Take Me Down to Paradrop City
El Grande held to its usual "early in the week"
schedule, with the goal of having the tournament completed by
Thursday afternoon, ahead of the weekend crush of Finals and
semi-finals. This year, 20 preliminary games generated no double
winners. Two qualifiers (Bryan Birkenstock and defending champ
Curt Collins) played all three heats, both finally getting their
needed win in the last heat . The highest winning score was a
125-point showing by JR Geronimo; the lowest, a 74 point squeaker
by Dominic Duchesne.
This WBC marked the first in this GM's experience of not having
enough people appear for the semi-finals. Even after tracking
down Rebecca Hebner, we were one short of the 25 slots, so one
game proceeded shorthanded with four players.
Not only did this year's semi-finals have six of the last
seven champions, but we have started to see the emergence of
unruly youths crashing the party. Both Yoni Weiss (who also qualified
for last year's semi-final) and Drew Duboff have played previously.
They obviously get their troublemaking tendencies from their
Two of the semi-finals generated a tie, both resorting to
the second tiebreaker to determine a winner. Four of the six
former champions advanced, with the fifth seat claimed by none
other than Drew, making him the youngest finalist in the tournament's
Since the GM and his assistant were both finalists, the note-taking
was pretty much non-existent, but hey, we do the best we can.
Drew did manage to get off to a lead with an early score card,
helped somewhat by Rob playing for position instead of points,
when he moved the king onto a region where Drew had sole control.
Jay Fox fell behind midway through the game, but caught up briefly
on a card that scored the 6s and 7s, then started to trail again
and was never quite able to close a 10-15 point gap in the scores.
In the midgame, Rob started to pull ahead, only in a relative
sense, since other scores were tightly grouped with the exception
of Jay. This led to some attacks on Rob's position, at one point
provoking a complete "retrenching" move wherein Rob
moved his Grande out of his original home territory (where he
was third) to New Castille, where he had no pieces at all, but
a large Castillo force waiting to pounce.
Meanwhile, Curt was playing exactly as one should in such
a tight game, building up position on the board in preparation
for the final scores. Rob still had the lead, but his previous
positions of firsts and seconds had dropped into measly thirds
while Curt had several firsts and seconds across the board. A
large buildup in the Castillo still had the chance to upset Curt's
comeback, but he did not choke and managed a win with a four-point
margin. In successfully defending his title, Curt became only
the second two-time champion.