Friday, September 17, 2010

Week 4 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: GM Josh Friedel (SF) vs GM Varuzhan Akobian (SEA) 1-0

GM Friedel played the well calculated 50. Rh3!, preventing Black from queening due to the pair of passed pawns, allowing White to liquidate the wild game into a winning endgame.

Greg Shahade (1st place, 5 points): Well my first place ranking was useless, as this game would have won anyway. Honestly this week there were tons of exciting games, and I found it very difficult to choose. I felt that Monday's games were not so inspiring, but on Wednesday there were about six or seven that were good candidates. I ended up choosing this one because of the following reasons:

1. The strength of the players
2. It was a long hard fight in which the spectators weren't always sure what was going to happen.
3. The result of the match hinged on this game
4. There were some nice tricks (allowing Black to Queen at the end by playing Qxd3 followed by Rh3)

Arun Sharma (1st place, 5 points): Very interesting and entertaining game. A long maneuvering phase which turned into a tactical phase once the position opened up and then effectively ended when, with both players in severe time pressure, Friedel found a final tactic to simplify into a won ending which he converted with excellent technique. Likely both sides had some improvements in the middlegame, but on the whole the game seemed to be of quite high quality, especially taking into account the clock situation. Add to that the drama of it, with the match outcome hanging in the balance late with all three results seeming possible, this game seemed like a very worthy winner.

Jeff Ashton (3rd place, 3 points): Ok, nice game, and both sides showed inspiring play. The game is very interesting. Tough game. Ok, I'm honestly writing a lot of filler for this game, and again perhaps a simple "both sides played hard" would be better than what I have to say. Overall I feel that it might be a criminal offense not to rank this in my top three. But to be honest, I'll probably forget about this game within a few hours. I just can't really find a game I thought was more third place worthy, although I considered Brooks vs Rodriguez.

Michael Aigner (3rd place, 3 points): I should start off by commenting on how difficult this week proved to be. My spreadsheet ended up with TEN (!) games that scored equal or better than my first place game last week. Yes, Week 4 saw lots of exciting chess, and the League should be proud of that! On the other hand, I struggled with putting together the rankings of my top five games.

This board one game was fun to watch, and there's no doubt how critical the result was to San Francisco's victory. Bonus points to Friedel for his novel opening concept to ignore the advancing Black's a-pawn. As a result, White dominated the Kingside, an advantage that eventually won the game.

I thought Black solved his problems by evacuating his King to b8 and then controlling the f5 square. Yet when the Kingside opened up, it was White's monarch in some trouble. I know I would have lacked the intestinal fortitude to open the f-file and entire Kingside with 41. Nxf7.

I need deeper analysis to confirm whether White's play was sound. Primarily for this reason, I ranked the game third and not higher.

Jim Dean (4th place, 2 points): This was a nice, hard fought game by both sides. It didn't appeal to me as much as a few of the other games this week, but I have nothing negative to say about it, and feel it is GOTW worthy. I have to say I am surprised to see that Hungaski vs Shmelov didn't get much love from my fellow judges. I felt it was a really well played game by Hungaski, even if some might say it lacked excitement.

Total Score of Friedel vs Akobian: 18 points


2nd Place: FM Ron Simpson (CAR) vs GM Boris Gulko (NJ) 1-0

FM Simpson finished off a strong effort with 34. Qg5!, tactically forcing the win of Black's Queen, ending his tough league streak by knocking off one of the most successful players in league history.

Greg Shahade (2nd place, 4 points): With so many games being close in value this week, I ended up just going with this one because Simpson completely outplayed Gulko for most of the game. Admittedly Gulko made a huge mistake by playing 32... exf5, and something like Re8 would have led to a double-edged game. I did think the result of this game hinged on some very sudden tactics that weren't especially difficult to see. However the fact that Carolina drew the match because of this win, and because it was an upset of a few hundred points, led me to rank it second.

Jeff Ashton (2nd place, 4 points): See my notes for Gulko vs Bartell if you want to read my thoughts about underdogs beating the great ones, but yes, I might rank upsets highly, but at least I'm consistent!

Like other upsets that I rank highly (Gulko vs Bartell) the winning side played well, and the game was interesting.

When I first saw this game, I figured there was a good chance I would rank it from third to fifth place. But then I realized that maybe subconsciously I didn't want to offend the chess purists for ranking an upset so high more than once, against the same player, in such a short time frame. I looked at the game a few times to make sure I'm not making any horrible mistake for voting it so highly, since obviously I don't want the "who cares if it's an upset" people to lose too much sleep, and I realized that White's play was overall pretty accurate. Perhaps Gulko could have defended better, but nonetheless, it gets a high vote from me.

And a few other points to quickly mention:

1. There is a larger rating difference (although the winning side had White, not Black).
2. How often does a player 2200-2300 win against a 2600 player playing the Kan? I'm pretty sure that this is the first time in history that it has happened. I'm exaggerating so don't break your mouse while rushing to open Mega Database, it probably has happened once or twice before.

Jim Dean (2nd place, 4 points): It is difficult to not give a lot of credit to a win where an FM smashes a GM in a nice attack. It's true that Gulko made a pretty large blunder near the end, but White was doing well anyway, and Simpson clearly played lots of good moves throughout.

Arun Sharma (NR, 0 points): Just like Jeff Ashton, whether you agree with me or not in my choice to not rank this game, I definitely have shown that I'm consistent as this is the third big upset this season (the first two being Gulko vs Bartell and Shulman vs Felecan) where I gave the game in question a much lower ranking than the general consensus. As I've said before, I do agree that the intrigue factor (for instance a big upset) should be a consideration in GOTW rankings, but in my opinion, a minor one at most. Of course that's my personal viewpoint, and I think it's obvious that several of the other judges don't quite agree with me; I just really feel that the actual game itself should be by far the most important factor. This game in particular, Simpson played well, but Black really self-destructed late with two consecutive blunders (as Michael points out), and the ending combination was really not anything surprising or spectacular. In a week with so many other interesting games, I simply feel there were other games which were objectively quite a bit better choices and was not prepared to put this game higher than them due to the upset factor.

Michael Aigner (NR, 0 points): Simpson took down one of the USCL's top performers in a shocking upset. While I did consider this game, I chose not to rank it in my top five because Black collapsed from a playable position with a pair of back-to-back blunders 32... exf5? and 33... h5?? Black essentially dropped his Queen to an elementary two-mover! White's winning combination of 34. Qg5 (tempo), 35. Qxh5+ (tempo), and 36. Nh6+ (discovered check winning the queen) was not worthy of second place in GOTW.

I believe my fellow judges once again placed more value on "shock and awe" by rewarding a major upset and a short yet decisive tactic. Frankly, there were *plenty* of other games to choose from this week that didn't end in hari-kari.

Total Score of Simpson vs Gulko: 12 points


3rd Place: GM Larry Christiansen (BOS) vs IM Sam Shankland (NE) 1-0

GM Christiansen finished off his well played endgame with 29. Ra1! at which point the mating threat in tandem with the devastating pin on the seventh rank compelled immediate resignation.

Jeff Ashton (1st place, 5 points): It is entertaining to see aggressive, attacking games played by strong players that end in such few moves... what else can I say. Maybe enjoying "miniatures" is a guilty pleasure for many, but it is great GOTW material nonetheless.

Regarding Kiewra vs Adamson:

Mainly because I'm a UTD Alumnus, it brings me some dissatisfaction to write this, but I must. And after reading what Bryan Smith said last season, I now feel that people should be less critical of chess players, especially when the player is not being paid great money to compete. With that being said as a GOTW judge, I just can't let some things go by without sharing my opinion.

Black's play:

I doubt Robby Adamson has faced this opening too many times, but he handled it well. Black seemed to be better for most of the game. If I ever find myself preparing for this a3-d4-c3 opening, I will think of this game.

White's play:

I just really hate it when players play the way White did in a team event. Sure, maybe White's opening doesn't lose by force, but you risk looking like a huge schmuck in front of your teammates and fans when you are worse most of the game, and equal at best, after playing such an opening.

Who cares how you look? Well, it's a team event, so you have to factor in some "non-chess" things like team morale. I'm sure the Dallas players weren't thinking: "All right, we're looking great on Board Three since Robby foolishly played the Sicilian and walked into Keaton's a3-d4-c3 prep, so we can relax a little. Loving our chances here, Playoffs here we come!"

Having some experience in team play, I know I would be irritated looking to my left or right and seeing my teammate play this type of opening with the White pieces against such a strong opponent (unless the teammate is Nakamura).

Such play might increase your chances of losing the match prematurely. What if your choice of opening causes your teammates to be forfeited? If they verbally (or physically) assault you during a game for playing a move that makes them angry, some TDs might feel compelled to forfeit the players for interference or discussion of the game in progress, etc. You might think that this is unlikely. But the assault (most likely verbal), is highly probable. A strict TD can easily forfeit your whole team! Best case scenario is your team gets a severe warning, and it is likely your team gets a bad reputation!

But okay, I can't just criticize without looking at some positives.

This rarely played opening choice is perfect for special situations. It's a great "I'm playing on the last board in the World Open in the last round instead of withdrawing, fighting not to be last place" type of opening. I can imagine the player thinking: "If I win this game, I get to share some laughs with my buddies while we share some mozzarella sticks at TGI Fridays. Even if it's a bad game, some of the high rated players might stop and look at the cool opening on their way to the bathroom."

But enough of the ranting. Keaton Kiewra is a very gifted player and a highly intelligent person, and I'm sure that he was aware that his choice is risky. I am more upset about the general idea of playing this way in team events, and I have nothing personally against the players who choose to do this (I had similar comments about David Pruess losing a very interesting/dangerous game last season using a rare gambit, and I admire David Pruess as well).

I know that hindsight is 20/20, and it's easy for me to sit on the sideline and criticize after the players lose and then say nothing when they win (nothing comes to mind off hand). I just feel that it's a poor choice that is too often repeated in team chess, often frequented by inconsistent players.

Certain players (like Nakamura) can get away with playing unorthodox openings, because they will probably win, and at least their move won't destroy team morale (or risk team forfeit). But most players should just play sound openings, or only play "dangerous" openings when they actually pose danger to the opponent, thus increasing the team's chance of having short-term and long-term success.

I really don't think this game will place in the top five, but somewhere inside of me (buried very deep, since I didn't vote for the game), I want this game to win first place to ensure that my opinion can be shared and discussed by fans of team chess.

Jim Dean (3rd place, 3 points): This is the type of game I often think of when GM Christiansen comes to mind. He manages to find creative and powerful moves regularly when on the attack and sometimes makes it look easy.

Greg Shahade (4th place, 2 points): A nice smooth game by Christiansen. He sacked a Pawn in the opening but almost immediately got convincing compensation. Shankland was forced to go into a very unpleasant endgame, which Christiansen won with relative ease. Maybe Shankland could have defended better but defending such a position is no picnic.

Michael Aigner (5th place, 1 point): I don't know if these guys were playing chess or bughouse, but it doesn't really matter. LarryC is a heckuva fighter, and he never quits coming after you. There's a lesson to be learned here. 'nuff said.

My top two picks for Week 4 were a technical win by Renier Gonzalez against Ben Finegold (watch out for 21. Rd1), and Matikozyan's defensive gem versus Felecan (Black wins on the f-file after 29... f5). Unfortunately, my fellow judges got distracted by the large selection of other exciting games this week.

Arun Sharma (NR, 0 points): I did consider ranking this game since it seemed like Christiansen played very well, especially in the endgame, winning in such a seemingly effortless fashion. However, there were also a few things about the game which troubled me. The opening part seemed somewhat shaky as I have a hard time believing 11. Ng5 is objectively good even though it really set some tough challenges for Black. The strategy certainly paid off as Shankland erred soon with 12... Nxd4? (Black appears to be better after 12... Bc5) allowing White to effortlessly liquidate into a fantastic endgame. Again Christiansen played very well in that stage of the game, very clean technique without ever allowing any counterplay, but I also felt that Black should have put up sterner resistance there even though I agree it's very difficult to have to defend such a depressing position.

Total Score of Christiansen vs Shankland: 11 points


Other Considered Games (judges' scores in parenthesis)

9 points (Arun 4, Michael 4, Jeff 1):
IM Florin Felecan (CHC) vs IM Andranik Matikozyan (LA) 0-1

8 points (Jim 5, Arun 3):
IM Robert Hungaski (NE) vs SM Denys Shmelov (BOS) 1-0

6 points (Michael 5, Arun 1):
GM Renier Gonzalez (MIA) vs GM Ben Finegold (STL) 1-0

5 points (Greg 3, Michael 2):
WFM Tatev Abrahamyan (LA) vs IM Angelo Young (CHC) 1-0

3 points (Arun 2, Jim 1):
GM Pascal Charbonneau (NY) vs IM Dmitry Schneider (MAN) 1-0

2 points (Jeff 2):
IM Michael Brooks (STL) vs NM Eric Rodriguez (MIA) 1-0

1 points (Greg 1):
GM Joel Benjamin (NJ) vs IM Jonathan Schroer (CAR) 1-0


Ilya said...

First a bit of a disclaimer, I understand that judging is a subjective, difficult process especially given the quick nature of GOW contest. However, I must say that even before I saw this week's results I told myself, I would be very disgusted if I see Simpson-Gulko make the top 5 or even top 10. I completely share the sentiment of both Sharma and Aigner, who understood that the suprising nature of Simpson's win( I was also suprised and impressed quite naturally) and the huge upset itself should not outweigh the consideration of pure quality. A good judge should be able to close his eyes to the ratings and last names of the players and just judge the gsme itself. What we saw this week is that some judgements get overly emotional and behave like pregnant women -- making completely irrational and absurd decisions. The Simson-Gulko game didnt stand out in any particular way, Gulko got a good Kan position and the contest was quite even until two gross blunders by Gulko, one of them he played having only thought for about 20 seconds. Simpson did not have to find any hard moves to finish Gulko off, the game was over immidietly...this is just terrible.

Michael Aigner said...

Disgraceful! I feel embarrassed to be judge after reading this article. No, it has nothing to do with my picks, or with the three games that won prizes.

If I wanted to make a mockery out of this process, then I certainly could. However, I respect this league and the players in it a bit more than that.

Michael Aigner

Anonymous said...

Second de motion to Ilya! You guys there to judge not to look up at the rating ..Quality of the game please ! We want to see a deserving winners.

Bionic Lime said...

With all the daring tactics, I'm kind of surprised Benjamin-Schroer didn't get more votes. Hmm...

Erabin said...

I respectfully agree with Ilya. It seems to me the ratings/surprise factor is too strong of an element. Simpson played a good game and was highly deserving of the Endgame upset prize but perhaps the quality of the game wasn't as high as other games. I feel the factor should be like a bonus and not one of the main factors.

Greg Shahade said...

No anonymous insults please.

Anonymous said...

Three questions for Mr. Aigner followed by a comment:

1. What does he find so "disgraceful"?

2. Is he suggesting the other judges are making a "mockery" of the process?

3. Why did he rank Gonzalez-Finegold first when it merely follows analysis in Dzindzi's Chess Openings for White, Explained and has been played on numerous occasions (see Benjamin-Smith, WO 2006 and others where black suffered in similar fashion). Of course, this begs the question as to why black would play into this variation. In any event, Aigner clearly didn't learn a lesson from the 2009 GOTW discussion in week 5 when Zorigt-Adelberg followed Movsesian-Kasparov for 17+ moves and where the ideas were already well-known and played out.

Also a comment on the virtue of "consistency". Mr. Sharma seems to take solace (or pride) in his consistency when explaining why he left off Simpson-Gulko, however, I'm not sure that consistency should really be a goal for judging. Each game is unique and will often offer an attractive element that appeals to a judge. It will likely be different than the previous week. As an analogy, one blogger had remarked that if 10 women walked into a room, we would all judge them differently. While that is obviously true, I would argue that we would also show inconsistency if another group walked in a week later. I don't see anything terribly wrong with that. Also, in the case of Simpson-Gulko, the game was not merely decided by two bad moves at the end. Black was already under a lot of pressure and white had played well to get to that point. "Cracking" at the end of a game is, IMO, fairly common and understandable.

Great season once again and kudos to the organizers, sponsors, players and judges.

Jeffrey Ashton said...

I understand the feelings of Michael, Arun, and Illya. If you asked me to be a judge when I was 14 years old, I might have made the same picks today for the same reasons. If you asked me when I was 22 I might have been more objective and ignored ratings all together. I am not a pregnant woman, but I'm probably insane or mentally regressing to the age of 14. Not sure yet. I suggest Greg administer psychiatric/maturity tests to future applicants for the USCL judging process.

But honestly, I pick my GOTW in a similar fashion to those who choose the Sportscenter Top 10 Highlights. If Illya got to play NBA for a day and dunked on Dwight Howard, I would probably place that in my top 10 because it just "feels right" but some basketball purists might say that I'm placing too much on the shock value.

I do try to avoid voting for completely garbage upsets though.

Also, don't expect consistency from me. See my previous note about my insanity or possible age regression. It's possible my judging skills will imitate those of a 5 year old and I'll just pick the game with the most horse moves.

Michael Aigner said...

In general, I don't respond to anonymous posters. I'll make a few brief comments here.

1. The comments about the Kiewra game were way over the top and sound like a personal vendetta. On one hand, a judge could only think of "a lot of filler" for the first place game. On the other hand, the same judge wrote a rambling 739 word speech espousing certain principles of morality, mind you about a game that received zero GOTW votes.

2. I try my best to take this task seriously and to show respect to all league members.

3. I was unaware that this game was published in analysis by Dzindzi. At least one GM must have been unaware as well. Frankly, I enjoyed the shocking nature of the game, sort of like the Esserman miniature in the Morra last season. I accept that this was not one of my best picks.

Michael Aigner

Elizabeth Vicary said...

really, two people are just randomly going to insult women for absolutely no reason, make them the gold standard for irrational behavior, with no connection whatsoever to the discussion, and no one except me thinks that's weird?

I feel like Jeff's diatribes are fun to read, but maybe would be better suited to a blog round-up than the judging notes to a totally different game.

Jeffrey Ashton said...

I agree with Elizabeth that ignorant posts shouldn't be tolerated if they offend groups of people.
No racist or sexist comments should be allowed!

I do believe it's okay to offend people individually, specifically if it has to do with their ignorance.

By the way, I hope you (Elizabeth) are referring to Illya's "pregnant woman" analogy, and the 10 women walking into a room.." made by another. I did mockingly respond to the suggestion about my vote being "emotional" but I hope I didn't accidentally offend more than one person. But as they say in Texas: "If you wrestle with pigs, you all get muddy".

In the past my plan was to make judgments that I think are correct after spending many hours working on them. After putting effort into good judging, I basically should be able to say what I want as long as it is clean and is politically correct. Now I'd rather just vote and not even leave a comment since I'm kind of tired of the stress it causes.

I used to think actions (trying my best to make a fair judgment) speak louder than words (leaving blog-like explanations of my opinions) but I don't think it's such a good idea to hold this belief.

After considering Brian Smith's post last year in response to someone who criticized him harshly (not me) and comments like Elizabeth's, I'm coming around to the "Keep it short and simple" formula that will probably please more people. Although there are approximately 2 readers out there who find my comments entertaining, I know that there quite a few who are distressed by them, or at least pretend that they are (I really believe certain people are just angry and look for excuses to spread hate).

And as a volunteer, I don't really sleep better at night knowing that I am giving my limited time to upset nice people. So overall, I will tone down the comments a bit, and if the "no comment" option were allowed, I'd use it a lot more.

About commenting on certain games that weren't even in top 5: The schedule makes it sometimes impossible to avoid commenting on a game that isn't ranked.

With this new schedule it's actually impossible for me to use the format I used in the past:
1. See Games
2. Vote
3. See GOTW results
4. Comment

Now for me (and I think most of us) it is:
1. See Games
2. Vote and add comments to your vote and turn them in at the same time.

So naturally, I have no idea who wins. And I do admit that I didn't think the Adamson game would win, so I could have been safe with not
leaving a comment.

Volunteering to be a judge for USCL is not easy, and I don't see what most judges get out of it except a lot of nasty comments.

I see a lot of comments about "your job is to do___" and overall nothing but negative useless comments. It doesn't bother me at all when it's directed towards me, but I don't really understand why the other judges have to take these beatings. The other judges say pretty nice things, are polite and respectful, and they just volunteer their time to do positive stuff.

I am pretty sure that most of the complainers really want to see bad judgments and are disappointed when things come out the way they expected or wanted (since they have nothing to complain about).

I can assure the readers that even if my comments are different from now on, I will still invest a several hours trying to make fair judgments.

Ilya said...

as always the analgoies are lost on some people, when someone wants to feel insulted they'll sure find a way to do it.

Rihel said...

Ilya knows all about finding insults in analogies and other places! He is an expert on the subject.

Seriously, though, I agree with Elizabeth 100%. The rating women in a bar analogy barely even makes any sense. And, ho-ho clever, pregnant women are crazy cliche! (The mental regression bit was pretty funny though, especially about voting for horse moves).

No wonder women don't want to play chess, to be exposed to this kind of sexism where no one bats an eye.

Anonymous said...

Jason, numerous studies have shown women to be psychotic during pregnancy, it is due to physiological changed that occurs as thr fetus is growing, there is nothing sexist about it, it's a scientific fact. Of course, the liberals nowdays don't like facts in the face of psedo-correctness, don't fall victim to this absurdity.

Rihel said...

There is a difference between psychotic and normal-range hormonal changes. In fact, the rate of true "psychotic" events in the pregnant population is 7.1 events per 100,000 people, where the normal, non pregnant population rate is 35 per 100,000 people (1). Ergo, pregnant women are LESS likely to have a psyhotic episode, and it is thought to possibly have a protective effect against psychosis (2).

Boo-yah! Science. Try it sometime instead of invoking odd political agendas.

1) Pinofsky, Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, 1997
2) Neumann, General Hospital Psychitry, 1989

Arun Sharma said...

It constantly amazes me what a discussion of the supposed "best" games of the week can degenerate into...

Rihel said...

Weird, huh?

Ilya said...

Yes Arun, it's quite amazing, all it takes is a few feminists or in this case one who is particularly distinguished with poor reasoning skills to steer the discussion to the curb.

Jim Geary said...

Ha! You guys crack me up! A woman takes offense to being the default analogy for irrational behavior, and the followups then cite journals to prove she's irrational. With such sensitivity, I'd probably just be giving my money away if I were willing to bet $1000 to $100 that you all know more about the Muzio Gambit then how to make a woman happy. But what the heck, the betting window is open.


Anonymous said...

I'll take that bet, don't know a god damn thing about this trash muzio gambit, but I've made plenty of women happy.

Anonymous said...

Wait, I think the references backed up the woman's assertion, not the other way around. Women being crazy during pregnancy is a myth.