First Ever Final of Champions
GM Ivan Lawson finds time to play
Sybil Buckwalter participates in one
of the four heats.
177 players ... let the culling
Dan Long and Devario Clinkscales
in an early heat.
For 2010, Lost Cities was firmly entrenched in the
Vista rooms for the heats, but the SE rounds remained in Paradise.
Participation bounced back after a hiccup last year to what will
probably be the average. One reason could be the elimination
of the Sat 9am heat. Evidently, there are few early bird explorers
at the con, and the night owls eschewed the chance for one more
quick game on their way to bed. Anyway, the first heat attracted
50 pairs, while the remaining three heats drew 37, 39 and 39
matchs, respectively. During the prelims, Sean Parker compiled
the only individual score over 300 (306), and used it to best
Henry Pfeiffer's tally of 242, yielding the highest combined
total of 548. This was the only combined score over 500 and was
one shy of the 2009 high score. As a reference, the highest combined
score in a competitive game with optimum draws would be 1772,
representing individual scores of 888 to 884. Each player would
place 22 of the 44 cards in play, creating two 11 card expeditions.
(The actual highest combined score after three hands would be
an 888 to 888 tie.) The lowest possible individual score of minus
1200 would never occur in a competitive game. Close brawls: Josh
Githens 217 over Kyle Greenwood 199, and Shannon Keating 211
over Andrew Sinigaglio 192. The closest defensive struggle was
posted by Jeff Meyer with 76 over Claire Brosius with 71. Nine
players scored zero or less. One of them, Alex Gesing scored
minus 16 in one heat and the third highest individual score (274)
in another. He would reach the playoff rounds as an alternate.
There were no four-heat winners. 13 players won three games,
including repeaters from last year - Claire Brosius, Lissa Rennert
and Sean McCullogh.
This year, after the heats, there were 32 qualifiers for the
SE rounds and nine top-ranked alternates, each of whom had at
least two wins. Due to no-shows, five alternates were admitted
to fill the first SE round. I record this data for two reasons,
besides general information: 1) Every year I am asked to predict
the number of wins needed to advance. You will never hear me
say that one must have two wins to advance, (even though 2010
marks the third consecutive year that only players with two or
more wins have advanced). While two wins are the current trend,
players with less than two have advanced in previous years. 2)
This piggybacks on the first reason and addresses alternates.
Since 2005, there has only been one year in which I have not
needed to advance alternates, so, to answer another perennial
question, please check back, because I will fill the bracket
and revive the fallen rather than grant a bye. It's always exciting
to have former champions advance as it lends added legitimacy
and buzz to the SE rounds, but, unlike last year, only Rebecca
Hebner and Sean McCulloch were available to qualify. Only Rebecca
and Sean ... yeah. In the early SE rounds, one noteworthy game
between players who will remain anonymous featured a combined
total of 27 attempted expeditions. As LST players know, 30 is
the max number of possible expeditions in a game - five per side
per hand, and risky business to pursue. Usually, players will
avoid or play defense against an expedition in a color that their
opponents have started. In this contest, the players directly
competed for the same cards in 13 expeditions. Eric ... er, one
player started all five expeditions in each of his three hands.
(channel Bullwinkle for the next line) This is commonly referred
to as the "shotgun method," although it requires the
complete play of the cards to determine whether the shotgun was
pointed at your opponent or at your own head. Of the 27 funded
expeditions, nine were evidently NOT too big to fail, yielding
negative or zero scores. The round of eight contained two returning
players from last year - Richard Fetzer and Rebecca. After three
SE rounds, four players had advanced to the semis: Joe Yaure,
Kevin Wojtaszczyk, Rebecca and Sean. In the end, defending champion,
Rebecca, and former champion, Sean, faced each other in a Final
between champions for the first time. Their game was extremely
close throughout with scoring driven by expeditions with bonuses.
Sean had one rare expedition that earned a bonus without a handshake.
He played eight of the nine numbered white cards, and scored
a final total of 45. (As an off-season brain teaser, I'll let
you figure out which numbered card was not played.) Sean led
after the first hand 35 to 28, but Rebecca took the lead 127
to 124 after the second hand. In the final hand, Sean's bonus
expedition was better than Rebecca's, narrowly earning him his
second title by a score of 175 to 170. In order to illustrate
the impact of the bonuses on their game, the score after three
hands would have been a 44 all tie without the four expeditions
scoring bonuses. The game for third was close enough with Joe
prevailing 95 to 72 over Kevin.
See you next year, and bring your Lost Cities game; games
like to travel, too.
Kevin loses the play-off for third
Defending champ Rebecca admits Sean
to the two-time champ club.