Sorry to bump this topic with another post by me (another LONG post!), but I think there is some interesting new stuff to bring up. During and after the 2011 WCH I was discussing this - whether online results are equally valid or less valid than offline results - and some points were raised which merit further debate.
1) There is a feeling that, since it is traditional for Minesweeper tournaments to be held among a bunch of people in one room at semi-public computers, tournaments should be continued to be held like this. There is a significant social aspect to these tournaments (exemplified by the bowling outing after the WCH) and people understandably don't want to abandon this. To me, however, this style of tournament was only done for so long because it was really the only way to guarantee the participants didn't cheat. And, until tkolar's amazing program and website, it was just too unwieldy to have people all over the world sending in scores. So I think it's worth it to examine the benefits of the new style (offline PLUS online) over the old, and decide which one is really better, and not be worried about changing things.
I think it's still valuable to have a physical location for major tournaments, because it's always fun to meet up with other players. However, it's very important to realize that with such a small community spread throughout the world many players could only attend a tournament if they held one themselves. I'm sure people would still attend tournaments even if they could compete online, because it is a social event - I know many old-school cubers who continue to attend large numbers of cubing competitions just to hang out with their friends, and not because they intend or expect to improve their official results. So in the end I think it's better to allow online competitors to compete as equals, especially in important tournaments (such as a WCH) where it would otherwise be a huge disadvantage to not be able to travel there.
2) I heard some people say that it was a bit unfair to let people use their home setup, when the offline competitors are all at the tournament computers. It's true that there some unfairness here, but there's a lot of other unfairness behind the concept of the tournament too. Competitors with home setups similar to the tournament setups, or who are familiar with using that type of public computer, have an unfair advantage over those who do not. And similarly the actual experience of the tournament venue (temperature, humidity, food, etc) will affect some competitors more than others. There are also issues of potential language barriers (especially for some Chinese players) and of being nervous around other people, which will affect some players much more than others. Plus, competitors in time zones close to the tournament have an unfair advantage over others, because the other players would have to play at odd times (I did the WCH at 7:15 am until 10:15) or else travel and then have to deal with jet lag. And of course, there is the ever-present luck.
So, I think that there is already a large source of random unfairness, which makes the setup issue basically negligible, especially if competitors bring their mouse and mousepad with them to the tournament. In fact, with tkolar's program, players who use laptops (I do) could now theoretically play on their own computers at the tournament venue, and now they have no disadvantage compared to online players. So I wouldn't say that playing the 5+5 at home gives a significant enough advantage over other players that the results need to be counted separately.
3) When we hold a world championship in a sport or hobby, what makes it valid as a world championship? Any tournament can be declared to be a world championship (there doesn't seem to be an obvious pattern to it). However, I think some people feel that the recognized world champion of a sport has only really earned their title if they went up against the other top players/teams and beat them. If I held the 2012 WCH at my house and organized it so that nobody else could attend, I'm sure everyone would laugh at the idea that I was suddenly the world champion. So, in the case of the 2011 WCH, we had the issue that Kamil was not able to actually travel to the locale, but still took the time to compete online, and actually posted better results (best int, best exp, best 5+5) than anyone else in attendance, and in fact (if I recall correctly) better than anyone has ever done at a recognized Minesweeper tournament. So although [name removed]technically became the world champion, it is clear that he didn't actually beat the best player there, and so, to me, declaring him as the world champion is unsatisfying.
At this point I'd like to bring up the cubing world championship, because it illustrates some interesting points. Although it is, in a sense, just as randomly chosen as the world championships in Minesweeper, it's also set up so that the best cubers are much more likely to be able to attend. First, it's a multiple-day event, so it's much easier to justify taking time off to travel to another country for it (an 8+ hour flight each way for an 8ish hour event is pretty inconvenient). Second, there are large prizes (usually for the top 3 people in each event), so that a world-class competitor doesn't have to worry about their travel expenses. Third, there are a very large number of serious cubers there (compared to the 6 serious players at the Minesweeper WCH) so there is a much bigger feeling of being part of a big social event. I do realize that the Minesweeper community can't possibly emulate these, but my point is really that the cubing world championship gains validity by making it very easy for the top cubers to attend, so that the world champion of each event is almost certainly the person who can deliver the best performance on that day. If our community can't give the same kind of incentives to attend, so that even the best player in the world may be too busy to travel to the venue, it's very reasonable to compensate by allowing players to participate from home as equals. I don't think wanting to have a tournament completely in meatspace is worth as much as having a world champion who completely deserves the title, with no technicalities or excuses.
NF player. Best scores 1-10-39.