Removed From Game – Watercooler

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Tuesday, August 26th – At virtual watercoolers around the world, the fat is being chewed and the numbers crunched over the current crop of contenders for entry into the Hall of Fame. Fresh back from Denmark, Rich ‘Copen’ Hagon takes you inside the numbers of the big contenders, argues for the stats he thinks are really significant, and offers his ha’porth on Olivier Ruel. And reminds you that thirteen of the worst puns ever await you on the audio coverage from the weekend.

Around this time of year, I find that the Great and the Good of Magic go into watercooler mode. I use those two capital ‘G’s with no little amount of wry surprise, since I find myself on that list of writers, players, Wizards employees and so forth who are jointly custodians of the Magic Hall of Fame. As the deadline for our votes ticks closer, assorted Voices put their heads above the parapet – or sometimes into the gutter – to get their weight behind the five candidates who they believe should be granted Magic’s highest honor. In articles, in private emails, in forums, at tournaments and even, good grief, in Face To Face Conversation(!) we do the merry-go-round dance of which stats or which performances and how much significance we should give to such and such. In this article, I won’t be telling you my five for the Hall, not least because, as I embark upon this, I’m not entirely sure who my five are. I certainly won’t be trying to convince you of my moral certainty that it would be a crime if X doesn’t make it in, or, worse, if Y does. Instead, I’ll offer you a look inside some of the numbers of these players, every single one of whom has already done something quite extraordinary, simply by being on the ballot in the first place.

They won over 100 Pro Points.

How many do you have? At an average guess, I’ll go for none. I am ecstatic with my current 3 Points, accumulated over nearly 11 years now. At this rate, I will qualify for the Hall of Fame ballot of the year 2371. I’m not holding my breath for your vote. So even as the players on the list get dismissed from the reckoning, sometimes for reasons I’m sure you’ll consider trivial or just plain wrong, remember that crucial stat.

100 Pro Points.

Yes, we’re looking for the absolute best of the best, but every single name on this list represents a player at the summit of the game. Let’s go.

Pro Tours Played

The top dozen looks like this:

Bram Snepvangers 54
Tsuyoshi Ikeda 48
Itaru Ishida 46
Ben Rubin 46
Olivier Ruel 46
Jelger Wiegersma 46
Justin Gary 44
Osamu Fujita 39
David Price 39
Michael Pustilnik 38
Alex Shvartsman 38
Mike Turian 38

Looking back over the history of the Pro Tour, the record for longevity is one that is going to require somebody with serious stamina. Just like pitchers in baseball chasing near-mythical numbers of career wins, the Pro Tour has changed. In baseball, pitchers rarely pitch entire games. They’re rotated every four out of five games. A 20-win season is considered a mighty achievement, so 15 years of that level of outstanding top-of-the-game performance results in a 300-win career, something rightly celebrated (Tom Glavine being a recent example of this achievement.) The actual record for career wins? 511, held by Cy Young. At the current rate, a new pitcher coming into the major leagues at, say, 22, would need to be the best part of 50 before reaching this milestone. Never say never, but it ain’t happening.

Now consider someone like Pro Tour: Valencia winner Remi Fortier. He doesn’t exist in a Pro Tour world of 5, 6, 7 PTs per calendar year. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, there will be four events per year. Remi won Valencia at 17. Assuming that he goes through his college years still playing the game at the highest level, assuming that he begins a career that still allows him to play the game at the highest level, assuming that he meets a girlfriend/wife who doesn’t object to 75,000 bits of cardboard around the house, and assuming that he doesn’t find something else that he just flat out prefers doing, Fortier will take another twelve years to reach the kind of numbers that Dutchie Bram Snepvangers has right now. Fortier will be thirty by then, and would be well on the way to devoting the best part of half his life to MTG. That I think puts the achievements of players like Snepvangers into perspective. 54 is an astonishing number of Pro Tours. It’s almost half as much again as Pustilnik, Shvartsman and Turian, and might as well be on the moon for all the distance between him and the likes of Masashiro Kuroda (12), Brian Seldon (14) and Casey McCarrel (16). Bram has double the PT appearances of fully half the ballot, and he shows no signs of slowing down. To me, longevity has at least three things going for it. First, it demonstrates a clear love of the game across multiple formats, even when certain sets or formats turned others away from the game. Second, it demonstrates a clear mastery of the game, with changes in testing procedures, teammates, formats, season structures, points structures, use of the internet… the long-term players on this list rode out all the storms (and Storm) and came out the other side. Third, crucially, the players who have been around forever are great ambassadors for the game. There may be any number of fantastic stories about (names chosen at random here) Chris Benafel, Tom van de Logt, or John Larkin, but you certainly can’t say to your local aspiring PTQ acolyte, ‘And one day, if you practice really hard, and get just a little bit lucky, you could sit down against Janosch Khun.’ Fact is, you can’t, because he won’t be there (barring comebacks of course). With Bram, and Olivier Ruel, and Jelger Wiegersma in particular, you absolutely can say this. To me, a game that is going to honor you is a game that should be honored by you in return, and few things say that more clearly than simply Being There, year after year after year.

Pro Tour Top 8s

The Fives – Dirk Baberowski, Scott Johns, Olivier Ruel, Michael Turian.

The Fours – Ryuichi Arita, William Jensen, Mark Justice, Benedikt Klauser, Nicolas Labarre, Michael Long, Kyle Rose, Ben Rubin.

The Threes – Marco Blume, Patrick Chapin, Justin Gary, Mattias Jorstedt, John Larkin, Mark LePine, Casey McCarrel, Steven O’Mahoney-Schwartz, Chris Pikula, Michael Pustilnik, Brian Selden, Jakub Slemr, Bram Snepvangers, Tomi Walamies, Jelger Wiegersma.

It’s inevitable when discussing the prospects of Messrs Baberowski and Blume that their infinitely successful association with Kai Budde will come into the reckoning. With team wins for Phoenix Foundation in Pro Tour: New York 2001 and Pro Tour: Boston 2002, this is understandable, and might appear to weaken the case for Kai’s ‘wingmen.’ However, Dirk has an individual Pro Tour victory of his own. In 1998 it was he who found the best route through Urza’s Saga Rochester Draft, a skill-tester if ever there was one, and the following year he returned to Chicago and again made the Top 8 in that year’s PT in the Windy City. Olivier Ruel has always made the semi-finals of his five Top 8 appearances down the years, with his best performance coming in 2002 in Pro Tour: Osaka, where he lost the final to Ken Ho. Since then he’s had four fourth place finishes, with Pro Tours in Amsterdam and Columbus in 2004, Philadelphia in 2005 and Honolulu in 2006, a venue we’ll be returning to in 2009 to the players’ considerable excitement.

The other two contenders with five finishes both share the ‘Buehler Problem’ that divided both voters and public alike. Mike Turian is at the heart of Research & Development in Seattle, and Scott Johns is presently helming the spectacular redesign of the mothership website. Neither therefore would be permitted to accept their Hall of Fame benefits of playing on the Pro Tour should they be admitted. That’s not to say that they wouldn’t subsequently return to the fray somewhere down the line. I for one believe that a Top 8 appearance at the Pro Tour would be high on Randy’s list should he ever part company with Wizards, and that excitement I spoke of earlier about the possibility of playing one of the iconic figures of the game would be there in spades for Buehler, not least because of his epic contributions to the game in terms of writing as a Pro and subsequently the lead on Coverage at the Pro Tour. I’m not sure that ‘wow factor’ would necessarily apply to Turian or Johns, but it seems to me that working for Wizards shouldn’t be considered a reason to not vote for a candidate. Along with Gary Wise, already a Hall inductee, Turian and Johns combined to win their team Pro Tour in 2000 as Potato Nation. Johns had an incredible year in 1996, reaching the quarters of Pro Tour: Los Angeles and Pro Tour: Columbus and the World Champs that year, and he repeated that Worlds performance in 1998. In addition to Turian’s Top 8s on the Pro Tour, he can point to multiple Grand Prix wins on his resume, in Montreal 2001 and Columbus 2004. Turian also has a Worlds quarter final to his name, in 2001.

Among the eight players with four Top 8s, only three have achieved the ultimate goal of raising the trophy. Billy Jensen teamed up with Matt Linde and Brock Parker to form The Brockafellas (top marks for the name) and they seemed to have a handle on Onslaught Sealed as they won Pro Tour: Boston 2003. Individually, Jensen won Grand Prix: San Diego in 1999, and also took the title in the short-lived Masters series, finishing top of the heap in New York 2000. Kyle Rose’s major successes belong in the 1990s, with his first Top 8 at Pro Tour: Chicago in 1997, with him winning a Pro Tour in his third Top 8 appearance at London 1999, with Saga Block Draft the format. He was also the U.S. National Champion of that year. Ben Rubin missed out on the fifth place in the ballot by the smallest of margins last year, losing out to Randy Buehler, and word on the block is that he is, to borrow a phrase, a ‘mortal lock’ for induction this year. Although not a PT winner, Rubin can boast two Masters titles (Chicago 2000 and Barcelona 2001), a runner-up spot at Worlds in 1998, three more semi-finals (PTs in Los Angeles, London and New York) and a Grand Prix win with Billy Jensen and Casey McCarrel. That leaves Mike Long. If you’re hoping that I’m about to bring you an impassioned defence of his Reputation, don’t. Nor am I about to pour scorn on someone I’ve barely met. Instead, I’ll simply tell you that for those of you not old enough to remember much back beyond Craig Jones and his Lightning Helix against Olivier Ruel in the semi-finals of Pro Tour: Honolulu in 2006, Mike Long holds the undisputed record for the greatest moment in PT history, that makes that Lightning Helix pale in comparison. Many of you will know the story, but in my experience each new player who hears it for the first time is struck by the sheer unadulterated gaming chutzpah of Long in his ultimate fake-out in the final, convincing Mark Justice that there was no need to make Long demonstrate his kill using his Prosperous Bloom deck, since that would just be tedious, right? Not if you don’t have any Drain Life left in your deck, which Long hadn’t. He had literally no way to win, other than Justice throwing in the towel. So Long made him do exactly that. 100% astonishing, and I’ll say with confidence that if Magic is around in a hundred years, that is the play that will still be talked about. Mindblowing.

As you can see, there are a full fifteen candidates with three Top 8s, and that suggests to me that there is little room for differentiation between the candidates. I don’t believe that a team result matters less or is easier to achieve than an individual one, since working within a team requires different skills than plowing a lone furrow, and plenty of ‘super-teams’ have fallen by the wayside due to an inability to work together. One person who did very nicely in teams was Jelger Wiegersma, winning Pro Tour: Seattle with Jeroen Remie and Kamiel Cornelissen. Jakub Slemr was a World Champion in 1997, a year before Brian Selden took the World crown. Pustilnik won Pro Tour: Los Angeles in 2001 with Invasion Rochester Draft, while Rochester was also the winning format for Steve O’Mahoney-Schwartz in 1999, this time with Urza’s Saga. That same year Casey McCarrel won Pro Tour: New York in Saga Block Constructed, and Mattias Jorstedt won Pro Tour: Yokohama in 2003. Justin Gary was part of the famous 1-2-3 for Your Move Games at Pro Tour: Houston in 2002 with his Extended Turbo Oath deck, and Marco Blume was, of course, the third member of Phoenix Foundation with Kai Budde and Dirk Baberowski.

At the other end of the list, regardless of how many Pro Tours they have played, I find it hard to recommend someone who has never sat under the lights for the examination of skill and nerve that is a Pro Tour Super Sunday. That would rule out Noah Boeken, David Brucker, Franck Canu, Igor Frayman, Gerardo Godinez Estrada, Pierre Malherbaud, Wessel Oomens, Mike Thompson and Trey van Cleave.

Top 8 Average

I like statistics. They constantly throw up all sorts of numbers that illuminate, confound, and generally make you think. However, the line about ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ exists for a reason, and I consider this stat category to be one of the most misleading. For the record, here are the top contenders:

Mark Justice – 4 in 18
Brian Selden – 3 in 14
Ryuichi Arita – 4 in 20
Casey McCarrel – 3 in 16
Scott Johns – 5 in 27
Benedikt Klauser – 4 in 23
Dirk Baberowski – 5 in 29
Masashiro Kuroda – 2 in 12
Marco Blume – 3 in 21
Mark LePine – 3 in 21

So how are we supposed to rate this category? It’s noticeable that most of the top players here have relatively few Pro Tours played, ranging from Kuroda’s 12 to Baberowski’s 29. Olivier Ruel with 5 appearances in 46 PTs ranks 21st in this category, while Ben Rubin (4/46) is 26th, Jelger Wiegersma (3/46) is 35th, and Tsuyoshi Ikeda (2/48) winds up 40th. But would Masashiro Kuroda have kept up his great pace? Had he played the same number of events as Snepvangers, would he now be sitting with 9 or 10 Top 8s? It seems unlikely, and a similar argument applies to players like Selden and McCarrel. From this distance, historically speaking, it seems to me that they are examples of players who were at the peak of the game for a short period, and then went away never to return. That in itself feels like a mark against induction. Perhaps most impressive in this list is Scott Johns, who has a good number of PTs to judge his long-term success against, and still features highly in this category. The current Belgian Pro Marijn Lybaert was suggesting that if you can manage a Top 8 every 7 or 8 Pro Tours you’re doing well (he has two in the last seven events by the way) but Johns averages round about every 5 or 6 events. In his day, that was pretty much one Sunday appearance per season. That’s truly impressive.

Grand Prix Top 8s

As someone who goes to a lot of Grand Prix (my job means that I’m probably in the top dozen people worldwide when it comes to GP attendance in 2008), this category means a lot to me. I’ve seen a huge number of great performances, and watched countless thousands of players not winning at these mega-events. The simple odds against success are so overwhelming, that as you watch the scythe of death cutting down the field round after round it is simply amazing to think that you can pick a handful of players and expect them to take on the field and win. Case in point, Grand Prix: Copenhagen that finished yesterday. I took eight players staying with Rasmus Sibast (Frank Karsten, Gabriel Nassif, Raphael Levy, Bruno Panara, Stewart Shinkins, Shuuhei Nakamura, and Tomaharu Saitou) against the remaining 601 players. At the end of Day One I was left with 3 against 61. By the Top 8 it was 2 against 6, by the semis it was 2v2, and in the final Saitou lost to David Larsson, giving the victory to the 601. But I say again, to know that I had every chance of success with just those eight was extraordinary. Quite apart from the beating of playing so many rounds across multiple formats (Sealed+Draft for Limited, a different Constructed format every time for Constructed events) the simple logistics of booking flights, hotels, getting taxis, going through a thousand and one security scans, arriving late, finding the venue and a hundred and one other logistical details means that only the toughest survive the GP circuit and emerge victorious. That means that when the time comes to look at Tomaharu Saitou and Shuuhei Nakamura I’ll be falling over myself to vote them into the Hall. Of this year’s contenders, here are the big GP successes:

Olivier Ruel 23
Alex Shvartsman 21
Itaru Ishida 17
Jelger Wiegersma 13
Steven O’Mahoney-Schwartz 10
Ryan Fuller 9
Osamu Fujita 8
William Jensen 8
Brian Kibler 8
David Williams 8

I am shaking my head as I think of the commitment both to the game and to excellence at the game that these numbers represent. While there is an obvious psychological milestone of the double figures group, I consider anyone with 4 or more GP Top 8s to be in very select company. Three or less can be achieved in a short-ish space of time, but much higher than that and you’re looking toward true dedication and passion. Last year I voted for a man who is no longer the leading Grand Prix performer of all time, Alex Shvartsman. Bearing in mind all those factors that go into making a solitary GP Top 8, consider this:

Barcelona 1999 – 2nd
Taipei 1999 – 7th
Sao Paolo 1999 – 4th
Seattle 2000 – 5th
Taipei 2000 – 3rd
Nagoya 2000 – 1st
Rio 2001 – 2nd
Brisbane 2001 – 3rd
Curitiba 2001 – 2nd
Houston 2001 – 6th
Fukuoka 2002 – 1st
Kuala Lumpur 2002 – 5th
New Jersey 2002 – 2nd
Pittsburgh 2003 – 1st
Detroit 2003 – 4th

I’m going to give up now, because I think the point is made. Not only did Shvartsman base an entire lifestyle round travelling to Magic events, he consistently performed at them, admittedly at a time when American dominance of the game was more pronounced than it is now (if it’s true now at all.) More than that, Shvartsman was the figure who put the Trading into Trading Card Game for many of us through his writing in The Duelist, and he didn’t simply cross places off his list, never to return, as his back-to-back trips to Taipei shows. This man simply screamed Lifestyle, and if that’s true of him, how much more so Olivier Ruel, the man who has now supplanted Shvartsman at the head of the GP list? At GP level, Ruel is the proverbial ‘unbackable horse,’ because to bet against him making the final table is foolish. You see him on the start list, and wonder who the other seven are going to be. Of course Ruel has nothing like that kind of conversion rate, nobody does, but the fact that so many perceive him in that way speaks volumes. Since we now appear to have reached the question head-on, what to do about Olivier? Regular readers will doubtless have read and absorbed Ted Knutson polemic on the Hall and Ruel in particular. Speaking from an Ideal and possibly Idealist stance, Ted’s version of the Hall would include:

Automatic ineligibility for anyone who has been found to be a Cheat and banned for Cheating by the DCI.

Automatic ineligibility for anyone who actually is a Cheat, regardless of whether or not they have DCI ban(s) on their record.

Members of the Hall should be ambassadors of the game.

Naive isn’t a word that appears on thesauras.com under ‘Knutson, Ted,’ so of course he’s not suggesting that either of these last two would be in any way enforceable in the real world. It nevertheless is the springboard for taking what you can get, and the first rule definitely applies to Ruel. As the saying goes in the film A Knight’s Tale, ‘You have been weighed. You have been measured. And you have been found wanting.’ All the debate about Ruel gets in the way of the fact that he was banned for Cheating, because the fact is that he was banned for Cheating. That’s Cheating, as in Cheating, for which he was Banned. Anyone want it any clearer?

Now, that said, I’d like to share two further thoughts with you. At Great Britain Nationals a couple of weeks ago, there were a few DQs. One of them happened to a guy known to a considerable group of my Magic circle as ‘the Nicest Man Alive’. I’m not going to tell you that this guy raises orphaned puppies or raises billions for charity or anything, although at least one of those isn’t too far away from the truth, but in a survey of large quantities of UK Magic alumni, 100% agreed that there was no way he was cheating, however it appeared. On his DCI record however it will tell a different tale, that he ‘ran the peeks’ during one of the Drafts, i.e. tried to spot what other players were taking. I’ll be back to this one in a mo. Now, the second case occurs this weekend at Grand Prix: Copenhagen. Two friends had agreed that one of them would concede to the other. This isn’t about matchups or prizesplits, this is just, ‘go on fella, you have a try.’ Gamers being gamers, they didn’t fill in a result slip straight away, but decided to play a couple of friendly games. This non-match reached a third game, with the victor (the player who was due to win anyway via concession) winning 2-1. Unfortunately a judge was passing as the second player said, ‘Call it 2-0?’ ‘Sure’, because why on earth would you concede 2-1? That’s Tournament Fraud right there boys and girls, followed up by Disqualification without Prize. As I understand it, whilst you can concede at any time, you aren’t allowed to dial back the clock and act as if a game hasn’t happened. At the point at which two games were completed, only a 2-1 victory was possible. Handing in a signed result slip with 2-0 written on it was the clincher. Big error, epic fail etc.

Now, here’s the nub. My British friend will never be in contention for the Hall of Fame, but if he wins a couple of Pro Tours somewhere along the line, something I consider entirely possible, Nicolay Potovin could be the first Russian into the Hall. But should his ‘Call it 2-0?’ to a friend who had already conceded to him prior to the match unofficially, be a reason for him to be excluded from voting contention? Because it’s certainly possible that a ban may result, though I suspect not likely judging by apparently similar transgressions recently (and once again that seems like the time for my usual disclaimer about how I don’t speak for the DCI etc etc). Either way, both Potovin and the Nicest Man Alive have DQ Without Prize on their record sheet, but in 2016 how much should that affect the balance sheet? My conclusion is that Ted’s argument – sorry, let’s give it the weight it deserves, Argument – is for a Hall of Fame with different rules to the one we have. That means the argument is with the Powers That Be, attempting to ensure that rules exist which allow only Magic’s finest and fairest into the Hall. But that isn’t the rules we have to work with. Yes, we can consider if Ruel’s contribution to the game has been overall a negative one because of his assorted brushes with the Law, but the fact remains that he is on the ballot, and deserves the same consideration as everyone else.

Plus, one final thought on the whole whiter than white issue. The standards of judging have improved immeasurably since the early days of the game (although occasional halfwits like myself still infiltrate the system), and cheats are being caught with efficiency and regularity. The consensus seems to be that cheating is significantly less than it used to be, and Ted has been instrumental in some of the larger ‘takedowns.’ But let me ask this: There are fifteen members of the Hall of Fame right now. Across the tens of thousands of sanctioned matches the Hall has collectively played, can we say with certainty that not one of them ever gained an illegal edge in a single duel? Impossible to say, and therefore the idea of a Holy of Holies for Magic Sainthood isn’t something we need to concern ourselves with. Letting in Attila the Hun? That’s a different matter, and that’s where we have to decide whether that’s who Olivier is.

Pro Points

This has to be one of the big ones, combining longevity with success at the level where there is no hiding place. Here’s the list:

Olivier Ruel 413
Jelger Wiegersma 319
Ben Rubin 279
Bram Snepvangers 263
Justin Gary 251
Itaru Ishida 250
Steve O’Mahoney-Schwartz 237
Mike Turian 234
Alex Shvartsman 232
Tsuyoshi Ikeda 221
Dirk Baberowski 217
Osamu Fujita 216
William Jensen 214
Michael Pustilnik 208

These are the fourteen out of the 68 contenders that cross the 200 Point mark, with Mike Long next with 191, and a full 35 on 150 or less. Of those, the major contenders for a slot would be Ryuichi Arita (102), Brian Selden (105) and Marco Blume (127). Nonetheless, a shortened career isn’t something that lends itself to many of the factors that go into the voting, and it came as a surprise to see how few Points Blume has, even though, as we’ll see, he’s fairly high up the Average Points list.

So what of the top 14 here? Of course the usual Grand Prix suspects are here, including the king of the Asian GP circuit itaru Ishida and a fine showing from YMG-er Justin Gary. The top five here in fact all have huge numbers, and if all five of Ruel, Wiegersma, Rubin, Snepvangers, and Gary made it in, that would hardly be a poor class, statistically speaking. One of the more intriguing players at the top end of this list is Jelger Wiegersma, because the general perception is that he’s fairly indifferent to the whole business of winning and losing. As one Dutchie told me a couple of weeks ago, ‘It’s a good job Jelger didn’t decide to really care, because the one time he Decided (my capital) to win a Pro Tour, he won the Pro Tour, with Jeroen and Kamiel.’ In a nation that’s packed with great players from the history of the game, and the fact that this comment came from one of the most respected members of the Pro Tour past or present, and you can see that Jelger is a genuine heavyweight. Plus, he’s massively popular among his fellow Pros, which should also tell you something. As for Rubin, it was great to see him on the Tour in 2007, including a truly astonishing taxi ride across half of Europe to get him to Pro Tour: Geneva in time, the stuff urban legends are made of. Having failed to make the Hall last year he vanished from the PT scene, which is a great shame, and it would be great to have one of the great competitors back at the highest level. Rubin is definitely one of those players who you could say after a Day One 2-5 at your first PT, ‘and the best bit was I got to play against Hall of Famer Ben Rubin.’ The fact that Mike Turian is also at the top end of this category is significant, given that he’s been at the R&D coalface for several years, and still makes the top 10. This is someone who absolutely loves Magic, and as his record shows, he’s quite good too. And I can’t let this category go by without stating something blindingly obvious. Oh okay, something else blindingly obvious. 100 Points is a really high benchmark for the Hall. 200 Points is astonishing. Only 2 of this year’s crop have 300. Olivier Ruel has over 400. That’s a number that many of the best players ever to shuffle a deck can only sit back and stare at, because there’s no way they’re ever getting close to that kind of figure. Four hundred. Startling.

Average Pro Points

Masashiro Kuroda 9.42
Olivier Ruel 8.98
Casey McCarrel 7.63
Brian Selden 7.50
Dirk Baberowski 7.48
Mark Justice 7.39
Tom van de Logt 7.18
Chris Benafel 7.09
Jelger Wiegersma 6.93
Ryan Fuller 6.64

With a couple of exceptions, this final category is dominated by players with limited numbers of Pro Tours, and also players who made their reputations in the early days of the game. That’s the early days, as in, Pro Tours with 200 players rather than 400. I’m certainly not looking to disparage those early events, since a great player is great regardless of who sits in front of him round after round, but whether you believe the standard of the Pro Tour has risen, fallen, or stayed broadly even, what is indisputable is that it has become monstrously tough to post consistent results. That means the appearance on this list of Jelger Wiegersma is significant. He has done it time and time again against all sorts of fields and formats and rarely has a bad day. He is simply one of the best players to play at any given event, and in my judgment that’s a great achievement given what to me is the depth of the Tour right now. Which of course brings us right back to Ruel and his frankly absurd 9 points per event. I’m going to give up the uneven fight of finding the correct words for the numbers Ruel posts. They’re whatever word passes in your language of choice for monumental, and only moral certainty can sensibly be a reason to object to his membership of the Hall.


Ah, well of course you aren’t going to get a conclusion, not as such anyway. I’d very much like to hear your views on who you would have in the Hall, but I’m going to narrow it down for you, so no voting for best friends or anything. I can’t promise to do what you say, but I can promise to read your views with interest and a desire to learn more before I cast my votes later this week. To my mind, taking all the statistics and the intangibles into account, I’m down to the following list. Which of these would you put into the Hall?

Dirk Baberowski
Marco Blume
Itaru Ishida
Scott Johns
Mark Justice
Steven O’Mahoney-Schwartz
David Price
Ben Rubin
Olivier Ruel
Alex Shvartsman
Bram Snepvangers
Mike Turian
Jelger Wiegersma

As ever, thanks for reading.