The change of venue had little to no detrimental effect on our attendance. For the 19th consecutive year, the tournament drew in triple digits, including some new faces. However, there were only nine of the 16 former champions in the lists. The average number of players per game was 5.375, and Pacific Typhoon was the game of choice for 24 of the 215 starts.
Heat 1 saw John Keating earn a respectable 52 points for a seat in the semifinals. He claimed it was a dice phenomenon since his score almost doubled that of his closest opposition. 11 other players won in that heat, too, including Keith Hunsinger and Pat Mirk. The scores ranged from 19 to 27 for the six players in Pat’s game, so that was a game of a different sort with all in contention till the very end.
In Heat 2, Jeff Heidman won Pacific Typhoon with a score of 51, and like Keating in the previous heat, his score dominated his opponents. In contrast, Dacey Collinson won her table in a close contest where the entire field was separated by only eight VPs. However, Dacey seemed more impressed that she beat her father.
The defending champ, Rob Kircher, made a late entrance in Heat 4, but was defeated in a 6-player Pacific Typhoon. Bob Wicks finished that game with 62 VPs - many of those scored in the 1942 Battle of Coral Sea that had been pushed into a third round of play. He won it by playing Yamato in a day air battle, gathering 25 spoils that he and Jenna Eastman shared. Pat Mirk won his table again in Heat 4, and other winners included Bill Place and Paul Risner. Paul was one of the last players to enter the tournament. In his game, the next to last convoy was a combined battle in the North Atlantic that saw the Bismarck and Tirpitz get defeated by Duke of York, Rodney and some additional Allied forces during a battle with six dice rolls.
To qualify for the semifinals, a player had to win a game in any of the four heats. Four players won twice: Kevin Burns, Tim Evinger, Pat Mirk, and Bob Wicks. Pat distinguished himself among these players by winning both of the heats he entered, whereas the other three gentlemen lost at least once. 26 of the 30 qualifiers appeared for Round 2. John Coussis (the top-ranked Atlantic Storm laurelist) chose the Air Baron Final, his team event, which he proceeded to win so he is forgiven this time. The table with the closest score of the five semifinal games was a 5-player contest with only seven VPs separating winner Keith Hunsinger from last, Matt Evinger, 25-18.
The seating order for the Final was Paul Risner, Keith Hunsinger, Pat Mirk, John Keating and Bill Place. It was a veteran group. Going into the game, the laurel rankings of these opponents were Pat (5th), Bill (10th), Keith and Paul (30th and 36th rank respectively). It was John’s first appearance at the Final table, having won no previous laurels in Atlantic Storm, but all of that was about to change.
The game played quickly as there were no tied battles, and only 12 of the convoys drew opposition. Each player took the lead at one point. Keith had the early lead, but he was passed by Pat and then John. Paul was the leader at the halfway point (after ten convoys), but then his luck changed. John regained the lead, and on Round 14 after some table talk over SL 87, Pat helped John win the battle, so John gave Pat the Victorious as a spoil, which was more VPs than John took home. This illustrates the importance of table talk even in a Final, although the difference was not enough to change the outcome. Bill fated the Avenger during round 16, and by Round 18 Bill was in the lead with 21 VPs. Keith had the fewest VPs at this stage (15), so everyone was in contention as the last two convoys approached.
John chose Arctic QP 11 for the penultimate convoy (one VP, empty), called surface and played Zerstorer (Arctic-only card). This seemed like a reasonable call given that the previous battle (combined suit) had seen Admiral Tovey, King George V, Duke of York, and X Craft played, which was a sizable portion of the British surface force. John therefore expected a weak Allied defense, and he was risking little in his choice of convoy and play. However, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Calling surface or combined late in the game is a great gamble, because it will draw out many large warships as possible spoils. Those spoils may not be yours unless you have a killer play, and those spoils may well determine the winner. John was only one VP behind Bill, and by calling surface he had summoned a big battle. On the other hand, I have no right to stand on this soapbox since I didn’t qualify for the semifinals, let alone the Final. Bill elected to stay out of this fight, but Paul supported John’s Zerstorer with Gneisenau. Keith played Renown to protect the convoy after assurance from Pat who then played Bomber Command to fate Gneisenau. This outcome gave Pat the lead by five going into the last convoy.
It was Bill’s call, and he chose HX 79 (1940), named sub as suit and played Hudson. Paul followed with U47, which is doubled against HX 79. Keith pitched his hand to replenish, hoping the 1940 battle might push into a second round. Pat played Achates (strength 3), which gave him the strongest Allied play. John was now the kingmaker: Paul’s doubled U47 was beating the Hudson and Achates, so if John played nothing Paul would gain seven VPs (convoy and two spoils). If John was tracking VPs around the table, he would know that doing this would put Paul in first place but leave him in third place. Alternatively, John could support the Allied victory and hope for a spoil by cementing Pat’s win. John played Scarborough, and Pat gave him the U47 as spoil, which was just enough to give John second place over Bill. Actually, Bill and John finished with the same score, but John had one more convoy VP. Similarly, Keith and Paul finished with the same score and the same number of convoy VPs, but Keith won fourth place by having won the earlier convoy. Paul had walked into the tournament on Heat 4, won two games in a row, and almost won the Final, so he should be proud of his fifth place.
This was the second Atlantic Storm title for Pat, which puts him in the same class as John Coussis and Roy Gibson. He had a perfect run this year, winning all four games he played.
Thanks to all who opted to join us for fun in the Atlantic. Your laughter and camaraderie continue to make this tournament a fun event, year after year. Stay well, and I hope we can do it all again in 2017!