Why do you win Ian?
“Because I play chess a lot,” says Ian moments after rolling a Rook 5 to defeat Trevor Schoenen in the MetaCheckers final. Ian had been able to get an attacking piece into Trevor’s back row, where the king could not escape.
Ian’s dad, Craig, disagrees. "He's had a lot of luck," Craig says. "He is a risk taker."
Earlier in the final, Ian had taken a big risk in an attack. He sent his king checker into Trevor’s back row and luckily Trevor’s knight roll was not enough to capture the king.
Ian then pulled his king checker back to relative safety and later attacked with a different piece. Two days earlier, Ian had defeated Rita Polcen to win the first Juniors tournament of MetaCheckers by achieving numerical superiority and cornering her solo king, winning with a Queen 2. Ian is the first juniors player to win the MetaCheckers tournament.
In its third year at the World Boardgaming Championships, the strategies of MetaCheckers have become more sophisticated. In MetaCheckers, checkers move like chess pieces based on a roll of special dice. One die has chess symbols. The other has standard pips to indicate numbers. Roll a king, pawn or knight, and the player can choose any checker to move as a king, pawn or knight. Roll a queen, rook or bishop, and the numbers die dictates how far a piece must move as a queen, rook or bishop. Players use these moves to try to capture the opponent’s king checker.
Experienced players have learned a conservative strategy is best. The player who goes on offense with constant attacks towards the king often loses pieces quickly and has no defense later in the game. Instead, players have developed other methods, such as a hit-and-run, where checkers attack and withdraw before they can be captured. Or they may try to swing the checkers from the wings into the center of the board, creating an extra-strong defensive shield reminiscent of the turtle used by the Roman armies.
In his first MetaCheckers tournament, Allan Jiang had advanced to second place in the third heat, mostly using a defensive strategy. He then won a playoff among second place finishers – against 2017 MetaCheckers champion Bradley Raszewski – to win a spot in the semi-finals.
But in the semi-final, Ian bulldozed into Allan’s defenses with a series of powerful rolls. Ian took advantage by attacking at Allan’s center. A Queen 6 attack put yet another checker next to Allan’s king. Allan rolled a pawn, leaving his king helpless. Ian rolled a Rook 6 to win the game and head into the finals.
Other highlights from the tournament:
- Trevor had defeated frequent MetaCheckers top finisher Mark Love in the third round of the first heat. “I had really good dice at the beginning and he had really bad dice,” Trevor says. “And that’s what put me up early in the game. My strategy was to attack and draw back. That put the onus on him to go after me.”
- In the first round of the second heat, Mark Love had lost all but 3 checkers to Steve Raszewski’s 8 checkers. But then Mark got to the front of Steve's king and won on a Rook 4.
- In the third round of the second heat, GM Ed Bond played against Bradley Raszewski. Bradley’s “Roman Turtle” strategy proved to be too much for Ed.
- In the next round of the second heat, Hein Hundal defeated Bradley to win that heat. Hein says, "We pecked at each other and he did not roll well." Hein got 2 pieces ahead. “Then I just was able to exchange pieces.” This whittled Bradley down to only his king, with Hein still having a half-dozen pieces. This forced Bradley to attack with his king checker, and Hein won on a knight roll.
- In the third heat, Bradley and Brian Mountford battled down to king vs. king, sparking the first “crushing walls” scenario in a MetaCheckers tournament. In the 2016 tournament, a draw had been improperly declared after players were left with only their kings and several moves without a result. “Crushing walls” had been created to avoid a draw in MetaCheckers.
In “crushing walls” the players with solo kings have 10 turns, and if a win has not occurred, the walls of the game would “crush” in on the board. To do this, the players would fold the edges of the cloth to cover the outer rows and columns of the board, creating a smaller 6×6 board. Any king caught in the now-covered outer squares of the board would be “crushed” and the opponent would win. If neither is caught in the crushing walls, the game would continue on the 6×6 board with each player given another 10 turns before the walls “crushed” again.
In their game, Brian captured Bradley’s king with a knight roll five turns into the crushing walls scenario.
In addition to copies of MetaCheckers for the top finishers, the top 3 also received custom-made prizes. Ian won a MetaCheckers dice tower, which had been laser-cut from birchwood. Trevor won a MetaCheckers dice cup and third place finisher Hein Hundal won a set of MetaCheckers coasters, which include the WBC logo on the reverse side.
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