On the Wednesday night of WBC 2019, an improved tally of 283 gamers arrived in the ballroom to enjoy the 14th running of the Can’t Stop tournament (Though officially 282 since someone didn’t sign in and I didn’t have 5 hours to sort through the scoresheets and cross reference for a single entrant). With the assistance of Duncan McGregor and a wonderful person whose name I forget we got people signed in and going quite efficiently. We also continued the idea of beginning play at 10:30 for those who were there already and thus had a steady line from 10:30-11:15 rather than a mad rush at 11. We also debuted a new method for the second round, as my wife set up camp on the stage and first round winners could be sent to her for second round pairings freeing up your humble GM to focus on ensuring the first round kept moving along. Many thanks to Sara for that, and I am now taking ideas for what costume she can wear next year as part of the GM team.
The primary objective in the first two rounds remains to let the non-winners get to bed (or werewolf) as soon as we can, at the sacrifice of a few early semifinalists having a significant wait between rounds two and three. Many thanks to those who clearly marked they were not advancing, and with magical numbers, we eventually got down to a final 17. With the success of the event, 5 player semifinals are going to be a thing for the foreseeable future as a fifth round would add too much time to an already lengthy event.
Those 5 were the highly accomplished gamers Allan Jiang, Francois de Bellefeuille, Chris Gnech, Chris Trimmer, and Jeff Senley. I was worried with this group the game might be a tactical slugfest that would last forever, but Allan helped me out immensely by capping 6, 7, and 8 before I had barely got the other tables set up and running and thus made the 5 player game the quickest table of the round.
Semifinal #2 involved Alyssa Bernard, Eric Meader, Dalton Versack, and Jacob Wagner. Eric went quickly to dominate the GM prescribed tiebreakers by capping 11 and 12, but he was unable to finish a 3rd column as Alyssa got 2, 7, and 8 to book a ticket to the final.
Semifinal #3 was a tighter affair. Alex McNally, Frank Sinigaglio, Bruce Rae, and James Denam fought for a while. All managed to cap at least one column, and James tried hard to hit the tiebreaker as well with a 4 and 12 play. But in the end the simplicity of a 6, 7, 8 play from Alex was enough to get him through to play on the big board as well.
And then there was the returning challenger. After her run to the finals in 2018, Maria A. Traini was back again to contest a semifinal, this time against Jim Fleckenstein, Chris Long and Dylan Quintana. In this contest, Jim was able to get an early cap on a 5, but Maria, with the help of her personal advisor and cheerleader Rachel LaDue, overcame the early deficit and booked a ticket to the finals once again.
Many games at WBC are tests of skill. Many are tests of strategy. Others still emphasize a tactical game. Can’t Stop is all these things, but adds another element: Endurance. With the semi finals starting around 1am, the finals didn’t get going until almost 2. By this point, fatigue has started to set in for most players, and decisions get harder to make.
Perhaps as a result of this, the finals started off far less conservatively than previous years. Allan was determined to never stop and rolled a promising 6, 7, 8 combo but didn’t finish it off. Alex, Alyssa, and Maria all made a foray in the first round but all crapped out and we finished round 1 with zero pieces on the board.
Round 2 saw Alex try and get something going. He took a 7, 8, and 10 up the 8 column to 3 spots away from the top. Each of his competitors tried to match, but none could put even a mediocre turn together and Alex finished round 2 with the only pieces.
Round 3 was not the difference maker it had been in 2018. All players again crapped out early leaving only Alex’s pieces on the board after 3 rounds.
In round 4, Alex made limited progress by getting to 3 away from the 9s as well, while making small gains on 7 and 4. But the others still couldn’t get anything to stick and after 4 rounds, Alex’s 5 caps were still the only ones on the board.
At this point, frustration was beginning to set in for a few. We had played for nearly 20 minutes and accomplished very little. There was starting to be some talk from others about at least getting something on the board. That meant that 2 players took incredibly conservative round 5 moves. Alex rolled 5, 6, and 7 and moved a total of 7 spaces on those numbers, and Maria, desperate to not come last took 8, 7, 5 to 13 spaces total leaving her short of the halfway point on all those numbers.
In Round 6, things finally started to move. Alyssa’s luck turned and she rode a 10, 8, 7 to cap the 10 and be first to cap a column. She also got 3 away from the 7s with this roll and Alex responded by quickly capping his 8 while advancing slightly on 7 and 4. Ajay continued his cap or bust plays and Maria’s luck didn’t hold as she started to have conscience angel/devil advice from her cheerleader Rachel advocating aggression and Lynda Shea giving advice preaching patience and slow gains but in this round she crapped out quickly regardless of strategy.
For those of you remembering last year’s report, the 2018 final finished in 7 rounds, perhaps trying to get close to that, Alyssa stepped up and closed her 7s, giving her a second cap and Alex responded by finishing the 9s. Maria and Ajay still couldn’t get any traction and after 7 rounds, we had a clear fight for 1st, and a clear battle for who would get the last plaque in 3rd.
With the 10, 9, 8, and 7 all capped, round 8 was very anti-climatic. No one made any progress on the board and we finished the round in the same position with Alex being 3 up the 6s (that’s 7 from the top), Alex and Maria both being 5 away from the 5s, and Alex having a clear winning plan being 3 from the 4s while Alyssa sat only 4 away on the same track. Ajay, still had no pieces on the board.
Round 9 came and went with little fanfare as well. Maria, seeing no progress in her past 4 rounds stopped on 2, 6, and 12 after a single space on each. But that was better than anyone else did this round so, it did improve her position slightly.
Round 10 was a breakthrough for Alex. He got through on 4, 6, and 11 and got within one of capping the 4s and stopped there. The table erupted with opinions about his play, and it made sure that the other three players were targeting 4s as they took their turns, particularly for Alyssa as she had no other progress. Maria rolled a 12 and a few 5s to give her a play at other numbers, but saved her progress without yet capping anything.
In round 11, Allan’s “Roll Till I Cap” strategy finally came home with 3 successive 2s, and he got his first cap, locking in 3rd place overtop of Maria for the last plaque. Alyssa tried in vain for her 4 4s, but crapped out after 2 of them and then Alex stepped up and nailed his last 4 for a victory. Second year in a row that the Can’t Stop title has gone to an under 18 year old, but really by that point, we were all just looking forward to seeing our beds.
Congratulations to all the finalists, and my sincere appreciation for everyone who showed up to play. I continue to believe that this is one of the best late night games, and I really appreciate everyone coming out and having a good time with it.
Those of you that have read my event reports over the past few years have seen that there has been a trend in the data. Players have focused on the higher of equivalent values every year. After three years, we had a sample of nearly 250 games that showed this fairly conclusively. I assume that this year’s players studied up on that trend and were able to put it to their advantage as the opposite was true. In all but 3 vs 11 the LOWER value was equal or better. Must show that it pays to study up on recent trends before venturing into the strategic quagmire that is Can’t Stop.
This year’s data (89 games):
- 2 was used by 33% of winners (+14% over last year)
- 3 was used by 8% of winners (-12% over last year)
- 4 was used by 27% of winners (+12% over last year)
- 5 was used by 29% of winners (+8% over last year)
- 6 was used by 39% of winners (+8% over last year)
- 7 was used by 40% of winners (-14% over last year)
- 8 was used by 39% of winners (+2% over last year)
- 9 was used by 19% of winners (-16% over last year)
- 10 was used by 26% of winners (-3% over last year)
- 11 was used by 13% of winners (+2% over last year)
- 12 was used by 26% of winners (-3% over last year)
I aggregated the 4 years of data collected now, and saw another interesting trend. While there is still a mild bias towards the top numbers across the board, there is an even bigger piece of datascgremlinaffffffffff that suggests the 3 and 11 tracks are very infrequently used. 2, 4, 5, 9, 10, 12 are all used 22-27% of the time. The 6, 7, 8 are used 38-45% of the times. But the 3 and 11 are only used 14% and 15% of the time respectively. Is that a result of a misbalance in the game or a bias of the players? More research is required to find out.
Thanks to everyone who came out this year, a continued special shout out to those who never stopped, and we’ll see you all again next year!