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Subject: 2011 WBC Tournament -- Detailed Report rss

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John Weber
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This is a copy of the GM write-up for the BPA website on this event.

FOURTH TIME IS A CHARM …

Anyone who has played Puerto Rico with David Platnick knows he is one of the best players on the planet. His tournament resume includes three wins at PrezCon, a win at Origins, but -- coming into this year’s WBC tournament -- victory had eluded him. Sure, he had a high position in the laurels count after three consecutive second place finishes, but nothing in the top six the last five years. 2011 was Dave’s year. He won a tough matchup in his first heat, then swept through the rest of the tournament – quarterfinals, semifinals and final -- to go undefeated. It was a well-deserved win for a player whose tournament record after the first 10 years at WBC has been the most consistent: four final tables, five top sixes, eight years semifinals or better, and advancement to the elimination rounds in nine years out of ten. Looking back over the first decade of Puerto Rico tournaments at WBC, we now have 10 different winners in 10 years. However, Dave’s impressive record of achievements is unparalleled.

Before the start of the first heat of this year’s tournament, special prizes were awarded to eight individuals who have supported the tournament in each of the first 10 years. This list of Puerto Rico stalwarts includes Mike Backstrom, Barbara Flaxington, John Jacoby, Cheryl Mallon, David Platnick, Bob Stribula, Kevin Walsh and the GM, John Weber. Then, it was on to the competition, which took place in a packed Ballroom B, with 21 Puerto Rico games along with 28 Dominion games being played in a room with just 44 tables, meaning some “doubling up” was needed for both games. The proverbial term “tough draw” applied in a couple of instances. 2006 Champ Chris Moffa wound up being paired with Dave Platnick in a high scoring three-player game that went to Dave, 63-60 with the third player (Marcy Morelli) just one point further back at 59. This was a reversal of the results of the 2006 final, where Chris edged Dave by just ½ point in the closest final game finish to date, where the difference was based on their respective bids for the two indigo seats. Another former winner, 2007 Champ and past Caesar winner Raphael Lehrer, suffered a narrow one-point loss to Edward Fear, a first time WBC attendee – more about Ed later in this report. Then, in perhaps in the toughest draw of them all, 2004 WBC and reigning EuroQuest Champion Barb Flaxington (the all-time laurels leader heading into 2011) was paired with Greg Thatcher, last year’s WBC runner-up, and two-time finalist Assistant GM Malinda Kyrkos, the 2007 runner-up to Raphael. The winner of this game? None of the above, as victory was claimed by the fourth player in the game, Jason Long, with Barb just two points behind.

There was more trouble to come for the four former Champs in the field in the second heat. Attendance was still strong, with 19 games being contested. Barb Flaxington did not improve on her earlier result, finishing third in a game won by 2008 runner-up Matt Peterson. Vien Bounma took the measure of ex-Champ Chris Moffa, and defending Champ Luke Koleszar fell just short, losing by one to Eyal Mozes in another “tough draw” table that included 2009 EuroQuest Champion Richard Shay. Thus, heading into the third and final heat, none of the four former Champions had won a game and thus none were guaranteed to advance into the quarterfinal round. Also, only one competitor (Ed Fear) had won games in both heats. One notable highlight of this heat was a really close game which ended in a rare three-way tie on points, where Patrick Monte emerged victorious on the tiebreaker over Craig Trader and Llew Bardecki; another highlight was the game won by Brandon Ketchum, who ended the game with the almost unheard of total of four large buildings, although not all were manned.

The third heat took place at high noon on Saturday, with the quarterfinals due to start three hours later. This meant a quick turnaround on the results, and assistant GMs Barb and Malinda were on hand to help your friendly GM get the results compiled and posted in plenty of time. Four of the 17 games this heat paired prior winners, while the remaining 13 games produced 15 more first time-winners. How was that possible, one might ask? Well, there were two games with absolute ties on points and the doubloons plus goods tiebreaker – meaning all of the tied players were credited with wins. One of the double winners included Barb, one of the former Champions vying to make the field for the quarterfinals. 2010 winner Luke Koleszar also made it, posting a solid eight-point win. On the other hand, Raphael Lehrer and Chris Moffa fell short, but multiple second places in the heats put them high on the alternate list, should extra spots open up in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, in the winners’ bracket, Ed Fear became the fifth player in WBC tournament history to sweep with wins in all three heats, romping to a 15-point win from the statistically disfavored #2 indigo seat. Jason Ley and two newcomers to the tournament, Eddie Burmeister and Ben Scholl, posted their second wins which were good for byes into the semifinal rounds.

Those with one win were eligible to participate in the first elimination round, or quarterfinals, an hour after the conclusion of the final heat. A total of 40 such players showed, meaning it was more tough luck for alternates, including former Champs Chris and Raphael, along with Craig Trader, all of whom had multiple second place finishes in the three heats. As in the past five tournaments, players bid for their favored seats in ½ VP increments. Most of the quarterfinal games were close, but one that was not was Eric Freeman’s 11.5 point win that ended the run of GM John Weber, who could do no better than third behind Ryan Houman. Contrast this with the closest game that was 3.5 points from top to bottom – with Ken Horan taking first on the tiebreak from Greg Thatcher. This was one of four games decided by one point or less. A half-point separated Anthony Daw from second place Loc Nguyen in another tight game that had 4.5 points covering the four players. Jason Long, who had made some noise with his prior win over a former Champ and two runner-ups, nosed out Sceadeau D’Tela by a half-point. The margin was just a point between John Dextraze, who advanced, and Marcy Morelli, who did not. Former winners Barb Flaxington (by two points) and Luke Koleszar (by four) advanced to the semis, along with Dave Platnick, Eric Brosius and Kevin Walsh, who won the other quarterfinal games.

The rules specified that the 16 semifinal spots would go to the four byes plus the quarterfinal winners, plus the closest seconds as needed. The closest second was Greg Thatcher, but Sceadeau D’Tela and Loc Nguyen were tied for the 16th and final spot – which would mean a coin flip to see who advanced, provided everyone showed. However, word reached the players that Greg had managed to reach a Sunday AM final, which meant both Sceadeau and Loc were in. The players were paired at four tables of four and, with four spots in the final and fifth and sixth place plaques on the line, and the tension in these games was palpable. The first game to finish had Dave Platnick the winner, advancing to his fourth final table (first since 2006) with a solid 7.5 point win (after bids were factored in) with Ken Horan in second. Ken decided to wait around but, based on past history, his shot at a plaque as one of the two closest seconds seem remote. Things turned around when two more games finished – each with identical 10.5 point margins. The winners of these two games – Jason Ley and Sceadeau D’Tela – advanced to the final. Barb Flaxington, 2004 WBC and reigning EuroQuest Champion, was out after another good run, finishing third to Jason and behind Eric Brosius in second. The runner-up in Sceadeau’s game was John Dextraze, an Ontario native and the top non-U.S. finisher in this year’s field.

The fourth semifinal game to finish was perhaps the most intriguing matchup, pitting the defending Champ, Luke Koleszar, with Ed Fear, who had dominated thus far with three heat wins, along with Eric Freeman, a 2006 finalist who had the biggest winning margin in the quarters and Kevin Walsh, a Puerto Rico veteran now in his fourth semifinal at WBC. As had happened in each of the heats, Ed won by an impressive margin – 10 points. This result was enough to put him at the final table, while second place Eric Freeman (despite the double-digit point deficit) was able to claim the coveted sand plaque. This meant Ken Horan – who was a bit happier after seeing the results of the other games come in -- claimed fifth.

Thus, Dave Platnick was at his fourth final table against three first-time finalists, making him a clear favorite based on prior years’ performances. However, Ed had an impressive four-game unbeaten streak going (at his first WBC, no less) and Sceadeau had earned some laurels by coming in fifth in 2008. Jason, whom the record-book shows was in a “coached” game with the GM at the inaugural WBC tourney in 2002, was a bit of unknown quantity whose results had gradually been improving in recent years. The bidding for seat position had Dave in #1 (indigo) for ½ VP, Ed in #2 for no handicap, Jason in #3 (for 2 VP) and Sceadeau in #4 (for 1 VP). An unusual sequence of plays took the game went “out of the book” on the very first round as David started by taking Builder (to purchase a Construction Hut) and Ed, after buying a Small Market, punted by taking Prospector. This helped Dave to get off to a solid start as he picked up one of the two corn in the opening draw after Jason followed with Settler-Quarry instead of the usual Mayor, which Ed had anticipated.

As the game developed, Jason started well by taking an early Captain worth money and points, while Sceadeau and David scooped up roles with money on them. Sceadeau and Ed executed the game’s first trades on turn four (indigo and corn) but the big money didn’t start rolling in until turns five and six when Jason make two successive sugar trades and Sceadeau traded coffee. By this time Jason had already bought the first Harbor, and he seemed poised to do well. Ed and David expanded into tobacco, plus David had a Hacienda up and running with an eye to ramping up production quickly as the game went on.

Things began to change when Jason was unable to raise the cash for a Coffee Roaster when Sceadeau took Builder on two successive turns. David (with two manned quarries) was in excellent position to capitalize and improve his position by expanding into sugar and indigo (to go with corn and tobacco). Both Jason and Sceadeau let a $2 Prospector reach David, who managed to keep his building costs low with those quarries. Despite being short on colonists for most of the game, Dave seemed to have them placed perfectly when the opportunity arose to build, or alternatively to produce, expertly shifting them to anticipate the upcoming role selections. Thus, while others may have made small mistakes, as David later observed, “nothing went wrong” and his strategy (starting with the Construction Hut, then adding the Hacienda) prevailed where it had come up short in earlier finals. This set him up for a strong finish as the pace of the game accelerated in the final few rounds.

Sceadeau, who had passed the first two building cycles, took the money from the initial coffee trade to purchase a factory and soon had four goods in production, generating steady cash flow to compensate for a lack of cost-reducing quarries. Meanwhile, David, as Governor on turn nine, gained even more of an edge by executing his first tobacco trade when the Trader had two bonus doubloons on offer. He continued to pinch his pennies, and the game was eventually his when he was able to raise the funds to purchase two large buildings in back-to-back game turns (the Guild Hall on turn 11 and the Residence on turn 12). Two turns and two builder phases later, he ended the game after having maxxed out his Guild Hall and Residence bonuses at 10 and 7 points, respectively. With David ahead by a wide margin, it was a very close battle for second place between Sceadeau and Ed, and a late game miscue by Sceadeau (taking Prospector when Craftsman would have netted him a better position on the tiebreaker) handed second place to Ed on the special “most colonists” tiebreak after the two were tied on the regular doubloons-plus-goods tiebreak. It marked the first time this tiebreaker has been used in elimination round play at WBC.

As for Jason, he had developed an excellent position for a shipping game (with the Harbor/Small Warehouse/Customs House combo) but the game simply did not last that long. Final scores (factoring in bids for seat position) were David 49.5, Ed 43, Sceadeau 43, Jason 36.

For those interested, the play-by-play of the final game can be accessed on-line as a Session Report at BoardGameGeek:

http://boardgamegeek.com/article/7425045

As in the past, there was some number-crunching done to see which starting positions did the best and which buildings were the most popular among game-winners. The trend favoring the two corn seats continued in 2011; however, the #1 indigo seat had a fairly good year as well. The fourth corn seat, which had generated the most wins in 2010, dropped to third in that category and barely outscored the #1 indigo. However, the negative trend for the less favored #2 indigo seat continued, with a scoring average and win percentage far below that of the other seats. Overall stats from 68 four-player games from this year’s tournament (adding up to a total of 70 wins because of the double winners in two heat three encounters) are as follows:

Seat 1 indigo 43.82 ppg 21 wins (30.0%)
Seat 2 indigo 42.04 ppg 11 wins (15.7%)
Seat 3 corn 45.19 ppg 23 wins (32.9%)
Seat 4 corn 44.07 ppg 15 wins (21.4%)

The same three buildings that have historically topped the list of most popular violet buildings in winning displays remained so, with a shift at the top. This year, the Harbor (40) outdid the Small Market (35) with the Factory (34) a close third. Least popular among game-winners were the University (4), Office (6), Large Warehouse (7), and after these three, tied at 10 – the Hospice and – a bit of a surprise – the Wharf. Most popular large building was, once again, the Guild Hall (28) followed by City Hall (23). The Fortress (12) was the least popular large building among game-winners.

In elimination round games with bidding, it was a good year for the #1 seat, which won 7 of 15 games while the worst was the #2 indigo, which won only one time, when 2004 Champ Barb Flaxington bucked the trend in the quarterfinal round. The quarterfinals saw the only game where the player with the higher raw score (Greg Thatcher) failed to register a win after subtracting out the bids. Here are the aggregate bidding stats based on 70 four-player games using the bidding system at WBC from 2006 through 2011, inclusive:

Seat 1 indigo 17 wins (24.3%) Average bid 0.39 Average winning bid 0.26 Highest winning bid 1.0 (2 wins)

Seat 2 indigo 13 wins (18.6%) Average bid 0.01 Average winning bid 0.00 Highest winning bid 0 (13 wins)

Seat 3 corn 16 wins (22.9%) Average bid 1.50 Average winning bid 1.47 Highest winning bid 2.5 (3 wins)

Seat 4 corn 24 wins (34.3%) Average bid 0.88 Average winning bid 0.79 Highest winning bid 1.5 (4 wins)

David’s win in the #1 seat means all four seating positions have won at least one final since the current bidding system was introduced in 2006; prior winners by seat position were #2 seat (Chris Moffa, 2006); #3 seat (Raphael Lehrer, 2007; Nick Page, 2008); #4 seat (Steve Pleva, 2009; Luke Koleszar, 2010), so the corn seats still have an edge although indigo is gaining ground.

This wraps up the first decade of WBC tournaments at WBC. The GM wishes to especially thank those who have helped manage the large numbers over the years, particularly current assistant GMs Barb, Dave and Malinda, as well as prior assistants Anne Norton and Stan Hilinski. I am thinking it’s time for a break, so don’t be surprised if there are some changes for next year.
 
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