Still learning the ropes ...
is a delicious irony at work in the candid photo of this year's
Mexica final. There are five of us seated at the table; Arthur
Field in the lower left, Mario Lanza in the upper left, me at
the center, Jack Jaeger in the upper right and Daniel Broh-Kahn
in the lower right. You'll notice that Arthur and Jack are shaking
hands diagonally across the table, smiling as though they've
been buddies since grade school. Daniel and myself are adding
a similar smile to the proceedings. Only Mario, the eventual
winner, is all business, glaring down at the board and preparing
to make a move. The irony involved is that the hand-shakers were
more or less at each othe's throats all game; trading pointed
remarks, akin to "Your mother wears Army boots." There
were actually a few remarks spread out over the course of that
final game that were considerably more heated than that, but
it was all (I was told by the combatants) in good fun.
This was, if nothing else, a hard fought battle, featuring
the same "mano a mano" struggle between last year's
first (Arthur) and second-place (Mario) finishers. It was a final
characterized by defense. Each competitor was keenly aware of
their opponents' abilities and moved as much to block and frustrate
opponents' moves as they did in solidifying their own positions.
With his victory from last year painting the target on his back,
Arthur had to contend with three players who were more or less
playing first, to beat him, and then, to win the game. Mario's
103 victory, though demonstrating his obvious skill at this game,
owed a lot to Dan and Jack's (and his own) added effort to block
Arthur. Daniel Broh-Kahn (Tikal's GM) finished in 2nd
place with 95. Arthur had to settle for third with 93. Jack Jaeger
finished with 85.
The event played host to 23 players, down slightly from last
year's 29. In all, there were 13 games played (16 last year),
nine in three preliminary heats, three in the semi-finals and,
of course, the one final.
The average score, among the 49 recorded was 91, with a high
of 132 (Charles Davis, who was unavailable for play in the semi-finals
or the finals) and a low of 45 (scored, I'm embarrassed to admit,
by me; long story, involving an "out of the box" strategy
that backfired). The average winning score was the same as Mario,'s
winning score in the final - 103. The lowest score recorded in
a victory was 91 points (Sybil Buckwalter in Round 3; the average
score in that game was 83 points.). Second-place finishers scored
95 points, on average, while all of the losing scores combined
averaged out to 86 points. Oddly enough, that losers' average
matched the scoring average of the "final four's" matches,
indicating that as the competition heated up, the overall scoring
went down. The average climbed eight points in the finals, to
94, but that was still nine behind the average winning score
of 103. The average lowest score in the 13 games was 79 points
(if you drop my low score out of that mix, the average jumps
The average score of the winners (103), set against the overall
average of scores (91) and the average of all losing scores (86)
was indicative of a broad range of skills competing in this year's
tournament. It was, in other words, not all about high caliber
players at work in the stratosphere of Mexica strategy and tactics.
It was also about people like me, who averaged 72 points a game.
It was also, I am delighted to report, about families in competition
with each other. There were the Broh-Kahns with dad Dan, son
Kevin and daughter, Rebecca, who faced off against each other
in the second round. . There were the Foxes with dad Richard
and sons, Michael and Jonathan. And, of course, the ubiquitous
Fields, represented by dad Arthur and daughter, Allyson, who,
though determined to beat her dad this year after being beaten
by him in last year's final, fell a little short.
My thanks to Arthur Field for assisting me with my GM duties;
pointing me in the right direction when necessary and tolerant
of my occasional ,"unfocused" moments. My thanks, as
well, to Dan Broh-Kahn, who, as GM for Tikal, was cooperative
in a schedule shift that allowed two of his Tikal finalists
and himself to play in the Mexica finals. At the close
of Mexica's semi-final matches, near midnight on Saturday,
the finalists were facing a 9 o'clock start for both Tikal
and Mexica. They chose, among a number of options, to
play at 7 a.m. on Sunday. Dan brought the coffee, a big thermos
of it, for which we were all eternally grateful. With such an
early start, the Mexica finalists decided to play their
game in an unscheduled location, which ultimately bumped into
the finals for Puerto Rico and San Juan. The table
on which the Mexica final was being played had to be physically
moved, board and all, into another room before it concluded.
At that point, Arthur and Jon (the "at each other's throats"
couple) settled into the Tikal finals, full of joy and
camaraderie at the prospect of facing each other across yet another
gaming table. Don't know how that one turned out, but I'll bet
it was fun to watch.
We'd like to see Mexica's numbers grow in the year
ahead. It is certainly deserving of more competitors than the
52 that have played over the past two years. Anyone with ideas
about how to help accomplish this should feel free to touch base
with me. Maybe a 60-second commercial on World News Tonight?