advanced squad leader [Updated August 2001]

ASL  6 prizes Experienced Swiss Continuous 
    9   Round 2 16   Round 3  9  Round 4 16   
  Round 5  9   Round 6 16    Final 9  


Paul Sidhu, NJ

2001 Champion

2nd: Steve Pleva, CT

3rd: JR Tracy, NY

4th: Kevin Valerien, MD

5th: Tom Ruta, MA

6th: Jim Stahler, VA
Event History
1991    Mike McGrath       91
1992    Perry Cocke      112
1993    Mike McGrath      120
1994    Gary Fortenberry      130
1995    Gary Fortenberry      130
1996    Tom Morin      110
1997    Jeff Coyle       81
1998    Bret Hildebran       81
1999   Steve Pleva       43
2000   Bret Hildebran     42
2001   Paul Sidhu     32

AREA Ratings

GM: Perry Cocke

Once More into the Hunt Campaign

Paul Sidhu's climb to the top reached fruition this year as he moved up from fourth place two years ago and runner-up last year to attain the summit of National Champion in 2001. Meanwhile, defending champ Bret Hildebran won the prize for Biggest Fall From Grace as his 2-5 record had him losing twice as many games this year as in the previous four years combined.

Paul ended up beating Bret, runner-up Steve Pleva, and 3rd placer J.R. Tracy over the weekend, going 5-0 in games that counted. Attendance was down again, with the date change only partially to blame. A slight format change this year saw five scenarios each in two columns for all seven rounds, plus a third column for the last round, for a total of 75 scenarios to choose from.

Perhaps too much choice? Not according to the participants, who all seemed to appreciate the scenario selections, except for one thing. I heard from several people that some of the morning scenarios were too long for the early round and from several others that one or two night rounds had only long scenarios.

Which leads us into my main concern for Round 1: that scenario 90 Pride and Joy would run too long and I would have to adjudicate it. That wasn't a problem, however, as all three games of that scenario finished on time. I was less worried about A105 Police Action, despite it being a 12-turn scenario, since I figured most partisan players would go for the quick victory via exit, rather than falling back to protect the hill. Perhaps defending Champ Bret Hildebran was not concentrating on that possibility, since Chris Spell exited enough partisans to win in under three turns, sparking the first big upset of the tourney. Dan Dolan did not go for the quick win versus Jim Stahler, however, and I almost had to adjudicate that game halfway through before Dan gallantly conceded. Two-fifths of the players bolted from the Column A cavalry scenarios to play simpler U.S. Army scenarios.

Round 2 saw Chris Spell take down another past Champ, Jeff Coyle, in a close game of Blockbusting at Bokruisk when Jeff discovered that routing upstairs was not considered getting closer to the enemy units upstairs across the street. The big news in this round was the 4-0 record in favor of the Germans in Silesian Interlude, lending some credence to the belief that it might be a tad pro-German, even if all the games seemed close. Hank Burkhalter's win over past Champ Tom Morin hinged on his heroic leader ambushing a counterattacking Russian squad in close combat and killing them before they even had a chance to attack back. Tom swears he would have had him anyway if only his A-T gun hadn't broken down at an inopportune moment. Bret lost again, stepping up this round as the highest-ranked player with a loss, this time against the #1-ranked player, past Champ Steve Pleva. Based solely on the ratings, Steve would have matched up instead with Chris Spell, but those two had been playing each other once a week for the past several months getting ready for this tourney and I didn't want to match them up so soon in the tourney. The vast majority of players stayed in Column A, choosing the Russians rather than the British as the Allied side for Thursday evening's combined-arms fest.

Round 3 Friday morning saw most people picking a PTO scenario rather than one of the all-British infantry scenarios in Column B. The highlight for me was the lone scenario of Chakila Sunrise, as J.R. Tracy's Americans eked out an "immediate" win over Chris Spell just as Round 4 was set to start. The other Battles of the Unbeatens saw Steve Pleva's British hand Hank Burkhalter a loss in On the Kokoda Trail, Paul Sidhu easily handle Scott Romanowksi's Japanese in Broken Bamboo, and Jim Stahler withstand a furious Japanese attack from Kevin Valerien in Cattern's Position. Kevin prompted the weekend's future Tip From The Trench for the ASL Journal: "Always attack everyone when you Ambush the enemy in hand-to-hand close combat; even if the odds are not always with you, the dice spirits will be offended if you don't, and you will pay the price". Just like Kevin paid the price, when we decided to attack only part of the force that he ambushed in close combat. He easily killed them with dice that would have killed all the defending force, only to see the surviving remnants get lucky and wipe out all his attackers. This round also saw Bret Hildebran get a win under his belt while simultaneously pushing Bill Pittman into unfamiliar territory at 0-3.

Round 4 Friday night was not for the faint of heart. Column A was billed as "PTO Hardcore" featuring five big PTO scenarios and Column B had five big, Yank-in-Western-Europe scenarios. Three-fourths again chose the PTO, mostly playing either White Tigers or A Tough Nut to Crack. The four remaining undefeated players matched up, with Steve Pleva's British rolling over Jim Stahler's Japanese in A Tough Nut to Crack and Paul Sidhu's Japanese stifling J.R. Tracy's exit in Invisible Foes. Paul had finished Round 3 early and had spent the early afternoon setting up a Japanese defense for Invisible Foes. Luck was with him; not only did he get his #1 scenario choice (on his opponent's third choice); not only did he get the side he wanted (although giving up the balance); but he ended up facing someone who had only just finished up a real nail-biter--J.R. Tracy. Round 4 also saw Bill Pittman finally pick up a victory in the Battle of the Beatens in a long, hard-fought A Tough Nut to Crack versus Damon Norko, who had been fighting the valiant fight against commuting: getting his kids to daycare in the morning and battling the traffic for our 9 AM kickoffs. Falling to 0-4 broke his spirit, however, and family obligations won out for the rest of the weekend. Ironically, after finally notching a win, Bill called it quits for the ASL tourney also, his brain turned to mush and fit only for doily games. White Tigers brought the shortest candidate for a Tip From the Trenches (dumbfounding Jeff Coyle and Steve Kyle along the way): "Fording is NA in a Ford."

Round 5 matched the last two undefeated players: 1999 champ Steve Pleva and #1 ranked player in the world, vs Paul Sidhu, last year's runner-up. One would be the Champion, but the other would still have to play Rounds 6 and 7 to determine his final standing. As is the custom, the players in the final match could choose any of the scenarios from the tourney and settled on U4 Climax at Nijmegen Bridge. For the rest of the field, round 5 meant either partisans or airlanding. All three choosing the partisans in Column B chose scenario J34 Men of the Mountain. At least two of those games came down to the wire with the Italian gun intensive firing. In one game the gun crushed a crucial stack; in the other, it disabled itself for an instant loss. In column A, Jim Stahler and J.R. Tracy played a classic see-saw match of A102 On Silent Wings. Things looked tough on Jim after a difficult landing, but he battled back and took the victory building, only to see J.R. counterattack and take it back, led by his indestructible Carriers. The most popular scenario of the round was G39 Desperate Affair, a well-crafted four-board German 1941 Crete paradrop. Although not an extremely long game, it played long in round 5, partially due to everyone needing to brush up on their paradrop rules first. Furthermore, this is a game where the German player has to hang tough while his forces re-group, as well as a game that often will not have a clear winner until the last phase. Which may be why so many games were not finished in time for round 6 and why I had to adjudicate more scenarios in this round than in the prior two tourneys combined. When faced with the deadline, Kevin Valerien conceded that his Germans had lost to Hank Burkhalter, whereas Jeff Coyle's British conceded to Tom Ruta. I had to make the call in favor of Tom Morin's Germans over Steve Kyle, and, in the toughest decision I've had in a while, I had to declare Mike O'Leary's Germans the winners over Bret Hildebran, despite knowing that Bret was the much faster player.

All of which was just putting off the onerous task of adjudicating the Championship round, something I desperately wanted to avoid. Paul and Steve are both quick players so I didn't object when they picked Climax at Nijmegen Bridge, but now they were running out of time. The loser would have a prominent roll to play in round 6, which I couldn't really start till this game was over. Steve's Allies looked to be about a half turn behind where they needed to be going into the end game, but he clearly wasn't out of the game yet. If he could get his 10-2 Armor Leader into the victory area across the river, he stood a decent chance. Luckily (for me) the Armor Leader's tank was taken out by a panzerfaust after crossing the bridge. Steve conceded, I declared Paul the winner, and I immediately matched Steve up against Tom Ruta in round 6.

Steve and Tom picked J33 The Slaughterhouse, as did the other pair still in contention for second place, J.R. Tracy and Hank Burkhalter. Steve and J.R. each won with the Russians, with J.R.'s game once again going down to the wire. Gary Mei beat Jim Stahler's Russians in J33, while Kevin Valerien met Bret Hildebran in the spoiler role again in A25 Cold Crocodiles with Bret going down in flames again.

Round 7 saw Steve and J.R. matched up for second place. Given the way the tie-breakers fell, the loser would garner third place. Battling it out for the remaining top spots were Gary Mei vs Kevin Valerien, Jim Stahler vs Hank Burkhalter, and Tom Morin vs Tom Ruta. Kevin, Jim, and Tom Ruta wrapped up 4th-6th places. Tom Ruta should have been playing Kevin, but Tom had planned to blow off the last round to play in the finals of Napoleon and only showed up after most of the pairings had been made. Hats off to Jim and Hank battling it out in round 7. Hank (a master of Breakout: Normandy among other games) has been playing ASL for less than two years, while Jim is the grognard's grognard, having playtested original Squad Leader and about everything since. With three columns to choose from in the last round, no single scenario was played more than twice, although the Norway scenarios from the new Journal were the most popular. Steve and J.R. squared off in one: J41 By Ourselves. It was no blow out, and would have been closer still if J.R.'s 9-2 had not been snipered off the hill in the early going, but the smart money is always on Steve. And Paul Sidhu put the final nail in Bret's coffin.

Hats off to all the players who made it through all seven rounds (including all of the top six). The 2001 scenario list had some real meat to it. Every round had some meaty scenarios and some rounds had nothing but meat. J.R. Tracy, a known aficionado of doily games, was kept busy playing nothing but ASL from Thursday morning on. Of course, he could have chosen smaller scenarios (many were available), but J.R. has always been one to go for the gusto. Maybe next year we can cut him (and the GM) some slack and ease back on the scenario size a bit.

And maybe next year we should cut back to six rounds. If so, we'd have to cut either the Thursday morning or the Sunday morning round, or maybe try to squeeze in three rounds on Friday (although that won't allow for much breathing space on Friday). Dropping to six rounds would make it easier to play in all the rounds, but would make it harder to play in just a round or two (as some choose to do). What do you think? Drop me a line with your thoughts. Maybe with a tweak here and some promotion there we can get attendance back up into the sixties.

The numbers may have been down again this year, but the competition was fiercer than ever. Despite missing three of last year's top six [Is all well, Rich and Andrew? John at least stopped by to make his excuses in person], the level of play this year went up another notch. Face it, any tourney in which Bret Hildebran goes 2-5 is not full of easy marks.

Speaking of whom, a big thanks to defending champ Bret. After getting knocked out in the first round via a surprise partisan blitz, he didn't blink an eye when I asked him to step in against Steve Pleva in round 2. Then in round 4, he didn't hesitate when I asked him to show the ropes to a PTO-newbie. In round 5, with a winning record in sight, he showed an easy grace when I had to adjudicate the closest of games against him, although I am sure it was not his slow play that made the game run over time. Then, with a chance to even his record in round 6, he willingly stepped up again to play Kevin Valerien rather than the lower-ranked player his record would entitle him to. Finally, in round 7 when I was looking for a good game for new Champ Paul Sidhu, Bret was there again when I needed him.

Special thanks to Scott Romanowski and Kevin Valerien who helped watch over things while I slipped out to eat (and even took a nap once). And three cheers for Champ Paul Sidhu, doing it the way you would like to see it done: adding some class to the place for the past few years as he worked his way up and then seeing all the hard work pay off. Beating J.R. Tracy, Steve Pleva, and Bret Hildebran in the same tournament is nothing to sneeze at!

 GM      Perry Cocke (MMP)  [4th Year]    1664 Forest Park Ave., Baltimore, MD 21207     (410) 944-3342

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