once more behind the sand dunes
The AFK tournament equaled last year's record of 29 entrants,
thanks in part to the free form scheduling format for the first
and subsequent rounds, but also because of the AFK demo at Café
Jay run by GM Jonathan Lockwood, which drew eight new players
into the tournament! Expectations are high for a new record attendance
next year with the influx of new players and the (hopeful) return
of others. Surprisingly, the Germans had the majority of victories
this year, winning 18 matches to the British 10, although that
would make little difference to the eventual champion.
Round 1 saw the highest proportion of German victories (12
to 3), as most of the newcomers fell to more experienced German
players. First round survivors included two-time champion Bruno
Sinigaglio, Vince Meconi, GM Jonathan Lockwood, 2001 champion
Lane Newbury, Robert Hahn, James R Tracy, newcomer Raymond Woloszyn,
2000 champion Randy Heller, two-time champion Gregory Smith,
Kevin Hacker, Tom Shaw, Warren Day, Patrick Mirk, and Victor
F Hogen Jr.
Round 2 saw the victories dramatically even out, with a German
margin of four victories to the British three. It also witnessed
the most stunning upset of the tournament, as Raymond Woloszyn
proved he was no fluke by defeating number one seed Randy Heller
with a stubborn and competent British defense. Other matches
saw Sinigaglio (Br) defeat Hacker (Ge), Meconi (Br) defeat Shaw
(Ge), Lockwood (Ge) defeat Hogen (Br), Newbury (Ge) defeat Day,
Hahn (Ge) defeat Mirk (Br), and Tracy (Ge) defeat Gregory Smith
(Br) in the round's other significant upset.
In Round 3, the play balance continued to swing in favor of
the British, as Lockwood scored the only German victory over
Raymond Woloszyn, who was forced to concede following the failure
of a high-risk 1-1 surrounded counterattack with several soakoffs
on 21/5 near Alexandria. Sinigaglio (Br) defeated Tracy (Ge)
in the round's longest and most unusual match, which featured
Sinigaglio breaking out of Tobruch and driving a huge salient
into the German position, effectively splitting the Afrika Korps
in two and forcing Tracy to expend too much time reducing the
"bulge." Vince Meconi (Br) defeated Robert Hahn (Ge)
who would go on to finish 5th in his best showing to date. Defending
champ Lane Newbury advanced to the semifinals on a bye.
The semifinals saw the defeat of last year's tournament finalists,
as Sinigaglio (Ge) defeated Newbury (Br) when Bruno capitalized
on a British tactical misplacement to seize Tobruch, then methodically
battered his way into Alexandria by early 1942. Meconi relied
on solid conservative play as the British to defeat Lockwood's
Germans, as supply shortages first forced Lockwood to attack
Tobruch and take it with heavy losses, then compelled the Afrika
Korps surrender when no further supplies arrived.
The championship match featured two players who have known
and played each other since 1967! Sinigaglio's Germans faced
critical supply shortages early on, leading Bruno to employ "The
Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch" (1-1 attack against Tobruch)
in August 1941 in a desperate bid to retrieve the situation.
The attack failed, and Vince Meconi earned his first Afrika Korps
wood with one German and four British victories, a tribute to
his careful calculating defense.