It all started when I surfed by the Pouch Zine for the first time in a year, at least. I've been out of the hobby loop for some five years now, but in my nostalgic surfing I belatedly found Jim O'Kelley's article at the Pouch, "Where There's a Weasel There's a Way in Chicago" from DP S2006M. Following the links from there, I discovered that they had an active group that played regularly all over Chicagoland (and even Southeast Wisconsin) and posted/organized in their own online space at Yahoo. "This is all very cool," thought I, "this could get me interested in playing again, perhaps".
More importantly, I also discovered, just in time to decide to do something about it, that the Weasels had organized a Diplomacy tournament at the College of DuPage in Chicago's western suburbs. Fifteen minutes from my house. After mulling over my strategy, I carefully opened up negotiations with my loyal ally, Mrs. Windsor, inquiring, "What would you think of my spending a weekend out of the house, playing Diplomacy?" Anticipating resistance, I had a careful outline of alternate strategies and offer sweeteners, intended to favorably sway negotiations. Surprisingly, however, the reply I got was, "I think that'd be great. How long has it been since you played? All your fans must miss you." When I met her, she who would become Mrs. Windsor was unacquainted with facetiousness. Now, she wields irony with the honed sense of a master. Still, sarcastically or not, she'd said "yes", and I didn't even have to pony up marital capital. I was in.
I'd planned on signalling my intent to play at CODCON to the Weasels through their online group. Before I could, however, Jim O'Kelley, who functions as moderator, responded to my online registration with an email of recognition and well wishes. So I emailed him my intention to attend by personal email. No sense announcing it to the world, acting all flash, and then be greeted at my games with a hail of knives; not to mention the ridicule and shame I would endure for a poor result—and from people other than Mrs. Windsor, too. No, I decided to play it low key. Jim seemed pleased with my reply. The whole weekend? All three rounds? Sure, why not?
The tournament started Saturday morning, but I decided to get convention and tournament registration out of the way Friday night. As I entered the Student Resource Center at College of DuPage, the scent of Poindextrose hung heavy in the air. People in wizard costumes and stormtrooper uniforms wandered by, and as I stood in line to register for the Con, I tried very hard not to follow the conversation behind me of +2 light scimitars and unlucky rolls of a twenty-sided die. "I may be a geek, too", I comforted myself, "but at least I'm not that bad." I mean, at least Diplomacy players don't dress up, and everyone knows there's no dice. On these thin reeds, I balanced my sense of superiority.
After registering for the Con, I headed down into the lower levels to seek out the temporary lair of the Weasels. Weaving my way between more Star Wars characters and tables bearing hexagonal grid maps and painted miniature figurines, I eventually located a table with a map of Europe and wooden blocks of familiar shape and color. Ah, my own little corner of geekdom for the weekend! I was quickly greeted by a distinguished-looking gent who immediately invited me to join the Friday night learning game for Diplomacy. "Uh, I really don't think that would be appropriate," I replied with a crooked grin, and I introduced myself. "You're probably right," Jim agreed, introducing some of the other members of his organizing committee milling about. I paid my fee and we chatted a bit, but I left before the learning game commenced. Jim impressed me off the bat as a very nice fellow. He already had me wanting the tournament to succeed.
The tournament schedule didn't seem to include any concept that Diplomacy players ate, so on Saturday morning, I stopped off at the grocery for some granola bars, and at the golden arches for some morning power fuel. Oh glorious Egg McMuffin, breakfast of champions! I nodded a greeting to Darth Vader, who was standing around the door to the parking lot, and headed inside. My breakfast shopping had me arriving at the tournament about 10 seconds before registration closed, but hey, ten seconds before late is still on time. I'm not sure Jim entirely agreed, but better almost late than never.
At this point, I should probably pause to say that not only had I not played Diplomacy online in five years or so, I've not played face to face in over 20 years, and I've never before played in a Diplomacy tournament. It occurred to me that there was not going to be any judge computer checking my orders to see that they were properly written, that negotiation periods were about to be measured in minutes, not days, and that none of my gullible old high school friends would be there to be talked into being my game long patsy. A wave of self-doubt crashed over me, as the customary pre-tournament announcements were being made. My goals began to be rearranged from something like 'win every game' to something more like 'try not to look like a complete idiot'.
Announcements included a brief explanation of the tournament scoring system, an item of interest to all lawyers, rules lawyers and meta-gamers. Me, all three times. There would be a massive bonus for a solo, a significant kicker for topping the board, a significant score for counting one's dots in draws, a small incentive to draw-whittle, and low game score drops out. My assessment: the rules are designed to elicit aggressive, cutthroat play, and people can expect a rush of petty stabbing as the clock winds toward the time deadline at the end of each game. I would quickly learn that the term of art for this last behavior was 'dotting'.
The first round boards were announced. There would be three each round, though on round three there was a bit of stretching. In that round, the TD played on two boards to help fill them out, and two other players also played two boards, to get the requisite seven players per board in. I was surprised at how little grumbling this caused. For a lying, backstabbing lot, Dippers can be awfully flexible about how they manage to fill out their boards.
My first game, I drew England, and despite the fact that I knew nobody there, I already knew that France and Germany were experienced players. France was being manned by Greg Duenow, and though all I knew about him was that he was one of the people on the tournament organization committee, my keen powers of deduction informed me that probably meant he played the game before. Germany was to be guided by Laurent Joly, who apparently had flown in from France, just to play, and had his own website devoted to the game. Once again, those keen deductive powers kicked in and told me he probably had some clue what he was doing. While I didn't really know who the other people were at the table, I presumed they hadn't just walked in off the street, but getting to know them better would have to wait. Someone just started the negotiation clock.
And the next thing I know, I'm standing alone. Laurent grabbed Greg and steered him off to one side. Russia and Turkey are over yonder, and Austria and Italy just disappeared around a corner. I'm standing there, trying to look cool, and not at all unruffled to be odd man out. Before too long (but not before long), Laurent and Greg did separate, and it was my turn with Greg/France. "Got your Sealion all worked out, then?" I jovially bluffed. Greg laughed in response, which was good. We briefly introduced, talked about what a great thing an E-F would be for rapid accumulation of centers in a timed game, but didn't advance beyond these generalities before Laurent interrupted, to get in his own negotiation with me. Laurent and I also were pretty general in our conversation. In follow up conversations with each player, I emphasized my desire for a neutral 1901 from all parties
Russia, manned by Alex Wyler, dropped by me a couple of times between conversations, wheedling me for a clue about whether I planned on opening to Norwegian Sea, and did Germany plan on bouncing him from Sweden? I'm afraid that I gave him little comfort and even less information.
The last thing I did before time was up was ask Greg for one last quick conversation. Did he want to talk about English Channel? "Uh, don't go there?", Greg suggested. "Move there and I'll kill you?" he ventured further. Payback for my 'Sealion' joke, I guess. So I asked him if he wanted a planned bounce. Nope. He wants to get on a quick E-F roll, like I suggested. Sounds promising. I hadn't even talked to the other players when time expired and moves were due.
After S01, the channel was empty, but Burgundy was not. Laurent couldn't hustle Greg off to a corner fast enough, so once again, I started a negotiation period with no one to talk to. This time, however, I decided that wasn't so bad. Greg came back from Laurent's corner chuckling at Laurent's distress, but it appeared that he and Laurent had spent more time talking about Belgium than anything else. Laurent was telling him to take Belgium from Burgundy. When it was my turn, Laurent offered Belgium to me. I ventured to tell him that I'd heard he just offered it to France. He didn't blink or flinch. "Of course!" he said, "I will support you in to make sure you get it and he does not."
Back in Greg's corner, I said, "Here's an idea: go to Munich." Greg had struck me as a free-wheeler. After the game, during dinner break, our TD said that Greg was the kind of guy who would make totally off the wall move choices, just to make people ask him 'why did you do that?' When asked if that was true, Greg only laughed. In hindsight, I realized I'd stumbled on to just the kind of audacious proposal that turned Greg's crank. To his credit, Greg didn't tip his hand about what he thought of the idea, but he did say, "and if I get bounced?" I told him that I was about 90% sure that Laurent was going to write that support order for me into Belgium and that he'd get into Munich. He objected that he couldn't hold it. I pointed out that even if the extra build was only temporary, it was still a better deal to rob Germany of a build. He should view it less in terms of his own centers and more in terms of creating a weak Germany out of the gate, I argued. Only Greg can say for sure whether it was my logic or his audacious nature that motivated him, but F01 featured France's A Bur-Mun.
After the retreats and builds, I once again sat alone, as Laurent seized Greg for a conversation about that French army in Munich. This one was lengthy. Then they both came over to talk to me together. Laurent and Greg were presenting me a plan for a Western Triple. Laurent would eject Greg from Munich, he'd retreat his army south across the stalemate line, and support an early German push south from there. What did I think? Naturally, I agreed. What else could I do with both of them standing there? Afterwards, I talked to Greg alone, briefly. "Is that triple talk for real?" I asked. "Absolutely," said Greg. "That's exactly what I'll do. Then when he moves away from all his centers, we'll really hose him!" Then he quickly walked off. Didn't want to make Laurent nervous with a long, public conversation, I guess.
The next two years saw an apparent textbook western triple in action. At the end of 1903, the E/F/G center count was at 7/7/6. I was in St. Pete, Laurent was in Vienna, and Greg was surrounding the boot. Germany built nothing but armies, and as England, I had a totally free hand. Naturally, I used it in S04 to drive a knife into Laurent's back. I gave Greg a head's up about it, and for just a moment, he worried me, as he seemed disappointed to give up the Western Triple. But France was poised to wipe out Italy, and Germany was into Austrian centers while all I had to look forward to was a long, cold Russian winter. I'd had enough of feeding that beast. At the end of the 1904 stab, the center count for E/F/G was 9/9/4.
After that, the game settled into E-F against the world. Laurent and Matt Sundstrom, commanding Austria, turned out to be excellent tacticians and organized an inspired defense that mired down E-F at 11 and 10 centers, respectively. It also didn't help the speed of our push when I misordered a convoy, and lost two consecutive coin flip guesses on which way an overburdened Russian defender would turn in defending Livonia or Prussia. Somewhere around 1908 in our game, someone at our board returned from wandering the other boards to report that, somehow, we had gotten a couple of game years ahead of the other games. People at our table had been writing down their orders right away, instead of taking the full allotment of time for orders and builds. We never used all of our movement phase time limits and occasionally even had all our moves in before the end of the negotiation time limit. At other tables, not only were players taking all their time, some players had already become notorious for taking a little extra. Thus, we had raced ahead of other games.
Several of the defenders, especially Laurent, sitting on the brink of elimination with his one center Germany, realized that keeping up the brisk pace was a bad policy, and started to hold their order pads right up until the timer went off. I teased them, accusing them of going into a ' four corners' game. I was greeted with blank stares all around. Man oh man, am I really that old? I had to explain to them that in the 'olden days' of NCAA basketball there was no shot clock, and that it was a common practice for teams ahead in the second half to spread their players to the four corners of the court, and try to hold the ball and run out the clock. There were some teams that were famous for doing this for practically the whole game. This was regarded as not within the spirit of the game, and somewhere between unaesthetic and poor sportsmanship. Unfortunately, when you have to explain the cultural references to your taunt, it loses impact. None of the defenders seemed much concerned with my opinion of the sportsmanship of their stalling tactics.
The defenders were good meta-gamers as well as capable defenders, and they kept our (Greg's and my) score in this effort down by keeping the draw big. They even included Germany in the draw, despite the fact that he had no military units left, just a lone center away from home. At the end, I was arguing for a smaller draw, but I belatedly realized that I'd spent so much time on E-F-G affairs, that I had no credibility with Austria/Matt and Grant Smith, who manned Turkey, when I was arguing to them to put Russia and Germany out of the draw. I will say that I did try to talk to Turkey from time to time throughout the game, to do that old witches in the corners cooperation thing, but Grant would never give up anything in the way of useful information, so I quit trying after a while. In the end, though they all gladly ate the granola bars I offered around, they wouldn't feed me one more point than they had to. I'd thought bribes of food would be looking good at mid-afternoon when there was no lunch break, but these guys were made of sterner stuff.
As time was eventually winding down, and no further progress was made, I started to eye Paris and Brest, when Greg informed me he was turning his forces back towards home, and invited me to move to the Channel for a planned bounce at Brest on the final move. That's how the game ended. Had I been more attentive to timelines and deadlines, I probably could have dotted Greg for some centers at the end, but he thought of defending against it before I thought of doing it. I wasn't quite in the swing of the tournament mentality yet. That would cost me down the line. Still, I topped the board in my first game, which was a very encouraging result.
We actually got a dinner break, and I spent it chowing down a cheeseburger at a local dive that I wouldn't recommend to my worst enemy, but which suited me fine. Refreshed from my well balanced meal of fat, salt and caffeine, I returned to the tournament site for another game. Since there was time to kill during the break when I got back, I got into several chats with people there. I've already mentioned the insight I was given into Greg's free-wheeling character during the break. The most notable other encounter I had was my long conversation with Christian Kline on the subject of poker. When I mentioned that I'd actually played poker once upon a time with Greg "The Fossilman" Raymer, the conversation turned into a game of celebrity connections, can-you-top-this? It's a six-degrees world, and when you get such a conversation rolling, there are always surprising connections. Someone else chimed in a connection to Chris "Jesus" Ferguson. But I think Christian's claim of going to school with the president of Panama beat the poker celebrity connections. Later, I was kicking myself for forgetting to mention that I went to high school with Jim Thome. If Christian was a White Sox fan, that would have totally put me over the top.
Round two found me playing Germany (oh, the irony!). Austria was a familiar face, Grant Smith, who pushed the yellow pieces in my first game. There was another member of the organizing committee for an opponent, this time, Thom Comstock, playing Turkey. My Western power counterparts were Nick Rohn, France and Erica Alemdar, England. I didn't know much about Erica, but more than one person (including Erica) decided to warn me that Nick was a very good player. Nick must be pleased to have so many people looking out for him, eh? Rounding out the board were Cooper Heinz as Russia and Vincente Cheng as Italy. Vincente had been introduced to me during the dinner break as a first time player. Cooper was an unknown (to me).
I gambled and lost with the choices I made in that game, but I don't feel bad about it. My relationship with Nick was hopeless from the get-go. In pre-game chit-chat, he was trying to draw me out on my experience, mentioning that he reads the Pouch and plays at the DPjudge online all the time. I smiled in reply and said that I guess he must have recognized my name then. I've written nine articles for the Pouch, after all. Without blinking, however, Nick said, "No, should I?" That was a bald lie, but revealing in its purpose. Later in the game, after I was well stabbed, someone (I no longer recall who) came by our game to say he'd read my online articles and to shake my hand. At that point, a couple of chins dropped, but some other people became intensely interested in the lighting fixtures. Nick was one of the latter. He finally, reluctantly admitted that, yes, he'd read my articles on line, too. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm talking about the first season negotiation here.
Meanwhile, Erica was totally fixated in that first negotiation on getting me to say how my first round went, what my score was, etc. I've no doubt in my mind that Nick got the same attitude from her and used both my first round result and my own reputation as a means to convince her that putting me out of the game was the best tournament strategy. With my board topping round one result, I'm pretty sure I was odd-man-out in their meta-game tag team from the get go.
In real time, I knew I was cooked when Erica and Nick started the 'western triple' talk—especially since Nick had this peculiar idea that a western triple involved leaving two French armies hanging around the German border. I had two choices: go hedgehog, or try to outfox the foxes. Germany can't really hedgehog effectively, so I attempted the second, higher risk/reward option. I built armies in 1901 and went after Russia in S02, like a good western triple ally. Mindful that as England I stabbed Germany out of my own 'western triple' in 1904, I intended to build fleets with my anticipated seizure of Sweden and Warsaw at the end of 1902 and challenge England to a fair fight in 1903, hoping to draw France in on my side. Unfortunately, Erica was too paranoid to let me have that second tranche of builds, and she had a better handle on Cooper's personality than I did. In a different setting, Erica's early stab might have been strategically immature, but she and Nick had a solid foundation for an alliance in their tournament meta-gaming, and Cooper (Russia) was so vindictive about my 1902 attack that he barely spoke to me and played the patsy for Erica right on down the line to the end, when she stabbed him. I couldn't believe he was surprised when she stabbed him, but he actually was. Unfortunately, in the meantime he rejected what I considered some very good offers from me and left me no options for defense or shift of strategy after Erica's stab.
In that high risk/reward gamble I took on playing off Erica, I reaped the full measure of the risk side of the equation and was ultimately eliminated by a vindictive-to-the-end Russia. He apparently had no regard for the idea that preserving a larger draw would tamp down Nick and Erica's point total for the game. Or at least he had less regard for that goal than his regard for personal payback. I dunno. His elimination of me also weakened the defense against E-F in general, and he was taken aback when Thom let him know that he didn't think that his choice was wise. The only person who was happy with his choice was Erica, his attacker. She, of course, was pleased as punch. People can get so fixated on payback in this game, it can blind them to all other considerations.
Oddly enough, Thom turned out to be my best friend that whole game. Once I was stabbed, Erica and Nick barely talked to me, and Cooper refused all overtures and most conversation. Thom took an interest in me, as I sat bereft of friends and lonely for someone to make plans with. He got me involved in trying to help organize the southern defense against E-F. He was beset by his own problems, as the southern powers just couldn't get their act together. He asked me for an appraisal of what he was doing wrong, diplomatically. He seemed surprised when I said that I didn't think he did anything wrong as Turkey that game, but I was sincere. From what I could see, he didn't have much to work with—a raw newbie Italy, a 'Mr. Honesty' Russia who totally didn't get the Diplomacy backstabbing ethos, and a 'Deviate'' for an Austria. That was the second board I shared with Grant, and both times he drove everyone around him nuts, even me from across the board. He was Turkey to my England in round 1, and he would never share anything with me, totally forsaking the traditional strategy of the cooperation of 'witches'. I'd hoped we could do better work together as A-G, but it wasn't any better, really. Toward the end, when Grant was feeling the heat, when Thom stabbed him out of the game just because he could, I finally just flat out told him that I thought he was a decent fellow, personally, but for two games in a row now all I'd heard about him from others was that he was impossible to work with. He seemed surprised at that assessment and told me that he could have used that advice 'a few hours ago'. Ah well. Live and learn.
I spent a lot of time on that game, and left awfully late, just to be eliminated. When I woke up the next morning, I couldn't believe how drained of energy I still felt. This face to face stuff, it turns out, is fairly exhausting. Another morning stop for McFuel and McCaffiene, though, and I'm ready to face the world, or at least a map of Europe. According to the TD, the board seeding program is supposed to spread people around by 'board regions'. Having been a western power, and a central power, I'm anticipating most likely drawing Russia or Turkey. I've got mixed feelings. Turkey's performance in the tournament has been poor, and playing the Sultan presents the best opportunity for a best country award, as the best Turkey from the first two rounds was seven centers. Russia, however, is the country I like to play, and the better one for creating a big tournament score (presuming success). After my round 2 elimination, I need a good round 3 score for a respectable tournament showing.
Arriving at the tournament in the morning, the big buzz was a solo victory by Mike French in round 2 with Germany. I was surprised to discover that my 11 center England was the best England after the first two rounds. Mainly, I was surprised because E-F alliances had dominated most of the first six games played, and someone else had a 12 center England. His wasn't a board topper, however, and mine was. This gave me more tourney points for my effort, and that's what the prize was to be based on. So apart from doing well in my final game, I figured I had something else to shoot for, and that was getting England. Unfortunately for my deviate meta-gaming get-England strategy, I drew Turkey for round three. Not exactly the 'get England' seat.
Russia was Jim Collins, who was Italy in my game 1. Belatedly, I realized there was another good reason why it was bad of me to have not talked to the southern powers my first game. Here I was in game 3, with the job of convincing a guy to be my ally, whom I had ignored and let be eliminated without so much as a howdy-do in my first game. Awkward. Very awkward. My other neighbors were Austria's Blake Ward, who quickly confessed to his newbie status, and Christian Kline pushing the Italian pieces. When I'd met Christian earlier in the tournament, during dinner break, he and I hit it off, with our shared profession and interest in poker. I was also aware, however, that he'd been voted "Weasel of the Year". His reputation for strong and devious play didn't exactly comfort me, and neither did the non-committal tone of our first negotiations.
Among the Western powers, England was manned by Laurent Jolly, who was also going to be playing Russia on another board. That was destined not to work out so well. France and Germany were Bill Small and Bert Schoose, respectively. Bill was personable, but he and I never had much to discuss in the course of the game. Bert was grumpy over getting Germany. Since Mike French had soloed with Germany in the previous round, there was not much hope for a best Germany award there. Ironically, Bert would wind up in a dominating position at game end, that all agreed would have been destined to solo, had the game not ended on a time limit. Since Bert walked off with third place for the tourney, I expect he got over being grumpy in the end.
Jim Collin's Russia wasted no time stabbing me in that game, going right after me in F01 after an arranged Black Sea bounce in S01. Meanwhile Blake's Austria had opened aggressively south and pocketed Greece, while Christian's Italy was looking awfully Lepanto-ish, despite his protestations to the contrary. Three attackers and zero friends. I guess my face-to-face diplomacy could use some work. I asked Jim, later, why he'd done it. He just shrugged, smiled and said because he felt like it. Based on the way things played out, that was probably true. Blake was just dancing on the end of Christian's puppet strings, and while Christian swore up and down there was no Lepanto, his fleet made for the Eastern Med.
Attacked from every angle, I risked active defense in 1902, instead of hedgehogging, but I guessed wrong and went down to two units at the end of the year. Flush with confidence in his attack, Jim overreached and attacked Austria in '02, before he'd put me away. In 1903 I got just enough help from Blake and Christian to get back to three centers and destroy a Russian fleet. I solicited this help by writing down my unit orders, then showing the pad to Blake and Christian. "Those are my orders," said I, "support them, if you think it's in your interest. I'll owe you my life. I can't offer more." Then I tossed the order pad in the box and walked off. Blake and Christian both did, indeed, decide it was in their best interest to thwart Russia in 1903. Blake was reacting to Russia's direct attack. Christian was concerned that I was going down too fast for him to profit from his Lepanto strategy. I saw it that way, too, but I had to hold my breath and trust they would. Their exercise of self-interest restored me to my three home centers, and they retreated their attacking units, thus breathing new life back into my position.
Meanwhile, north of the cool part of the board, Bill got frustrated with Laurent's time-splitting between his two games, and decided to help him organize his time by stabbing him out of the game. This gave Bert the freedom to go after Russia in Scandinavia and other parts north, which Jim had left completely undefended to concentrate his attacks south. Jim had stabbed me and Austria in successive turns, and had supported an English attack on Germany in 1903. I'm not sure what he thought his plan was supposed to be after that, but he soon discovered that, even with eight units, Russia can't win a three front war with no allies. He'd refused to talk to me since his 1901 stab, but as the crushing blow to his dwindling empire hung over him in 1905, he came begging to me for help. I confounded him by asking, "in exchange for what?" I must confess, I also laughed. By the time he asked, he'd nothing left to offer. As another player at our board put it, he'd made himself irrelevant. I took Sevastopol off of him for my spoils in 1906, finally getting Turkey a fourth center, and felt a distinct lack of guilt at doing so. By this time, Christian had stabbed Blake, leaving the stalemate line totally undefended, and Germany came pouring across it.
At this point, I want to pause and say that, if I wanted to illustrate my "What's You're Point?" article with photos, Christian's face would go right next to the description of 'Deviant'. He's the archetypal case. In 1903, I remarked to him, more with awe than with ill will, that as far as I could tell, he hadn't said a single thing to me during the entire game that was true. He is just an utterly confounding dude to play with. Too confounding for the novice Blake, who decided to work against Christian right to the end after getting stabbed, his single surviving Austrian army mooting all attempts at creating a line of defense against Bert's southern advance. Nevertheless, Blake did survive in the end, which I thought was deserving of a fair amount of praise.
Christian and I did manage a couple of years of honest cooperation in mutual defense at the end of the game. Nevertheless, I dotted Christian at the end, advancing my Turkey to a six center finish at his expense. I had a brief moment of alarm after my final turn stab, when the TD came by the board and suggested it might not be the final turn. He wanted to know if we'd agree to play another turn under stricter time limits. I told him that I would not agree to that, and that I'd go into my four corner offense stall to make sure time ran out before the game year did. This actually got me a couple of laughs from Bill and Bert. Ah, cultural redemption. Later, Christian asked me how certain I was that time would run out before the next turn to make my dotting him sound. I told him I figured the odds were good, and that I was looking at an upside of going from four centers to six, with a downside of slipping back to, at worst, three centers if the game continued another year. Good odds of a two center upside beat minor odds of a one center downside. Christian, poker player that he is, understood the explanation, the odds and the math. No hard feelings there. I hope. I expect to meet him again, someday.
I got a lot of kudos from the other players for bringing Turkey back from the dead like that. People were probably more impressed with that than with my first game. Impressive or not, I had a lot of fun hanging in there to survive and come back, while watching Russia get whacked. Payback isn't noble, but it is oh so satisfying. Maybe I can understand what Cooper did to me in game 2 after all.
Meanwhile, on the other two boards, the theme of an E-F alliance dominating play continued, much to my dismay. Both Englands would go on to top their boards, and I went from best England to third-best England in the final round. Matt Sundstrom, who'd helped organize a defense that frustrated my England at 11 centers in round one, fittingly took the best England plaque from me when he drove his own England to 14 to top the board. Meanwhile, on the other board, Erica had found the R-T alliance that eluded me, and under cover of that alliance drove her Turkey to a tournament best, while I was struggling just to keep mine alive. In my round two game, Nick had dotted Erica at the end to top the board, and wound up with a best France for that effort. Mike French's round two solo with Germany managed to hold up for the best Germany. I don't have firsthand knowledge of the other three best country efforts, but best Italy and best Austria were both won by the same player, Andrew Bartlein. That's what I call making the most of a tough bit of luck with country draws. Andrew earned the second place trophy, too, behind Mike French and barely ahead of Bert Schoose.
I finished on the 'top board', in seventh, though there was no top board game. Places four through seven were grouped closely together, with a large points gap from seventh to eighth, and a smaller, but notable, points gap from second and third to fourth. I felt good about placing in that 4th-7th group. During the course of the tournament, I'd wound up sharing a board with six of the top ten finishers, so I felt I'd been tested against some of the best players there and not been found wanting. I'd managed to exceed my adjusted goal of not looking like a complete idiot, anyway.
Jim O'Kelley ran a terrific tournament. Everything ran on schedule (a greatly underappreciated achievement), ruffled feathers were smoothed, and rulings on questioned orders issued with quiet, but uncompromising and unquestioned finality. Jim is also a jovial host, a fine master of ceremonies, and those award plaques were pretty sharp looking, too. I didn't quite catch that bit about what I got for my seventh place/top board finish. I understand it involved a gesture, though. Oh well. Maybe next year.
|Paul D. Windsor|
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