After five Swiss rounds, the top four participants advanced to the Semifinal. The top seed was Ed Menzel, who was undefeated in Swiss play. John Pack was a close second at 4-1. There was a four-way tie at 3-2 for the last two spots and it came down to strength of schedule which broke down in this order: Jim Kramer, David Sherwood, Jim Eliason, and Ted Drozd, who was comforted with his poor strength of schedule by winning his first sand plaque.
In Semifinal #1, Ed and David agreed to options 1a and 2b and David bid 8.5 POC to play the IJN. It was David's first appearance in the Semifinal and it got off to a rough start. Ed's USN managed to save both Pearl and Lae and Ed's USN ultimately prevailed.
In Semifinal #2, John and Jim agreed to options 1a, 2b, and 3c and Jim bid 6.5 POC to play the IJN. Game #2 was more traditional in that Pearl did fall but the USN came storming back to take Tarawa and Wake Island on Turn 5 (yes, you read that right, if you haven't seen John's new game board for Victory in the Pacific, I encourage you to check it out, those are the bases in the Marshalls). And once again, the USN prevailed.
Ed and John agreed to play the Menzel Variant with option 3c in the final and John bid 0.5 POC for the IJN (amazing what a few choice options can do for bidding). The IJN opened a standard 4 POC lead at the end of Turn 1 which led to the inevitable showdown in Hawaii on Turn 2. Bolstered by 4 straight nights, the USN were able to hold Hawaii on Turn 2 but lost Dutch Harbor and Port Moresby. IJN gained 12 more POC to a total of 16.
On Turn 3 they fought for Indo where the USN (or, more accurately in this case, the RN) eventually won night against the flag to win the battle. But the rising sun rose over other parts of the Pacific Theater as the IJN took US Mandate, Coral Sea, and the Indian Ocean, where seven shots downed to LBA. The IJN, at this point, was clearly making a play for Australia but would be without the services of three CVs who were all crippled in the process. Elsewhere, the USN managed to recapture Midway and Kwajalein (we used the traditional board in the Final, no Wake Island this time) but the IJN still gained 8 POC for a total of 24.
Despite the three CVs in dry dock, the IJN made its play for Australia on Turn 4. The Hermes managed to put three damage on the invading LBA in the Indian Ocean, just enough to be completely worthless. And the IJN continued its hot shooting against LBA by shooting down four more in Coral Sea to convert Australia. Only in a situation like this can you type the phrase: "Oh, and Samoa fell too." The IJN POC continued to climb, now to a total of 27.
After the British removals on Turn 5, there were no non-Victorious British left on the board. The IJN also retook Midway but the USN retook New Hebrides and gained 3 POC. With the Turn 6 reinforcements, the USN began clawing back into the game with a huge win in the CPO that setup climactic counter-attacks on Turn 7 in Indonesia and the Japanese Islands - which is when the tournament rules intervened. In the midst of the Turn 7 Battle for Japan, the IJN clock expired. At this point, the IJN could no longer roll or even touch the board except to remove ships the USN sank. However, based on the board position and POC lead that John had established at that point, Ed conceded that John had played the stronger game and declined a guaranteed win by clock, probably the greatest display of sportsmanship that I have seen in all my years of being a GM.
The extremely high bids when generally accepted options are not used continues to be of concern (see both Semifinal matches). Ideally, I would like to make the default options something like the Menzel to lower the bidding and make it easier for new players to pick up the game and this is something I will be thinking about for next year.