Thoughts on WC07
Exerpt from my Yahoo! group post on Oct 15, 2007.
From the results of the 3x3 speedsolve, I am compelled make some observations. I am surprised that no one has made a post about this; I know I'm not the only one who has been thinking in this direction.
Of the 16 finalists, I would say that half or more had at least some chance of winning the competition (of course, some had a greater chance than others). Yu Nakajima also led the second round in average, but his 14.54 in the first round shows that he can have a relatively slow average on a bad round. Andrew Kang had a 15.84 first round and Mitsuki Gunji, too, finished the second round with a 14.92. With one more second on any solve that counts in the average, Mitsuki wouldn't even have made the final. At the other, unlucky end are Jean Pons, who had a 12.48 in the first round but just missed the podium in the final, and Edouard Chambon, Thibaut Jacquinot, and Harris Chan, who have all shown themselves to be a better cuber than me but who did not perform their best in the final. Had luck played out differently, we could have seen a very different final ranking.
The problem is that being the best just means that you have a greater chance of winning the competition than anybody else, not that you are going to win it. Suppose Yu had made a few mistakes, and suppose I had some U permutations and had gotten a sub-13 average, which is very possible. I would have won the competition by luck. You would have had a most unwilling champion, apologizing to both the Japanese and the French and desperately explaining to the media that it was a fluke (not that most of them would have cared). With there having been a pretty realistic possibility of something like this happening, we should be happy that Yu, a cuber we can agree is one of the very fastest in the world, won the competition.
I like World Championships because they give us a good measure of the current level of the top cubers, but I'm becoming more and more uncomfortable with the idea of the title of "World Champion." Simply because of the role that luck plays in speedcubing, that title means just that the cuber who holds it won the World Championship, not necessarily that he is the best in the world, as it is usually taken to imply by the media. If no method that improves on Fridrich is discovered, in two years there will be even more clustering at the top. The difference between first and tenth may even be the luck on the permutations. Are five solves in the final round of one competition, world championship though it may be, enough to choose the World Champion for the next two years...the one cuber that, thanks to the media, will be best known by the non-cubers around the world as presumably the best cuber in the world?
In any case, I know we have to choose a World Champion based on just the results of the World Championship (or is there some sport where the world champion is not the winner of the world championship?). Somebody has suggested using all solves from a competition to determine the overall ranking separate from the ranking in the final round, and there are also other ideas that I know some people have. I understand that it's difficult to change the system we already have, but I find this important enough that it should at least be given a discussion.
It's obvious that no single competition is enough to determine who the best cuber is. The World Championship should not be thought of as the competition to determine the best cuber but the competition to decide the World Champion, no more.
How, then, can we best determine the best cuber during a certain period? What I'd like to see is some average of all averages that each cuber had during a certain year on the WCA database. I know there are many problems to ranking by this approach--setting the minimum number of averages, cubers can theoretically stop competing for the year to give themselves a better rank, etc--but it would still be a more accurate measure of a cuber than any that exists today.
I do now think that Nakajima won WC07 all on his own, and at this pace, Feliks will win WC11 without any help from luck. But my point that cubing inherently involves luck still stands.