Still Short of the Mark ...
Nicola Bradford and Eric Cheatham
A clever multi-player chess
clock does wonders.
Admittedly, Tikal reached a new low in attendance in
2011, probably due to the introduction of chess clocks. But more
on that later. This official write-up of TIKAL, this GM's eighth,
will be broken down into four distinct areas: Demonstration and
Chess Clocks, Initial Heats and Scheduling, the semi-finals,
and the Final, complete with strategy tips.
Demonstration and Chess Clocks: Let us start off with
the Demonstration activity, scheduled right before the first
heat at 1 o'clock on a Friday. As usual, there was an enthusiastic
turnout despite the game's age, with about a dozen newbies seeking
to learn their ways through the jungles of Central America. Tikal,
like many Euros, is easy to learn and difficult to master. It
can be taught in ten minutes, which allows for a sample game
to be played up through the first scoring round in the allotted
To play, a player places a tile, and then allocates ten Action
Points (APs) in his turn as he sees fit on the map board. Scoring
is also simple: In a scoring round, (four in the game), each
player receives the usual ten action points, without the tile
placement, and then they score. The last scoring round is done
in reverse order, meaning whoever is in last place at the final
scoring round gets to go first in the last scoring round, often
The WBC version uses the bidding rules of the game in which
players bid on the right to choose the tile they place, some
tiles having more perceived value to one player than another.
Bidding provides more strategy to the game, and also prevents
the ubiquitous whining about poor tile selection. Bidding also
allows a player to go last in one round, and then first in the
next, allowing them, in effect, 20 action points in a row, something
that actually happened in the Final. Don't forget in bidding:
A bid of "0", or a pass, while potentially allowing
a player the right to choose and play a tile, prevents a player
from re-entering the bidding in this round. (In other words,
you cannot bid 0, and then jump back into the current bid.)
Introduced this year for the first time were multi-player
chess clocks, designed in Europe for use with Euros. One of the
strong criticisms of Tikal is the analysis paralysis problem,
whereby a player, or players, spends far too much time analyzing
the board searching for the perfect move. Determined to meet
this problem, the GM introduced the chess clocks (cubes, actually!),
which while intimidating at first, are remarkable easy to use.
If you'd like information about these fantastic 6-player chess
cubes, feel free to contact the GM or search The DGT Cube on-line.
... its worth a look.
Initial Heats and Scheduling: There were three heats
scheduled for the game, and the general rule is win one and you're
in! Social Tikal should be a 90-minute game, and through
the use of clocks, the GM allowed exactly two hours for each
round. As a result, all of the games were finished in less than
The Friday morning heat had five games, the afternoon heat
had six, and the Saturday evening heat had only three games.
Most heats used 4-player games if possible. Heats were scored
on cards, with each individual disclosing his final score, finish
place, and reserve pieces for a tie-breaker. This information
would be used to move on to the semis.
The semi-finals: With 14 individual heat winners, the
potential arose for semis scheduling that definitely included
some alternates. Exactly 16 people appeared for the semis on
time, including two alternates. Since everyone was by this time
familiar with the chess clocks, there was no need to explain
their use. From a scoring perspective, none of the semi-finals
was that close, with John Min winning the first table, Greg Thatcher
the second, Randy Buehler the third, and Jack Jaeger taking the
fourth. Due to a prior scheduling conflict, Randy was unable
to attend the Final, so the runner-up at his table, Kevin Broh-Kahn,
took his place.
The Final: The qualifiers all appeared on time Sunday
morning at 9. After the first volcano, it was still a close game,
with John in the lead at 27, followed by Kevin at 26, Jack at
23 and Greg at 22. Could John hold on to his precarious lead?
Before the second volcano, something strange happened: Kevin
was now in first at 22, John at 20, Greg down to 17, but Jack
had bid himself down to 9. In all his history, this GM has never
seen a score that low! How could Jack dig himself out of such
Well, quite easily, as it turned out. Jack scored 26 points
on the second volcano, compared to 16 for the two leaders and
21 for Greg. So surprisingly, after the second volcano, the scores
were remarkably close: 38; 38; 38 and 35. After that, Jack's
obvious investment started to pay off handsomely, as he scored
34 points for the third volcano, simultaneously moving from last
to first with 68 points. After that, it was academic accounting;
as new leader Jack nailed an astounding 48 points on the last
round, scoring 113 points, well over the runner-up, Greg with
100. Kevin came in third with 95 and poor John, the original
leader, brought up the rear with 74 points.
All in all, Tikal 2011 can be judged a success, based
on the number of players (although slightly lower than recent
years), the quality of the competition (intense, as usual) and
the introduction of the chess clocks, which have to be called
a success. The quality of play if not bidding at the Final was
as crazy as any game I have ever seen, but when it was over,
the four finalists shook hands, knowing full well that they would
probably meet again at some future tournament. Next year, with
the anxiety of the chess clocks out of the way, the tournament
easily has the potential to attract over 50 participants again.
So we'll see you at Tikal 2012, if it gets voted back
in! Vote early!
Andrew Emerick, Ian Streeb and Roni
Jack Jaeger, Barb Flaxington,
Rob Flowers and Jarett Weintraub