Umps are getting better, and they’re also remarkably consistent. An ump who makes more accurate calls in one year will likely do the same the next; an ump who misses more calls in a given season will likely be as bad the next. Umpire accuracy is more steady than a player’s batting average or a pitcher’s ERA, and as consistent as OPS (on-base plus slugging) and wins above replacement.To see how this works, look at the performance of Lance Barksdale and Tim Welke. While they both follow the league’s general trend of increased accuracy — more about that later — they have, respectively, been one of the best and one of the worst umpires over the past seven years. The difference between Barksdale and a league average ump is about five correct calls per game; the difference between Barksdale and the league’s worst umpire is closer to 10 calls a game. On average, that’s about one judgment call per inning that a good ump is getting right and a bad ump is getting wrong. That might not sound like much, but if once every six outs a batter gets another swing after a third strike that wasn’t or a pitcher strikes a hitter out on a pitch that’s actually a ball, you can start to see the impact.Given their differences, umps develop reputations. Near the end of infielder Mark DeRosa’s 16-year career, he knew what to expect from the umpire calling balls and strikes. “You gain knowledge over the course of being in the big leagues for the course of a couple of seasons,” he said. “You understand which umpires are a little bit wider in their zone, who are a little bit more north-south, who’s going to force the pitcher to come tight.”Before games, he and his teammates would even talk about what they could expect during the game: “A comment would be passed back and forth, whether we should be pulling the trigger tonight or ‘this guy is normally a hitter’s umpire and likes to force the pitcher to come back over the plate, so let’s be a little bit more picky with what you’re going to swing at.’ ”An umpire who understands what calls he is missing is an ump who can improve. “It was amazing how my perspective of the strike zone changed when I got this technology,” Dellinger said. “I thought pitches were on the plate, until you get that data back. You see that some of those pitches were not on the plate. It wasn’t something that was done intentionally. It was just your perception of the strike zone. I was able to quickly make adjustments based on having that information, which was huge to me.”Seeing the data, however, can make fans less charitable. “They see a pitch that is out of the box, and they think, ‘Aw, he’s a bad umpire,’ ” Dellinger said. “I’m thinking, ‘You should have seen it 15 or 20 years ago.’ ”He’s right — ump accuracy has improved since 2008. But it has been on only one type of pitch: strikes.While umps call balls no differently than they did seven years ago, they’re accurately gauging strikes at much higher rates. This distinction is so large that Brian Mills, a professor of tourism, recreation and sports management at the University of Florida, cites the increasing size of the strike zone as accounting for about half of the league’s 50-point drop in OPS since 2008. In other words, steroid testing isn’t the only change responsible for MLB’s drop in offensive output. It’s also more called strikes.While the league and the umpires association have access to data showing that specific umps tend to be better at calling balls and strikes, it does not appear that they use this information to reward those who are the most accurate with choice assignments, like the All-Star Game or the postseason.2MLB declined to make specific umpires available for interviews but did let Peter Woodfork, senior vice president of baseball operations, and Randy Marsh, director of major league umpires, talk.According to Peter Woodfork, senior vice president of baseball operations, balls and strikes play a role, but don’t write Lance Barksdale’s name into your World Series scorecard just yet. “Once you meet a standard, you’re in the mix,” Woodfork said, likening the selection process to that of the NCAA tournament. Assignments are doled out using a mix of analytics and judgment: “Balls and strikes is taken into account along with field work, rules, instant replay and handling situations. Professionalism also factors into grading umpires. The plate work may carry more weight in the evaluation, but they are all important.”If plate work is important, it hasn’t shown in playoff assignments. According to numbers from BaseballSavant.com, umps who were No. 70, 71 and 76 in the accuracy rankings (out of 79) called balls and strikes in the ALCS last year, with only one of the top 10 umps receiving a league championship series or World Series spot. And this more exhaustive look at umps also finds that postseason spots do not appear to be linked to regular-season performance. “Like any other profession, you can go up and go down, but the consistency over time often helps,” Woodfork said. “We don’t ignore what you’ve done in the past, but that year carries the most weight.” If that’s true, expect our old friend Barksdale to receive a high-profile opportunity, as his 90 percent accuracy rate through July 1 is far and away the best single-season number in our data.But while decisions on postseason spots won’t come for several weeks, MLB has already had one opportunity to reward an umpire for past performance, getting to pick a home plate umpire for July’s All-Star Game. It chose Tim Welke — the same Tim Welke who has consistently had one of the league’s worst rankings since 2008. Dusty Dellinger knows how difficult it is to be an umpire. “There’s an old saying that they expect you to be perfect from day one and get better,” the former Major League Baseball official said over the phone. As the director of Minor League Baseball Umpire Development and the Minor League Baseball Umpire Training Academy, he knows how elusive perfection can be.Correctly calling 140 pitches flying 90-plus mph and breaking six inches or more is a near-impossible standard. And when mistakes are made, players and managers aren’t bashful. Jonathan Papelbon said D.J. Reyburn should “go back to Triple A” after a confrontation over balls and strikes. Joe Girardi complained about inconsistency. Larry Andersen did too after he retired, labeling the men behind the plate arrogant. You don’t have to look too hard for more examples.That’s led plenty of people to wonder when robots will come for the umps’ jobs. But lost amid those blue-sky dreams is what’s happened to the way we judge the blue behind the plate. Technology has changed how we can evaluate umps. It shows that umps are getting better, that there’s a significant gap between the best and worst, and that the best umps aren’t working the biggest games.After every game, umpires receive a report from the league office that informs them about their accuracy, their correct calls, and the ones they missed. Pitchers, hitters and fans have near-instant access to information on an umpire’s accuracy, too. The chart below shows the accuracy rates for calling balls and strikes for each ump since 2008, when MLB installed the PITCHf/x tracking system in every stadium.1The data was collected from BaseballSavant.com. Umps in the data set saw at least 3,000 pitches (called balls or strikes) in each season, with a smaller restriction (1,800 pitches) for 2015.
D. Green2016GSW99.619.213.310.4 G. Hill1997DET84.530.913.010.5 D. Cousins201595.435.518.104.22.168 C. Paul200987.832.47.915.715.9 M. Johnson19922.214.171.1247.216.4 R. Westbrook201696.834.011.314.917.9 L. Bird1985101.634.312.67.915.1 Data through April 6, 2016.Source: basketball-reference.com L. James2009CLE88.740.810.910.4 J. Kidd2008NJN91.516.011.414.7 O. Robertson1962124.926.710.89.914.2 J. Kidd2006NJN89.819.110.412.1 M. Johnson1982LAL103.122.511.711.6 L. James2012126.96.36.199.815.5 M. Johnson1987101.6188.8.131.525.9 M. Johnson1983LAL103.821.110.913.2 R. Westbrook2015OKC95.741.110.612.5 L. James201190.936.410.29.615.2 G. McGinnis1975105.133.7184.108.40.206 But Westbrook’s triple-double splurge — and the league’s as a whole — is way more impressive than it appears on the surface. That’s because Magic’s “Showtime” Lakers teams from the ’80s played at a much faster pace, giving players more possessions per game to score, assist and rebound. Ditto for Oscar Robertson: The Big O played in the early 1960s, a time of breakneck back-and-forth play that allowed him to pick up a mountain of box score stats.Adjusting for pace shows that Westbrook is in rarefied territory in averaging a triple-double per 100 possessions; and he did it last year, too. It’s an exclusive group: Only eight players have ever done so for a season, and just four of them — Westbrook, LeBron James, Jason Kidd and Magic Johnson — have done it for multiple seasons. Also on this list: Draymond Green this season. What are the greatest points/rebounds/assists seasons? M. Johnson1989100.128.710.116.416.8 PER 100 POSSESIONS Where is Oscar, though? While the Big O’s 1961-62 season remains the only time a player managed to average a triple-double per game for an entire season, he’s not included in this list. His Cincinnati Royals played at an incredible pace: nearly 125 possessions per 48 minutes. And because of that, Robertson fell just short of averaging a pace-adjusted triple-double that vaunted season — his stat line was 26.7 points, 10.8 rebounds and 9.9 assists per 100 possessions. That said, Robertson averaged a ridiculous 30-10-10 per game over his first six seasons.Not all triple-doubles are created equal, though. Westbrook isn’t just barely notching triple-doubles, he’s getting them by huge margins. To better capture a player’s excellence in all three categories — scoring, rebounding and assisting — we can calculate an “impressiveness” score, by taking the geometric mean of the pace-adjusted averages.2In this case, the geometric mean is the cube root of the product of the three categories, per 100 possessions.This way of looking at seasons penalizes players who perform really well in a few categories but poorly in others. So a scoring- and rebounding-heavy forward who doesn’t rack up many assists won’t rank highly. By calculating impressiveness scores for all players, we capture the occasional season — like Michael Jordan’s in 1988-89, for example — that fall short of the arbitrary triple-double threshold but are astounding nonetheless. (Note to the young ’uns: That Jordan season was an absurd 40 points, 9.9 rebounds and 9.9 assists per 100 possessions.)The table belows shows the top 20 player seasons by impressiveness in all three categories, as indicated in the “Weighted Score” column. Also included, for comparison, is the best year for Wilt Chamberlain (his 1963-64 season ranks 47th overall in impressiveness) and Oscar Robertson (his famed triple-double season is 86th). No offense to those all-time greats, but their triple-double abilities aren’t as impressive when pace is factored in. — at least for points-rebounds-assists triple-doubles. Chamberlain was a prolific shot blocker, but we don’t have the stats from that time to track triple-doubles with blocks. L. Bird198798.633.611.09.215.0 PLAYERSEASONPACEPTS.REBOUNDSASSISTSWEIGHTED SCORE PER 100 POSSESSIONS Players who have averaged a pace-adjusted triple-double Russell Westbrook is a force of nature. Westbrook has wreaked havoc on opposing NBA teams, piling up 17 triple-doubles so far this season, which ties Magic Johnson’s 1988-89 season for the most in the last 33 years.1According www.basketball-reference.com, which tracks triple-doubles going back only to the 1983-84 season.Westbrook sucks opposing defenses into the paint before dishing to Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka or a Thunder shooter waiting in the corner. Or he can just score it himself. Westbrook was last season’s scoring leader and is this season’s No. 2 in assists. While averaging 24 and 10, he’s also having one of the greatest rebounding seasons ever for a guard — without the aid of deferential bigs on the team.Westbrook is not alone, though. The NBA is in the middle of a triple-double boom. The 73 triple-doubles posted this year are five shy of the leaguewide regular-season record since 1984. But the league has expanded since then, offering more games and therefore more potential triple-doubles. The rate of triple-doubles per 100 league games is 6.2 this year, the third-highest over that span. Besides Westbrook, Draymond Green has 13 and Rajon Rondo — collecting his stats in a considerably less aboveboard manner than Russ and Dray — has a half-dozen, one shy of his single-season best. L. Bird198897.937.611.67.715.0 M. Johnson199096.330.08.915.416.0 L. James201091.440.09.811.516.5 R. Westbrook201595.741.110.612.517.6 But hot damn, look at Westbrook! His last two seasons are the most impressive scoring-rebounding-assisting seasons in history, when all three are weighed equally. Despite his team’s playing at a slower pace, Westbrook’s last two seasons have managed to surpass Oscar Robertson, Jason Kidd, Magic Johnson — you name it. Russell Westbrook is the greatest triple-double machine on record.Neil Paine contributed research assistance.Check out our latest NBA predictions.CORRECTION (April 11, 5:45 p.m.): An earlier version of the chart in this story had mislabeled y-axis tick marks. The chart has been fixed. R. Westbrook201495.435.79.411.415.6 J. Kidd2005NJN89.121.010.812.1 L. James201390.737.5220.127.116.11 K. Garnett200589.131.419.18.016.9 PLAYERSEASONTEAMPACEPOINTSREBOUNDSASSISTS K. Garnett200489.033.219.06.816.3 D. Walker1990WSB99.412.912.010.9 M. Johnson1981LAL102.727.210.910.8 L. James201693.318.104.22.1685.6 K. Garnett200391.929.617.37.815.9 K. Love201497.335.517.06.015.4 K. Malone199790.040.014.46.515.6 R. Westbrook2016OKC96.834.011.314.9 L. James200890.239.610.49.515.7 M. Jordan198997.040.09.99.915.8 J. Kidd2007NJN91.418.611.713.2 D. Robinson199422.214.171.124.315.1 G. Hill199784.530.913.010.516.2 M. Johnson1989LAL100.128.710.116.4 L. James200988.740.810.910.416.6 T. Boerwinkle1975CHI99.713.815.611.1 L. James2013MIA90.737.511.210.1 J. Kidd2002NJN91.820.710.213.8 Weighted score is the geometric mean of points, rebounds and assists (per 100 possessions). Data through April 6, 2016.Source: basketball-reference.com W. Chamberlin1964115.133.320.24.614.5
What once was a massive distance advantage that Woods used to rack up a -13 score relative to par on par-5s at the 1997 Masters is now nothing special. These days, just about everyone hits it like Tiger — if not better.So what happened? For one thing, pro golfers took Woods’s lead and became much stronger and more athletic. Although Daly was a freak of nature — he never worked out and bombed drives while chain-smoking and pounding Diet Cokes — today’s top players have a lot more in common with current World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who stands a lean 6-foot-4, hits the ball 305 yards per drive and proudly posts shirtless Instagram photos. As we’ve written before, Woods’s current pursuit of majors has been made more difficult by an influx of younger athletes to the game that he himself helped inspire. And a big part of that younger generation’s success is linked to hitting the ball really far.But another, even bigger factor is a drastic improvement in equipment over the years. Before the 1990s, driver clubheads were significantly smaller, made of heavy material like persimmon (instead of metal) and attached to the ends of shorter, heavier metal shafts (as opposed to graphite). As more and more players began switching to modern clubs — the last major won with a persimmon driver was Bernhard Langer’s victory at the 1993 Masters — the tour began to see a massive increase in driving distance (and, interestingly enough, a decrease in driving accuracy). More than just the introduction of fitter players, established golfers were also hitting the ball harder: The 60 players who qualified for the PGA Tour driving leaderboard in both 1995 and 2005 saw an average increase of 18.6 yards per drive over that span.Simply put, lighter clubs with a longer shaft and larger clubhead surface area generate more power. As a fun exercise last year, YouTuber and PGA club pro Rick Shiels hit 10 drives with both a top-of-the-line club from about 20 years ago (the Ping TiSi Tec) and 2018 (the Ping G400 Max) and measured the results using tracking analytics. On average, Shiels estimated to have hit the ball 16 yards farther in the air (and 19 yards farther in total) with the modern driver, thanks in part to a ball velocity 4 mph faster off the clubhead:Of course, the ball itself has also made it easier to drive for huge distances. The introduction of Titleist’s Pro V1 model in 2000 — which features a “multilayer” design with a solid rubber core and thin polymer casing — instantly revolutionized the way balls were manufactured, optimizing power without sacrificing accuracy. When Shiels ran a similar test between 1998 and 2018 golf balls (using the same club for each), he drove the ball 11 yards farther through the air — and 12 yards farther in total — with the current Pro V1, thanks again to a nearly 3 mph boost in velocity off the face.These clear technological improvements have led to questions over whether such advantages should be dialed back at the pro level to make the game harder again. Although the golf ball debate rages on, many top-tier courses have been remade since the ’90s, “Tiger-proofing” themselves by adding more distance to their layouts. Par-72 major championship courses in the 1990s averaged 7,006.1 yards in total length; by the 2000s, that average became 7,319.3 yards, and this decade it’s 7,456.6 yards — a 6.4 percent increase that mirrors the change in average driving distance since the early 2000s. With Tiger Woods restored to his familiar place among golf’s major winners, it’s tempting to allow the sports nostalgia to seep in. Tiger’s back! It’s just like the 1990s again! But as is the case in every sport, the game that Woods played 20 years ago is very different from today’s version and, if anything, makes his win at the Masters last month all the more impressive.Perhaps the biggest difference involves the sheer power of modern hitters. In 1995, Woods’s last season before turning pro, the average qualified PGA Tour golfer hit the ball 263.6 yards per drive; the leader, John Daly, checked in at 289.0 yards per drive. So far this season, the average is 292.9 yards per drive, and tour leader Cameron Champ checks in at 315.7. That’s right — the average drive distance from 2019 would have led the PGA Tour each season through 1996. Woods’s mark in 19971The first year Tiger played enough as a pro to qualify for the PGA Tour’s leaderboards. of 294.8 ranked second only to Daly’s 302.0. A 294.8-yard average today would rank just 86th of the 214 golfers on tour — tied with the slumping former World No. 1 Jordan Spieth. And just like the existing players increased their power through technology, existing major hosts have added length to offset it. Sixteen courses hosted a major in both the 1990s and 2010s; those courses averaged 7,011.6 yards back then and 7,307.9 yards now — an increase of 296.3 yards on average. Even the Black Course at Bethpage State Park in Long Island, which hosts this weekend’s PGA Championship, has increased its length by 222 yards since it hosted Woods’s U.S. Open victory back in 2002.We should note that both the boom in driving distances and the Tiger-proofing craze have largely leveled off since the mid-2000s. The average PGA Tour drive continues to creep up by a couple of yards every few years, but today’s long-drive leaders, such as Champ, Johnson and Rory McIlroy, are mostly hitting it the same distance as Bubba Watson and Robert Garrigus were a decade earlier. In that sense, the game Woods left when his 11-year major drought began in 2008 was actually similar to the one he climbed to the top of again last month.Just the same, when Tiger tees off Thursday at Bethpage in the PGA Championship, the modern sport’s power will be on full display. Woods might still smash it a solid 300 off the tee like he did in the late ’90s, but he won’t be vying for the tour lead in distance; instead, that part of his game makes him just another golfer in the middle of the pack.
This represents a sharp downturn from most of the previous decade. The average age of WTA winners floated between 25.8 and 26.1 between 2013 and 2016. But it also serves as a return to normalcy for women’s tennis, which had long been dominated by youth: The average age of WTA tour players in 1990 was 20.9, as 21-year-old Steffi Graf and 17-year-old Monica Seles finished the season ranked first and second. That average age would not rise above 23.5 for nearly two decades.The amount of young talent is enormous again. And impatient. Since Serena Williams won her last major at the Australian Open in 2017, only one other Slam winner has been at least 30 years old: Angelique Kerber, who won Wimbledon at age 30 last year. The winners of the other seven majors: Osaka, who won the 2018 U.S. Open at age 20 and the 2019 Australian at 21; Jelena Ostapenko, who won the 2017 French at 20; Garbiñe Muguruza, age 23 when she won the 2017 Wimbledon;1Muguruza also won the 2016 French Open. Sloane Stephens, who won the U.S. Open at 24; Simona Halep, who won the French Open last year at age 26; and Caroline Wozniacki, the 2018 Australia Open winner at age 27.Part of this may be cyclical. As clusters of young, talented players emerge, a generation of older players who exceeded the normal life expectancy of a tennis career is nearing its end — and we aren’t just talking about the Williams sisters, who are now 37 and 38 years old. Francesca Schiavone, 38, won the French Open in 2010 but retired last September. Roberta Vinci, 36, shocked the world at the 2015 U.S. Open when she beat Serena Williams, who was two wins away from a golden Slam, but Vinci retired in May 2018. Agnieszka Radwanska, 30, who lost the Wimbledon final in 2012, called it quits in November.Other players might not last that long, either. Samantha Stosur, 35, is in great shape and is an expert in doubles, but she struggles in singles. After next year’s Olympics, 30-year-old Dominika Cibulkova could decide to leave the game, too. Maria Sharapova, 32, has missed most of this season with injury. Victoria Azarenka, 29, is back after struggling since she had a child, but she might never be as powerful as she was in 2013.After she lost a doubles match this year in Paris, Lucie Safarova announced she had retired from tennis. Now age 32, Safarova had played in Slams since 2005. She never won a major singles title, but she came close at the 2015 French Open, when she lost to Serena Williams in three entertaining sets. Safarova also won five doubles majors with Bethanie Mattek-Sands, including two in Roland-Garros.“I think that it’s great that the competition is so strong,” Safarova said. “And we have, I think, at least 100 players now are amazing competitors. And you just have to be strong and play your 100 percent to be able to be here.”On Saturday, Barty and Vondroušová will likely be nervous, as is usually the case for players in a Grand Slam final. But their youth — and their passion — is what this age of tennis is all about. In the French Open final, 19-year-old Markéta Vondroušová, who dazzles with drop shots, will face off with Ashleigh Barty, 23, who is crafty and quick with a ton of energy. Amanda Anisimova, 17, reached the semis by hitting smooth strokes and bullets all day long. And world No. 1 Naomi Osaka lost early in Paris but claimed two Grand Slam titles by the age of 21.Women’s tennis is, at long last, getting young.The average age of players who have won at least one WTA title this year is 23.6 years old. That’s the lowest age since 2008 — and it will drop even further after Saturday. At the French Open this year, the final eight women in the event were no older than 28.
Italy23.1610.3 China01.4510.9 Gold medalsAll medals South Korea35.259.7 Canada511.71530.3 Belarus11.923.9 Here’s how it works: We collected Winter Olympics medal data going back to 1998, when snowboarding was added to the official program as a new sport,2As of the 2018 Games, snowboarding is the most recent new sport to be added to the Winter Olympics. and then calculated the share of medals that each country won in each sport. For example, from 1998 to 2014, the U.S. won 33 percent of all gold medals in snowboarding, to go with 17 percent of silvers and 30 percent of bronzes. (Yes, we’re pretty good at snowboarding.) Then we used those historical rates to set the baseline expectations — the expected medals — for the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.3For example, anytime a snowboarding medal is awarded, we add 0.33 golds, 0.17 silvers and 0.30 bronzes to the U.S.’s expected medal tally. There is one big exception to note: The Olympic athletes from Russia use the Russian Federation’s expected-medal rates, but with a 25 percent reduction to reflect the reduced number of Russian athletes competing in the 2018 Games (plus whatever other negative effects the Russian doping scandal might have on their medal tally).Add up all of those expected medals, and you can see where a country “should” be based on what it’s good at and what’s happened at the games so far. And the U.S. is definitely underperforming in South Korea, relative to expectations. Based on the events that have already been completed at the games, we would expect to have seen 18 American podium appearances thus far, which is exactly double the number the U.S. has actually had. From Lindsey Jacobellis’s coming up short again in boardercross to Mikaela Shiffrin’s shocking non-medal in slalom, Lindsey Vonn’s super-G struggles and Nathan Chen’s disappointing fifth-place finish in men’s figure-skating, no country is off to a rougher start in Pyeongchang than the Americans.The good news for the U.S., however, is that there are plenty of medal events remaining in which American athletes excel. Based on its rates over the 1998-2014 period, we would expect the U.S. to pick up about 18 more medals before the games are over, which is more than any other country’s projection. Even if that happens, however, our tracker projects that the U.S. would finish a distant fourth in the final medal table — which would be its worst showing at the Winter Olympics since 1998 — but at least it would mean the second half of the games was a lot better than the first.For Norway, this is shaping up to be its best performance at the Winter Games ever. Even though a number of their best events are over, the Norwegians should still finish strong. Indeed, if they (and everyone else) simply perform to expected baselines over the rest of the Olympics, Norway will finish first in the standings, with 34 medals, ahead of Germany and Canada. Netherlands68.91320.5 Country▲▼Current▲▼Projected▲▼Current▲▼Projected▲▼ Austria35.1917.5 Norway711.42234.1 France34.7713.7 Who will win the most golds?Medal projections based on each country’s current medals and historical performance in remaining events, as of the end of competition on Feb. 17 Liechtenstein0<0.111.0 Spain0<0.122.0 Sweden45.6712.6 Switzerland24.5713.7 The 2018 Winter Olympics are basically halfway over,1Which is sad, because winter is the best kind of Olympics. and the usual suspects are off to a great start. The Norwegians, the kings of cross-country skiing, currently lead the medal table with 22 pieces of hardware, including seven golds. The Germans, who traditionally rule luge and biathlon, are not far behind with nine golds and 17 medals. The United States, meanwhile, is in a four-way tie for fifth, having nabbed only nine total medals.How many should we expect the U.S. to have at this stage of the games, though? Since medals in different sports are awarded at different times, it can be difficult to know whether a country is behind where they should be or right on track. To help with that, we created a simple medal tracker. It compares a given country’s medal count with how many we’d expect based on its historical performance in the sports that have already been completed at this year’s games. It also tells you how many remaining medals a country should pick up over the rest of the Olympics if its athletes play to form. (One note on this: We’re looking at the broad categories of events that make up the Olympics — Alpine skiing, snowboarding, curling, etc. — not the specific events within those categories.) Poland11.412.4 United States510.7927.1 Czech Republic12.057.7 Slovenia00.212.1 Australia00.935.0 Finland00.938.0 Germany913.81730.4 Great Britain11.244.9 Kazakhstan0<0.111.4 Olympic athletes from Russia*02.7916.6 Slovakia11.233.5 Japan11.8912.0 *Using medal rates for the Russian Federation, but with a 25 percent reduction to reflect that fewer athletes are competing this year, compared to previous games.SOURCES: Sports-reference.com, international olympic committee
Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the world’s No. 1 chess player, fended off a vicious siege at the hands of U.S. grandmaster Fabiano Caruana, the world No. 2, in London Friday. It was the sixth frame of the World Chess Championship, and one that for hours appeared likely to give the American a critical lead. But Carlsen escaped, and the match remains level, 3-3. Each of the six games so far have been a draw.“It’s a miracle save,” said Robert Hess, an American grandmaster commentating on the match for Chess.com.To catch you up: Carlsen is seeking his fourth world title while his challenger Caruana is trying for the first American world championship since Bobby Fischer in 1972. Their horns are locked in the middle of a best-of-12-game match for the game’s most important title.The two began Friday’s Game 6 in one of Caruana’s favorite openings: the Petroff. (Specific lines of this opening were featured in the deleted video that scandalized the match days ago.) Game 6’s first three moves appear in 12,289 other games in the ChessBase database. In 11,802 — or 96 percent — of those, white moves its knight to f3 on its fourth move. In 17 of those — or 0.1 percent — white moves its knight to d3.Carlsen moved his knight to d3. We’ll keep the draw-filled chart below updated throughout the match. And perhaps we’ll be able to add a decisive result to it at some point. Or perhaps not. And that could be exciting, too.1While the chart below shows a big advantage for Caruana throughout most of the end of Friday’s game, the computer engine is not always perfectly reliable when it comes to numerically assessing complex, fortressed-based endgames. 87654321abcdefgh A dozen moves later, Caruana had captured three of Carlsen’s pawns, including those aspiring to become queens, and still had one of his own. That left him in a victorious position — if only he could see it. On the 68th move, a supercomputer analyzing the game found a guaranteed checkmate a distant 30 moves down the road — down a lengthy bridle path, say. Chess players are second only to maybe biological taxonomists in their proclivity to elaborately name things, and sure enough even this rare position has its own proper name: the Karklins-Martinovsky Variation. But neither player was troubled by Karklins-Martinovsky, they said after the game. Its theory is well known to these elite players.And so they played on. The powerful queens came off the board by move 8, but this loss took no edge off the fight. For a while, the game looked less like a battle and more like a dressage competition, as 66 percent or more of each player’s first 12 moves were knight moves.Many moves later, as the game cantered through its middlegame, winning chances emerged and swelled for Caruana’s black pieces, according to both the computer engine and human grandmaster commentators. (Surprisingly, black, which is usually at a disadvantage, has often had an advantage over white in this match.) While there was no single blunder for Carlsen, there was an accumulation of … what to call them? “Mistakes” seems too serious. “Slip-ups” make them sound like pratfalls. Let’s go with “inaccuracies.” Carlen admitted after the game that he’d made a number of imperfect moves. By move 34, knights and bishops were the only firepower left on the board, and they threatened salvo after salvo in a crucial struggle over the pawns.By the 47th move, Carlsen was down a knight but up three pawns, which gave him a few slim hopes. Two had open routes to the end of the board, where they could become queens. Much delicate, asymmetrical and impossibly complex maneuvering commenced, as Caruana tried to prevent the pawns’ promotion. 87654321abcdefgh Caruana is an unbelievably strong player — though not that strong. As play continued, the silicon’s guarantee quickly went away. If only Carlsen could eliminate the pawns, he’d survive: a bishop and a knight versus a bishop is a theoretically guaranteed draw.Finally, through many feats, Carlsen was able to spirit away his king to a fortress on black’s side of the board. 87654321abcdefgh
OSU freshman attacker Avery Murphy (27) during a game against Cincinnati on March 11 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Courtesy of OSUThe No. 17 Ohio State women’s lacrosse team toppled Binghamton and Hofstra over the weekend, allowing it to ride a seven-game win streak home from New York.The Buckeyes beat Binghamton 10-5 on Friday. Sophomore attackman Molly Wood led OSU with four goals, while senior attackman Cian Dabrowski added two goals and three assists. Dabrowski leads the team with 25 goals this season. Most of the scoring happened in the first period after senior midfielder Kelsey Gallagher set the tone, scoring a goal a mere two minutes in. Binghamton tied it up a minute later, and the game remained tied until junior midfielder Paulina Constant scored the first of three straight goals from the Buckeyes, giving them a 4-1 lead. The game went back and forth from there, but Wood scored two consecutive goals to give OSU a 8-4 advantage at halftime. Wood scored another goal just 33 seconds into the second half, making the score 9-4 in favor of OSU. Dabrowski added the last Buckeye goal with 20 minutes left. Senior goalkeeper Katie Frederick earned the win, registering six saves. The Buckeye defense had a solid performance, holding the Bearcats to five goals, and OSU outshot Binghamton 32-15 and forced 20 turnovers.OSU then beat Hofstra in an 18-8 victory on Sunday. The win marked OSU coach Alexis Venechanos’ 100th career victory and boosted the Buckeyes’ record to 9-1, which equals the program record for the best start to a campaign.Dabrowski tallied a career-high six goals on just seven shots, giving her 100 goals for her career. Wood added four goals and tied her career high with 13 draw controls. Senior attackman Rainey Hodgson contributed five assists on the day. She has 20 assists on the year, which already eclipses her season total from 2015.The Buckeyes were in control the entire game, netting the first nine goals of the match, the first of which came just 15 seconds in. OSU held a 14-3 advantage in draw controls in the first half and outshot the Pride 18-7. OSU led the game 14-3 by halftime. The Buckeyes’ biggest lead was 18-3 with 20 minutes left, before they surrendered five goals after the game was already out of reach. Frederick picked up another win, making two saves in the game. OSU is primed to be back in action Saturday for its Big Ten opener against Michigan. The game is slated to start at 3 p.m. in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
OSU junior outside hitter Katie Mitchell (17) goes for a spike during warm-ups preceding a match against Maryland on Nov. 7 at St. John Arena. OSU won, 3-1. Credit: Madelyn Grant / Lantern photographerThe No. 18 Ohio State women’s volleyball team bounced back from a pair of 3-0 losses by topping both Rutgers and Maryland over the weekend.Against the Scarlet Knights (7-20, 0-14), the Buckeyes (18-8, 9-5) carried the momentum from the beginning of the match, as Rutgers tallied a .013 attacking percentage for the match and lost in straight sets (25-9, 25-18, 25-13).The Buckeyes’ largest lead against the Scarlet Knights came in the first set, where they started the match on a 21-6 run.While junior outside hitter Elizabeth Campbell led all players in kills with 11, senior outside hitter Erin Sekinger and sophomore middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe had 10 and nine kills, respectively. They all outscored the Scarlet Knights’ kills leaders junior outside hitter Alex Lassa and sophomore middle blocker Lauren Cloyd, who each had six.Sophomore libero Valeria León had a career-high five service aces, marking a career-high in points, as well.Coach Geoff Carlston said after the win that he doesn’t expect sophomore outside hitter Kylie Randall to return this season, because she has an injured ankle.Scarlet Knights senior setter Nicole Bayer, a native of Concord, Ohio, led her team in assists with 14 and added six digs.Even though Rutgers is the only team in the Big Ten without a conference win, Sekinger said the team always makes adjustments regardless of its opponent.“We just had to really focus on handling our own business because we don’t like to take teams lightly in the Big Ten because they’re in the Big Ten for a reason,” Sekinger said. “So we just had to focus on doing the little things.”Against the Terrapins (9-16, 2-12), the Buckeyes withstood a run by Maryland after the second set to win the match in four frames (25-16, 20-25, 25-19, 25-12).Freshman outside hitter Luisa Schirmer and Sekinger each tallied 13 kills, while Campbell added 10. Junior middle blocker Tyler Richardson had eight kills on 12 total attacks for a .583 attacking percentage.After the match, Richardson said the team meshed well on Friday night.“This week (in practice) we really focused on defense and being able to work our middles into the offense,” Richardson said. “Our setter did a great job and we played great as a team. Our defense and offense tonight was really good.”Sophomore setter Whitney Craigo, a native of Avon Lake, Ohio, led the Terrapins in assists with 22 while providing two service aces and two digs. Junior outside hitter Emily Fraik, a native of Wyoming, Ohio, had seven digs, three service aces and three kills.The Buckeyes are currently tied with No. 12 Purdue (19-7, 9-5) in the Big Ten standings, with four teams ahead of them.The Buckeyes are set to travel to No. 9 Illinois (19-6, 11-3) and Michigan (11-13, 6-8) this week. The Illinois game is scheduled for Wednesday at 8 p.m., while the matchup with the Wolverines is scheduled for Saturday at 5 p.m.
The finding, showed that reduced rates of pregnancy was most closely associated with consumption of soft drinks made with artificial sweeteners, as well as coffee with added artificial sweeteners.Meanwhile the use of sugar in soft drinks and coffee was associated with a poorer quality of egg, which can be a factor in likelihood of getting pregnant.Unsweetened coffee, however, had no effect on egg quality or pregnancy chances, said the researchers from the Federal University of Sao Paulo.Professor Adam Balen, Chairman of the British Fertility Society, said: “This is a very interesting study that suggests the false promise of artificial sweeteners that are found in soft drinks and added to drinks, such as coffee, may have a significant effect on the quality and fertility of woman’s eggs and this may further impact on the chances of conception.“These findings are highly significant to our population.“There should be more scrutiny of food additives and better information available to the public and, in particular, those wishing to conceive.”However, a spokesman for the British Dietetic Association said the study made no effort to distinguish the effect on fertility outcomes of the bodyweight of the women in the trail from the impact of artificial sweeteners and sugar in their diets.Professor Sir Colin Berry, Emeritus Professor of Pathology at Queen Mary University London, also cautioned about drawing inferences on wider reproductive outcomes from the experience of IVF patients. Other scientists, however, have said the lower pregnancy rates may have been driven by obesity, which is already a known negative factor, rather than the sugar or its synthetic equivalent per se.Artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin and sucralose, are chemical substances that many people choose over sugar because they are low-calorie or calorie-free.In the study, which will be presented today at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine congress in Salt Lake City, a batch of women who were undergoing IVF treatment were interviewed by nutritionists about the foods they consumed, as well soft and hot drinks. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Women who regularly consume soft drinks may be reducing their chances of getting pregnant, according to new research.A study of 524 patients found a link between artificial sweeteners, such as those used in “diet” sodas, and lower fertility rates, while use of sugar in soft drinks and added to coffee was associated with poorer quality of eggs and embryos.One of Britain’s leading fertility experts last night described the findings as “highly significant”, and warned women not to underestimate the effects of food additives on their likelihood of conception.