Grand Prix Cup Awards 2009

Posted: June 24th, 2009 by Daniel Rensch

What is the chess equivalent to a game winning last second shot? Or maybe a great save by a goalie in the closing seconds? Or what about a blown save in the ninth inning? I never have been quite sure, nor have I ever been very good with sports comparisons (my brothers always tell me “chess is not a sport, Danny!”). But in any case, the climax of the 2008-2009 Grand Prix Cup Season was as close as chess comes to having that “one defining moment” change the outcome of an entire season…

Although the 2008-2009 Race for the Cup started off like all the rest (everyone had a chance) it became obvious even before January ’09 who the guy to beat was. Matthew Hoffman placed in the top five a record (believe me, I checked) eight times in a row! During this stretch, Matthew gained over 150 rating points, and captured first place twice. Heading into the final two Master Treks of the season, Matthew had a startling 15 point lead on the field, and bonus points just begging to be awarded upon season’s completion.

But as so many of the old clichés tell, just pick one about the fat lady or something and you’ll know what I mean, it wasn’t over yet… As heart-breaking as it is to describe what happened next for some, it is uplifting for others, and an undeniably bizarre tale for the rest of us. So bizarre in fact, I thought my excel program had miscalculated the standings several times, and I only realized exactly what had transpired when I added the points by hand late last night.

As it turned out, the combination of a few bumps in the road down the stretch for Matthew, and two incredibly strong finishing performances by Philip Godfrey and Austen Fletcher, were just enough for Matthew to lose his claim on the Cup in the closing days of the 2008-2009 Season. Anyone who has taken the time to understand our Bonus Point system will be able to take a look at the details and see just how close it was; however, to explain it simply: Matthew’s great year (and it was great) lost its hold over the MVP prize by one rating point. That’s right, if his June 1st rating supplement had read 1696 instead of 1695, we would be talking about his “dominance during the season”, and that “even though it got a little tight towards the end, there was no way anyone really had a chance to beat him out”. But it didn’t happen that way, and apparently, it wasn’t meant to be…

With the recognition of Matthew’s year out of the way (which was still good enough to land him first place in the 1600-1899 section, and a nice new ACE Chess All-Star jacket) let’s move onto the two players who actually finished with the most Grand Prix Points. Austen Fletcher, of Sonoran Sky, and last year’s MVP Philip Godfrey, of Chevalier Noir, both ended with 33 Grand Prix Points each (1 point ahead of Chevalier Noir’s Hoffman and Poppell). In a perfect world there could be a tie for the MVP prize; however, in anticipation for this exact scenario ACE Chess implemented a tie-break system before the start of the 2008-2009 season. The criteria were simple and designed to take a closer look at just who might have had the “better year”:

  1. Tie-breaker 1: How many times was each player the champion of their section?
  2. Tie-breaker 2: How many times was each player consistently in the top five of their section?
  3. Tie-breaker 3: How many rating points did each player gain during the year of competition?

After checking, double checking, and doing it again, I was finally sure that there indeed had been a tie, and the Tie-breakers were necessary. When calculating the above mentioned Tie-breakers it became clear to me that both players had arrived at the impressive score of 33 points in very different ways.

For our reigning champion, it was simply a case of shampoo: “rinse and repeat”. Philip knew what being the Grand Prix Cup Champion felt like, and he didn’t miss a single chance to defend his crown. He competed in every single Master Trek! (Yup, all ten. By my count, only four other players did this: Matthew Hoffman, Jeffrey Poppell, Cortez Schenck, and Jonathan Booher. Oh by the way, all five players finished in the top ten over all, and all five will receive ACE Chess All-Star awards). Philip gained another two hundred and forty rating points on his way to a near perfect season.

For our new champion Austen Fletcher, (oops I spoiled it, but you probably already knew) it took a jump of over 325 rating points, participation in the last eight Treks of the season, and winning a trophy in five of the final six Master Treks. Although Austen’s consistency wasn’t as impressive as the three runner-ups (Chevalier’s Godfrey, Hoffman, and Poppell) his over all improvement as a player during the marathon that was the 2008-2009 season is what told the story in the end: His rating point bonuses received some of the highest marks (eclipsed only by Jeffrey Poppell and Cortez Schenck), while his strong finish at the Treks themselves clinched the title. Congratulations to young Mr. Fletcher, and good luck next year!

Of course there is a slew of ACE Chess All-Stars deserving mention for the performances throughout this past year. All of them showed consistency and improvement of the highest level. The full list of All-Stars is below, while the complete final standings can be found by clicking here!

1900 and Up Section

  • 1st place – David Adelberg
  • 2nd place – Randel Eng
  • 3rd place – John Williams

1600-1899 Section

  • 1st place – Matthew Hoffman
  • 2nd place – Dipro Chakraborty
  • 3rd place – Daniel Pecherski

1300-1599 Section

  • 1st place – Philip Godfrey
  • 2nd place – Jon Booher
  • 3rd place – David Godfrey

1000-1299 Section

  • 1st place – Jeffrey Poppell
  • 2nd place – Rachael Eng
  • 3rd place – Cortez Schenck

700-999 Section

  • 1st place – Austen Fletcher (MVP)
  • 2nd place – Thayer Alethia-Zomlefer
  • 3rd place – A.J. Anthony