The semifinals for this year’s iteration of Boardgaming’s version of The Unforgiving Game was characterized by high turnover, with only GM Lockwood managing to fight his way into the single elimination rounds, and only managing to achieve that by defeating last year’s defending champion Bill Morse in the Swiss rounds, and last year’s 2nd place finisher Burt Schoose in a challenge match that knocked Burt out of the semifinals. The challenge match phase in the Afrika Korps tournament is a relatively recent adoption within the last three years (ironically enough, one that was developed mostly by Burt Schoose). The challenge match phase occurs at the end of the free form Swiss rounds, and allows players in positions 5-8 to challenge at random any of the players in positions 1-4 in an effort to defeat them and move up into the semifinals. If a player in the top four declines to play the challenging player, the challenging player receives an automatic win along with any applicable bonus points for defeating the stronger player. Thanks to this procedure, previous champions Robert Frisby and John Clarke, along with newcomer Mike Riggs, managed to successfully challenge higher positioned players and join GM Lockwood in the semifinals.
The first semifinal match featured Robert Frisby as the Germans versus GM Jonathan Lockwood, who bid one supply to be the British. Play proceeded along standard lines until Robert succeeded in driving the British into Tobruch with the loss of one Italian division. GM Lockwood set up his delaying defense and his El Alamein line, preparing for a prompt German drive on Alexandria. But then Robert adopted a course of action that is not often seen in tournament games of Afrika Korps, mainly because of the high risk of heavy German casualties. Robert chose a methodical siege of Tobruch, each turn hitting the strongest British unit at 3-1 odds or better to ensure its elimination while using weaker supporting units to “soak off” against the remainder of the units at 1-4 or worse. This strategy depends upon a constant flow of supplies for the Germans, which Robert was getting (the Axis had only 2 supplies sunk during the entire game), but also depends upon the Germans avoiding an Attacker Eliminated result in his soak-off attacks AND avoiding a doubled exchange result on any of his 3-1 or 4-1 attacks on the stronger British units, which could result in the loss of 6-8 factors for each doubled exchange. Robert lost three Italian divisions and a 3-3-10 in his soak off attacks, but avoided the doubled exchange in all six of his 3-1 and 4-1 attacks, thus ensuring the fall of Tobruch with “acceptable” Axis casualties. With a greatly reduced British force consisting of only light infantry units to defend Alexandria, GM Lockwood was compelled to use the British version of the Holy Hand Grenade by attempting to kneecap the Afrika Korps with a 1-1 counterattack against a German Panzer regiment (7-7-10) supported by soak-off attacks against accompanying Axis units. Frisby managed to exploit the failed attack by taking Alexandria, thus reaching his second championship final and sending GM Lockwood to a third place finish.
The other semifinal had journeyman Mike Riggs appearing in his first semifinal as the British against John Clarke’s Germans. John’s aggressive style of play in this tournament was characterized by his unhesitating willingness to use the 1-1 Holy Hand Grenade against Tobruch, especially if he believed the supply situation made it unlikely that he could take the British Home Base in Alexandria before the arrival of the November British reinforcements. John determined that this was the case prior to the September I turn, and launched a successful 1-1 assault against Tobruch that forced Mike’s resignation and send John to his second championship final, while Mike finished in 4th place, quite a respectable showing for a “newcomer”.
The championship final had John Clarke taking the German side once again against Robert Frisby’s British with no supply bid. This match was unusual in that John announced his intention at the beginning of the game to launch the all-out 1-1 assault against Tobruch at his earliest possible opportunity, apparently having no appetite for a long slugging match against Frisby. Frisby conducted his best possible British defense under the circumstances, managing to stave off the 1-1 German assault until the July II turn. But fortune smiled upon Robert when John’s 1-1 HHG resulted in an Attacker eliminated and the loss of 24 Axis factors. Faced with such staggering losses, John resigned, giving Robert his second well-earned Wood in Afrika Korps!