Pacific Tantrix Championship - Report

Round by Round:

It was hard to believe any tournament could have a closer finish than the European Championship, but this one managed it, becoming the first tournament to be decided on a tiebreak. Now, I'm not claiming total accuracy with this report, because I read it in very quickly, but here goes ... :-)

Pre-tournament Round 1, pairing players who had played before against first-timers, saw three fairly predictable results and a couple of upsets - Zenon lost to Phil in a game which is commented on the review games page and Justin lost heavily to Chris, which left Chris in 1st place.

Round 2 saw Alex, Mike, Chris and Jason all make it 2 wins out of 2. A large 42-12 win against Wendy meant that Mike took over 1st place.

Round 3 saw Mike extend his lead further with a win over Phil while Chris drew with Philip. Alex beat Jason to join Mike on 3 wins out of 3. His brother Zenon was having a terrible time - a loss to Justin making it 0/3 for him.

Round 4 saw some interesting games. Jamie managed to beat Mike by a single tile to stop him running away from the rest of the field. This meant Alex could go into the lead if he kept up his 100 % win record by beating his brother, but it wasn't to be. Zenon got his first win, a result which was to start to reverse the fortunes of the two brothers for the rest of the tournament. Phil had a big win against Philip, Chris another impressive win, this time against Jason, and Wendy got as close to a win as she was to get, losing by only a single tile to Justin.

Round 5 saw Alex lose again, by 2 tiles to Phil, Mike beat Zenon by the same margin and Chris beat Wendy by 9 tiles.

So, at the break, Chris on 71 was 1 point clear of Mike, with Jamie only 3 points further behind on 67. His brother Phil was in 4th on 59, making it a 1-2-3-4 for New Zealand, though he was closely challenged by the top 2 Australians, Alex and Jason, on 55. Zenon and Justin were disputing 7th place on 39 and 37 respectively.

In Round 6, the top two played each other in a game which was to have a big influence on the final result. Chris came within 20 seconds of beating Zenon's record for the fastest play, taking under 5 minutes. Maybe he should have thought for a bit longer though, because he lost to Mike 16-10.

Zenon scored his second win to start a late recovery and Justin had another very good win against a top Australian, Jason being the victim this time. Philip scored his first win, effectively ending Alex's challenge for the title, and Jamie won the all-Sneddon game to go into 2nd place, 3 points behind Mike and 6 ahead of Chris, though Alex and Jason's losses kept Phil in 4th on 64. The top three seemed to be pulling away from the rest.

In Round 7, Justin had his best win yet, beating Mike by a single tile. He was still 8th, but now only 5 TPs behind 5th place. Jamie drew with Alex to join Mike on 92 TPs. Amazingly, Chris made it a three-way tie on 92 by beating Phil by 10, to push the latter down 3 places to 7th and end his challenge. Jason beat Wendy by 9 tiles to move up to 4th on 76. Zenon won his second game in a row, to join brother Alex on 70. This was 22 TPs behind the top three, though, with only two rounds to go - surely none of the Australians could figure in the final 1-2-3?

Round 8 was a chance for each of the three leaders to gain an advantage going into the final round, but (somewhat predictably given what had happened in a couple of previous rounds to the players in the lead!) they all messed it up and it was the best round of all for the Australians.

First Zenon had a big 36-22 win against Jamie, to leave himself 5th, only 8 TPs behind his opponent in 3rd. Then Jason beat Mike by 2 tiles to keep himself in with a chance of victory, taking himself to 4th, within 8 points of his opponent in 1st.

In the 9th & 10th place game, Philip won to make sure he stayed off the bottom. Justin had his third win in a row, continuing Phil's slide (to 8th) after his good start. Justin was unfortunate that the top three Australians all won, to keep him down in 7th.

Then everyone piled into needle match between Alex & Chris, which was experiencing all kinds of problems with Chris being disconnected and his clock running backwards, not to mention some of the most appalling play I have ever seen from two good players. Could Chris go clear at the top? The whole tournament was held up while we found out. In retrospect, the controller (I forget who I ... er that ... was LOL) should have advised Alex to invoke the 'let the robot play' rule a lot more quickly - a lesson for the future.

In the end, Alex had the chance to force a 15-tile loop and missed it. Chris returned the favour by missing a chance to stop the loop by creating a lookalike space and ensuring that he forced the rest of the tiles out of the bag so that he could fill it. Alex took his second chance to win 30-20.

So to the Final Round, with Mike (on 98) 2 TPs ahead of Chris, who in turn was just 1 TP ahead of his final opponent, Jamie. Any of these three could win, as could Jason on 90. Even Zenon, on 87, could win on tiebreak in the unlikely event that he beat Jason by 24 tiles or more, Mike lost and Chris and Jamie drew.

In the lower half of the table, Philip beat Justin. He stayed in 9th but his wins in the last two rounds at least left him in contact with the top 8. Wendy lost to Phil, to end up without a win (her bad luck for living on the strongest Tantrix continent unfortunately!) but with lots of experience which should help her in the World Championship. Phil ended up 8th after a bright start followed by a big slide in the second half of the event.

In the 2nd v 3rd game, Chris beat Jamie convincingly 29-17. This ended Zenon and Jason's chances of 1st place too, but with his fourth win in a row (after 1 out of 5 before the break) Zenon completed his spectacular recovery, pushing Jamie out of 3rd place by 3 TPs.

That left Mike and Alex playing. Alex needed a win to salvage his slightly disappointing day by overtaking Jason and finishing in the top half. Rather more importantly, Mike needed a win by at least 4 tiles to dislodge Chris (who by this time thought he had won) at the top on tiebreak, since he had won the game between the two of them in Round 6.

It didn't look promising for Mike. Good play by Alex early on had forced Mike into a 9-tile loop. Alex was a bit blocked, but at one point could have played a tile which would have ensured a line of 15, lost by just 3 tiles, and given Chris the title. Alex needed to win though, and thought he saw his chance. However, he had miscalculated and ended up blocked and losing 13-18. Mike had won! Very disappointing for Chris, who had nevertheless made a great start to his tournament career.


Amazingly, no player won more than 6 of their 9 games. Mike and Chris both won 6 games and in fact Chris had an extra draw too, but Mike is the master of maximising tile scores, whether he wins or loses. One 19 TPs to 1 win helped him, but the main reason for his victory was that none of his 3 losses were by more than 2 tiles, so he got one more TP from his 3 losses than Chris did from his draw and 2 losses.

Six players had 4 or 5 wins. The most extreme effect happened to Justin, who had the same W/D/L record as Zenon but finished 17 TPs and 5 places behind him. A quick look at the cross table shows why - two of Justin's wins were by only one tile and no less than three of his losses were by 12 tiles or more, while Zenon had two wins by 12 tiles or more and no losses by more than 6 tiles.

The Team Match:

Well, they kept the margin to less than 100 TPS in the end, but the Australians probably think the less said about this the better! The real score was 298-202, since 200 TPS in each team's total were scored against other players from the same country. The interesting thing is the variation between certain players' performance against players from the other team and against players from their own country.

Mike, predictably, was top scorer v AUS, with 70 TPs (out of 100), but Phil, although he only came 7th overall, was only one point behind v AUS with 69, winning 4 out of 5. His 0 out of 4 against the other NZL players cost him dearly in the individual competition. Chris scored 58 and Justin 51. Phil's brother Jamie, in 4th, contributed the least for NZL with 50.

The highest contributions from Australians were only just above 50 though - Alex scoring 54 v NZL and Jason 53. The contribution of Philip in 9th, 37, was only 2 TPs behind that of Zenon in 3rd - Zenon scored an amazing 62 points, an average of 15.5 per game, against the four other Australians.

Finally, thank you to everyone who took part for turning up on time, lasting the course and making the Pacific Championship probably the most exciting event yet!

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