Six for Six ...
Another Puerto Rico packed house at
the beginning ...
... yields GM John Weber's sixth Final
Strong attendance this year proved Puerto Rico was
still a popular event with WBC attendees, as a three-year decline
in overall attendance was reversed. There were a total of 23
games in the first heat, 20 in the second heat, and 15 in the
third heat. A total of 48 different players won at least one
game in the three heats, including one winner who came all the
way from Japan -- Hide Hisanaga. Four of the five prior WBC
champions elected to play, but none of them reached the final
table -- ensuring that there would be a sixth champion in as
random pairings in the initial heat produced some interesting
matchups. Defending champ Chris Moffa was paired with Eric Freeman,
one of his opponents in last year's Final. Chris established
a dominant shipping position to win the game by a whopping 18
points, 63-45, over Eric. (As it turned out, this would be Chris'
best game in the 2007 tournament as he failed to win another
game.) 2005 champ Bill Murdock, who missed last year's WBC,
drew Malinda Barnes (now Malinda Kyrkos), who was one of his
Final opponents.. This time Malinda was the winner, while Bill
could manage only third place. 2002 Champ Arthur Field also
suffered defeat, finishing a close second to Marc Berenbach.
Arthur's son, Davyd, fared better, taking first in a game in
which Malinda's dad, Barry Barnes, was second. Form held up
in several other games as 2004 Champ Barb Flaxington and 2004-05-06
runner-up David Platnick each won their initial tries.
The second heat produced six duplicate winners, as Sam Atabaki,
Mike Backstrom, Luke Koleszar, Malinda Kyrkos, Eric Monte, and
David Platnick each made it two wins in a row. David's second
win came in a rematch of last year's finalists, as he turned
the tables on 2006 Champ Chris Moffa who could do no better than
third (Davyd Field placed second in that game). Bill Murdock
continued to struggle, finishing second to Andres Dunn and, although
he managed a close second in his third and final heat, his performance
this year was only good enough for a coin flip for second alternate
spot -- which meant that Bill wound up on the outside looking
in as elimination round play got underway. Ditto for 2002 Champ
Arthur Field, who did manage to qualify for advancement with
a win in the third heat, but schedule conflicts prevented him
from continuing further.
Three tables of winners were paired together in the third
and final heat, and those games produced the first four semi-finalists
-- winners Bob Stribula, Davyd Field and Eric Freeman along with
runner-up David Platnick accepted byes into the 16-player semi-finals
based on their overall record of two wins and a 2nd in the three
preliminaries. At this point, with six other two-game winners
and 38 one-game winners, the remaining two-game winners were
asked to report to the quarterfinal round games. However, when
the names were called off for the quarterfinals, there were a
sufficient number of no-shows so the five two-game winners who
were present were offered byes on the spot. This turned out
to be hard luck for the sixth two-game winner, Luke Koleszar,
who missed out due to schedule conflicts but could have played
in the semis. The end result was that we had six tables of four
for the quarterfinals, which used bidding for seat position using
the same system that was instituted in the semis in 2006. Five
of the six quarterfinal games were won by a player who accepted
a handicap to start in one of the two corn seats. Bucking the
trend was 2004 champ Barb Flaxington, whose score of 69 VPs while
playing the "worst" #2 indigo seat was the highest
score ever recorded in any elimination round game at the WBC.
GM John Weber placed the other winners, with a 16-point adjusted
winning margin in one of the corn seats; this turned out to be
the second highest winning margin in any elimination round game
in WBC history. Robb Effinger, Eric Nielsen, Raphael Lehrer
and Brian Kowal advanced to the semis with wins as did the top
runner-up, Anthony Daw -- with Brian ending the reign of defending
champ Chris Moffa to leave Chris' wife, Barb, as the only ex-Champ
to reach the semi-finals.
The competition increased in the semi-finals, as nine of the
16 had yet to taste defeat. In a total reversal from the quarterfinals,
all four semi-final games were won by players who did not bid
for a corn seat and were willing to start with an indigo seat
for no handicap. Davyd Field registered the largest margin of
victory to reach the Final with a 7-point win over Sam Atabaki.
Malinda Kyrkos returned to the Final with a win over another
rival from that 2005 championship; David Platnick. This meant
David's streak of four straight WBC Puerto Rico plaques came
to an end when he finished last, behind Malinda and runner-up
Brian Kowal. Malinda edged out Brian by just three points, but
the other two semi-final games were even closer. Raphael Lehrer
ended the bid of the last remaining ex-champion, Barbara Flaxington.
Final scores (after bids) were Raphael 36, Barb 34 and Eric
32 1/2. The last semi-final to finish turned out to be the closest
of all, with all four players finishing within three points.
In the closest elimination round game to date, the winner was
none other than Malinda's husband, Vassili Kyrkos. GM and 2006
Finalist John Weber edged out Eric Nielsen for second on a tiebreak,
2 1/2 points back while the fourth player, Bob Stribula, was
another 1/2 behind the two of them. Barb Flaxington, who registered
the closest second place finish, was awarded the fifth place
plaque for the second year in a row.
After those close tussles in the semi-finals, the Final proved
anti-climatic. Raphael bid just 1/2 VP for the #3 corn seat while
Malinda got the #4 corn seat for free, and the two of them finished
one-two. Raphael secured an early corn trade and used that to
obtain a coffee monopoly that lasted most of the game. While
Raphael's coffee did wind up on a boat, he made sure to reserve
a spot on a slow mover while still putting himself in position
to make a couple of well-timed coffee trades. By this time,
the other players were playing catch up. Malinda and Vassili
developed tobacco while Davyd was content with sugar and indigo
while procuring three quarries. Raphael then secured a Harbor
and later a Wharf and pursued an aggrressive shipping strategy.
Malinda (who already bought a Factory) added a Harbor while
Vassili snapped up the second Wharf. Davyd bought a Factory
and pursed a building strategy, first buying the Guild Hall and
later following up with a second large building. Vassili did
alot of shipping but fell behind in building -- the converse
of Davyd -- and he was unable to obtain the needed funds when
the race was on to procure the last of the five large bonus buildings.
Malinda turned out to be Raphael's biggest rival as she secured
two large buildings late, but Raphael pinched his pennies and
secured one of the last remaining large bonus buildings, City
Hall, to cinch the win. Final scores (after taking bidding into
account) were Raphael 56.5, Malinda 51, Davyd 45, Vassili 41.
One interesting fact about the Final: None of the players bought
a warehouse to store their goods (Raphael bought one as his last
buy to earn points with the City Hall). Raphael also selected
the Craftsman role on four occasions -- something many Puerto
Rico experts generally advise against -- indicating that
each game is different and that the general rules often do not
apply to each specific situation.
Raphael managed to run through this year's tournament undefeated,
winning all four games he played -- including a win in the semis
over the player who eliminated him last year in the quarterfinals,
2004 Champ Barb Flaxington. Malinda and Vassili became the first
husband-wife duo to reach the Final together, and Malinda had
the foresight to designate Puerto Rico as her team game.
Malinda's second place finish was one spot higher than her third
place performance in the 2005 Final, and in 2007 she managed
to best both of the players (Bill Murdock and Dave Platnick)
who finished ahead of her back in 2005.
Statistics from this year's tournament showed a similar pattern
to prior years -- an overall advantage for the corn seats, which
averaged around two points per game higher than the two indigo
seats. In a slight departure from prior years, more wins (21)
were recorded by the #2 corn seat, followed by 18 for the #1
corn seat, 16 for the historically low-scoring #2 indigo seat,
with 14 wins for the #1 indigo seat. In the bidding that commenced
with the quarterfinals, the favored #1 corn seat went for 0.5
(five times in 11 games) to 2 (one time in 11 games) and the
#2 corn seat went for 0 (five times) to higher than 0.5 VP only
twice (once for 1 VP, once for 2 VPs). The statistics on the
most popular violet buildings in winning displays followed a
familiar pattern: Small Market first (44), followed by Harbor
(36) , then the Factory (32). The most popular bonus building
was the Guild Hall (31 times) followed by City Hall (20).
Running such a huge event would not be possible without good
help; the GM wishes to thank the official assistant GMs, Barb
Flaxington and Dave Platnick, as well as three others (Eric Freeman,
Jim Freeman and Greg Thatcher) who helped manage the very hectic
third heat when several groups of players had to be sent to a
separate room when space became tight in the main ballroom.
In addition, two past champions, Arthur Field and Barb Flaxington,
are to be commended for assisting in the demo for new players
by offering strategy tips in addition to the basic rules explanation.