USCL Midseason power rankings

Sep 25, 2014, 4:11 PM |

So Greg decided to release his midseason power rankings, meaning I need to one-up/challenge him with my own version :)

Unlike Greg's version, in which he ranks the teams by how likely they are to win the championship, I'm ranking teams by how well they're actually performing this year. This means most of the teams in the Southern division are going to be in relatively low position, despite the fact that 3 of them are going to get into the playoffs, while some Western teams will be in the middle of the pack despite being in big trouble already. 

Of coruse, that makes "power rankings" a bit of a misnomer, as basically what I'm doing is giving the teams ratings based on their performance. Oh wait, I can just do that instead. Derp. So what follows are the teams with ELO ratings assigned to them.

Every team started at 2400, and every match changed the ratings of the two teams involved with K=32. This left the issue of how to deal with margin of victory, not something normally accounted for in ELO, into account. I ended up deciding to adjust the formula slightly. For every half point more than 2.5 that a team won by, the rating of their opponent would be temporarily adjusted by 100 points to increase the rating change. For example, Dallas defeated Los Angeles by the score of 3.5-0.5 in the first week, so they got the number of points a 2400 would get from beating a 2600. The rationale behind this was, individually, an extra half point in a game is roughly equivalent to playing someone 400 points different (e.g. drawing a 2400 and beating a 2000 is basically equivalent). Spreading this among a 4-person team gives an average of 100 points, so that's that.

Of course, this is only mostly interesting for comparing teams within the same score group, as extra match points pretty much outweigh strength of schedule when everyone starts at the same seed value (the exception being Carolina) this early in the season. But anyway, let's see the results!

#18: New England Nor'Easters - 2340.04

Like Greg, I certainly wouldn't say that New England is the weakest team in the league, but they've struggled significantly in the first half. Though they haven't had a particularly eviable schedule thus far, it certainly doesn't get much easier for them in the second half. It's difficult to imagine them crawling back into the playoff spots, but nothing is out of the question in the USCL! Despite that, if they don't upset New York this week, you can safely stick a fork in this squad.

#17: Boston Blitz - 2349.76

Frankly, this year Boston is not looking like a very good team. They're struggling on all four boards, and with their only GM not playing much, it's similarly difficult to foresee them coming back. This is compounded by the fact that their last 5 matches will probably contain at least 3 (and possibly 4) playoff teams. It's looking like a 2.5 or 3/10 season for them, even if they manage to surprise Manhattan.

#16: Miami Sharks - 2356.47

This placement looks a little strange, as they have 1.5 match points and are not in the bottom of their division. However, they've lost several matches by a wide margin, and Becerra's duties seem to have shifted from "be a solid expected full point" to "fend off the 2700s". Despite this, they are still very much alive as they are in the weak Southern division, meaning that they could be back in playoff position as early as next week. Combined with a relatively soft schedule for the rest of the season, it would be a grave mistake to count the Sharks out.

#15: Carolina Cobras - 2357.31

Carolina's had some tough breaks this year, as they've vastly improved their roster and are looking more and more like a dangerous threat to any team paired up with them. However, their record just isn't reflecting their improved play. They've lost 4 matches all by the score of 2.5-1.5, several of which could easily have gone the other way (I mean, losing a match when your board 1 takes down a near-2700 is pretty heartbreaking). Though they are sitting in the cellar of their division at the moment, like Miami they have the benefit of a relatively weak division and thus still have time to turn things around. If they don't pull something off against Atlanta this week however, they will most likely be missing the postseason again.

#14: Atlanta Kings - 2357.54

Atlanta's first year in the USCL has gone reasonably well, staying just slippery enough to stay in the playoff hunt. 3 consecutive losses has got to be weighing on their minds, but they have a big opportunity to right the ship against the Carolina Cobras. With Philly, St. Louis, and Rio Grande looming, they are almost in a must-win situation if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.

#13: Los Angeles Vibe - 2359.68

Take away Korba's GOTY lock, and we'd be talking about how this team is one of the worst in the league. Though they've turned things around from a horrendous start, being in the super-strong Western division is not likely to help them, even with the possibility of a bonus playoff spot looming. Their upcoming matches against Seattle and Arizona will be crucial, but frankly it feels like they're fighting a losing battle.

#12: Baltimore Kingfishers - 2387.9

Baltimore's always a relatively solid team, never being particularly impressive but never really shooting themselves in the foot either. They're like that NFL team that goes 7-9/8-8 every year that everyone always forgets about, but manage to stay in the playoff discussion for a while due to being in a weak division (they've got that weird lightning symbol... it's on the tip of my tongue... nope it's gone). Anyway, this year that might be all that's needed, as they are clinging on to playoff position at the moment and have a relatively easy couple of weeks to finish out the season. Of course, if they do make it in, it's hard to imagine them being more than a one (perhaps two)-and-done despite a somewhat improved squad.

#11: Seattle Sluggers - 2390.92

Seattle has sort of quietly made their way through a pretty tough schedule, and will look to break out over the next two weeks against LA and Carolina. However, like the rest of the West, they're basically chasing after the playoff spot that may or may not exist. And, no offense to Milat, but fielding a ~2350 player on board 1 is not a good sign of things to come. Without the opportunity to play Arizona again, they'll need to pull off at least one upset in the final three weeks (against Rio Grande, NJ, and Dallas - not the best stretch of pairings) if they want to step back into serious contention.

#10: Arizona Scorpions - 2392.72

If the West manages to lock down the extra playoff spot, which seems likely at this point, Arizona is going to have the best chance to take it. They're being overshadowed by some of the more sparkling performers in the division, but it would be a mistake to overlook their solid performance up to this point. Having already dealt with Dallas and St. Louis, the worst of the schedule is behind them and they can focus on actually winning matches. Their matchup against San Francisco this week will be very interesting, as either the division is going to be seriously shaken up or it'll turn into a best of the rest contest (oho).

#9: Connecticut Dreadnoughts - 2404.16

Connecticut lost a heartbreaker last week against New York in which both of their bottom boards inexplicably collapsed, preventing them from keeping pace with St. Louis for the division lead. Despite this, it's hard to imagine them not sailing into the playoffs, being quite possibly the strongest team in the division (note their win over St. Louis) when Lenderman is available. With an easy schedule to close out the season, the more interesting question is whether or not Connecticut will enter as a division winner.

#8: Manhattan Applesauce - 2411.47

No, I'm not keeping these guys in the middle of the pack because they're in our division! The Applesauce have performed admirably in the face of pretty difficult pairings, and they also have a relatively easy stretch to finish up the season. With Philadelphia continuing to inexplicably win matches and New York being, well, New York, it's looking like the end of the season will turn into a footrace between New Jersey and Manhattan. As much as I hate to say it, Manhattan probably has better chances there.

#7: San Francisco Mechanics - 2418.06

San Francisco is always a powerful contender, qualifying for the postseason in every year except two. They have a mediocre schedule coming up, but the important match is this week against Arizona. If they win that one, they'll effectively be punching their ticket, while they'll be left scrambling to respond with an upset over either Dallas or New York otherwise. Their key issue is getting board 2 under control, where they're getting pushed around with some ease.

#6: New Jersey Knockouts - 2419.61

This isn't a plant, I promise! Apparently we're performing the best of the 3.0s, which is surprising to me as we've played several teams in the bottom half. But we've got a tough stretch coming up, playing against both Philadelphia and New York, followed up by Rio Grande. If we can get through those three weeks with an even score, then I'll feel very good about our playoff chances, but with Manhattan's relatively easy final stretch, we might need to start making ourselves heard earlier than that.

#5: Rio Grande Ospreys - 2424.32

Rio is demonstrating the strengths of a 2 GM, 2400, underrated 2000 lineup quite well, but at the same time they showcased its weaknesses last week. The problem with such a lineup is that if one of the top boards falters, they have a very thin safety net to overcome it. A similar issue exists with teams like St. Louis and ourselves, but we've actually managed to maintain a winning record on the bottom board, while St. Louis deals with the issue by simply not faltering on the top boards. It would be hard to imagine them missing the playoffs at this point, but if they want to make a serious push towards the championship, they need to get someone delivering on the bottom boards.

#4: St. Louis Archbishops - 2430.71

It is really really really really hard to argue with double-2700 lineup, but as Connecticut demonstrated even this plan has flaws. St. Louis' board 4 play has been nonexistent this season, to the point where they're not even trying to disguise it as a sacrifice anymore. Combined with subpar play on the third, they've looked more and more vulnerable in recent weeks (particularly when Proleiko sees action - SLOW DOWN). Fortunately for them, there isn't anyone left on the schedule that can seriously match a 2700 on board 2 (or 1 for that matter), so they should cruise to the division win without a great deal of trouble.

#3: New York Knights - 2453.28

Yes, there's a fairly big gap between the ratings of 3rd and 4th on this list. No, that's not surprising. Think about this for a second. You've got the U.S. FREAKING CHAMPION playing the top board, having a terrible season, and you're 4-1. Um. Yeah. Unlike most teams who are fielding a god on board 1, NY has turned board 4 into its biggest asset, cycling through a bunch of absurdly underrated players to continue marking up points. Move up to board 3, and you've got Bodek and Checa splitting playing time, both of whom are hardly outmatched in that position. Then you've got the legendary Matt Herman continuing to confuse the world on board 2. What exactly is New York's weakness? Somebody better demonstrate it fast.

#2: Philadelphia Inventors - 2471.46

Ok, someone down in Philadelphia did a rain dance or something, because this is starting to get absurd. Glance at the lineups of any of their matches and you'd think "wow nice upset", but that's now happened five times. Do I really believe they're the second best team in the league? Not particularly, but clearly they disagree. They still have to play NJ, NY, and Manhattan however, each of whom still have their eye on the top spot, so it's way too early for them to relax, but if they end up beating us next week then I'm heading there for whatever they're putting in their spinach.

#1: Dallas Destiny - 2486.51

I have to agree with Greg here (bah those words are so hard to type) - Dallas is looking like a championship team all the way. They're rolling on the bottom boards, and they're not sacrificing anything on the top boards either. GM Sadorra alone is more than enough to hold down the fort on the top board, and when you add in GM Holt to the mix it's difficult to call it a weakness. Board 2 isn't much of an issue either, as somehow IM Xiong overperforms ridiculously in the league and is at least as good as GMs there. Frankly, New York is the only serious threat I see to this team, since they can match the bottom boards' production while simultaneously giving the top one a harder time, but even they would struggle with Dallas' lineups. Anyway, they're hardly a lock to win their division at this point, but based on the first half of the season, they've got great chances at entering the postseason with the top seed.


Team Rating
Philadelphia Inventors 2471.46
New York Knights 2453.28
New Jersey Knockouts 2419.61
Manhattan Applesauce 2411.47
Boston Blitz 2349.76
New England Nor'Easters 2340.04


Team Rating
St. Louis Archbishops 2430.71
Connecticut Dreadnoughts 2404.16
Baltimore Kingfishers 2387.9
Atlanta Kings 2357.54
Carolina Cobras 2357.31
Miami Sharks 2356.47


Team Rating
Dallas Destiny 2486.51
Rio Grande Ospreys 2424.32
San Francisco Mechanics 2418.06
Arizona Scorpions 2392.72
Seattle Sluggers 2390.92
Los Angeles Vibe 2359.68

Of course, we're only halfway through the season, and so making any absolute statements at this point is ill-advised. Five weeks is a long time, and all sort of strange things can happen in the U.S. Chess League! Things will, however, soon start to clarify themselves, as each week becomes more and more important and teams begin to start seriously considering their playoff positioning. As always, a huge thank you to our sponsors PokerStars and ICC, without whom the league would not be possible. Until next time!

-Alexander Katz