The Twilight Struggle tournament moved to a new day, shifting to Monday from its past Friday slot. The move did not affect participation, with 56 contestants (down 2 from last year). The field was very strong, an observation made by a number of the participants. This meant that there were a lot of tough matches, event in early rounds.
As usual, the tournament employed a modified swiss format, with rounds continuing until only one undefeated player remained. Typically, this results in the last two undefeated players playing for the championship, at which point swiss play ends. But if only three end up undefeated, a random eliminator is used to play one of the undefeated players, making it possible that, if the eliminator wins, that is the final round. Many players took advantage of the option to play all five rounds of the swiss format, with 5 players finishing 4-1.
The tournament is played with the Deluxe Edition, including the optional cards. In addition, for balancing purposes, the US received 2 influence that could be added to any location that already had US influence. Players were also required to switch sides each round. This approach meant that players had to be capable of playing both sides well in order to have a good record.
A total of 69 games were played, with the USSR winning 36, the US taking 32, and one tie. Among the players who finished 4-1 or better, the results were essentially even. Given the results, the adjustments used appears to produce a very balanced game and will likely be used next year. Interestingly, few games made it to final scoring, even though the overall results were relatively balanced.
After four rounds, only three undefeated players remained: Tony Russo, last year’s champion, David Stengle, and Owen Kyrollos. As a result, a random opponent from among the 3-1 players was chosen to serve as a potential eliminator. In this case, the random addition was Paul Sampson. Since he had one loss, Paul could not win the tournament, but he could give a loss to one of the undefeated players.
In the match between Owen and Paul, Owen played the USSR. The US started off strong in the Middle East, helped by play of containment on the first turn. The Russians countered with a successful coup of Italy. Both sides contested Asia, with the China card changing hands on both the first two turns. During mid-war, Russians gained a strong position in Central America, and managed to score it to push the victory point advantage to 16 going into late war. But the US had managed to gain elsewhere. Soviets were unable to get into South America, which eventually gave the US a lot of victory points. The US was also able to break Poland and gain domination of Europe. In the end, the US dominated or controlled every region, coming back from a significant deficit.
Owen’s defeat meant that the match between Tony and Dave would decide the overall winner. Tony had a tough set of matchups getting to the final, defeating two previous champions, Chris Byrd and Michael Patnik. Tony drew USSR for the finals. Early war, USSR was able to build domination in Asia (until it was broken by Brush War in Thailand and overrunning South Korea). Meanwhile, David was able to build up a double digit point lead by Turn 4 and play into the other midwar regions. By turn 5, the US had control of Africa, but a timely realignment of Nigeria kept the US from scoring it (which would have given Tony the win. At this point, USSR drew a good string of cards and die rolls, managing to eliminate an 18 VP US lead and push the Russians into the lead. Turn 10 saw the USSR draw 8 USA events. But Tony managed to hold on by surviving last minute attempts at realignment that would have given David the game.
Congratulations to Tony for a well-deserved win and a repeat championship.