38 pilots took flight this year to compete for the honor of being named The Ace of Aces. An extra heat was added so pilots had more opportunities to find opponents and qualify for the finals. Both the handy rotary and the powerhouse editions were used throughout the tournament, and some of the players showed off other versions of the game to show the diversity of the system, although those books were not used.
20 of the 38 who took flight ended up submitting their flight logs for consideration on making the Final. The top six, and thus our Aces, ended up being (in order from first seed to sixth seed) David-John Pack, Bill Burtless, Richard Irving, Matt Chesnut, Jonathan Brown, and Valerie Chesnut. Regardless of the results, all six of these pilots have been named members of the Snoopy Squadron and received a patch to prove it! David-John Pack had an incredible record of 14-0-1 with an average of 4.87 points per game!
These six also are not shy to play the best of the best. 13 of Matt’s flights were against the eventual Finalists, 10 of Valerie’s flights, 10 of Richard’s flights, 7 of Bill’s flights, and 6 of both David-John’s and Jonathan’s flights. The Final Circus promises to be entertaining with such familiar foes!
There were a lot of memories created during the heats. From the joy (or horror!) of discovering the results of page 20 for first time pilots to the absolute fountain of knowledge some of the players were sharing about the air war of this era. I personally learned a lot and could sit for hours listening to some of those guys (shout out to Ron!). A noteworthy moment (maybe just for the Ace of Aces nerds out there) came when Richard Irving and David-John Pack (defending champion and runner-up) were dueling in the third heat. They called a page that organically sent them to page 170. How cool is that? *crickets* Okay, maybe it is just me who enjoyed that.
And here are some totally awesome and definitely not real awards from the heats (minimum of five flights to be included):
- The “Put the book down!” ribbon (most flights): Matt Chesnut (22)
- The “Manfred Mann von Richthofen Blinded by the Light Medal of Greatness” (most wins): David-John Pack (14)
- The “René Foncky Cold Medina” trophy (most points per flight): David-John Pack (4.87)
- The “Billy Pew-Pew Bishop” plaque (best damage ratio): David-John Pack (2.45/1) wow!
- The “Lost in the Clouds” patch (most draws): It is a draw! Jason Schultz, Chris Kalmbacher, and Jonathan Brown (4)
- The “Page 20 Disciple” recognition (closest ratio of damage inflicted to damage received): Jason Schultz (31/30.5)
The Final Circus
In the Final Circus, the six Aces all face each other once in a round robin format.
Getting an early start, Matt faced Valerie while Bill faced Jonathan. As husband and wife, Matt and Valerie both take extra pleasure in crushing the other’s hopes and dreams. In the heats, Matt held a 2-1 record against Valerie, and she was ready to even the series when it counted the most. She jumped to a 5-3 lead but could not finish him off as he stormed back and won 7-5. Meanwhile, Jonathan and Bill were in a longer match with a lot of circling. In the heats, they met once and the flight ended in a bloody 7-7 draw, but in the finals, Bill prevailed 6-3.
Matt: 1-0, Bill: 1-0, Jonathan: 0-1, Valerie: 0-1
As Bill and Jonathan were still going at it, Valerie faced off against #1 seed David-John. Picking up where he left off, David-John quickly downed Valerie 6-0, improving on the 6-2 score of their previous flight during the heats.
Next, Matt took to the skies and found an opponent in Bill. Matt and Bill already met three times during the heats. Matt winning the first, but Bill taking the second and third. In a relatively quick match, Bill made it three in a row as he sent Matt spinning to his death 6-2.
Matt: 1-1, Bill: 2-0, Jonathan: 0-1, Valerie: 0-2, David-John: 1-0
Richard was held up waiting for a pizza order, but he found someone who was generous enough to deliver it to our final and was ready to go. He began by flying against David-John. Last year, Richard defeated David-John in the finals and the two ended up finishing #1 and #2 respectively. This year, however, David-John gave Richard one of his two losses during the heats and has been flying at an amazing level. Incredibly, Richard pounced on David-John from the beginning and did not let up on his way to a 7-0 victory. The smell of the pizza delivered to the room must have inspired his decisions.
Matt, fresh off a defeat to former champion Bill Burtless, decided to face reigning champion Richard next. Matt was 1-2 against Richard in the heats, getting the one win using the Powerhouse books. It was an intense battle, that eventually ended on page 20 while Richard was leading 5-4. That means both pilots shot the other down. But this is the finals, baby! No draws! Richard wins 7-6.
Next up for Jonathan was David-John. Jonathan was looking to improve on the 7-1 defeat during the heats. And he did. And it was not enough. David-John bounced back from his loss to Richard and got the 6-4 victory.
Matt: 1-2, Bill: 2-0, Jonathan: 0-2, Valerie: 0-2, David-John: 2-1, Richard: 2-0
It was Valerie’s turn to take on the inspired Richard Irving. She managed to shoot Richard down in the heats, but only as a draw where Richard earned more damage and thus more points for the game. This time, there would be no draws, and Richard would take care of business again with a 6-3 victory.
David-John and Bill got in a quick match that ended with David-John winning 6.5-2. I did not catch the details of this one.
Matt: 1-2, Bill: 2-1, Jonathan: 1-2, Valerie: 0-4, David-John: 3-1, Richard: 3-0
As the other matches were finishing, Matt moved on to face David-John. This is another rematch from the finals last year where Matt got the win. Matt would get the victory once again and end his second straight match on page 20, this time working out in his favor. As a side note, these two have now faced each other five times in the last two years with a head-to-head record of 2 wins, 2 losses, and 1 draw. The draw was an even 6-6 match.
Johnathan, fresh off his victory over Valerie, went on to face the unstoppable Richard. The three time and reigning champion Richard looks like a clear favorite against the newcomer Jonathan on paper, but Jonathan did score four hits on Richard in their one meeting during the heats, so he knew he could fly with him. Jonathan ran with that confidence. Both pilots were shot down, but Jonathan outscored Richard 6.5-6! A true David vs. Goliath moment, handing Richard his first loss in the finals.
Valerie was ready for her last match of the finals against veteran Bill. Despite her 0-4 record in the finals, she was not feeling down. Outside of the match with David-John, she was competitive in all her other matches. She felt confident going into this one. Could this be another David vs. Goliath moment? Close! She managed to get five hits on Bill before being shot down, and Bill would win 7-5.
Matt: 2-2, Bill: 3-1, Jonathan: 2-2, Valerie: 0-5, David-John: 3-2, Richard: 3-1
At this point, Valerie and David-John were finished with all their matches. While Valerie solidified her 6th place finish, the order of 1-5 were still in the air and depended on the results of the final two matches.
Matt and Jonathan met once in the heats, which was a 6-2 victory for Jonathan. This time around, Matt would go ahead early and hold his lead for a 6-4 victory. Jonathan will finish 2-3 and 5th place in the tournament, while Matt’s place was still unknown.
At the other table, former champion Bill Burtless was ready for his showdown with reigning champion Richard Irving. The winner of the duel wins the whole tournament. These two have met many times over the years, and this year Richard held the advantage with a win and a draw against Bill during the heats. While Richard has an intimate knowledge of the books, Bill is a crafty veteran and hard to put away. Richard ended up playing a masterful game in this final, reminiscent to his earlier fight against David-John, but Bill did not go down without a fight. While Richard accrued 7 hits, Bill managed to get 3 hits in on Richard. Richard took the match 7-3 and secured his second straight, and fourth overall, title. Richard Irving is The 2023 Ace of Aces.
Matt: 3-2, Bill: 3-2, Jonathan: 2-3, Valerie: 0-5, David-John: 3-2, Richard: 4-1
Now we know who got 1st, 5th, and 6th, but we are left with a 3-way tie for second. First tiebreaker is head-to-head. But with Matt defeating David-John, David-John defeating Bill, and Bill defeating Matt, we must go to the second tiebreaker – damage ratio. Matt ended the finals with a 1:1 damage ratio, Bill with a 1.12:1 damage ratio, and David-John with a 1.24:1 damage ratio. There you have it! David-John is our 2023 runner-up (he was also runner-up in 2022), leaving Bill in 3rd and Matt in 4th.