Another Year, Another Format
Another year, another GM, another format for Up Front....
This year, the format had three phases, all on Friday. Everybody
participated in a five-round Swiss qualification phase. The best
16 players with a minimum of three wins then went through three
rounds of single elimination to get the field down to the two
finalists. The finalists played a best-of-three series to decide
As would be expected by removing
the heats from the last two years, turnout was lower. Thirty-four
brave souls planned on spending all day Friday chasing the title.
The defending champion, Larry Davidson, was unable to attend;
but several perennial favorites ensured a strong field.
In each of the first five rounds, five different scenario
choices were provided. Each scenario had both nationalities and
attacker and defender specified. One player picked the scenario,
the other picked the nationality. The scenarios and their specifications
changed each round. While skeptics thought this format was a
recipe for disaster, the approach yielded some spirited and,
more importantly, balanced play. Even the Italians did rather
well! Discussions with the semifinalists yielded a general consensus
that the format should be used in future tournaments with some
The surprise of the qualification phase was Jeff Paull. Jeff
had only intended on playing in the first two rounds because
of a Team event that evening, but caught a hot streak and went
a perfect 5-0 in the qualification phase. Fifteen players went
3-2 or better, so all qualified for the semi-finals. The tournament
rules dropped the semis to eight players if turnout was less
than 32. That made the Round 5 matches among the 3-1 players
anticlimactic, except for bracket positioning. A proposed modification
to the format for next year would limit the semi-finals to one-third
of the starting turnout. The matches among 2-2 players, however,
made up for that. There were a number of fantastic matches. A
majority of players picked Russian-Japanese Outpost Line, historically
one of the most balanced scenarios and always a tense event.
The semi-finals used the traditional AnoMaly method scenario
selection from many past tournaments. The first round of the
semi-finals had all the familiar names as well as some new ones.
The first round showed the relative balance of the field, as
most of the players that went 4-1 in the qualification lost their
first round semi.
Jeff Paull had drawn a bye as the only 5-0 player, and actually
managed to play in his Team event thanks to a generous display
of sportsmanship by Alan Arvold, who agreed to start their quarterfinal
match fifteen minutes late and forgo a later break if he won.
Jeff thanked Alan by beating him with the Russians in City Fight
in a close match.... Other highlights of round 2 of the semifinals
included Ken Katano trying to beat Bruce Young by taking the
Japanese ATR in Block Clearing (it didn't work, but Ken had fun
trying), a tense Infantry's Iron Fist win by John Emery over
Lance Ribeiro, and Nick Vlahos' British defenders beating Ed
Kendrick in Outpost Line with almost a dozen lateral group transfers.
In the last semi-final round, Bruce Young continued his American
rampage by smashing Nick Vlahos' Japanese defenders in Outpost
Line. The scenario was virtually over in half a deck (but lingered
into Deck Three) as the American AFV just couldn't miss and the
Japanese never found terrain. Meanwhile, John Emery and Jeff
Paull played a standard German-Russian patrol. In a long match,
John finally prevailed. So, once again, John and Bruce travel
600 miles to end up playing the person that they play against
all year. Next year, we're going to have John and Bruce play
a 2-of-3 match before they leave home, so the GM can get some
In the finals, Bruce started off hot with Russian Attackers
in Scenario D. But suddenly, as wonderful as Bruce's firepower
had been in the preceeding three matches, it was all gone. Bruce
couldn't find a bullet, and John came back from an early difficult
position to squeeze out a very tight victory. In the second match,
John and Bruce played Outpost Line, a scenario that they've probably
played two hundred times against each other. John's German attackers
forged an early lead, and Bruce's Americans still couldn't find
any bullets. By the time Bruce found some, it was too late -
John had built a killer position and just wore the Americans
down, winning by squad break.
Thus, the Carolina domination of the event was reestablished
at about 1 AM on Saturday. Bruce has finished in the final four
once again, as he has for almost every year since he first played
in the tournament in 1993. Meanwhile, John Emery became the event's
first three-time champion.