Still Hard Going for Laurelists
Defending champion Greg Thatcher looked
spiffy in his El Grande Centurion shirt but was stopped
in the Final.
The Finalists at work as GM Rob Flowers
records the Final for posterity.
It has been ten years since El Grande made its appearance
at the WBC, and the event has yet to see a repeat champion. Would
this be the year?
The attendance appears to have settled down to a core group
of players who are not only experienced with the game, but just
love to play. Over a quarter of the field played in at least
two of the three heats. Three players attended all three heats,
including David Burkey who scored a win in the last one to advance.
19 winners meant that six alternates would also get to advance
to the semi-finals, and for the first time since I have run the
event, there were no dropouts for the semi-final slots.
The final table had the two previous champs, Robb Effinger
and Greg Thatcher, as well as Geoff Pounder, who had placed third
in 2005. Marc Berenbach had never actually laureled in the event
before but he was a frequent tenant in the semi-finals. Tim Mossman
was a relative newcomer, but advanced to the semis with the strongest
record of 1st and 2nd place finishes in the first two heats.
Right off the bat, Greg used the King action to create a favorable
situation for Geoff to score the 6's and 7's. Geoff took the
score, putting him at 14 points and Greg at 13, with the rest
trailing behind. In Turn 2, Tim used a Score the 5's card to
catch up to them, while Robb and Marc still trailed. Robb placed
the 8/4/0 mobile scoreboard on Greg's home territory (Valencia),
where he was already tied with Robb with one caballero each.
During the first scoring round, everyone avoided Valencia
when placing their pieces from the Castillo. Only Marc and Robb
succeeded in scoring their Grandes. Greg had been beat on a bit,
but still scored well enough to place him in first with 36 points.
Robb was in second with 31, and the others were within 5 points
In Turn 4, Tim scored New Castile, putting both Tim and Geoff
within three points of the lead; Marc still trailed by nine.
Turn 5 saw Tim execute the "Dial-a-Score" card, which
helped Tim somewhat but helped Greg a lot more. Greg again opened
his lead to five points over Robb, while the overall spread was
now 12 points.
Meanwhile, Geoff had been strengthening his board position
while other players were attacking the leaders. When it came
to the second round of scoring, Geoff scored in seven of the
ten regions (including a third in the Castillo) and was the only
player to get points for his Grande, while Greg only scored in
three regions and Robb in four. Geoff tied Greg for the lead
at 60, although the players were all within four points.
In Turn 7, Geoff spent his 13 to grab a scoring card, adding
eight points to his score while not helping Greg. Marc was a
beneficiary, getting four points to barely put him into second.
Midway though Turn 8, Geoff picked up a Veto card, which gave
him tremendous leverage to protect his lead throughout the rest
of the game. He used this to good effect in Turn 9, influencing
Tim's move of the King, which finally went to New Castile to
protect Tim's first place there. Unfortunately, this created
a situation where Geoff was able to score Old Castile once again,
getting him another eight points and putting him 11 ahead. Geoff
had the lowest scoring in the third scoring round, but his lead
was too much to overcome.
Unlike the previous two years, scoring cards did not play
a dominant role. In fact, five scoring cards were taken by players
and NOT executed. Still, Geoff managed to score about 10 points
more than anyone else through scoring cards. He also managed
to get points from his Grande five times, while no one else did
the trick more than twice.
This year we played with a new rule whereby partial Vetoes
of actions are not allowed. This simplified the rule and speeded
up games. Next year I think I'll revisit the issue with the various
differently worded cards in the 2 stack regarding "fellow
players" versus "each player", to help reduce
questions on that issue.
As with last year, I have a play by play record of the Final
in Excel format, should anyone be interested.