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Subject: 2006 Michigan Pacru Open rss

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Clark Rodeffer
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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The first Michigan Pacru Open tournament was held on the afternoon of November 19, 2006 as an event at the U-Con Gaming Convention. Despite wide advertisement and a good prize (a new copy of the 302 edition of the game, worth approximately US$50), only two people (Alain D. and David B.) registered to compete. Together, they had driven nearly six hours from Champaign-Urbana, IL just to compete in this tournament. While the low turnout was disappointing for all of us, we all agreed that the tournament must continue.

All three of us had played Pacru before. Two years prior, I had played on the first 101 edition Pacru board to cross the Atlantic to North America, but had not played much since then. Alain, with more than 100 games under his belt, is one of the best, fastest and most experienced Pacru players in the world. David is a long-time friend of Alain's, both having come from South Africa to the University of Illinois, but as of the tournament, David had only played Pacru a few times. For the tournament, all three of us sat in a triangle around two tables, each playing two simultaneous two-player games of Pacru, one each against our right- and left-hand neighbors. To minimize confusion, I played yellow in both games, Alain played red, and David played green. Two rounds were played, for a total of four games for each of us.

In my first game against David, I lost one of my chevrons early in the game to an unexpected pincer near a corner. But I came back and took two of David's chevrons in pincers of my own. With a three to two chevron advantage, my mobility allowed me to set up walls of markers to block David's remaining pieces, and David repeatedly had to remove markers to rotate his chevrons to movable angles. While he wasted both time and territory doing so, I gained a lot of ground with several connection jumps, and finally David resigned.

In my second game against David, I likewise lost one of my chevrons early in the game, but spent too much time trying to repeat the tactics I had used in the previous game. As a result, I ended up with all three of my remaining chevrons in one of the corner borderlands, with David's pieces coming at me along the edge. Since he could use it to control tempo without any intervention on my part, David's fourth chevron turned out to be the deciding factor in a nim-like pincer battle that occurred along the border between the corner and edge borderlands on the opposite side of the board. David captured, I captured, David captured again, and I had nowhere to move except directly into the pincer. Not even a sacrificial rotation was enough to gain a free avenue for retreat, and David won the second game.

So David and I split games, each with an even record against one another. But neither of us was up to the challenge of facing Alain. I was unable to follow either game between David and Alain, because I was concentrating on my own games at the time. But from the other side of the tables, David appeared to be having the same sort of problems I was having. In both of my games against Alain, I was totally overwhelmed by Alain's fast and decisive play. From the first moves, Alain controlled the tempo, and I felt helpless against him. He created a meeting within only a few moves, thus removing the choicest, most precious connecting markers from what little territory I had been able to claim, and reducing my mobility. Normally, meetings are fairly rare events, only happening perhaps once every couple of games. But Alain was somehow able to cycle three of his red chevrons into a pattern of one meeting after another, always cutting away at my territory while using his fourth to build an accelerating shrinking spiral in from the edges. It was like staring into a black hole or something -- my pieces simply disappeared as Alain orbited and held meetings.

In the end, Alain won the tournament with a perfect four and zero record, while David and I tied for (a distant) second with records of one and three. As the winner, Alain took home a new copy of the 302 edition of Pacru. Since he already had a copy of his own that he and David could use anytime, Alain said the new copy will likely be a holiday gift for someone else.

After the tournament, the three of us went out for snacks and drinks, and Alain was kind enough to show David and me some opening strategies that were very enlightening. We had all played a single move opening that all of us already knew (moving an off-center edge chevron into the neighboring borderland and placing a marker to block the opponent's chevron from doing the same, at least in the same borderland). But Alain showed us two different path openings to create those powerful meetings between the corner chevron and either the center edge chevron or the opposite off-center edge chevron. He also gave us some tips on placing markers into borderlands such that they are less likely to be captured and/or are more likely to be useful for long connection jumps.

So despite the low level of participation, the 2006 Michigan Pacru Open was a lot of fun for the three of us who played, and very educational for at least two of us. I hope to be able to run the tournament again in future years, but that will depend upon getting people to let me know in advance that they want to play, especially if they're planning to drive several hundred miles.
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