its age already?
Sadly, el Grande might be starting to show its age,
as conflicts with Taj Mahal, Carcassone, Princes of Florence
and Ra dropped attendance to lower (pre-heat) levels.
Players have gotten more experienced, however, as most rounds
finished in a lot less than the three-hour timeslot.
The two heats were uneventful, with Jay Fox and Barb Flaxington
turning in two impressive showings each. There was one game in
which nine points separated five players, and another in which
seven points separated four players.
Unfortunately, the Semi-Final No Show Problem reared its ugly
head - perhaps people bailed to play the ubiquitous Puerto
Rico. Five of the 25 slots went begging, allowing the runnerup
at one of the four boards to advance to the finals. Gary Presser
took 6th place by virtue of an unplayed card tiebreaker; in El
Grande, percent of score is not useful, as some games are
higher scoring than others (and thus disadvantaged) simply by
which cards come up. In one semifinal, former champion Jason
Levine eschewed a quick 7-point sole score in round 1, commenting
that he did not want to be an early leader. He overcame his shyness,
however soon enough, and by round 3 had a lead that would never
be challenged. Each of the other players had to slam a competitor
to catch Jason, and the mutual slamming of the trailers prevented
In the finals, it looked like the same pattern would emerge,
however the players through shrewd calculation were able to keep
Jason in striking distance. Mark Guttag's pieces-on-the-board
strategy paid off, as he eclipsed Jason only during the final
scoring round and emerged the winner by a proverbial nose in
Previous years' statistics
are not available, however the player going first won an alarming
eight of 16 games, and finished second for more times. Hopefully,
this is a fluke result; while the first player can have a significant
advantage in rare circumstances, the number of opponents and
length of the game give the other players time to bury an early
leader (as a former champion of the game can verify).
Outside commitments have forced this GM to give up the reins
to another dedicated person. Perhaps they can, or must, adopt
a 2-hour time slot to help reduce conflicts with newer, more