A total of 42 players entered the 2021 Thurn & Taxis play by email tournament. With 22 unique first-round winners, it took a win and a second to qualify for the 21-player semifinal round. Three of the first-round winners had a perfect four wins: AJ Jiang, Andrew Emerick, and Debra Seltzer LeWinter. Three others had three first-round wins: Steven LeWinter, assistant GM Chris Wildes, and Alex Bove. Of those six, AJ, Andrew, and Chris would go on to the four-player final, joined by first-round double-winner DJ Borton.
In the final, DJ started the first round by picking up Innsbruck and Augsburg, playing Innsbruck. Andrew followed by taking one of two available Ulm cards and a card off the top of the deck and starting his route in Ulm. AJ took two off of the deck, laying down a Nurnberg while Chris took the second Ulm and a connecting Ingolstadt. Over the next several turns DJ and AJ completed three-card routes on turn three, while Andrew and Chris attempted to build longer first routes. Andrew succeeded in completing an Ulm-Stuttgart-Wurzburg-Mannheim-Carlsruhe route on turn four to pick up the 2-point chip for a five-length route, but Chris failed to extend an Ulm-Ingolstadt-Munchen-Innsbruck route and settled for a four-length route and three house placements.
AJ spent the next four turns completing short three-card routes and utilizing the Cartwright to take an early lead in the carriage race, while DJ completed a Budweis-Linz-Passau second route to remain on a three-carriage. Chris completed a Basel-Zurich-Kempten route, placing two houses in the light-blue region and taking the three-point blue chip. Andrew’s second route placed four houses in Baiern (Kempten-Augsburg-Ingolstadt-Munchen) setting up a potential future play to complete the white region.
As the deck emptied for the first time, it became clear that the second trip through the deck would be missing several key cards. DJ had a Lodz-Pilsen route in play with Nurnberg and Stuttgart in hand, but only one copy of Sigmaringen was included in the reshuffle. Andrew and AJ each had a Pilsen in hand, but the remaining two Lodz cards were in Chris’s hand, both having been drawn from the top of the deck. This all meant it was unlikely that someone would score an early all-province bonus and set up a defensive game of card denial. It also resulted in higher than expected use of the Administrator, beginning in round 10 when each player used the card flush ability in successive turns.
Over the next several turns, DJ completed two five-length routes picking up the 1-point chip for a five-route and completing the red and orange regions for 4 more points. Andrew found Lodz to pair with his Pilsen and completed a six-length route, but still needed Sigmaringen and Innsbruck. AJ started a route with Budweis-Linz, but picked up several connecting white cards and ultimately closed an eight-length route placing houses in Passau, Munchen, Augsburg, Ingolstadt, and Regensburg. This left him one house shy of completing the white region, with the needed Nurnberg card already in hand. Chris had closed two short routes (Budweis-Linz-Passau and Mannheim-Wurzburg-Stuttgart) and picked up the 3-point green chip.
At the start of turn 14, four points separated all four players, and no player had yet achieved the all-province bonus. DJ still sought a copy of Sigmaringen, but had Freiburg and Basel in hand. Andrew also needed Sigmaringen as well as Innsbruck, but had a Zurich-Kempten route in play. AJ was looking for Pilsen and Lodz with Nurnberg and Stuttgart in hand. Chris had only a single Lodz in hand, having carried it since turn four, and needed to find a Pilsen. AJ had a six-carriage, with everyone else on a five-carriage and no one threatening to end the game via house placement.
As a result of both defensive play and players needing specific cards, the Administrator was used seven times over the final four turns. DJ found Sigmaringen and completed a Basel-Freiburg-Sigmaringen route to get the 6-point all-province bonus as well as the 2-point green and blue chips to finish with 17 points. Andrew flushed the card pool three times in a row but eventually found what he needed to complete an Augsberg-Ulm-Sigmaringen-Zurich-Kempten-Innsbruck-Salzburg route. He scored the 5-point all-province bonus, a six-carriage, and the 3-point seven-route chip, resulting in a final score of 14. Chris closed a Lodz-Pilsen-Regensburg-Nurnberg route with the cartwright to pick up a six-carriage and the 3-point all-province bonus, ending the game with 12 points.
As the only person to avoid using the Administrator in the endgame, AJ efficiently picked up the cards he needed and built a full seven-card route. He finished the white region (five points) he had set up earlier as well as picking up points for all-provinces (four), the purple region (three), a seven-route (two), the seven-carriage (three), and ending the game (one). His twenty-three point final route gave him a ten-point margin over DJ and a first-place finish in the final.
- AJ Jiang (27)
- DJ Borton (17)
- Andrew Emerick (14)
- Chris Wildes (12)
Thanks to Assistant GM Chris Wildes for the above recap of the final.
Some statistics for those interested in such data (although the sample size is small, and thus drawing conclusions is dangerous):
The most common way for games to end was through the 7-carriage. (33 of the 42 first-round games were ended this way). Of those who ended the game by taking the 7-carriage, 25 won their game, 6 came in second, and 2 came in third place. Of those games ended by placing the last house, 8 won and 1 came in second. The highest score in the first round was 32 (achieved by 3 winners). The lowest winning score was 16.
For the semifinal, the results were a bit more balanced. 19 of the games ended with the 7-carriage. Of those ending the game, 7 won, 5 came in second, and 7 came in third. Only 2 games ended by placing the last house, and both those players won their games. The high score was 27 (also achieved by three players) and the lowest winning score was 18.
I also took a look at seating position. Yucata randomizes starting position, so there is no opportunity to bid for position, even if we wanted to do so. In the first round, here were the results:
- Seat 1 – 14 wins
- Seat 2 – 13 wins
- Seat 3 – 8 wins
- Seat 4 – 7 wins
In the semifinal:
- Seat 1 – 3 wins
- Seat 2 – 10 wins
- Seat 3 – 4 wins
- Seat 4 – 4 wins
The final was won by the third seat.
- Seat 1 – 17 wins
- Seat 2 – 23 wins
- Seat 3 – 13 wins
- Seat 4 – 11 wins
These results approximately follow those seen in the live 2019 tournament, but as stated above, the sample size is small, making it less logical to draw conclusions.
- AJ Jiang
- DJ Borton
- Andrew Emerick
- Chris Wildes
- Dominic Blais
- Cary Morris
Next year, if I run this again, I will implement a different system for the final. The top six finishers in the semifinal will play in three games (1, 3, 4, 6 seeds, 1, 2, 5, 6 seeds, and 2, 3, 4, 5 seeds). That should help reduce some of the random chance from affecting the results, by making the winner the one who has the best record in two games. It also allows all six laurelists to compete. No system is perfect, but I figure I will give that one a try to see how it works out.