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Subject: Title Defense: WACCon 2007 rss

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Jim OKelley
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Okay, here’s my report from WACCon 2007. I’ll try to keep it brief.

First of all, WACCon 2007, held January 18 through 20 in Seattle, Wash., was a five-round tournament. To win the tournament, you needed to top the board in the final round, and to reach the top board, you needed to have one of the seven highest cumulative scores after four rounds. Second through seventh places, as well as the rest of the placing, were determined by cumulative score over the five rounds.

The tournament used a modified Sum of Squares scoring system with an ante component. I didn’t completely understand the system, so I just tried to follow the advice I had found online at http://diplomaticcorps.org. In a nutshell, the idea in a Sum of Squares system is to not only top the board but also separate your count from the center count of your closest competitor.

Ideally, you want the all the centers you don’t own to be divided roughly equally between the other surviving players. So, you score more points in a game where you finish with 10 centers and the other six have four apiece than you would with a 17-17 two-way.

Okay, so in the first round, which we played Thursday evening, January 18, I drew Russia, which, believe it or not, is my favorite country. In addition, we played that first round in Hagerty’s, a bar in downtown Seattle’s swank Washington Atheltic Club. So, not only was I playing my favorite country, but I was also in a bar, which is my natural habitat.

Just like last year, I exploded to an early lead, reaching 13 by 1904’s end, mostly at the expense of Greg “Dead Last” Duenow, who was playing Turkey, and the great Buffalo Bartalone, playing Austria. Alas, in 1905, the valiant Adam Silverman, playing Germany, rallied the board against me. They successfully beat me back to 12 centers.

We actually called the game after the Fall 1905 turn. Germany had eight centers; England and France, five apiece; Austria, three; and Italy, one. Only Greg’s Austria had been eliminated.

After the game, a couple of players, as well as an observer or two, suggested that I could have soloed. They might have been right. However, I saw myself losing my two Scandinavian centers. In addition, I only had one Mediterranean fleet, in Constantinople, and two French fleets were steaming toward me. I felt that I couldn’t defend against them without pulling units from the center, where they were needed to stop the German advances on Vienna and Warsaw. So, I settled for the draw and pocketed a good first-round score.

We played the second and third rounds on Friday, January 19, on the 21st floor of the WAC.

The past 17 months of Weasel play prepared me well for my second-round game. I drew Germany, which I’ve played five times in our local games. The board was brutal, though, one of three on which I felt like I was the sixth or seventh best player at the table.

I shared the west with Tom Kobrin in France and Mark Zoffel in England. Tom finished second at the 2005 World Championship and has been one of the best players in the face-to-face hobby for more than a decade. Mark is an outstanding player who likes long games and grinding down seemingly insurmountable positions almost as much as he enjoys a stiff drink. Edi Birsan, author of the Lepanto Opening and a tournament champion on every continent save Antarctica, was in Russia. The legendary David Hood was in Italy, and Austria was Eric Mead, the two-time defending runner-up in this tournament who dogged me every step of the way en route to my Grand Prix championship last year. Playing Turkey was a solid local player named Brad Basden.

Through the first six years of the game, Mark and I rolled to 19 centers, of which I owned 10. In Fall 1907, I stabbed him for three in hopes of seizing unilateral control of the game. It was a good tactical stab but a strategic failure as I failed to neutralize Mark.

He made me pay for that. With me once again at 13 centers, Mark easily rallied the other players to his cause, and by 1911, I was back at 10, despite having taken five dots from Mark. Eric’s Austria, meanwhile, had surpassed me at 12. We called the game after the Spring turn. Turkey had seven centers; England, five; and everyone else was dead.

For the third round, I drew France, and I once again stormed to a strong start. This time, I rolled over Tim Richardson’s England and Eric Mead’s Germany. By the end of 1905, I had 12 centers…

…And I once again drew the board’s ire. Adam Silverman, playing Italy, again rallied the board against me. My position gradually eroded, and we called the game in Fall 1909 with Adam and I sharing the board top with the great French player Yann Clouet, who was playing Turkey. We each had 10 centers, John Jamison’s Russia had three, and Tim’s England hung on with one.

On Saturday, January 20, play moved down to the third floor.

I found myself playing Italy on another killer board. Nathan Barnes was Austria; tournament leader Dan Lester of London was England; Tim Richardson was France, the previous night’s game fresh in his mind; David Hood was Germany; the great Andy Marshall as Russia; and Tom Kobrin in Turkey. Yikes.

I never got rolling in this one, but I was pleased with my result. Tom’s Turkey topped the board with 12, while Dan’s England racked up eight. Tim’s France and I finished with seven apiece.

I’ll share one story from this one. Earlier in the game, France and I were at odds. I had armies in Piedmont and Venice, and he had armies in Marseilles and Spain and a fleet in the Gulf of Lyon. I was paranoid about a French convoy to Tuscany, so for two straight turns, I ordered a self-standoff there. France never attempted the convoy, and my unnecessary defense drew numerous barbs from the other players.

Well, fast forward to the end of the game when England, France and I were scrambling to ensure that we could stop a Turkish solo. Anticipating the eventual need for a support for Venice, I invited a French army into Piedmont. On the very next turn, which happened to be the last one of the game, Tim declared his intent to march into Tuscany. I briefly weighed the comedic value of ordering my fleet in the Tyrrhenian Sea to bounce him, and I actually wrote the move, but with a few seconds left in the drop-dead turn, I scratched that order out in favor of supporting the Ionian. The potential laughs just weren’t worth the risk of letting the Turks break out. So, Richardson got Tuscany. But no matter how long it takes, vengeance will be mine.

Okay, so after four rounds, I had one strong board top, a shared top with two others, a strong second, and a decent third. That put me on the top board with the second seed…

…And that and 25 cents will get you Austria. Ugh.

I shared the top board with my friend and tournament nemesis Adam Silverman in England; the Frenchman Yann Clouet playing France; Dan Lester playing Germany and still leading the tournament; former Grand Prix champion Matt Shields in Italy; Cyrille Sevin, another world-renowned French player, in Russia; and Jake Mannix in Turkey. I had played Jake three previous times, by the way, and he had finished in the draw all three times to only once for me. Sigh.

The opening was a disaster. Italy took Trieste in 1901, and he and Turkey gobbled Greece and Serbia in 1902, leaving me with two centers. I had a fleet in Albania and armies in Budapest, Vienna and Ukraine.

Perhaps the obvious choice would have been to keep the armies in Budapest and Vienna, but I was virtually surrounded by I/T units, and I viewed that position as a deathtrap. Instead, and much to Cyrille’s annoyance, I chose to keep armies Vienna and Ukraine. My objective was going to be to escape the noose and reestablish myself in another part of the board in hopes of staying alive. Unfortunately for Cyrille, my safe haven was going to have to be his centers.

In 1903, I lost Vienna, but with German help, I captured Warsaw to remain at two. In Spring 1904, my army in Budapest successfully escaped to Galicia with support from Warsaw, and those two armies wintered in Moscow and Ukraine, as I lost Budapest.

I took St. Petersburg in 1905 with German support while ceding Warsaw to him. In Spring 1906, I occupied Moscow and Ukraine and then stood pat for the next three turns, lulling the board to sleep. In Fall 1907, I seized Sevastopol from Turkey. For the first time since 1901, I had grown. Alas, I owned no home centers and thus was unable to build. So, I played one short.

I promptly marched into Armenia the next turn, and in Fall 1908, I walked unmolested into Ankara while keeping my three other centers--St. Petersburg, Moscow and Sevastopol. I still had nowhere to build, but my two rogue armies, who were dead to rights at 1902’s end, had doubled my center count.

The game ended after that turn with Dan’s Germany topping at 11, Matt’s Italy at seven, and Yann’s France and Jake’s Turkey at six. I had the four.

So, my title defense had fallen short, but I had a good tournament and, more important, a helluva time. And I did not go home empty-handed. Each year at WACCon, the tournament director bestows a Best Pirate award on the player who, in his estimation, used his last units in the most interesting, entertaining and/or amusing way. The exploits of my rogue armies on the top board netted me the award, which is a way-cool mini-treasure chest.

In addition, my first round performance as Russia was the Best Russia of the tournament, so I got a plaque for that. And I took home the fourth-place plaque. Not bad for a weekend’s work.

Joining me in the top seven spots were Dan Lester in first place; Eric Mead, who for the second straight year had soloed as Turkey in the final round, in second for the third year in a row; Jake Mannix in third, edging me by seven-tenths of a point, the rat bastard; Adam Silverman in fifth; Matt Shields in sixth; and Yann Clouet in seventh.

Many thanks to Mark Zoffel and Nathan Barnes for a great tournament and an outstanding weekend. You guys are the best.

Tournament Diplomacy is a Diplomacy experience like no other. Why not give it a try? For more information, check out http://diplom.org/NADF.
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