USCL’s game of the year contest

by admin on December 23, 2007

As most of you know, the U.S. Chess League finished its third season last month, with the Dallas Destiny becoming the third different champion in three years. But there is still one piece of unfinished business: awarding the best-game prizes. There are five prizes, with some substantial money at stake ($1000 for first).

You can see the twenty games that have been chosen to compete for the best-game prize by visiting the U.S. Chess League website at There are some great, competitive games, and for you fans of ChessLecture I’d like to point out that one of the finalists is the game between Bryan Smith and Eugene Perelshteyn, two of your ChessLecturers!

I haven’t played through most of the games, but I have to think that a strong contender will be Vinay Bhat’s amazing upset of Hikaru Nakamura from week 3. It was Nakamura’s first game ever in the USCL, so it was the irresistible force against the immovable object — one of the USCL’s best all-time performers against the second-highest rated player in the U.S. The game had huge significance, because Bhat had to win the game in order to salvage the match for San Francisco. And it offered a compelling contrast in styles. Nakamura blitzed out his moves because he’s Nakamura, while Bhat blitzed out his last 50 moves because he had to — he had less than a minute left on his clock! (The game was played at a time control of 90 minutes plus 30 seconds per move, but I dare you to figure out what is going on in this game at a pace of 30 seconds a move!)

I’ll play over all 20 nominees over the holidays, and let you know what my favorites are. If some of you want to beat me to the punch and tell us which ones you like best, that would be great!

A couple of small comments on the contest itself… First, I think it’s really cool that the most lucrative prize in the U.S. Chess League is for playing beautiful chess. This is exactly the opposite of most tournaments, where the prizes are won by accumulating points and beauty is irrelevant.

Second, I think it’s an unfortunate mistake that the best-game contest is going to be stretched over nineteen weeks, with one game eliminated per week. It’s the American Idol format, but the most important thing is missing — viewer balloting! In American Idol (substitute any other reality-TV show if you want) the contest changes each week as contestants get voted out and their fans decide whom to switch their votes to. But in this contest, the results are already determined by the judges’ votes before the week-by-week elimination even begins.

I understand why Greg Shahade, the USCL commissioner, is running the contest this way: he wants to maintain interest in the league during the offseason. However, I would suggest that a better way would be to take the decision out of the judges’ hands after they have picked the nominees. Let the result each week be decided by fan votes. Perhaps there are technical reasons why this wouldn’t be possible, but it would give the fans a lot more reasons to come back to the USCL website week after week.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dribbling December 24, 2007 at 8:11 am

I’m in favor of the vote. Merry Xmas one and all!


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