The Best Team?
After running numbers for the "Dream Teams" I turned my attention to the remaining teams, to see what their best lineups are, given how their players have performed so far this season. Despite following the league quite closely, I discovered a number of big surprises!
1) Had Webster played Denes Boros last week, they would probably already have knocked out the St. Louis Archbishops!
I imagine that it is Wesley's coat of invulnerability that makes a lot of people think St. Louis is the best team in the league. For me, the clincher has been their other MVP candidate, board 4 Nicholas Rosenthal. From the very first week, I had my eye out for board 4s that could deliver 1.5+ points consistently. There were a bunch of shocking performances in the first week or two, but over the course of 20+ games, Rosenthal's performance began to stand out.
But St. Louis does not have the best board 2+3 options. Finegold has done perfectly well, but their other mid-board players have struggled a bit, and Finegold performance has not been so good as to carry these boards. Here is the best lineup I could find for them for this coming week:
|St Louis||League Rating||League Perf|
Compare that to what Webster could have brought to the table:
|Webster||League Rtng||League Perf|
|De Vreesse Pieters, Seppe||2229||2428|
That is actually not just a good lineup... it's the best one in the entire league, from what I have found. Webster would even improve on that, by sacing board 4 into So in the first round, while playing Nyzhnyik on board 3. They could also sub a game or two to divide up prep time and energy as they usually do, but they should try to get 3 games at least for each of their 4 best performers. And I expect they would have knocked out St Louis.
If Saint Louis wants to win the league, they may need to quickly find a free agent board 2 to replace Akobian. The good news is So, Finegold, and Rosenthal are local, so they can find any player with a FIDE rating up to 2670 in the entire world to play board 2 for them. If they find a decent one, they would probably be favored to win the league, but in their current state, they are not! (as I had wrongly predicted)
2) Neither St Louis nor Norway are favored to meet in the finals!
I think the majority of people picking playoff brackets had the same finals match as me: Norway Gnomes v. St Louis Archbishops. However, unless these teams either make a roster adjustment this week, or get a lucky performance or two, we should expect neither Carlsen nor So to participate in the championship match on Sunday!
Here's the Chessbrah's best lineup, which would go up against the St. Louis lineup I gave above:
|Chessbrahs||League Rtng||League Perf|
As you can see, we might slightly favor Wesley over Li Chao/Caruana, but beyond that, the Brahs are favored on every other board! Ok, Oussedik v Rosenthal is pretty darn close, but Hansen has performed *way* better than any Archbishops board 2, and that should be enough to make the Brahs clear favorites in the match.
Now, onto the Gnomes, who many see as champions just because of the presence of Magnus. But he has not even performed as well as So or Li Chao so far. The Gnomes also have an ace on board 4, Tor Fredrik Kaasen, who counts as 2000, but has a current rating of 2450+ and a league performance of 2357. But like the Archbishops, they have not found any standout performers on boards 2+3 yet. Here is their best lineup:
|Gnomes||League Rtng||League Perf|
This lineup might be dramatically improved by bringing in their free agent Evgeny Romanov in place of Hammer or Tari. If he can perform at a 2700 level as he did in his only match so far, then the Gnomes would be slight favorites against the Snowballs. Otherwise, they'll need some luck to beat this lineup:
|Snowballs||League Rtng||League Perf|
Of course, there is only 4 games of data on Jobava and Pantzar, so the Snowballs are still a bit of a question mark as a team. Pantzar does have an updated FIDE rating of 2250+, so it is plausible that he can compete at this level, and Jobava is known to be strong in rapid time controls. If he and Meier each only scored 3/4, the team would already be really close to winning.
Who knows, the Snowballs may even have another surprise to bring out on the final weekend, as they have done a good job in the playoffs scouting new talent (Villagra also appears to be a great asset, but can't play alongside Jobava), after just playing the regular season "for fun" with their local squad.
I'm looking forward to seeing the lineups published today or tomorrow, and seeing which teams appear to bring the best ones, and how close the managers' decisions appear to match my analysis.
One final interesting point: a poll on chess.com had 49% of people predicting the Gnomes to win the championship, more than double any other team. They were also picked as the winner most often in the thousands of brackets people submitted. However, according to these numbers, they are the underdog among the final four teams!