Friday, October 15, 2010

Week 8 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 Larry Christiansen (BOS) 0-1

GM Christiansen continued the tactical melee with 29... Nh3!, forcing IM Schroer to immediately return the sacrificed exchange after which Black eventually capitalized on White's shattered Pawn structure.

Jeff Ashton (1st place, 5 points): Interesting opening, exciting tactical/attacking play, and instructive opposite colored Bishops ending.

Jim Dean (2nd place, 4 points): Christiansen once again was absolutely relentless in this crowd-pleasing game. I felt like Schroer handled the position well for quite some time himself, but eventually cracked a bit and found himself in a very difficult ending with hardly any time on the clock. Congrats to Larry on his second GOTW victory in three weeks!

Greg Shahade (2nd place, 4 points): A beautiful middlegame had its aesthetic qualities marred slightly by a long and arduous Bishops of opposite color endgame, which may or may not have been played so well by the winning side. However I liked this game for a few reasons:

1. LarryC played some very creative sacrificial chess in the middlegame.
2. Schroer defended extremely well. While most people would wilt very quickly to one of Larry's vicious attacks, Schroer hung in there until the bitter end and made Larry work extremely hard to get the win and give his team the tie.

Michael Aigner (2nd place, 4 points): Unlike other candidates for GOTW, this game has it all: a sharp Benoni opening, middlegame tactics (back-to-back Knight sacrifices), and a technical endgame.

LarryC is known as a creative attacker, and this week he did it once again. He sacrifices his f-pawn for an open file and sets up the surprise sacrifice 28... Nxf2 ripping open White's King position. Three moves later, Black offers the other Knight on h3 to undermine the defense of White's center. At the end, he converts a technical opposite colored Bishop endgame with a pair of extra passed Pawns separated by two empty files.

I picked Aldama's win over Angelo Young as my top game this week for many of the same reasons as LarryC's win. I enjoyed watching Black shatter the White pawn structure with 27... e3, allowing all of his pieces to invade. There was little difference in my mind between my top two choices so I wanted to recognize the less experienced player.

Arun Sharma (NR, 0 points): This game obviously caught my eye due to the entertaining tactics in the middlegame. Considering that I also have a liking for Black's opening choice, it's somewhat unusual that I ended up not ranking this game. Just the end of the game fairly soured me on it, seemed like Black could have won without even allowing White to enter an endgame, and the endgame also seemed a bit shaky itself so I eventually wound up leaving this game off my list. But even so, given the attractiveness of the early part of the game and the fighting spirit displayed, I can definitely see the appeal of this game so I don't really have a problem with it winning (in contrast to last week).

Total Score of Schroer vs Christiansen: 17 points


2nd Place: GM Giorgi Kacheishvili (NY) vs IM Sam Shankland (NE) 0-1

IM Shankland effectively ended the game with the unusual looking 40... Kd4!, forcing a favorable trade of Knights after which his central Pawn array quickly proved decisive.

Jim Dean (1st place, 5 points): In this game it seemed like Shankland was not only well prepared in the opening, but it looked like he was no stranger to playing the ending that ensued, as well. Black's play seemed accurate, and it didn't take a gigantic slip for White's side of the ending to look uncomfortable. An impressive win that I feel was worthy of the top prize this week.

Arun Sharma (2nd place, 4 points): Not the most exciting of games perhaps, but it seemed to be of very high quality and certainly was quite interesting, with Black sacrificing a piece early (albeit in a fairly well known way). As said, I think the best part of this game was definitely Black's endgame play, seeming to win with ease against such a strong player in an ending that appeared very unclear at first glance.

Jeff Ashton (3rd place, 3 points): When Black wins in this line it is difficult to figure out where White went wrong. I've seen some other games like this, but I always find this stuff to be interesting.

Michael Aigner (3rd place, 3 poins): Both combatants seem to be prepared for a theoretical battle in a piece sacrifice line of the Slav. White has the extra minor piece, but Black boasts connected central pawns. Normally the player with the extra piece needs to attack which suggests White shouldn't have traded Queens. As the game progresses, White never generates any counterplay to cope with Black's rolling central pawns.

I probably would have given this game my top vote if it featured some sort of a middlegame. Alas, the players too quickly traded into an endgame after the sharp opening.

Greg Shahade (4th place, 2 points): A very strong effort from Shankland. Shankland played great chess, and used his three central pawns very nicely to bring New England closer to the USCL record for best regular season record ever.

Total Score of Kacheishvili vs Shankland: 17 points


3rd Place: IM Eli Vovsha (MAN) vs IM Mackenzie Molner (NJ) 1-0

IM Vovsha finished the game with 41. Rxd8+!, compelling resignation due to his h-pawn being unstoppable after the exchanges.

Greg Shahade (1st place, 5 points): This was my pick for Game of the Week. Vovsha played inspired attacking chess, eventually transitioned into a Pawn up endgame, and then played a very cute Queening tactic to finish things off.

Arun Sharma (1st place, 5 points): All around very well played game by Vovsha. Starting with the 18. Nd5 fireworks, which eventually won him a Pawn to the ending tactic which forced resignation, he just seemed to play a very complete game. The nice tactical tricks combined with the general high level of play by him compelled me to give this game my top vote for this week.

Jim Dean (3rd place, 3 points): I'm glad to see Vovsha get some mention here as I felt he played a nice game last week as well, even if it wasn't super flashy. This game had a somewhat typical Nd5 sacrifice in an Open Sicilian, which may not have been shocking, but was strong nonetheless. After acquiring a large advantage White continued his strong play and easily converted with a nice exchange "sacrifice" to ice it.

Michael Aigner (NR, 0 points): This looks like a fun game with a few tactics and even an endgame. I didn't vote for it because I felt Black just begged to be attacked (e.g. 19... Bg5+ 20. Kb1 Qc6 makes the pesky Knight on d5 go home).

Jeff Ashton (NR, 0 points): Jeff did not provide a comment on this game.

Total Score of Vovsha vs Molner: 13 points


Other Considered Games (judges' scores in parenthesis)

5 points (Michael 5):
IM Angelo Young (CHC) vs IM Dionisio Aldama (ARZ) 0-1

5 points (Greg 3, Michael 2):
GM Hikaru Nakamura (STL) vs GM Josh Friedel (SF) 1-0

4 points (Jeff 4):
GM Ben Finegold (STL) vs FM Steven Zierk (SF) 1-0

3 points (Arun 3):
Alex Guo (SEA) vs WFM Bayaraa Zorigt (DAL) 0-1

3 points (Jim 2, Greg 1):
SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (BOS) vs NM Carlito Agner (CAR) 0-1

3 points (Arun 2, Jim 1):
IM Salvijus Bercys (DAL) vs FM Costin Cozianu (SEA) 1-0

2 points (Jeff 2):
IM Levon Altounian (ARZ) vs GM Mesgen Amanov (CHC) 1-0

1 point (Michael 1):
FM Charles Riordan (NE) vs GM Pascal Charbonneau (NY) 0-1

1 point (Jeff 1):
GM Joel Benjamin (NJ) vs IM Lev Milman (MAN) 1-0

1 point (Arun 1):
GM Julio Becerra (MIA) vs GM Melikset Khachiyan (LA) 1-0


Larry said...

The first half of the game was fine. But during the endgame I should have been arrested for impersonating a Grandmaster. It was truly pure slapstick comedy. I got a good break this week, but judge me harder next time, please.

Larry Christiansen

Daniel Parmet said...

While Larry's game was nice (especially as he himself noted, the first half). My goodness Shankland's game was a beauty! I can't believe I only now just saw Shankland's gem!

Anonymous said...

I think Carl La Fong played the 2nd half of Larry's game.

Nathan Berkoff said...

In all my years of being a proud donating fan of the USCL this is the first time I hate to even hint at a conspiracy or lunacy. How Sam Shankland did not win this will go beyond my knowledge but if emotions truly weren't a factor here, I would second guess who's judging, I'm sorry to make such a bold statement as I'm not the type, but something was fishy this week.

Ilya said...

I agree with LC 100%, love the sense of humor though. I remember meeting up with Larry Marc and Vadim at Harvard Sq 20 min before the game, Larry said if he plays the Slav Shroer will just play the xchange var, if he plays the KID same thing, so LArry said I will play the Benoni, I made a face cause I wasnt sure its the best opening, but Larry clearly said I dont want a draw with this guy, I want to win. Sure enough, Larry played for a win took risks, and got rewarded for his fighting spirit non only in tying the match but in GOW recognition.

Prof. Crenna said...

Overall this does seem a bit ridiculous to me. You hear praise like "theoretical battle" "when Black wins in this line it is difficult to figure out where White went wrong" "very high quality" and its not hard to realize this was easily the most intelligent battle provided for the week. The decision for game of the week was a no brainer here, as I have never seen game of the week go to such a sloppy 1/3 of a game and sort of Rambo style play the rest. If you wanted an underdog story and were switching the way you usually pick winners I could have somewhat stomached Carlito Agners win. Even still for best game with the underdog element provided as well, I don't understand how Sam Shankland didn't get proper respect on this one. I don't think there is some conspiracy against Sam Shankland, nor do I think any judge is incompetent, but with the point system I think judges find it hard to look at the overall picture, whether it be having only one strong game in mind to pick and not looking at the overall outcome in case their choice goes awry, or just trying to balance personal favoritism and gently boosting a game and then picking fairly throughout thinking it will all measure out in the end. I don't think Vovsha an Molner got their just due with the point system, and I think Sam really got disrespected from it. Something tells me not only the fans, but a lot of judges feel uncomfortable on what went on here. You chose the Colosseum over the Arts.

s. suschitzky said...

The end game alone would have disqualified the "Game of the Week" from getting even a 4th place nod. Guess the voting poll speaks for itself.

Anonymous said...

Previous comments say it all. Days where fine endgame play is appreciated are long gone. Fine middlegame play is just as good, but a combination of good middlegame and bad endgame makes Christianson game inferior to Shankland game. It is shame that judges did not give GOTW to it's most deserving winner for second week in a row.

Sam Shankland said...

Kind of ironic that the one time I venture out and respectfully make it known that I disagree with the judges, the next week I'm actually one of the players involved in a questionable pick! I personally have no problem with the Christiansen game taking first- It may not have been as high-quality or accurately played, but it was certainly more exciting and tactical. The fact that both of these games were appreciated by all the judges shows that while they were both good, the judges simply had different criteria. Shahade, for example, seems to favor unsound complications that look fun over slightly more dull but much more correct play, while Dean seems to be the other way around and puts a higher value on opening prep. I thank my fans for backing me up and saying that I played well and deserved to win this week, and hopefully they will get their wish by my game being nominated as a wildcard for game of the year.

Anonymous said...

It's a conspiracy Sam. In all seriousness, I dont understand when players involved in potentialy deserving GOW start complaining or begging for higher ranking, the bias one of one's own game is just too great to feel objective about it.

motor mullen said...

Well I was looking over some past disputes and questionable GOTW's and I must say this is probably the most questionable to date, I'm glad you took it so well Sam, but I think everyone is forgetting Kacheishvili as he was also a big factor in your game being as high-end and intellectual as it was, I also feel bad on his behalf. Whats done is done, but I'd consider getting fan input, gm input, a gm on the board, or 3-5 more members on the board so players are rewarded fairly. That end game was a disgrace for GOTW and I find the whole thing just a little disappointing.

Anonymous said...

Well, you can just get rid of all these premadonas, i meant judges and just let the fan votes, hoping that the average of total fans will turn out to be somewhat knowledgable, even if its understandable that individually people will just make biased or cluless picks.

Anonymous said...

Sam was very gracious in selecting the judges to describe. If he had chosen to select Jeff Ashton, the description would have been he uses his trusty magic 8 ball.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say it's a conspiracy against Shankland - more like a conspiracy against Kacheishvili!

They just didn't want him to receive the loser's share of Game of the Week two weeks in a row.

Bruce said...

I thought I would weigh in on the GOTW discussion. First off, kudos to Larry for another great example of fighting chess. Now this is real chessboxing! Back when I was chasing prize $ (and a few chess queens, but that's another story...), the Benoni had been written off as unsound. Even Kasparov abandoned it in favor of other combative lines like the Benko and Budapest. LC shows us that reports of its death are greatly exaggerated and conjures up some nice tactics. True, the ending was not played as cleanly as possible, but I did enjoy the instructive bishop triangulations.

As for the Shankland game, I rate that a close second. Excellent technique by black, but white missed the straightforward 34.b5 (discovered independently by me and my old trusty Fritz4).

Yours in chess,

Bruce Blue

Ilya said...

To Bruce: I doubt Kasparov switched from Benoni to the Budapest, unless he was simuling people armed with Fritz 4 :)

nancy rossiter said...

I would also like to express my unsatisfactory notions quickly if I may. I would first like to commend everyone commenting for the rare adult behavior, a discussion can turn into something else very quickly, as seen on several other blogs. The only way to change things and help others look at our viewpoint is through talks like this. I'll try to be as brief as I can be, Larry Christiansen is a staple to the USCL and I have aspirations of one day being as half as talented as him. In this particular game of his, I don't understand how a Game of the Week could be given to him with such a poor ending. I was under the impression that Game of the Week meant just that, and you would be proud to show this to someone brand new to chess as a great game played. By his own admission he called his endgame pure slapstick comedy, is that Game of the Week material? It's beyond me how such a complete and intellectual game such as GM Giorgi Kacheishvili vs IM Sam Shankland could be beaten out as Game of the Week regardless of how many times its stated that it "almost won." Not to mention the circumstances of lower rating, black pieces, and constant speculation that IM Sam Shankland's current team has only won due to an easy schedule. You had all the elements going for you to give the Game of the Week to the proper game. I just found this weeks pick highly objectionable as well, just my quick sentiments on the matter.

Anonymous said...

Arun, you suck. -Sam

Robert Morrison said...

I need to get something out of the way before I begin. I must say that The USCL Judges's priorities are inverted. For starters, the spectrum of views between opportunism and racialism is not a line but a circle at which illiberal cockalorums and the most loathsome sandbaggers you'll ever see meet. To properly place The USCL Judges somewhere in that spectrum one needs to realize that you may find it instructive to contrast the things I like with the things that The USCL Judges likes. I like listening to music. The USCL Judges likes crafting propaganda that justifies assailing all that is holy. I like kittens and puppies. The USCL Judges likes obfuscating the issue so that one can't see what ought to be entirely obvious to all. I like spending time with friends. The USCL Judges likes threatening anyone who's bold enough to state that it believes that it is everyone's obligation to alter, rewrite, or ignore past events to make them consistent with its current "reality". That view is anathema to the cause of liberty. If it is not loudly refuted our future will be dire indeed.

Erabin said...

whether or not Larry's game was the "absolutely best" of all games is subjective..... Sure, the endgame wasnt top-notch but what made it a great game was the tactics that preceded it.... With computers, there is no way and human will play a "perfect game". Sam's game although ( it highly deserved beign ranked high perhaps 1st) was also certainly unperfect if you look at it with a a computer... My main point however is instead of just criticizing the judges decisions, we should look for ways to improve the process.. How about the idea of every week in addition to the 5 judges, having 1-2 different guest judges to lessen the chance of bias?

Ilya said...

Jesus, is this really so hard, just let the League vote, everyone(uscl players) can email Arun their top five games every week. If you dont, your team gets fined! -Greg's favorite line lately, sorry greg. If you want it can be a combination of both, say judges have a 30% weight and the players 70% or 50/50.

julius g said...

Sam Shankland - Sexiest Man In Chess By Julius G

New England Nor'easters have a pretty hot team, not just with the undefeated record, but with looks. IM David Vigorito is that brainy Professor you want to stay after school for and ask how to earn extra credit as Teddy Pendergrass comes over the intercom playing Love TKO for no apparent reason. IM Jan Van De Mortel has that cuddly appeal that you would trust him with your baby, and on the opposite side, FM Braden Bournival has that Mike the Situation Sorrentino appeal that you know he's trouble, but you are just too intrigued not to sleep with him once and wake up to a twenty dollar bill on your dresser. What about IM Robert? His last name is Hungaski, you figure out. But for every Destiny's Child there's going to be a Beyoncé Knowles, and the stand-out heartthrob on that team is without a doubt Sam Shankland. IM Sam Shankland is the Sexiest Man in Chess. You can find him at Brandeis University majoring in "Hittin' Dat." It's very hard to find a person with looks and brains, the chess world is filled with some trolls, and I'm looking at the women on this too, but Sam has the total package, but he didn't always. Prior to moving to New England Sam was just another pretty face, getting by in life on his looks. I've heard horror stories from GM Vinay Bhat about him being defeated by a Cuisinart Brew Central in several chess matches. That's what happens to you when you live in California, you just spend your days watching reality shows and taking ten bites of organic yogurt before you realize its sunblock. A source close to GM Josh Friedel via wiretapping has heard that the money he won for placing first place and becoming the 2008 World under 18 co-champion he spent on watching Tropic Thunder over a hundred times at the theater, not being high once. First year he got on the San Francisco Mechanics they caught him licking jumper cables, that's not doing his looks justice, and he's a Libra. Thanks to an Eastcoast intervention he's playing the best chess of his life, really taking his last name seriously and making GM Giorgi Kacheishvili his prison bitc....He's playing incredible chess is what I'm saying. He still uses his charm effectively as well, sending online mwahs and blinky-faced emoticons to his opponents during crucial moves, they are blinded by his amorousness and heart bubbles replace any thoughts they might have. Believe me, I'm as heterosexual as they come, but even I got confused at one point. He gives very educational lessons if you are an up and comer, I was his student once and we were examining a game on the Internet Chess Club during an online lesson, we would call each other via Skype. He told me in my endgame where I had a material advantage I should have avoided the exchange of so many pawns, and for some reason my first reply was, "Oh yeah, how about I give you a bed-rattling orgasm you sweet piece of ass." I just disconnected and never asked for another lesson again, I don't know what happened that day nor do I care to explore it any further. All I know is he should be called Sammie Sea Siren Shankland for the way he can shipwreck your train of thought during games. So as of 2010, Sam Shankland is officially the Sexiest Man In Chess, congratulations.

Anonymous said...

Julius G, can you please take your homosexual essays to some other, more appropriate place. You are not Walt Whitman in "Leaves of Grass" for crying out loud.

Derek Lemiers

lauren said...

lmfao!!! those last two comments were both equally hilarious!!! i <3 julius

Rihel said...

But at times in JuliusG's post was the poetry of a Whitman.

Nathan Berkoff said...

That might have been a little too homo-erotic for my liking, but I must say after a heated debate like that, reading Julius's comment was beyond hilarious! Hehe My hats off to you Julius that was the funniest thing I ever read trolling a chess forum.

Anonymous said...

I love how Arun (or Greg?) will censor anonymous postings last week when it might step on a GM's toes and let all this dreck (humorous as it may be to some) survive. Bizarre.

Jeffrey Ashton said...

Thanks for all of your kind words and support everyone.

I apologize for not commenting on the 3rd place game. I almost voted for it as I found it to be instructive, and overall a high quality.

As always, I look forward to another great week of GOTW judging. Again, I would like to thank all of the USCL fans for their inspiring words that make this judging process an absolute joy.

Anonymous said...

Why does Jeff Ashton always sound like he's got some sharp pointy object sticking from coolo.

Sergey Erenburg said...

I think that Sam deserved to win the GOTW, but that's just my opinion.

I find it remarkable that some judges prefer a one-sided middlegame where White moved his light squared bishop back and forth until he lost tactically over a high quality endgame. I think that the lack of middlegame should not be such a problem.
For example, one of the most respectable chess websites,, awarded the Game of the Month to the Gashimov-Bacrot game, where the queens were exchanged on move 8 in Berlin variation (the jury consisted of 7-8 GM's). Here is the link (in Russian):

To address Ilya's proposal: I don't like it at all. I think that it will lead to much higher biased decisions. I know that you, Ilya, will always vote for Jorge's/Larry's/Ilya's games :)

I think that the judges do excellent job at selecting top 3. I don't remember any week that many people claimed that GOTW should have been awarded to a game that was not in top 3.

So, the two improvements I can think of is asking people to vote on top 3 or giving the judges more time to study the games. It seems to me that there is no way to understand what was going on in ALL the games in 2-3 days.

fpawn said...

Expecting the judges to volunteer even more time is a bit unrealistic. I spend 3-4 hours every week, and still make plenty of mistakes. we're not professional judges and only do this for love of the game.

Sergey Erenburg said...

I wasn't sarcastic when I said that the judges do an excellent job at selecting top 3. Honestly, if I were a judge, I wouldn't be able even to look at all the games...

I don't expect anybody to volunteer and I thank you guys for doing so. In fact, as far as I know, there is no weekly contest of the best game anywhere else.

It seems to me that the idea of voting on top 3 that the judges select is reasonable though.

Jeffrey Ashton said...

Part 1
I like Mr. Erenburg's idea. I agree that consistently the #1 complaint is that the top 3 are not in an order that most people are fond of yet for the most part we get the top 3 "right".

I think Greg and Arun came up with a very good system that is practical considering what USCL is. We aren't working with the NFL's budget.

A few points:
1) There is a flat payout, so the 2nd place person doesn't get THAT MUCH less. WIth risk/reward in mind, this is "low variance". If we had "WINNER TAKE ALL" then things could get nasty. Also, from a game theory point of view, the 2nd place might have a lot of "sympathy equity" in game of the year based on these comments that I see. Having a flat payout for GOTY is key to make the sympathy equity make 2nd place more attractive.
2) Consider that instead of investing money to pay judges, they invest the money into paying prizes. They could always use the donations to hire professional people to invest hours and hours, but then there would be less money.
3) You can't just say "make all the players vote or fine them" without considering some of the finer details, although I kind of like the spirit of the idea in some ways. Factor in the time it will take to count the votes, the demand that almost 60 people look at 30 games, the fact that some people can barely use the internet, the fact that stronger players will have less incentive to play in uscl because the "or else i'm fined" incentive isn't good... overall maybe there is some way to do it, but it would take a lot of time to think of a way, and then a lot of time to execute it. Also changing things that drastically is acting with the presumption that it is a failed system as it is. I think you can say it is imperfect, perfect, or overall good, but it is very bold to say that it is completely defective.
4) There are other ways to make the league exciting that don't take as much time. These ideas can be thought of quickly.. for example let me come up with one right now. They could also just not have GOTW all together and take all the prize money and give it to the team that "sweeps" the other team 4-0. If there is no sweep keep on letting the pot grow bigger for next week. If there is a tie, split the money.

Jeffrey Ashton said...

Part 2
The biggest problem that I see is that judges have to deal with a lot of thoughtless comments, anonymous insults, and lose several hours a week. To add insult to injury, not only do we deal with the complaints about the 2nd place "sob story" but we even get complaints from the 1st place winners of GOTW! I don't like it when people make self-deprecating remarks that appear to be modest, but they drag down others with them. Sometimes that is a best way to truly insult someone. "Heh, I didn't deserve to win, I'm dumb, but the people who voted for me are even dumber!" Of course no one did anything that classless, but I've seen this type of attitude shared a few times.

The job satisfaction rating is very low for many judges. This leads to high turn-over and new judges who are less experienced in judging. This might lead to improvements, such as someone who is determined to prove that HE IS THE BEST judging. But how long will that last? Or this might lead to just some rookie who makes mistakes and ignores things, gets flamed, and quits right away. Also why would anyone strong want to sign up for this?

A few solutions is: 1) Hope and pray that people become more thoughtful 2) Remove comments

3) Be happy with the fact that we volunteer our time and do a pretty good job for the most part. In worst case scenarios, your favorite game wins $75 less than "deserved". You make it look like scholars mate gets GOTW while Immortal game got voted last place, but the "mistakes" that you accuse us of making aren't 100% mistakes, and if they were, they aren't ones that cause much damage.

And if you are going to argue that it's not about the money, it's about pride..I could argue that the 2nd place winners seem to become Martyrs of the chess world.

Javi said...

Mr. Erenburg:
Voting on the top 3 is reasonable. Are you sure this is best? Do you think there might be downsides? Do you think Greg and Arun considered this? Do you think perhaps the judges are too weak at chess to judge? Do you use the 7-8 GM evidence to hint at current incompetency or to propose USCL immitates that Russian chess website? Do you volunteer for anything? Are you really part of the solution or trying to hurt the judges that voted your game as 2nd best?

Jim said...

Just to clarify for Sergey, we don't get 2-3 days to look at the games. Games finish late on Wednesday, and the deadline is Noon on Friday. However, I'm sure Arun and Greg would give us a little more time if we asked as they aren't particularly demanding. Point is, if you're busy on Thursdays as I and I imagine the other judges are, you're lucky to be able to spend a couple hours on all the games.

When I agreed to do this last year, I really underestimated how challenging it has turned out to be. I still really struggle with my decisions each week and surely make mistakes, but even so I think my judging has improved since last year where I made at least a couple of truly embarrassing mistakes. We are asked to go through the process in solitude, without discussing the games with anyone, and frankly I think its really easy for people to point out flaws when they haven't gone through the same process. In this case the winner came on right away and was self-depricating about his own game, but I have doubts that many of the people who posted bashing that game would have done so without that "green light".

Perhaps an all-GM panel of judges would do better, though I have my doubts that it would be easy to get five of them who do not play in the league to do it for free. I wouldn't mind passing the torch to someone else, I only do it because I love chess and I really enjoy this league that Greg and Arun have created. However, as Jeff has stated, you begin to question why you bother to do it when apparently every Tom, Dick, and Harry who reads the blog could do much better. Anyway, I'm not looking for sympathy cards, but I think many do not realize how difficult it is to make a good, unanimous decision when five people are essentially locked in a room doing this work on their own. Combine that with what has already been stated many times, that it is greatly subjective and lacking set criteria, and the fact that many don't agree with the final product seems hardly surprising. Just my $.02.

Jim Dean

Little Miss Sweetie Poo said...

Hey Sergey, (aka Julius G !?) it should be noted that the game Zilberstein-Esserman, was voted Game of the Week by the fans but finished only 4th in voting by Greg Shahade's squad of judges.

random observation said...

I didn't see a dramatic difference between 1st and 2nd, but the fact that Schroer vs Christiansen crept like nine votes in a day is a bit funny, and sort of destroys its credibility and makes me start thinking there really was something fishy going on lol

Ilya said...

Sergey says I am the most biased SOB on the planet. Hypothetically speaking, even if he was right( and he doesnt know me at all)my vote would only count for about 1/150 of the players vote and even less of the total vote under my proposal. What difference does it make if all of NY knights vote for a Kachieshvilli game and all of Boston votes for Larrys game, you would still have 14 other team plus the judges to counterbalance this "BIAS". The whole point is unload the judges a bit and let fellow USCL players who actually watch many of the games live to be part of the judging process and I guarantee you the results will improve.

Jeffrey Ashton said...

I was going to send this via email but unfortunately I do not have your contact info

Dear Illya,
I like your comments very much as they are both passionate, humorous at the appropriate times and full of intelligent insight. I personally, respectfully, request that you share with everyone your top 5 picks or email them to Arun regularly as your time permits. I think you are above average in enthusiasm for improving the quality of GOTW and USCL in general. What separates you from the average fan is you are proactive, instead of laying around throwing out ideas without following through. You are obviously a go-getter, and I respect that so much, as will the other fans and players.
I think that once the other players and fans see you leading the way, you will gain momentum with your wonderful ideas. And as the founder of these positive, historic actions, you will get the credit you deserve (although my read on you is that you are seeking no validation so I do not wish to insult you by suggesting that you desire this, as that would be false). I always enjoy your observations, sense of humor, but ultimately your desire to improve chess in the U.S. With your efforts, others too will benefeit from your talents. I really hope you share your insights, specifically sharing your top 5 picks at your convenience. Hopefully others will follow in your footsteps and we might see the changes that you and many others seek. Thanks for everything you do.

Jeffrey Ashton

P.S. I will be in Boston soon as I have family that I regularly visit, so perhaps we can meet and discuss some of your ideas as I really would like to hear them in person.

j.r. said...

"What difference does it make if all of NY knights vote for a Kachieshvilli game and all of Boston votes for Larrys game"

Not everyone from the same team likes everyone on the same team. This is exactly the point of bias, it becomes a popularity contest on who has more reach. But at least you are coming up with ideas, but I honestly think this way is fine, its not perfect but no matter what you do there will be bias. I think Larry is very respected and has close ties everywhere so if its a marginal line between two games he will get the nod. That's how we live, it happens in almost every aspect of life. I learned quickly there is a lot of bias in chess. I don't think Larry even wants the nod, but he's just going to get it. As one person pointed out, nine votes, well now ten I see, have gone in his favor out of the total blue on the voting poll which if you've been keeping tabs of how many people visit and what the voting rate was before, its laughable, its to make up for the fact that the majority of the commenters felt Sam Shankland deserved the win, and if they give Larry like twenty votes in a two day span he will have a higher vote total than Shankland and that will just cement his win or something hehe and again I'm sure he doesn't want that embarrassment attached to him, but he has good friends that want to look out for him. I say just enjoy all the GOTWs and preach if you felt differently in an orderly manner like its been done here. But even with change, things usually revert back the way the would have anyhow. Having only 1925 rating I don't feel I'm even qualified to judge, but if forced to pick I like the others say Sams game seemed a lot more sound for a GOTW

Anonymous said...

At the risk of stating the obvious, the poll can be voted on by the same person many times just by switching computers. It's beyond me why anyone would take it super seriously as I'm sure the vote has been compromised many times this week and in previous weeks. It's clearly just for fun and you're taking it too seriously if you think it is ever a perfect representation of fan voting.

Jeffrey Ashton said...

Last season I got attacked for showing bias several times after I did not appreciate certain Boston games. This year I happened to vote for several Boston games, but then I got accused of having bias against UTD (although some suspected in the past that I have favoritism towards Dallas since I lived there). As it turns out, I think I have rarely ranked Dallas games high.
I see the same people making vague, inconsistent complaints. I get the sense that they are the ones that have a bias. They, without fair or consistent logic, negatively criticize those against anyone who "work" for USCL. When there is satisfaction by a current result, they still love discussing USCL Utopias where we, who currently volunteer, are simple "mistakes of the past." I am ok with my role being a short term solution until the USCL becomes "perfect" but I question why I volunteer to play "villain" in what feels like a reality tv show at times.

Here are some of the major complaints:
-We are biased
-We do not have the chess skills to understand these games
-We look at ratings instead of ignoring them
-My comments are of low quality. For example, I am mean at times. Or, if I am too nice, I should have ranked the games higher or not said kind things.
-Our voting style is not consistent.
-Our choices ignore tactical blunders
-Our choices factor in blunders, thus we are blindly running them through Rybka.
-Our choices are too simplistic, rewarding one sided play.
-Our choices are too technical, not rewarding creativity.
-Many other criticism that I will always see.

But our positive merits, that are usually listed in the introductory paragraph that precedes the negative feedback:
-we volunteer (but usually this is just your way of explaining why we are terrible)
-it is subjective (suggesting that our job description encourages us to share our stupid opinions).

I think it is a terrible pattern that we see in American chess. We criticize those who volunteer their time to TRY to make chess in America better. The belief that anyone who volunteers to improve chess must have an exterior, selfish motive. We look at how chess is so great in other countries and then we blame those who volunteer their time here as an underlying problem, not possibly part of the solution. This can be seen in USCF politics, after school chess programs, and consistentLy in USCL.

Suppose that some day we implement a policy like Illya's voting idea, or we follow Erenburg's idea and are able to pay a panel of GMs who perfectly and consistently reward the best game satisfying everyone. At that point I will improve my status of present day villain to monster of the past. I look forward to being what USED to suck about U.S. Chess.

I feel frustrated when I see the negativity on the blogs and comments from those I respect. I feel forced to read them as I feel personally obligated to assure you that I try hard, I sacrifice time, and that Greg and Arun try to run something good. I know I will always be seen as a villain by some, and I have nothing to look forward to in my future with USCL. But I still do it.

Anything anonymous or created by a fake alias I ignore, but the inconsistency in moderation sometimes makes me feel like I am a cast member on a reality show where the producers care about ratings a bit too much.

With all that being said, I will keep trying to do better and respond to negativity because it is the job I committed to, and I will accept the fact that it is an experience that will always be challenging, with no obvious reward.

Also I prefer meeting with people in person, so as I travel around the U.S. I will attempt to schedule meetings with those players, and team contributers that have ideas of how to improve the process.

j.r. said...

Anonymous said...
"At the risk of stating the obvious, the poll can be voted on by the same person many times just by switching computers. It's beyond me why anyone would take it super seriously"

thats what I was getting at, someone really pumped up the votes for Larry out of the blue without even making it plausible in length of time, my point is that if they boost it up over Sams game do they think it will some how justify the negative feedback of comments this week hehe it just makes him look ridiculous and people feel like even his own friends think he didn't deserve to win

Ilya said...

The Poll here is completely irrelevent, of course the numbers can be artificially "pumped up" and I agree something fishy is going on this week. However, under my proposal USCL players would vote and the "bias" would be spread over a large number of people rendering any individual's bias irrelevent. Judges would still judge and write comments for a significant part of the vote, 30-50%. The voting would be done secretly and hence no one would feel like they arent being patriotic torwards their own team, friends etc... This is the only way, if you consider this contest important in the overall scheme of USCL. Also, I appreciate kind words from Ashton but I dont think I will be able to judge 5 best games on a weekly basis. The voting could happen right here on this site, with uscl players having to log in with password to make their choices. Also, Jeff I believe I mentioned this before my name is spelled with one L, its a four letter word, not five.

lmfao said...

Come on people only three more votes and Schroer vs Christiansen gets in first place hahaha

Anonymous said...

Go Larry, its your birthday you gotta party like its your birthday
You gotta sip bacardi cause its your birthday and I dont give a f..k that its your birthday. Annon and unheralded Rapper

Arun Sharma said...

Several things.

(1) Yes I have not moderated the comments this week. Even though a large number of the anonymous comments have been nonsense, they haven't really been personally insulting to anyone so there didn't seem to be much point.

(2) Although this has only been mentioned recently, it's been clear to us from early on that the polls/comments this week were being manipulated (not like this is the first time that has happened, but I don't recall ever having so many comments published under obviously false names so definitely the most blatant instance of that being manipulated). I can't say I understand that - I mean a week or two after the fact, the vast majority (myself included) aren't going to remember these comments or the results of the poll nor do we at the league use that information in any way so I don't really see what the person(s) doing that is hoping to accomplish.

(3) Regarding an all GM panel. This has been suggested many times, but putting aside the issue of cost, I personally have doubts if that will change things. After all, in the Game of the Year Contest last year, there was a game given a 2nd ranking by a GM and a 20th place ranking by another GM. If people think that getting GMs to do this will somehow make the judges' uniform, the evidence clearly doesn't support that conclusion. The only thing it might change is that it might lessen the amount of complaining since it's obviously much easier to call 2200s like myself and the majority of the other judges idiots than it is to do so to GMs. But will people actually be more satisfied with the results? My instinct says no.

(4) I'm not sure if those who have been discussing this idea about having every single player in the league send their picks to me every week are serious about that idea, but if they are I might as well put that to rest. As the person who actually made the suggestion knows first hand, I have enough trouble making sure that all 16 teams send me their lineups on time every week. If anyone thinks that I'm going to sort through ~150 players' emails every week and tally the results of this competition from them, please think again because that's not going to happen in a million years.

Ilya said...

Arun, I agree that its too much to read 150 emails, that's why in my previous post I suggested creating a login on this site, where every uscl player can sign in and vote,

Rihel said...

Every player voting on Game of the Week probably wouldn't change very much.

I have a suggestion-- every member of the USCL logon to the site and vote for your favorite game of this week. Or e-mail Ilya and he can tally the results. Then lets see how different the outcome is.

My guess is the crowdsource picks 2 of the same top 3. Then there will be a long tail of 1 votes for teammate's games.

l.i.f. said...

"can't say I understand that - I mean a week or two after the fact, the vast majority (myself included) aren't going to remember these results of the poll"

But a small audience will, the people will remember Larry getting one vote over Sam, in a bewildering 22 vote onslaught in two days making him officially the peoples champion. He stormed the barricades, rocked the ramparts and stayed renowned for his quick wit and humor.

Daniel Parmet said...

Dear Jim Dean,

I think you have been the most consistent judge of all the judges I have seen in the USCL. This is not to put the other judges down but to tell you I appreciate your pattern of consistency.

Dear Jeff Ashton,
As one volunteer to another, I hereby offer you a free lunch courtesy of me if we ever meet when you are one of your travels in the Chicago area.

Daniel Parmet
Chicago Blaze Manager and Volunteer

PS. I like Sergey's idea no matter what others think of it. I feel the judges are too often swayed by what the crowd thought it as it was live. They seem to ignore that mostly that teams' fans watched it live. Its hard not to be swayed by such a thing but I have often seen many judges say "the crowd watching went while after this move not sure what was going on" and things to this effect. I feel some of this type of bias can be removed by taking either a public vote of top5 from the judges pick or sending a second panel of judges on the top 5. I think this second layer effect would improve things tremendously.

Anonymous said...

Schroer vs Christiansen

27 (42%)


s. suschitzky said...

If Blog of the Week is actually judged on content, originality, humor, entertainment value and multimedia, I think the Us Chess League News should win for this weeks GOTW pick and this post.

Sergey Erenburg said...

I would like to apologize to people whose feelings I unintentionally hurt.
Also I apologize for responding only now, I couldn’t do it earlier.

So, I’ll start with my apology to Ilya. Perhaps I don’t know Ilya at all, but I had a chance to meet him in August 2008 (New England International) and I found him a really cool guy. He is really easy going, but when it comes to his friends or teammates, sometimes he gets biased as he once admitted. Please refer to the link:

My game against his friend Jorge was selected the GOTW back in 2008, and here is what Ilya wrote:

Well, later on, in the GOTY contest, that game was awarded the 2-nd place, so, apparently it was not such a bad game after all…

I find Ilya’s idea interesting, and in fact I “stole” it and suggested to incorporate the voting on top 3. The problem with Ilya’s idea is that I don’t think there will be too many people watching ALL the games (I know that I won’t). Most of the players either will not vote or will vote for their friends or teammates. Most likely, we’ll end up having 7-8 games with 14-15% each…

So, I don’t think that Ilya is the most biased person, but, most likely he (and many others) willl prefer the games of his close friends or his teammates over other games.

In any event, the way I wrote that post was inappropriate and I apologize for hurting your feelings.

Sergey Erenburg said...

Part 2
I apologize to the judges if I hurt their feelings.

My previous post with the link to was misinterpreted. The only reason I brought it up is to justify my opinion that Sam’s game should have won the GOTW and that it is not a shame to vote for the game with no middlegame. I mentioned that the jury consisted of 7-8 GM’s just to strengthen the credibility of their choice. I did not mean to undermine the credibility of the judges at the GOTW panel. I realize now that my words could have insulted many judges, but honestly, I didn’t intend to.

Furthermore, I wrote that I wouldn’t be able to see all the games in 2-3 days. I had no idea that some people will take it as an insult, rather, it insults me for being slow.

It makes judges’ achievement (that they select top 3-5 “right”) even more significant given the time constraint, and that’s what I wanted to say. (Sorry that I have to explain so much what I really meant to say. I guess the fact that English is my third language explains this weird phenomenon :)

I see that some judges admit that they do mistakes sometimes. So, I admit that posting my recent comments was a mistake.

So, once again, I apologize to the judges for hurting their feelings.

Jim said...

Thanks for the kind words Daniel. In regards to Sergey's comments, I can honestly say that my feelings were not hurt. I'm sure its not the first or the last time a player stronger than I disagreed with a GOTW decision I made. As for the GM panel and the decision they made, I think its worth noting that we don't know how they make their decisons I would assume. Can they discuss the games with each other? The way we do it creates more variety, which could be considered good or bad depending on your point of view. I don't think its fair to compare if we have a much different process. Anyway, I realize your main point was that a good game doesn't have to have a complete middlegame and that I agree with.

Jim Dean

Ilya said...

Sergey, ok I dont know if you are being completely sincere or a bit of a tongue-in-cheek but in either case you are right that I was overly biased when it came to that game. I think in general we all have our preferences and in that particular case where you quoted me I was somewhat influenced by the post-mortem analysis we had done and had perhaps overestimated the "luck" factor in a game where you deserved a lot of credit. As I happen to be an emotional person and player too, I think I overreacted in that post, so no hard feelings. However, when it comes to my voting idea, I dont think I agree with your predictions that most players will only see a few games, vote mostly for their teammates and that it will produce results where no one game stands out in the final tally. I strongly believe that in a pool as large as the one I'm suggesting with the weighted system of votes, even if 40% of the League votes and looks at some games-- the results will be "correct" most of the time, in a sense that they will satisfy and corroborate the "majority opinion" in GOW results..

Javi said...

So Ilya, is the judging system so horribly defective that you think it's important to do this makeover? Best case scenario, how do you imagine things will be different? Worst case scenario, how can it be different? What if it just goes as expected.. how will that compare to what we have now? What exactly is the problem at the moment? Are the ends justifying the means right now? I can see you are very dissatisfied by what is happening. You don't strike me as one to just complain, so I'm trying to see where you are coming from.