We present an overview of the ninth round of Critical Assessment of Protein Structure Prediction (CASP9) “Template free modeling” category (FM). Prediction models were evaluated using a combination of established structural and sequence comparison measures and a novel automated method designed to mimic manual inspection by capturing both global and local structural features. These scores were compared to those assigned manually over a diverse subset of target domains. Scores were combined to compare overall performance of participating groups and to estimate rank significance. Moreover, we discuss a few examples of free modeling targets to highlight the progress and bottlenecks of current prediction methods. Notably, a server prediction model for a single target (T0581) improved significantly over the closest structure template (44% GDT increase). This accomplishment represents the “winner” of the CASP9 FM category. A number of human expert groups submitted slight variations of this model, highlighting a trend for human experts to act as “meta predictors” by correctly selecting among models produced by the top-performing automated servers. The details of evaluation are available at http://prodata.swmed.edu/CASP9/. © Proteins 2011; © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.