I would suggest proposing more solutions to improve the process, instead of simply discussing individual judges.

The game was very well played by Erenburg. I have to admit that I feel saddened by Erenburg’s disappointment. Usually when I see statements about a game not being ranked high enough, I don’t feel too much sympathy. But then again, rarely do I see such intelligent and well communicated arguments.

If I believed my game was clearly the Game Of The Week, and I didn’t win it, I would probably be upset and voice my concerns as he is doing so eloquently.

If someone feels that judges are doing a bad job of picking 5 favorites, or they are just unqualified to be a judge, I would recommend petitioning Greg Shahade or Arun Sharma to replace us. This would be fair.

I truly believe the problem among most people is with the system.
The judges are not really given any rules or guidelines. We are just asked to pick 5. Perhaps the fans should just demand that Greg Shahade not use volunteers, but hire a paid staff.
Perhaps the fans should demand that we have a “best game” contest and use a criteria that most chess professionals agree on. Perhaps the fans and players can submit a “Standard Operating Procedure” for the GOTW contest or some type of document, and if it’s really popular and good for USCL, the commissioner will implement it.

Jeffrey Ashton said...

Part 2:

There have been checks and balances to make sure that this process works out somewhat fairly.
We have 5 judges who make 5 picks. This limits variance.
There is a Game Of The Year, so there is in a way, an appeal process.
There is a relatively “flat” distribution of prizes. There are 3 places, thus a mistake might lead to someone receiving $75 instead of $150.
There are many methods to “advertise” a game, such as through post-game analysis being presented on blogs, comment threads, etc.

If I could see the comments that I see now before voting, it probably would have influenced me. But it’s hard to use such hypotheticals, because then you have to factor in that other players could annotate their games, and then there is a heavy reward for “best writer/lawyer” and we are looking at things that aren’t limited to chess ability. Esserman might win even more GOTW contests because there are many commenters who support him!

But in all honesty, the way things are set up, this can already happen. Players do have options to quickly annotate their games. Fans can quickly add comments about what games they feel should win.

Perhaps a good solution is to make it clear that there are ways for motivated players and fans to petition for GOTW ahead of time.

If you really think about it, I, and most judges know that strong chess players are reasonable people. If you had told me that Erenburg, Shankland, and a bunch of other strong players think this game should have won GOTW, that would probably influence me whether or not I wanted to ignore it.

USCL is rare because the participants in many way would make very credible judges. The strongest merit that USCL judges show, is that they are willing to consistently volunteer their time, with no personal gain. It’s silly to argue that it’s a publicity stunt, since I know that I don’t appreciate the public comments being made about me.

Overall, I believe that the GOTW process is a good one that works out pretty nicely. The only thing I hate about it is that I am consistently reminded that it is a subjective process, and that I am basically sharing an opinion, yet I get criticized when people disagree. If my subjective opinions happen to be popular one week, I get nothing out of it. No “great job on picking the best games”. It really makes me question why I do this.

If I did make a mistake, and I did not do a good job of picking my favorite 5 picks, and accidentally picked a game that even I didn’t like, I don’t think it’s fair to be this upset either at me. Judges, umpires, referees who get paid for their work, make mistakes regularly. So if we, being volunteers, did do a poor job of picking our favorite 5, then I think it’s silly to be so surprised by it. But again, I think it is a mistake only when we fail to do our duties.

Anonymous said...

looking forward to part 2

Elizabeth Vicary said...

I think there should be a cash prize for "Comment of the Week"

Sam Shankland said...

I second Liz's motion

Jeffrey Ashton said...

Re: Arun's recent post.

I guess it's odd being both a USCL fan, a USCL judge, and also being USCL Upper Management. But I am surprised to see this comment.
I think I am overanalyzing choice of words: "disappointed" and "take issue with" too much.

I think Arun's comment is made with the assumption that there really is something wrong with looking at board number, who is playing the game, rating differences, number of moves, etc. But I think it's reasonable to assume that judges are human beings with human emotions that are influenced by human factors. And then when you allow the process to be 100% subjective, and you advertise this regularly, it makes sense that judges and chess players will like certain games. Look at the Supreme Court or any jury for example.
Also it's reasonable to expect that their opinions won't be consistent with previous opinions 100% of the time, because there is a human factor. Human beings aren't always completely predictable! Now if you think a judge is a complete nut-case, then I can understand removing them and replacing them.

The USCL GOTW was probably created to make the USCL entertaining. You entertain them by having human judges, make human decisions, that either are consistent or inconsistent with the human fans. That is what creates "buzz". Buzz is fun, and it's good for the USCL.

Overall I am probably just misinterpreting words (another thing humans do) or I am just looking for an excuse to make an attempt to win "comment of the week".

I think the biggest differences in judging styles has a lot to do with how various judges factor in the context of the situation. For example, some judges value upsets, other judges value "importance to winning a match". For me, I never watch the games live, so I have no idea how "exciting" it was, and honestly, most of the time I don't even know who won the match. Those two things can be seen as a strength (a jury member who can't read newspapers) or a fault (a judge who doesn't do research that is pertinent to the case at hand). I personally think it's a plus, but some might say it's proof that I don't care or something (an entirely different argument and accusation of entirely different matter).

I believe that all of the judges that I've seen, even before me, pretty much demonstrated that they have personal preferences for certain types of games, and unique biases. Some judges pride themselves on being completely objective and ignoring other factors. I think it's all fine, from what I've seen so far.
So far, I think it all evens out, based on the 5 judge, 5 votes, 3 payout + 1 GOTY appeal process.
Now there are other types of subjective opinions that could be a problem that I have not seen yet. For example, not voting for certain games because they hate the person who won. Or voting for a game highly because they want a team to get more publicity. There are definitely some ways for judges to abuse power, but I have never suspected any judge of doing this. I don't think this will be a problem, since usually the type of person who volunteers their time to do stuff for chess isn't evil, or at least they care about what others think somewhat. And even if it did happen, it would not be obvious based on the results we see.

Jeffrey Ashton said...

Btw, it seems that there are several formulas for having a famous/popular/immortal/game of the century/brilliant game. Just a few ideas that come to mind:
1) Be an interesting/famous person, while using an intermediate, yet uncommonly played tactic.
2) Be famous and give material odds, beat someone with a nice checkmate. Preferably involving a king hunt.
3) Be 99th percentile of your time period and sacrifice a Queen or more. It's ok if the opponent didn't play well before or after the sacrifice.
4) Play a very strange opening
5) Historical relevance.
6) Be young and good and beat someone older who is past their prime.
7) Be a famous chess player of your time period, and beat someone who has a mysterious title (like "Duke" or "Baron" or "Count) or celebrity status.
8) Play a game that demonstrates positional, endgame, etc understanding of such a high level, that it provides instructional value to every player, even at the highest levels.

Now for most people, it's hard to think of too many 8's. Their memory is not so strong, and maybe it's difficult to provide details. But it's a lot easier to provide examples of 1-7. So at least we know how to make games "memorable".

If a game is played well by at least one side, to the point where it becomes memorable, I think it's fair to make it a contender for GOTW. Maybe this is not the best way to do things consistently, but it's not unreasonable for judges to show this pattern.

You could argue that the judging criteria that is being requested is better suited for creating a book for advanced players: "Improve your chess by looking at USCL games". Or if you are assisting Dvoretsky in writing a book and you are looking to find some good material.

I'm not saying there is a right way or wrong way to look at GOTW. But I think it's unreasonable to say one way or the other is unreasonable.

Going with historical precedent, popular opinion, it is very "normal" to go with games like Schroer-Kacheishvili to win GOTW, brilliancy prizes, etc. I don't understand how people are so surprised by this. It would be more of a travesty if we voted for a short agreed draw, or some forced draw variation of an opening.
But yes, I agree that if it were a "best game" or "who used the most brains" award, then some of these criticisms would be more appropriate.

But I think the real question is, are you just annoyed because a game that you liked very much, was liked less by other players? And are you bothered by the fact that a game that you didn't care for, was liked a lot by others?

Arun Sharma said...

First off Jeff, I tried hard to not be insulting to you or any of the other judges' in my comment, and I'm sorry if you or any of them took it that way. I don't think there's anything wrong with us disagreeing with each other's picks, just as I'm sure you've disagreed with some of mine in the past. Given the heated nature of the discussion this week, I simply wanted to throw in my two cents, and when I happen to strongly disagree with the decision this week, well it's hard for me to make a comment in that regard which won't be perhaps a bit insulting to those whose decisions I disagree with. I certainly am not suggesting or implying that I think anyone should be replaced though :)

I never claimed it was wrong to consider the emotions involved in a game, things like upset, board number, any of that, but how big a consideration is this? Like I said (I could be wrong), I really feel that if the Schroer game had been played on Board Four, it never would have gotten a single vote from the judges. Should the intangibles involved change it from being a game not considered to one that gets a first place and three second place votes? In my opinion, it should not.

Also, in regards to subjectivity, yes the process is largely subjective, but there is obviously a line that has to be drawn somewhere (again not saying that line was crossed this week, just want to address the general topic). If I was to make my top pick the game which had the biggest blunder, well somehow I doubt fans would cheerfully accept that as a good criteria for making my selections. There is an assumption that we will use reasonable factors for making our picks. Not saying that any of us don't do so - personally I think all the judges have done that every time, but explaining every pick away to subjectivity doesn't seem appropriate either.

In any event, that's really all I have to say about it - the gist of it is that I feel strongly that the choice for first place was wrong this week (and as I said even when the game that wins doesn't happen to be my first place game, it's rare for me to strongly disagree). Just wanted to make that clear as well as explain why I feel the choice made was in error.

Greg Shahade said...

Just a quick note:

I'm pretty sure the large majority of all famous games of chess ever played, have come from players who were one of the absolute best player in the world.

Simply put, if lower rated players produce a brilliant game, for the most part it maybe gets a mention here or there, but usually a week later everyone forgets it.

Please note that I am not talking about how things work in the USCL, but instead I'm talking about how things work in chess as a whole and have worked for about the last 100+ years. You will be very hard pressed to off the top of your head name a single extremely famous game that took place before 1970 in which neither of the players were one of the absolute best players (top 10-20) in the world.

Also please note that one of the most famous games of all time is Morphy crushing two amateurs in under 20-25 moves or so.

When the players involved in a game are higher rated, it seems that human nature has shown throughout the past 100 years, that this game will get a lot more attention than a similarly played game by lower rated players. When a top GM falls for a trick and gets brutally crushed, it has always gotten much more attention than a much lower rated player falling into the same trick. To single out the USCL judges for following a prejudice that has stood for the entire history of organized chess seems a bit unfair. I'm not stating whether or not this is the way things should be, but it's certainly the way things are and always have been.

- Greg Shahade

fpawn said...

For the record, two judges voted for a board 4 game (different ones!) as their #3 choice this week. Probably I would not have voted the Schroer game as #1 if it was played on board 4. Nonetheless, a reasonable attacking game with multiple pieces hanging would have earned at least some sort of recognition from me, e.g. a #3 or #4 vote.

Michael Aigner

Arun Sharma said...

Just a couple notes.

First, to all who have been making anonymous posts attacking all sorts of people involved (myself included), I would encourage you to stop. I mean if you really want to waste fifteen minutes or whatever of your life writing something silly up to force me to spend five seconds deleting it, well that's up to you, but I would hope that you have better things to do.

Second, to the other anonymous posters who are trying, at least semi-civilly, to debate these issues, there is a limit to how much anonymous posting I will allow. And if it reaches the point that you are attempting to engage in a reasonable debate with someone involved here, if you don't have the conviction to stand behind your opinions by posting your name, well I'm sorry but your opinions are not worth very much. Furthermore, complaining that you were "attacked" by someone here when you continue to hide behind anonymity, I'm sorry again but I'm really not sympathetic to your anonymous identity being attacked.

Sergey Erenburg said...

I would like to answer the following questions posted by Mr. Ashton:
“What do you want from the USCL?” and “What do you want from me?”

I don't want anything from the USCL and I want nothing from you.

All I wanted to know is what were the considerations behind your decisions. Well, you answered that. You happened to like other games more than mine.
You also answered my question (btw, you didn't have to, so thanks) what was unique in your top 5 that wasn't in mine. You basically said that:
"There is no easy answer for this. It is easier for me to explain why I dislike something. I prefer listing negatives than comparing and contrasting positives."

You also said that it's all subjective and that judges can pick any five games they want.
Fair enough.

All I can say is that I am sorry for asking a simple question, that was too much. It seems that you got offended by me, so I beg your pardon.

Now, I think that it is a good idea for me to close this discussion, since I am not as good as you arguing and constructing arguments. It is clear that I do not have as many anonymous supporters as you do. In fact, if I played chess as good as you argue, I would probably be in Bilbao this weekend.

P.S. All this discussion was not about money. The following quote belongs to A.Karpov: “Chess is everything: art, science and sport”. So, for me it is also an art in some sense...

rihel said...

I can only say to Sergey that the art of this game will probably propel it quite high in the Game of the Year contest. There, with more time to deliberate, there is a better agreement at the top 5-10.

One factor in the judging of GOTW is certainly the little amount of time the judges have to decide from too many games.

Jeffrey Ashton said...

I apologize if I sounded offended. I was not offended by anything Mr. Erenburg said. My tone might have sounded irritated because I'm just tired of seeing comments and blogs that criticize the judges that volunteer their time trying to do a good job consistently. Even after this discussion is closed, there might be more blogs or articles written by people who I respect greatly that criticize the judging again. Basically a lot of: "Even though I know it is subjective, these judges are idiots" (obviously I am exaggerating). Instead of suggesting or criticizing the way results went I wish people would direct their energy into changing the GOTW policy to something they find more appropriate.

Regarding anonymous posts:

I wish there was a consistent rule about anonymous posts. Either they shouldn't be allowed, or just always moderate comments. Keep it consistent. I know it's not good for USCL buzz to discourage communication, but we should at least be consistent. Of course it's always fun when some anonymous post slips through the cracks, causing strong comment reaction, and moderators can just use plausible deniability and say "oops, that got through, but we'll moderate them now".
I suggest just always using comment moderation.
Also, the posts that are being deleted are not seen by all. Half the time when someone refers to anonymous posts, I have no idea what the person is talking about. For example here, I don't really know what kind of anonymous support I got. But nonetheless, I'm sure it was inappropriate, and I don't wish to be associated with any inappropriate behavior from anonymous writers. I have no idea who supported me by the way.

I guess it's kind of unpopular to agree with things I do, so it's best to remain anonymous :)

David A. Cole said...

Yes, I kind of like Liz's idea about a cash prize for "Comment of the Week", could there be another cash prize for "Comment of the Year"? Anyway, I was the one that commented earlier about Justus Williams Vs. Craig Jones, and understand that the judges decisions on these rewards are not easy ones by no means, and we should be greatful that there are dedicated judges to this league that are willing to do this, and take the criticism accordingly. Thanks.

David A. Cole, USCF Life Member, Franklin, NJ