2006 USCL All Star Teams
by League Commissioner: Greg Shahade
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 Just as in 2005, the USCL has chosen the league all-star teams. There will be a first all star team, and then a second all star time. The top player on each board was chosen to be on the first team, and the second player on each board was chosen to be on the second team. There is no exact formula to decide the all-star team, and the teams were chosen after careful deliberation between myself and NM Arun Sharma.In order to be eligible for a particular board, you had to play at least half of your games there, or as many or more games on that board than any other. Below are a list of the most important qualifications we looked for before deciding on the team members, in relative order of importance:

1. Total Games Played, or Total Points (There is a 5 game minimum requirement to be eligible for the team)
2. Performance Rating
3. Rating (If a player is lower rated and does well, this leaves extra rating points for the team to use on the other boards and could be very important to a team's success.)
4. Clutch Factor: Did this player come through in crucial situations?
5. Replacability Factor (Do we think that the player's team would have greatly suffered if that player wasn't on the team)
6. Did the candidate take a draw for the team when they were likely to win? Did they lose a game they could have easily drawn because the team situation dictated it?
7. % of Team's Total Points
8. Head to Head Results versus other candidates
9. Total Number of Blacks
10. Luck factor (did you win because you generally played well or because your opponent made some colossal blunders/oversights).

  Let's take a look at who qualified!

Board 1 All Stars:

1st Team: GM Julio Becerra (Miami Sharks)

This one was really a no brainer. Becerra won the USCL MVP award with an overall performance rating of 2719 in 9 games. His performance just shows how much of a team event this is, as despite his fantastic result, the Miami Sharks failed to qualify for the playoffs. Julio was on the 2nd All-Star team in 2005, but played smooth chess from beginning to end this season to earn his spot at the top of the league. If Julio can perform so well again in 2007, the Sharks are likely to become the dangerous team that they were in 2005, as IM Blas Lugo, IM Alejandro Moreno Roman and FM Marcel Martinez are likely to perform a lot better next year.

2nd Team: IM Josh Friedel (San Francisco Mechanics)

   This was a more difficult decision for the judges. Boston's GM Larry Christiansen had a higher performance rating, but Josh was the one who came through huge for his team in the playoffs, with a key win over GM Serper in the SemiFinals and the tiebreaker win over GM Charbonneau that gave San Francisco the League Championship. Friedel is also over 100 points lower rated than Christiansen, which may have given San Francisco the extra points to use on the lower boards that helped them win the Championship.

Board 2 All Stars:

1st Team: IM Jacek Stopa (Dallas Destiny)

This one was also quite an easy choice, as Stopa played 9 games and had a performance rating of 2619. He also came up big in the clutch, with a huge win over GM Serper in the WildCard Round. His team was unable to pull through, but he surely did his part. Dallas started out the season miserably, just as in 2005, but Stopa helped to get them back on the right track, and they came dangerously close to pulling off an upset victory over Seattle in the Playoffs.

2nd Team: IM Vinay Bhat (San Francisco Mechanics)

The league prefers not to have players on the all star team that haven't played many games (Vinay played just 5/12 games this season). However the 5 games that Vinay played were at too high of a level to exclude him. His performance rating was a whopping 2755, which means that even if he lost to two 2400 players as his next two games, he would still be at 2535. Vinay kickstarted the season with a Week 1 win over GM Panchanathan and then pulled off a major victory in Week 7 against IM Orlov from Seattle.

 Other candidates were William Kelleher, who also had a high performance rating of 2595, but he only played 5 games and thus couldn't reasonably get the nod over Bhat. Irina Krush was very active, as she played 10 games and had a solid performance rating of 2505, but the league felt that Vinay's performance of 2755 was just too much to overlook, despite playing relatively few games.

Board 3 All Stars:

1st Team: FM Oleg Zaikov (Carolina Cobras)

   Third board was the most difficult for the judges. We felt there were four superb candidates for two spots. It was felt that the first spot had to go to Zaikov. Zaikov finished second place in the Regular Season MVP voting, behind only GM Julio Becerra, and finished with 6.5/8 (6.5/9 if you count his loss to FM Hess in the playoffs).
Zaikov kept Carolina in the hunt early in the season, as he started with an amazing 4-0 score. He also had a key win against another major candidate for the All Star Teams, NM Charles Riordan, but on the other hand he lost to other candidates FM Robert Hess and IM Richard Costigan. When all was said and done, his fine regular season play was crucial to Carolina's playoff berth, and it was strongly felt that Carolina would not have had a prayer of qualifying for the playoffs had Oleg not been part of the team. Please note that Zaikov also played with the black pieces in 6 of his 9 games. (7 if you count his game against Molner in which he played 1.a3).

2nd Team: IM Richard Costigan (Philadelphia Masterminds)

This was the toughest decision of them all. Costigan started the season with a bang, defeating GM Pascal Charbonneau in the very first game. He also drew IM Josh Friedel in the third week, with Josh on the brink of defeat. Costigan also defeated FM Zaikov in their only encounter. Overall Costigan's performance rating was 10 points lower than Zaikov's. The difficulty with this selection was the fact that Robert Hess had a performance rating of 2501 compared to Costigan's 2475. Eventually the honor was awarded to Costigan for the following reasons:

1. Costigan is about 100 points lower rated than Hess.
2. Costigan played all ten regular season games for the Masterminds, whereas Hess only played 4 regular season games (but 3 more in the playoffs).

Charles Riordan was also a very serious candidate with a very nice performance rating of 2534 after 6 games. Again his lack of games played was what held him back. In the Board 2 situation, Vinay Bhat had a performance rating of over 200 points higher than those who played many more games than him and hoped to be on the All Star Team. In this case we had two players who had performance ratings only 30-60 points higher, yet played significantly fewer games than Costigan. An extra half point for either Riordan or Hess would have almost surely given them a place on the All Star Teams. FM John Readey also had a fantastic season with a 2497 performance rating after 7 games. The competition for this spot was just too stiff however. Congulations to all of these Board 3's who surpassed expectations.

Board 4 All Stars:

1st Team: Sam Shankland (San Francisco Mechanics)

  This was a relatively easy selection for the judges, as the 15 year old Sam had a +4 record with 5.5/7. His only loss came to the 12 year old prodigy, Michael Lee. However Sam avenged this loss with two consecutive victories over Lee, with the most important win coming over Lee in the SemiFinals. Sam had a performance rating of 2340, second only to Nat Koons from Seattle. However Nat only played 5 games and lost in the most important one
(to Kiewra in the playoffs) and is rated over 100 points higher than Sam.

2nd Team: NM Craig Jones (Carolina Cobras)

  This was a much tougher selection. Craig is the highest rated of all the main candidates, but given that he played 10 of his team's 11 matches, and because we felt that without him the Cobras would simply not have made the playoffs, the spot was given to him. Another key factor was that Craig's loss to one of the other major candidates, Michael Lee, only occurred because he needed to win for his team to draw the match, and so he went "crazy" trying to win a drawn position. In the end Craig had a performance rating of 2314 over 10 games, which the league felt was enough to give him the final spot.

 The other main candidates were Nat Koons and Michael Lee but Jones was chosen over them for the following reasons:

1. Jones had a performance rating that was 70 points higher than Lee's, and would have been even more so if he didn't lose the game he would have normally drawn to Lee.
2. Koons played half as many games as Jones, and if Koons had played one more game and lost it to a 2200, their performance ratings would have been about equal.
3. Jones also manned Board 3 on two separate occasions.
4. And most importantly, Jones played 10 matches and without him the Cobras would have been venomless.

 Lee and Koons were also hurt somewhat by the fact that they both were on the same team, as it was felt that either one of them would have done a capable job on Board 4 if the other one wasn't on the team. In any case, it was an extremely close decision. An extra half point for Koons would have surely given him the spot, while if Lee had won one of the games he lost to Shankland, it probably would have gone to him.

   So congratulations to the All Stars and all the other League players who fought so hard during the Season. Below are the teams once again:

1st Team:

1. GM Julio Becerra (2622)  [Miami]
2. IM Jacek Stopa (2512)    [Dallas]
3. FM Oleg Zaikov (2325)   [Carolina]
4. Sam Shankland (2106)     [San Francisco]

Avg Rating: 2391

2nd Team:

1. IM Josh Friedel (2513)            [San Francisco]
2. IM Vinay Bhat (2463)            
[San Francisco]
3. IM Richard Costigan (2287)    [Philadelphia]
4. NM Craig Jones (2280)          [Carolina]

Avg Rating: 2386

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