Card Driven Champs
By the time Saturday rolled around, I was inwardly questioning
my sanity in running an all-day event. Certainly, the contestants-as
happily punch-drunk and appropriately scruffy as any set I've
seen at a game convention-were as crazy as I was, showing up
at 9 AM for our annual War of Independence.
We stayed with the same format as last year, where players
alternate between British and American in the prelim Swiss rounds.
Since you can actually play a game of WTP in a little over two
hours, it's manageable, if a bit grueling, for those who make
it to the "money" rounds.
Perennial contenders George Young, Jim Gutt and John Poniske
were joined in the knockout rounds by up-and-comers Bruce Wigdor
and Jim Fardette. WTP is unpredictable enough from game to game
due to the vagaries of card play, and the addition of new blood
made for some wild games. And while some might scoff at allowing
draws in a tournament, it actually helps to weed out the hopefuls
from the true contenders. I speak from experience, as my draw
in the final round of Swiss play knocked both my opponent, Derek
Landel, and myself, out of the running.
Former champs performed well, on the whole. Marvin Birnbaum
once again marched through a difficult field that included such
veterans as Bruno Sinigaglio and George Seary, but the New Jersey
Rifle came up short against John Poniske's inspired play in the
I have a suspicion that defending champion Brian Mountford
has secretly made a pact with the goddess of fate. How else does
one describe his systematic demolition of a number of very good
players, especially when Brian was actually losing in two of
his games at one point?
Well, after showing he could win with both British and American
during the Swiss rounds, Brian's strategy was to bid heavily
for the Americans in the knockout rounds. In the final, he was
matched up against John Poniske, who had bucked the odds, winning
three games in a row with the British. Brian's aggressive American
play helped him successfully defend his title. Some argue that
the Americans have an edge. Personally, I think Brian is just
In the Swiss rounds, there were 20 American wins to 17 British
(not counting eight draws). In the knockout rounds, American
wins led British by only 4-3, including the three American wins
by Brian. So, the controversy over which side is "best"
is likely to continue. Which means we're probably going to have
another nail-biter event in 2002.
Andy Lewis (left) on his way to
the semis; Ben Knight (right) on his way to his next event.