Card Driven Champs
While all of the games in the "We the People"
system are popular, I maintain that it is the best-suited for
tournament format, which is one of the reasons that I offered
to GM the event this year. Besides, the former GM had paid his
dues -- everyone needs a break.
Instead of the double-elimination format used in the past,
this year featured Swiss-elim play. The idea was that one loss
early on shouldn't knock you out of the tournament, but that
you shouldn't be able to "draw your way" to a high-place
finish, either. Scores were cumulative, with a win being worth
one point, a draw one-half point, and a loss gaining nothing.
The field was progressively trimmed after each of the second,
third, and fourth rounds, with the top eight scores finally emerging
single-elim knockout play.
Another change from previous years was that each contestant
had to play British and American sides in alternating rounds.
This made for some brisk play -- and a bit of good-natured whining
for those who couldn't always play their favorite side -- but
it also meant that this year's champ would be well-rounded. After
all, if you want to be good at chess, you have to be
Andy Lewis (left) on his way to
the semis; Ben Knight (right) on his way to his next event.
able to win with both white and black.
Attendance was up about 40% from the previous year, and featured
a strong field of past champions and annual contenders. There
were more than a dozen players with a legitimate chance for the
final eight spots, and a number of games came down to the very
last card play. For example, both Asst GM Chris Lefevre and '96
champ George Seary entered the final round of Swiss play needing
a win to advance. After fighting to a draw, they watched the
playoffs from the sidelines. 1994 champ Andy Lewis found himself
facing automatic elimination as the British against undefeated
Brian Mountford (which would have seriously hurt Andy in the
tiebreakers), but General Lewis barely survived the game, and
made the final eight. Brian himself had to sweat out an adjudication
of his opening-round game on his route to the finals.
From the quarterfinals onward, rather than alternating sides,
players bid for preference. Two New Jersey stars faced off for
their state's unofficial championship, including defending champ
Marvin Birnbaum, who survived some scares in the middle rounds.
Marvin's dreams of repeating went by the wayside, however, as
he suffered a tough loss to Anthony Burke, who had
emerged from the Swiss rounds undefeated, untied, and way ahead
on all tiebreakers.
Anthony was slated to play the winner of Andy Lewis-George
Young, and it looked as though Lewis, who was winning handily
early-on, would emerge triumphant in the quarterfinal. But while
Young has never won the WTP plaque, he knows his way around a
Revolutionary battlefield (he earned his quarterfinal spot by
eliciting Randall MacInnis' resignation after four turns in the
final Swiss round). As the game went on, George saw "swindling
chances," slowly worked his way back into the game, and
the two veterans finished in a draw. As the GM's stated rules
were that you had to win to advance, both George and Andy were
out of the tournament, to finish in fourth and fifth place.
Brian Mountford beat a different path to the final, winning
with the British over a tenacious Randall Borra (who finished
sixth), and then masterfully steering the Americans over Dave
Tianen, who finished third, in the semis. The advantage would
seem to have been with Anthony, who had a bye into the finals,
due to the Lewis-Young draw. It was late enough in the evening,
however, that fatigue had settled in equally for both players.
Even so, everyone involved wanted to wrap up the event that night.
So, Brian and Anthony warred into the wee hours, with the advantage
going back and forth. As the game wore on, more emphasis was
placed on maneuver rather than large battles, and Brian's superior
positional play, combined with a little luck,
gave him his first We the People championship after a
We tried an ambitious format, which made pairings in successive
rounds rather difficult. We matched up players of similar tournament
experience, tried to avoid matching up players with those from
their hometown, and also had to make sure that no one had more
than his/her share of Yanks or Brits. This was all in addition
to following classic Swiss pairings, where players
of equal scores meet, and was made more complicated due to draws
(though there were fewer draws than in other years).
All in all, the feedback from the players seemed very positive
for the new format, and we did manage our stated goal of finishing
the event in one (albeit long) day. An exhausting but exhilirating
event, on which everyone, from the good-natured players involved,
to the tireless efforts of the Asst. GMs (Chris Lefevre and John
Poinske), should be congratulated. If we're
lucky, attendance will increase next year, too!
High Preliminary Scores (Swiss):
Anthony Burke 4-0
Brian Mountford 4-0
Dave Tianen 3.5-1.5
George Young 3.5-1.5
Andy Lewis 3-1
Mike Nagel 3-1
Randall Borra 3-1
Marvin Birnbaum 3-1
George Seary 2.5-1.5
Chris Lefevre 2.5-1.5
There is supposedly an advantage to playing the Americans.
However, the victories for each side broke down as follows:
It's particularly interesting to note that in the fourth round,
where the majority of players had to win to have a chance of
making the knockout rounds, the ratio of Redcoats to Rebels victories
was five to one. In the finals, the Americans fared a bit better,
with three victories to two for the British -- which will likely
keep the controversy going.
Gutsy Move of the Tournament: To winner Brian Mountford,
who as the British had chased George Washington through the wilds
of Pennsylvania, only to find himself outnumbered and isolated
by American PC control markers. Brian attacked from hostile territory
and won an improbable victory by capturing Gen. Washington. After
that, he was pretty much unstoppable for the remainder of the