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Subject: 2019 Thurn and Taxis AAR rss

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Andy Latto
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People sometimes worry about whether the player going first has an unfair advantage in Thurn and Taxis, but this year's results show only a small effect.. The player going first and the player going second each won 21 games, with third seat winning 18 times. Oddly the fourth position, which most players seem to prefer to second or third (bids for fourth are much more common than bids for second or third), fared worst, only winning 12 games.

These results include both heat games and elimination rounds. The elimination round statistics were not affected by bidding. Four players bid a point for first seat, four others bid half a point, and the other 4 games saw no bidding at all. The only seat bid for other than first was the poor-performing fourth seat, which garnered two bids of a half point and one bid of a full point.

Given the small size of the bids, and their lack of affect on the winners, I'm thinking of eliminating bidding next year, instead seeding the quarter finals and finals, and giving the top seed at each table choice of seats. Let me know what you think of this proposed change.

Scores ranged from a high of 35, the largest score I've ever seen in a game of Thurn and Taxis, tournament or not, achieved by Dan Adams, to a score of -1. The tournament saw many close games, with 6 decided on tiebreak and 11 more with a winning margin of two points or less. But there were some lopsided scores too, with two former champions scoring decisive wins. Jefferson Meyer won a game by 18 points, 22-4-4-4, which I thought would be the biggest victory margin, until Janet Ottey showed up with a 32-11-9-7 victory.

The close games included the semifinal won by Richard Irving, whose bid of half a point for first narrowed his victory margin over 6th place laurelist Allan Jiang to half a point. Rich was in a little trouble when the three Lodz cards went to his three opponents, and not finding any of them the second time through the deck, but the second shuffle was just before Rich's turn, and put the Lodz he needed on the top of the deck to give him just enough to eke out the win. Rob Murray tried to race for the 7 carriage, cartwrighting for each of his last four carriages. But Tim Horne, who has left a Sigmarinen card on the board for Rob early, finally scored a route to Sigmarinen on the last play of the game to score the all-colors bonus and a three-point win. Everything went right for Alyssa Bernard at the start of her semifinal game, and her opponents realized they would need to gamble to catch up. Scott Saccenti, with no card in hand to extend his route, but a card available on the board that would extend it, instead gambled by using the administrator, risking needing to discard his route. But the six new cards brought Sigmarinen, the card Scott was looking for, which gave him a comfortable win. The fourth semifinal came down to a race between Barb Roeper and Eugene Yee to trigger the end of the game. Barb never used the administrator the entire game, while Eugene used it once in building his six route, and that single loss of tempo proved decisive. When Barb triggered the end game, the 3 points for the 7 carriage and 1 point for ending the game put her in a tie with Eugene, and since she triggered the endgame, she reached the finals on the tiebreak, leaving Eugene with 5th place laurels.

This set up a final between two laurelists from 2016, Scott Saccenti (4th) and Tim Horne (5th), and Richard Irving and Barb Roeper, who were earning their first Thurn and Taxis laurels. Scott had beaten Richard in a close final at Prezcon, earlier this year, and Richard was hoping for revenge. Scott bid half a point to go first, with no bids by any of the other players. Scott did not see a card he liked on the initial draw he had paid half a point for, and started with a blind draw. His one consolation was that the board, full of purple cards, got worse, not better, as the round went on, and Tim Horne in fourth seat had to resort to two blind draws. There was surprise at his initial play of Lodz; had he been lucky enough to draw Lodz and Pilsen blind (and if he did, why not play Pilsen first?), or was he taking a huge gamble? As later events showed, Tim's play of Lodz was forced; his two blind draws were two copies of Lodz! When a turn 2 administrator failed to find a Pilsen, he was forced to discard his turn one play, and although he was the first to get the all-colors bonus, he never quite recovered from this loss of tempo. Rich took the purple cards that no-one else wanted, and scored the purple 3 chit on turn 3. This gave him an early lead, but as often happens, having all of a color made it difficult to make efficient one-of-each-color routes later in the game.

Scott went for long routes, earning his 4 and 5 carriage with routes of length 6, and placing a total of 11 houses with these two routes. The second of these placed 6 houses in Bavaria, leaving him needing only Kempten to score the Bavarian bonus. Barb got some awkward draws, end ended up needing to discard 3 cards when she claimed her 5 carriage. Rich had claimed his 5 carriage the previous turn, so had a slight lead in the race for the 7 carriage. When Rich, Scott, and Barb claimed their 6 carriages a few turns later, Rich maintained his slight lead in the race, since only he had three cards in hand. But Scott had gotten Kempten for the 5-point Bavaria chip, had played 17 houses, and needed only Red and Innsbruck to get all the colors. A few turns later, with Rich threatening to end the game, Scott was able to score a short final route to place houses in Salzburg and Innsbruck, claim the blue and all-colors bonus chits, and end the game with only one unplayed house. Rich could do no better than to cartwright for the 7 carriage to finish three points behind Scott's well-deserved win.

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