46 Still in Convoy ...Let's Hear it for Blind Squirels
Steve Raszewski and Bryan Eshleman
were among the also-rans this year in what is always a very competitive
A couple of past champions, Steve
Packwood and Pat Richardson were unable to finish in the Top
Proving that even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in
a while, the GM won the 2010 title with a 7-1-0 record, ending
19 years of also-ran status. The GM defeated Ed Menzel in the
Final, a game which was not a fair test of skill (see below).
Ed was the only player to go undefeated in the Swiss Rounds.
Andy Choptiany competing in just his second WBC after a long
absence, took third with a 5-2-0 tally and Ewan McNay nabbed
fourth with a 4-2-1 log. Mike Kaye (4-2-0), finished fifth and
received a copy of the book Cruisers of World War II: An International
Encyclopedia, given to the highest finisher not winning a plaque.
The remaining playoff contenders were sixth: 2008 champ Jonathan
Lockwood, who had a 4-2-0 mark, 7th, Charlie Drozd (3-2-1) and
8th, Rob Drozd (3-3-0). Rounding out our top 10 were Bruce Reiff
and Jim Kramer (3-2-0).
Entrants (46) and games played (82) in this, the 20th annual
competition, were both up from last year. According to the GM's
count, by the way, War At Sea is one of just 30 games that have
been contested at all 20 WBC/Avaloncon conventions.
38 players opened the competition shortly after 9 AM on Thursday.
But as usual, playoff eligibility for most competitors came down
to Round 5, eight hours later. At the end of four rounds, only
Ed Menzel (4-0-0, 40 VPs to that point) and Andy Choptiany (4-0-0,
38 VPs) had clinched playoff slots. With only pride at stake,
Ed and Andy played, with Ed's Allies, bidding 2.0, knocking off
Andy's Axis by two POC after the bid. 12 other players faced
off for the remaining six playoff berths. The next board featured
Charlie Drozd's (3-1-0, 32 VPs) vs. Ewan McNay's (3-1-0, 30 VPs)
Allies, bidding 2.0. The game went down to the last die roll,
with the bid pushing the score to a tie. Veterans Mike Kaye (3-1-0,
30 VPs) and Chuck Stapp (3-1-0, 30 VPs) faced off, with Mike's
Axis prevailing by seven POC against Chuck's Allies, who had
bid 3.0. The Axis benefitted from favorable ship attrition, with
no ships sunk through the first four turns to the Allies' eight.
Bruce Reiff and the GM (both 3-1-0, 30 VPs) reprised their recent
PBeM Championship match, with the GM's Allies, bidding 2.0, turning
the tables this time in a dice game that the Axis resigned after
four turns. Another contest of longtime competitors involved
John Pack (3-1-0, 30 VPs) and Jonathan Lockwood (3-1-0, 28 VPs).
Jonathan's Allies, bidding 2.5, forced an early Axis resignation
with unequal ship attrition. Next, Rob Drozd's (2-2-0, 22 VPs)
Axis held off Bob Hamel's (2-2-0, 20 VPs) Allies, who had bid
1.5. Finally, it was Jim Kramer (2-2-0, 20 VPs) prevailing over
John Sharp (2-2-0, 20 VPs). John's Allies had bid 1.5.
At the conclusion of the Round 5 games, all eight playoff
slots were set, the only time since we expanded to eight playoff
berths in 2006 that we haven't needed a tiebreaker. Ed Menzel
led the way with a perfect 5-0-0 record and 50 VPs. Vince Meconi
(4-1-0) edged Mike Kaye (4-1-0) for the #2 seed; both had 40
VPs, but Vince's strength of schedule was slightly better. Next
were Andy Choptiany and Jonathan Lockwood at 4-1-0/38 VPs each;
again, strength of schedule placed Andy in the #4 slot. Rounding
out the field were #6, Charlie Drozd (3-1-1, 37 VPs), #7 Ewan
McNay (3-1-1, 35 VPs), and #8 Rob Drozd (3-2-0, 32 VPs). Rob
made the elite 8 the hard way, dropping his first two games and
rallying to win his last three. Mike Kaye, Jonathan Lockwood,
Ewan McNay, and Ed Menzel all repeated from last year's playoffs,
the only four to do so, and in fact they all repeated from 2008
as well, making them the first four players to make the expanded
playoffs three years in a row.
In the quarter-finals, top seed Ed Menzel, bidding 1.5 for
the Allies, cruised past Rob Drozd's Axis, the maximum victory
margin reduced only by the bid. To avoid a rematch, #2 seed Vince
Meconi (Allies, 1.5) took on #6 Charlie Drozd in one of the more
entertaining games the GM has ever played. Axis LBA and U-boats
disabled five straight convoys (one was sitting in the USA on
Turn 8, unable to sail), and the game came down to the sixth
convoy, which dodged LBA bombs to make it into Russia on Turn
8 and convert defeat into victory. #3 Mike Kaye and #7 Ewan McNay
engaged in a similarly nip-and-tuck affair, with Mike's Allied
bid of 2.0 changing an Allied margin of one POC to an Axis victory
by one. #4 Andy Choptiany's aggressive Axis invaded the North
Sea on Turn 1, won the battle, and forced Jonathan Lockwood's
Allies (2.5) to concede after seven turns. In the semi-finals,
Ed Menzel's Axis continued his winning skein, clobbering Ewan
McNay's Allies, bidding 2.0, by 10 POC. Vince Meconi's Axis survived
heavy losses on Turn 1 against Andy Choptiany's Allies, bidding
2.0. Andy's ASW missed everything, every turn, and U-boats finally
put the game out of reach by sinking a convoy.
In the Final, the GM took the Allies for a bid of 2.0. Ed
sent his entire fleet to the South Atlantic on Turn 1, and the
first indicator that the dice gods were all going to line up
on one side was when all three German 225s failed their speed
rolls. Still, the Axis had eight ships to the Allied fleet of
the Eagle, a 553, and three 443's. But on the first round, Allied
gunnery sank both 127s, disabled and put max damage on both 357s,
and disabled an Italian CA. In return the Axis could manage only
to sink one 443 and put a point of damage on another. The Allies
sank two and disabled the last Italian cruiser on Round 2, suffering
no hits in return. So, the Allies controlled the South Atlantic
and trapped two Italian CAs and the cruiserized Scharnhorst &
Gniesenau in the Neutral Port. It should have been all over for
the Axis at that point, with their fleet shot up, four ships
trapped in the Neutral Port, and trailing by 2 POC after just
one turn. However, salivating in my overeagerness to annihilate
the Neutral Port fleet on Turn 2, the GM made the Barents too
weak. Two failed speed rolls left the Allies with just the Ark
Royal, a 456, a 336, and four cruisers to face the Axis LBA,
Bismarck, three 225's, and a 127. But the Ark Royal sank a 225
and disabled the 127, while the Axis LBA whiffed. Allied gunnery
then sank another 225 and disabled the two remaining ships. The
Allies had already sunk all four Axis ships in the South Atlantic,
so the Axis resigned without bothering to return fire in the
Barents. It was all over in 15 minutes. Ed Menzel's terrible
luck was not unprecendented. Twice before in the playoffs an
Axis player has had to quit on Turn 1 or 2 after losing the South
Atlantic and having their fleet trapped in the Neutral Port -
although never in the Final.
And finally, Rob Drozd copped Best Axis Player with a 3-2-0
scoreboard, while Ed Menzel nabbed Best Allied Player laurels
at 5-0-0. Bob Hamel, always a competitor, always a helper, always
a good sport, always a gentleman, was our Sportsmanship nominee.
For the 7th year in a row, no chess clock expired.
As has been the case almost every year recently, the predominant
Allied opening strategy was Barents on 1; the GM is aware of
only one game in which the Allies used Barents on 2 and one other
in which the Mediterranean strategy was used. There may have
been others not noted on the game slips, of course.
Last year the GM declared that the Allied edge had gone from
marginal to substantial. But after a steady decline in the Axis
win percentage over the past seven tournaments, Axis players
staged a comeback this year, taking 42 of the 82 contests, or
51.2%. The Allies won 39 games and there was a single tie. It
was the first time since 2003 that the Axis won more than half
the games. The average bid this year was 1.51 (all games) and
1.76 (games with a bid). In games with no bid or an Allied bid
less than or equal to 1.5, the Allies won 26 times to the Axis
22, but in games with an Allied bid of at least 2.0, the Axis
won 20 times and the Allies 13. This year, at least, the bidding
worked as it should - pushing a slightly unbalanced game into
almost perfect balance. Whether this is a return to normalcy
or a 1-year aberration remains to be seen.
While there may be some debate as to whether bids are high
enough to balance the game, it is indisputable that they do "move
the chains." The outcome of 13 games was altered by the
bid. One Allied win became a tie, two ties became Axis wins,
and a record six Allied wins became Axis wins after the bid was
taken into account. On top of that, one Axis win by less than
two POC became an Axis victory by two POC or more, and three
Allied wins by two POC or more converted to Allied wins by less
than two POC. And that is only a sumation of the final scores.
What is left uncounted is the amount of moves or altered strategies
dictated by the bid which are not directly reflected in the final
As always, putting on the War At Sea tournament is a team
effort, starting with Assistant Gamemasters Rob Drozd, Ewan McNay,
and John Sharp; John also provided the chess clocks. Thanks also
to Greg Smith, who volunteered to play Round 1 only if we had
an odd number of entrants, which we did this year. Extra help
was provided by Charlie Drozd, Bob Hamel, and sharp-eyed John
Pack, who spotted a GM scoring error just in time.
Three-time champ Ray Freeman battled
the Bruce in what was
one of his best years. The plaque king
was unable to advance
to the play-offs this year with two losses
the majority of his losing at WBC 2010.
The blind squirrel in this saga is
the not so visually impaired.Vince Meconi finally notched
a WBC title to go with his 1999 PBeM title. He is shown here
against Andy Choptiany who made his return to WBC a successful
one with a third place finish.
At Sea PBeM Tournament 2010 Results
Jonathan Lockwood earned his third BPA War At Sea plaque,
besting a field of 43 players in the seventh BPA War At Sea PBeM
Championship. Jonathan had previously emerged victorious from
the 2001 PBeM event and the 2008 WBC tournament.
Jonathan went 5-0 to win the single elimination event. He
began with a win over Daniel Blumentritt, then continued to defeat
2004 PBeM champ Don Greenwood, Robert Drozd, Bruce Reiff and
Alan Applebaum. Jonathan outbid his opposition to play the Allied
side in all five games, giving his Axis opponents 2.5 POC in
three of the games. Alan, meanwhile, had played the Axis in his
first four games, usually receiving 1.5 POC in the bidding.
In the Final, Lockwood bid 2.5 POC for the Allies, which Applebaum
accepted. Jonathan then deployed his standard "Barents on
One" opening. Alan responded on Turn 1 by leaving a 2-2-5
in the Baltic and sending six German ships and the Italian cruisers
to the South Atlantic. The ensuing combat gave the Axis control,
but at the cost of Scharnhorst and Admiral Hipper, with Gneisenau
damaged for 4 points, but successfully oiling at sea. Axis led
by 3 POC (5.5 POC with handicap) at end of Turn 1.
Turn 2 saw Lockwood holding all four sea areas again, forcing
the Axis to send its six ships in the neutral port back to the
Med. The Axis attempted to break the blockade in the North Sea,
but failed with a loss of two U-boats. Little happened on Turn
3, though the Allies trimmed the Axis lead to 1 POC (3.5 POC
with handicap) at the end of the turn.
Turn 4 witnessed the Axis LBA sink Convoy 1A in the Barents.
Turn 5 saw the Axis finally challenge the blockade in earnest
with six U-boats in the North Sea. 17 Allied ASW sank three U-boats
and disabled two more, but the Axis had broken the blockade.
Meanwhile, Convoy 2B put in at Murmansk to give the Allies a
lead of 2 POC (but a 0.5 POC Axis lead with the handicap).
For Turn 6, the Allies used a balanced deployment, with a
force of seven British battleships and the Illustrious to meet
the anticipated German-Italian attempt to reunite their fleets.
The Axis sent a force of eight German ships and four Italian
cruisers to the South Atlantic. The ensuing five round combat
saw the Germans sinking three British battleships and disabling
all but the Warspite (-3) and the Illustrious. The Allies sank
two German ships and two Italian cruisers in those same five
rounds, disabling the rest to the neutral port to hold the area
and trap six German ships and two Italian cruisers in the neutral
port. The Allies owed their victory to the Warspite (-3) taking
on three Italian cruisers and winning over the course of the
last three rounds.
Meanwhile however, the Axis had sent six U-boats to the North
Atlantic to go after Convoy 3C. Three U-boats were sunk and two
more disabled, leaving just one U-boat to break control and sink
Convoy 3C. The outcome of the game would now depend on the results
of the ASW war against the four remaining Axis wolfpacks.
On Turn 7, the Allies destroyed the remaining Axis fleet at
the cost of four battleships. But the crucial contest was in
the North Sea, with four U-boats attempting to break the blockade
again against 10 Allied ASW. Allied ASW sank two U-boats and
disabled the others to maintain control of the area and gain
1 POC for the Allies at the end of Turn 7. The Allies now led
for the first time with a cumulative 3 POC lead (.5 POC with
The sole remaining Axis chance was to split its three remaining
U-boats into two groups, with two going to the North Sea and
one to the Barents, where they would each face 10 Allied ASW.
If the Axis could break control of two sea areas, they would
gain 1 POC for the turn and win the game. But Allied ASW came
through again, sinking all three to gain 1 POC for Turn 8. The
Allies finished with a lead of 4 POC (1.5 POC with handicap).
1st Jonathan Lockwood
2nd Alan Applebaum
3rd Bruce Reiff
4th Karl Bodenheimer
5th Robert Drozd
6th Phil Watkins