2001 WORLD TANTRIX CHAMPIONSHIP - THE FINAL

Other 2001 WTC Reports         Assistant Controller's Report         World Championship home page

The Players and how they reached the Final     Preview of the Final
Game 1     Game 2     Game 3     Game 4     Game 5     Game 6     Game 7     Game 8     Game 9     Conclusion

For the second year in a row, we have one northern hemisphere and one southern hemisphere player in the Final, one male and one female and both seeded but both outside the top 10 seeds. Amazingly enough, at just 26, Heli is the oldest finalist since the knockout format for the World Championship was introduced, the three knockout format Finals having featured four players in their mid-20s and two teenagers.

Player MATT PEEK HELI NIEMI
Photo Click to see a slightly bigger version Click to see the scenery in Finland too!
Nickname 'Pekko' 'Helly'
Town/City Auckland Kemi
Country NEW ZEALAND   FINLAND  
Age 18 26
Studies Stats/Maths/Commerce at U of Auckland Chemistry at University of Oulu
 
Elo Rating & Seeding 1917 (seeded 14) 1809 (seeded 28)
Master Ranking 17 Nov 2090 (2nd) 1195 (50th = last, crazy but true!)
Lobby Ranking 17 Nov 958 (10th) 846 (97th)
Lobby Ranking 23 Aug 969 (down 11 during the WTC!) 915 (down 69 during the WTC!)
 
WTC in 1999 3rd place after losing in SF Did not enter
WTC in 2000 Reached last 16 R2 (last 48), then reached Plate SF
 
Rounds 1 and 2 byes (as a seeded player) byes (as a seeded player)
Round 3 bye (as one of top 16 seeds) 63.0-37.0 v (Un) Neal Bolton (GBR)
Round 4 59.2-40.8 v (19) Irene Dyer (USA) 65.7-34.3 v (8) Laurent Berguin (FRA)
Round 5 71.6-48.4 v (Un) Garry Laishley (AUS) 72.0-48.0 v (10) Yoseph Phillips (ISR)
Quarter-Finals 100.4-39.6 v(20) Martin Harlow (GBR) 72.2-67.8 v (21) Wolfgang Schwarz (GER)
Semi-Finals 98.8-61.2 v (13) Péter Petrecz (HUN) 80.5-79.5 v (Un) Leah Sanders (AUS)
 


PREVIEW by 1998 World Champion Steven Trezise:

For the third year in a row, a player from Auckland has reached the World Tantrix Championship Final. No. 14 seed Matt Peek will be hoping it is third time lucky, because Jamie Sneddon and Matt Kearse both lost. Matt has already tasted success in the WTC, having finished 3rd in the
1999 WTC after a very strong run. In addition, his younger brother Chris Peek nearly won a tournament when he only lost the 1999 Pacific Championship to the inventor on tie-break.

In fact, Matt was the no. 1 seed for the 2000 WTC, but the pressure of being in the top two seeds seems to be too much for any player and Matt was no exception, going out to the then European Champion Jean-Louis Potier (FRA) in the last 16 after having scraped through his last 32 match against, coincidentally, Jean-Louis' wife by 51-49, proving that the Peeks are not the only family who can prove to be a dangerous double act!

Matt had a disappointing NZ Championship this year, finishing 3rd in Preliminary Group A and hence being the only seeded player in that tournament who failed to reach the quarter-finals.

However, the lower seeding which resulted from this seems to have taken the pressure off Matt a bit and he has demolished most of his opponents so far, even so far as to become the first (and still only) player ever to reach 100 TPs in a single match in his 7-game quarter-final - this has not even been achieved in a 9-game final before and Matt nearly repeated the feat in the semi-final too with 98.8 TPs. In fact, his only real scare came in his very first match when he lost the first two games to no. 19 seed Irene Dyer (USA), but showed that he can keep cool in a crisis by winning the last three games to take the match by 59.2-40.8 TPs.

Without wanting to crush Matt's chances in the Final :-), I would have to say that from the matches I have seen, Matt (while not infallible) has come up with some great moves and looks like he may well be the strongest player in the world at the moment.

So, a difficult task awaits no. 28 seed Heli Niemi (FIN) in the Final. She is a chemistry student at the University of Oulu in Finland and comes from nearby Kemi, just south of the Arctic Circle. Is she scared? I bet she isn't, because I am pretty sure Heli is not scared of anyone. She entered her first tournament in the first half of 2000, the European Championship. Heli seems to relish playing the top players more than playing the weaker players and although she only came 7th out of 10 in the final all-play-all, she was the highest-placed dťbutant in the tournament and the only player who managed to beat both the eventual winner Jean-Louis Potier (FRA) and 3rd placed Pťter Petrecz (HUN) that day.

In the 2000 WTC, Heli was seeded 29th, one place lower than this year, and was unfortunate enough to meet Ben Polman (NED) in her first match. He was virtually unknown then, but he beat Heli by 48-32 TPs before showing that losing to him was no disgrace by pushing the previous year's runner-up close in the last 32 and winning the 2001 European Championship and reached the final of this year's WTC Plate.

Like Matt, Heli had a disappointing continental championship this year, finishing in the bottom half of Preliminary Group D in the 2001 European Championship.

In this tournament though, Heli has shown that she still relishes the chance for a pop at the top players by beating the no. 8 and no. 10 seeds very convincingly in Rounds 4 and 5, before scraping through her very exciting quarter-final and semi-final matches, winning the latter against unseeded Leah Sanders (AUS) by just a single TP. The top 16 players she has beaten on her way to the Final were, though very strong players indeed, probably the two most out of practice of the seeded players, so it seems likely that Matt will provide Heli with her biggest test so far. However, she has been practising hard, not to mention being brave enough to add some reviews of her own for these pages, so she is unlikely to be any more frightened of playing him than he is of playing her.


REVIEWS OF THE GAMES:

Four of the strongest players in the world, two of them due to meet in a Plate semi-final, have kindly agreed to contribute some reports on the Final to give a bit of variety. The reports will be posted in pairs/threes over the next few days [with 'editorial comments' in square brackets] - note that Matt played yellow and Heli played green throughout.


GAME 1 by 1999 Pacific Champion Mike McManaway:

Game 1 started evenly, though Heli made some pretty good moves on move 8 and move 12. Matt played sensibly.

On move 17, Heli started a risky second line. I think this is a normal tactic for her, and possibly a good idea if you are the underdog and need to take small risks to give yourself a chance of winning.

At any rate Matt felt obliged to defend the second line rather than continue line building, and this is possibly where he lost the game. Feeling himself the stronger player he understandably didn't want to take any risks but I would say that attitude is a mistake. At this level of play I think you need to always make the best move and go with the statistics.

[Interestingly,last year's champion Julia Schwarz would contradict Mike here because she says that it is precisely because she didn't really take any risks that she won last year, and that she lost when playing more boldly this year, and only won the later games in her match when she remembered that had not taken risks last year and played like that again.]

They both continued line building then on move 30 Matt started a risky second line himself, though no doubt he will claim he didn't have many other choices since both players' lines were fairly blocked at that stage. It turned out very badly for him with Heli picking up the critical tiles and permanently blocking his line at the indirect connection which would have joined both together.

So, Heli was clearly going to win this game and it was just a question of by how many. Matt had very few options in the endgame but he might have reduced the margin to 3 tiles (instead of 4) by using his top tile (a yellow straight) to force Helly to block herself at the right-hand end of her line.

Final score: 16-12 to Heli, 14.7-5.3 TPs.


GAME 2 by 2001 Pacific Runner-Up Bevan Chong:

This game, as it turned out, was rather a boring game, though it did have the odd twist along the way, with each player playing some quite odd moves at times. But as Jamie Sneddon said as I was talking to him on ICQ as I was writing this review, those moves might be why you [Bevan] and I [ Jamie] didn't get to the final, and they did ;-) Iíd have to tend to agree with that too. [It could just be Final nerves producing dodgy moves of course!]

Both players started off with the normal 'add a few to my line' type moves. However, move 5 by Heli kind of surprised me, when Heli had the opportunity of blocking one of Mattís ends temporarily while still keeping both ends of her line open. However, it could be understood with Final nerves that she decided to make the move she did, since after all it did block one of Mattís ends, although it blocked one of her ends too.

Mattís reply to this move was to do to Heli what she probably should have done to him (in my opinion) on the previous move, only the green and yellow being reversed. He cunningly added three to his line (also going towards the stray yellow on the Tantrix) while blocking the other end of Heliís line, leaving both ends of her line temporarily blocked. The score was now being 3-2 to Heli directly, 8-5 to Matt indirectly.

With both ends of her line blocked, Heli decided to start a new line, which was probably in her best interests since it could be many tiles before her original line became unblocked. She played a very sound move, which created an indirect line of 5. However, her tile draw opened up her original line, which in effect created two lines for Heli, and something for Matt to keep an eye on to make sure Heli didnít connect both these lines up. Her next tile afterwards undid her good work of keeping both ends of Mattís line blocked. However, it opened up both ends of her original line, and kept one end of Mattís lines blocked.

Move 14 (by Matt) in my opinion is a strange move by him. Iím guessing his thought behind it was to create two separate lines for Heli and try and keep her trying to connect them up, and possibly make her take risks in doing so, which would hopefully help him. Why he didnít add to his line will remain unknown since there were some sound moves he could have made, one of which would have indirectly blocked both ends of Heliís original line.

However, after filling in all the forced spaces prior to her next free move, it looked as if Heli had an opportunity to possibly link both of her lines via the bottom of the Tantrix. She played a sound move in that it added 2 tiles to her line. However, the forced move which it created for Matt (I think she was hoping against hope that she would get a tile to fill it in before Mattís tile filled it) caused what would have been the vital link to link up her lines along the bottom to be looped into a loop of 4, and also gave him a big chance of adding several tiles to his line on the next turn.

I think if Heli had played her top tile, she would have had a better chance of linking up via the bottom of the Tantrix, since there were only two tiles that could have filled the space, one of which was the straight which she wanted. This move would have also prevented Matt connecting up the middle of his line because of the other forced space created temporarily. However, with only two tiles being able to fill the space, and 27 tiles still left in the bag, it could have been a while before it was filled, and therefore perhaps a little risky, especially since this was only game 2, and big risks arenít really advisable or necessary at this stage of a 9 game match!

Mattís move 25 possibly was a big game turner for him in that he managed to add 6 to his line and give himself an advantage over Heli. The score was now 16-8 to Matt. However, with his move he used up his last RYY. If Heli had noticed this, she, could have blocked the other end of his line permanently, while still adding to her line, and with 14 tiles left in the bag, this would have really worried Matt.

So if Heli had played her second tile instead of the fifth tile, she would have done this, while still keeping her end of her line open, and still keeping the possibility of joining her two lines across the top of the Tantrix. Instead, Heli played another sharp bend, but still kept up hope of joining her two lines up. However, that move probably lost her the game because the straight green (GBRGRB) didnít come out. It was unlucky for Heli in that the tiles that Matt drew after filling the forced spaces caused her two lines to become even more separated, and with tiles running out, it was looking more and more likely that she wasnít going to join them up. Matt then had the opportunity to block Heli's line using three of his tiles - tiles 1,2 and 4 in his hand. Why he didnít, I guess weíll never know either.

Mattís next set of moves was sound with him adding 3 to his line and blocking one end of Heli's line with only one tile left to fit it, the straight she needed before. The score was 20-11 to Matt.

Heliís next move was probably the best she could have done without risking Matt adding substantial amounts to his line. On move 42, the straight green (GBRGRB) tile which Heli had so desperately wanted came out, all too late. Now it was more of a hindrance than a help because while it opened up the other end of her line, with it all the remaining tiles came out of the bag which gave Matt the first unrestricted free move too. With it, he added two to his line while blocking one end of Heliís line. Heli then blocked the end to which Matt had just added to. The score was 23-14 to Matt.

The rest of the game was played out with Matt trying to waste Heliís tiles since he couldnít add to his line without adding more to hers, and Heli trying to reduce the losing margin, which eventually amounted to 8. All in all, Matt did well to keep Heliís two lines separated for the entire game. He basically led from start to finish. In my opinion though, I thought he was luckier with the tiles, with Heli being quite unlucky at times. Her tiles werenít the best at times either, and this did not help her cause. However, if she had noticed that all the RYYís had gone as soon as they had all come out, I think things would have definitely swung her way, since Matt added 6 to that end eventually. A fine win to Matt though, which helped to square things up.

After talking to Matt on the phone after the first session, he said in game 2, he was trying to tempt Heli into creating two lines, and therefore waste more of her tiles... something that he did well.

Final score: 23-15 to Matt, 15.8-4.2 TPs. Matt leads by 21.1-18.9 TPs after two games.


GAME 3 by 1999 World Runner-Up Jamie Sneddon:

Game 3 started in a reasonably normal way, both players adding small amounts to their lines until Matt speculatively blocked one end of Heli's line at move 5. This block came free soon enough for Heli though, at the end of her next turn, with Matt leading 9-5 at that early stage.

Matt attacked by making a 5 tile loop of Heli's green, wasting tiles nicely. With tiles that didn't look to have any useful moves in them (although I could well be mistaken), Heli took a risk and turned one end of her line into a blocked space. Not too worrying with still 5 tiles left that would fit this space, and her other end free.

Matt played to waste more green on his next move, making a small green loop, leaving himself open to a cunning (if rather hopeful) move from Heli. At move 20 She build a potential extension to her line near her blocked end, with the possibility (2 in 5) that the next tile for that forced space would connect the lines. A bit of luck saw the right tile come out in the same turn, extending Heli's line to an indirect 11, waiting for one of two remaining GRGs.

Matt immediately found a nice move which added 5 indirectly to his line without too much danger of it being blocked at move 25. With this move, he went back to holding the stronger position in the game, although he did have one end of his line blocked by two forced spaces.

Heli followed with a safe move (perhaps not wanting to push her luck, after things went so nicely in the previous turn), adding two to her line.

Matt tried to force himself to make a connection in his line at move 28, and got one of the two remaining GRGs from the bag. This could be played at the bottom of the Tantrix, rather than in the space Heli wanted it, but Matt chose to play it into the gap in her line, perhaps because it got him closer to opening the blocked end of his line. At the end of his moves, he couldn't connect directly to the open end of his line.

Heli continued with safe moves, adding another two tiles to her line at move 31. Matt could do little to add to his own line, and so kept a link of green away from Heli, probably hoping that he would draw a tile for one of the three forced spaces.

It wasn't to be. Heli extended her lead by another two (taking the score to 17-13), and by this stage Matt might have been re-counting the YRY's. With just 6 tiles left in the bag, three of them were needed to add to his line. Heli finally drew one and was forced to play it, taking Matt's line to 15, but still blocked at that end waiting for the only remaining BYB. He drew it as the second to last tile, probably with a sigh of relief.

Matt blocked one end of Heli's line with the last tile before the bag was empty. Heli had the first free move, and safely added one to her line, preventing being blocked at both ends. The score was 18-16 at that point. Matt added one to Heli's line and two to his own.

Heli forced Matt to play one of his tiles onto her line and wasted one yellow. Matt found himself unable to block the end of Heli's line, and played to add to his own, leaving Heli in a position to add two to her line, taking the score to 22-19 with four tiles to play. Matt was finally able to block Heli's line, and Heli was able to force Matt's final tile, leaving the score as it was.

Overall, this was a game where one carefully considered speculative move (20) helped Heli in a game in which she otherwise played it pretty safe to good effect. Matt perhaps didn't have enough opportunity to display his knack for knowing which useful tile arrangements were all gone, and move 28 didn't perhaps achieve quite what he intended, leaving him without much building potential.

Mike McManaway has a similar view of this game to Jamie, but adds: "I think Matt's move 18 was very uninspiring :-) defending an isolated green corner at that stage of the game is the mark of someone who thinks he's already won the game and now just has to coast.

And I agree with Jamie, move 28 was crucial, Matt really stuffed it up by fairly permanently (0/1) blocking the entire left side of the Tantrix.

Final score: 22-19 to Heli, 14.3-5.7 TPs. Heli leads by 33.2-26.8 TPs after three games.


GAME 4 by 2001 Pacific Runner-Up Bevan Chong:

Once again, as in Game 2, the game started off with both players quietly adding small amounts to their lines, while at the same time, scattering pieces of their opponentís colour where they (hopefully!) wouldnít reach them. Each player played well in the early stages of the game, making very good moves, though Heli seemed to be doing a better job than Matt of wasting her opponents' pieces. However, with both players having blocked ends from time to time, it was hard to tell what parts of their lines were going to connect. It was simply luck of the draw as to which tiles filled the forced spaces.

At move 17 it was 7 all, though Matt had an indirect connection of another two, with a possible nine that could be added if the right tiles were drawn from the bag. Heli had a possible five that could be added, and with move 18, she drew the tile she needed to connect two fragments of her colour together, the straight green GBRGRB. This now made the score 12-9 to Heli including indirect connections.

On move 22, Heli helped her cause even further by drawing a tile which caused Mattís line to be pushed away from a short fragment of his colour, while adding to her own line.

With these connections and good fortune for Heli, Matt probably thought heíd better play reasonably safe and did the right thing in stopping Heli from adding another possible 6 to her line by pushing the fragment away from her main line, while also preventing her from adding to it as well.

On move 28, Matt drew the good tile this time, which allowed him to connect another 3 to his line indirectly. The score being 14 all indirectly, 8-7 to Matt directly.

However, once again, Heli on move 31 drew another tile which pushed Mattís two lines even further apart again. Matt was probably wondering where his luck had gone ... (it must have been getting stored up in lobby room 12 :o)). However, this tile did open up the other end of Mattís main line, while still keeping one end of Heliís line blocked.

Move 34 by Heli was a killer blow to Mattís hopes of victory, with Heli playing a wonderful move which blocked Mattís line. The only tile that would fit the space would only be able to be played once the restrictions had come off. However, with this move, Heli also blocked the second end of her line (though 3 pieces left in the bag were able to fit it) and her good luck continued when she drew a tile to open up that end immediately. Not only that, the next tile she drew opened up the other end of her line and added two. There was also the possibility of her adding another three on top.

Matt, probably pissing his pants right now with all the luck Heli had been getting throughout the game, kept a cool head and blocked the possible add-on of three. After this move, it was 18-13 to Heli. However, this blocked up the second end of his line, and this probably spelt the end of Mattís hope for a recovery.

Heli continued to slowly add to her line, ensuring each time that it was unable to be blocked. On move 42, Matt played what to most people would seem a strange move, except that by playing it, it left him some hope of adding the two tiles at the top of the Tantrix, which were indirectly connected to his line. Another possible alternative for Matt this move would have been to block Heliís other end by playing his second tile which would have prevented Heli from adding to her line any more.

When the restrictions came off, Matt had the first unrestricted move. At this point, it was 20-13 to Heli and Matt was looking down the barrel of a big defeat - 7 tiles is still reasonably large, and they are hard to come by especially at this stage of a tournament. Matt added the three tiles at the top of his line taking the score to 20-16. Heli added one more to her line taking her score to 21 and wasted two of Mattís tiles in the process. Matt, cunningly, added another to his line, while also preventing Heli from adding to hers by wasting the only tile that would add to Heliís line.

Overall, Heli played very well, and used her good fortune to her advantage. Matt must have felt really unlucky with all the tiles going against him, except when he drew that yellow straight, but even that backfired in some ways. A great win to Heli though, which certainly have her a big advantage going into the final five games.

I donít think there were very many moves at all that I wouldnít have done that either of those two players did, showing how good they must be! (if they think like me.. they must be good! :P and makes me wonder why I wasnít in the final!)

Final score: 21-17 to Heli, 14.7-5.3 TPs. Heli leads by 47.9-32.1 TPs after four games.


GAME 5 by 2001 European Champion Ben Polman:

Matt was 15.8 TPs behind Heli before the start of this game, but despite another difficult start for Matt, this game (the first in the now infamous room 12) proved to be the turning point in the match. At the start, Matt had almost no yellow tiles available and already on his second move, move 4, he took the risk of losing seven tiles if Heli had picked up a YBY (there were still five left in the bag) or eight if she had picked up the straight yellow through red and green.

The odds worked out for Matt and Heli simply continued building a line instead. Matt's next move was again a risky one, he had only two short yellows to play with and decided to play the one with the straight green forcing Heli to connect it to his line indirectly adding three to his line, but this move gave Heli the chance to add four tiles to her line. Moreover if Heli picked up the straight yellow through red and blue she could leave Matt with a loop scoring 20. I would have played tile 5 at the bottom left, it blocks one end but forces Heli to add one to Matt's line with no risks involved.

As it turns out, Heli did pick up the straight yellow leaving her with the choice of giving Matt a loop scoring 20 or adding four to her own line and leaving the choice to Matt. Note that only nine tiles had been played so far! She chose the latter option - since Matt had only one yellow corner available, there was no immediate risk of him creating a larger loop.

So on move 12, Matt had the choice of going for 20 and playing defensively for the rest of the game. Heli had an indirect line of nine at this point but if Matt forced the loop, Heli would have added at least four on the next move and have had the threat of a loop looming. Matt left the option for a loop open and blocked one end of Heli's line, getting rid of a dangerous straight green at the same time.

Back to Heli: whether to close the loop or not was still the question. Closing was now a lot less appetising since it would force both ends of Heli's line onto a controlled side where the straight green needed to close the loop later on had just been played by Matt. Heli decided to add to her line and at the same time push one end of Matt's line onto a controlled side. This was risky since it opened the chance for Matt to go for a loop scoring 26 if he played his third tile at the bottom left. This would create a forced space where two of the three remaining fitting tiles would provide him with the loop if the blocked side opened up, which was likely to happen since we were still only at move 16.

But Matt played a green on the right-hand side of the Tantrix, to make the controlled side more likely to last and preventing the possibility of Heli linking to the lonely green up there. Note that in all of his moves, Matt had only had one or two yellow corners to choose from, but ironically he now picked up the straight yellow that would have given him the loop scoring 26!

Heli now added to her line at the bottom and at the same time put some space between the two ends of Matt's line. Matt filled in some forced spaces and then decided to add to his line, blocking the other end of Heli's line. This looked promising but I'm not sure if Matt had seen the danger lurking at the top right. Heli, with both ends blocked, decided to go for a loop at the top right of the tantrix and was a bit lucky that the one remaining tile she needed came out immediately on Matt's next turn, giving Heli a loop for 22 with only one green corner needed to close it.

Matt blocked the side as far away as possible, getting rid of two green corners in the process. Heli tried to block Matt's one free end but was now unlucky that again the one remaining tile to fit it came out immediately, putting Matt 15-10 ahead but with both ends now blocked. At this moment, I'd have put my money on Heli. With only 6 tiles in the bag and the block three tiles away from her loop, it looked to me that she had a 50% chance of getting the first free move to seal the game, plus there were still three GRG tiles in the bag which would have connected up her original line to give her a line of 15 too.

On move 39, Matt got rid of one of the GRGs and then luck took over, producing the tiles in the right order to close the gap of three tiles at the top and block the green loop permanently. To top it off, one tile remained in the bag, the last RGR, so Matt would get the first unrestricted free move.

Heli played on the right-hand side of the Tantrix. She connected her line with the last RGR and then had to waste two more of her tiles to leave the score 15-15 but with Matt having two free ends to Heli's one. Moreover, after playing his forced tile this created two useless forced spaces for Heli leaving her with at most one tile. This was a simple problem for Matt - waste Heli's last tile and then use his remaining tiles to lengthen his line.

On move 49, Matt could have played his yggy at the left top to force the last of Heli's remaining tiles instead of at the top middle forcing one of his own tiles too, in which case he would have won 19-15.

This is still one short of the 20 he could have had if he had closed the loop early in the game but I think that would have allowed Heli to win anyway.

All in all a very interesting game with switching chances where I think Matt should have gone for the loop of 26 but in the end had a bit of luck to run out the winner.

Final score: 18-15 to Matt, 14.3-5.7 TPs. Heli leads by 53.6-46.4 TPs after five games.


GAME 6 by 2001 New Zealand Champion Shaun Cooper:

Summary: Matt built one line, while Heli built two and threatened to join them. Heli's lines nearly joined - maybe they would have if she had played differently on Move 37. Matt won 24-17.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The game opened fairly routinely, with both players adding to their lines efficiently, and Matt scattering a couple of Heli's green pieces.

On Move 17, Heli started a second line by joining some fragments that had earlier been scattered by Matt. However the likelihood that thenew line would join the first appeared to diminish as some of the forced pieces played by both players moved the ends of Heli's two lines further apart.

Matt continued to lengthen his line, without needing to take any major risks.

A ROW OF THREE BLOCKED SPACES

On Move 26 Heli hatched a plan, and extended the shorter of her two lines, pointing it towards an end of her longer line. However a row of three blocked spaces then stood between the two lines. The three pieces needed to join the two lines were still in the bag, but Heli would need some luck in order to complete the link.

On Move 31, Heli drew the first of the three pieces needed to join her lines. She then needed to draw the remaining grr piece (the grrgbb, just the piece for the job) before Matt drew it and played it in a lookalike forced space. It looked like Heli's move 26 was paying off, and she now had about a 50-50 chance of her lines joining to give her a big score.

Move 33 was a good one by Matt. It achieved the multiple purposes of:

(a) adding 4 to his own line;

(b) giving him at least 4 draws from the bag. With only 12 pieces left in the bag, Matt was keen to draw the key grrgbb himself and play it in the lookalike forced position, rather than leave it for Heli to help join her lines;

(c) offloading one of the two gbg's he held. This later proved to be crucial.

Despite four draws from the bag, Matt did not come up with the grrgbb.

Move 37 may have cost Heli the game. Faced with a choice of playing either of two tiles in a forced space, she played one that forced another of her tiles, which in turn created a forced space for the last gbg held by Matt. Got that? But who is capable of such subtle reasoning at this complex stage of the game? Astonishingly, Matt saw exactly what was going on, and at the end of the game he pointed out that Heli's Move 37 enabled him to prevent Heli's lines from joining, calling it ``very costly''. (See footnote below)

On Move 41, Heli drew the much-awaited grrgbb and played it to leave just one forced tile, held by Matt, separating her two lines. But it was futile,and Matt dumped his gbg in the lookalike position which had inadvertently been created earlier by Heli.

With that, the game was essentially over, and Matt tapped a few extra nails into Heli's coffin to lengthen his line for some extra TP's.

Two things struck me about this game.

First was the fearsome line-building by Heli. Although it didn't work for her in this game, she presented Matt with a really dangerous threat with two lines. Her play in this respect reminded me of some games I saw 1999 World Tantrix Champion Zenon Kowalczyk (ZAZZA) play in the final against Jamie Sneddon (Ridcully).

The second thing that impressed me was Matt's skilful and rapid analysis of the game. He seemed to be always aware of the possible threats posed by Heli, and consequently played excellent defence.

Footnote: I manually set up the game at Move 37, and played Heli's other forced piece to see what would have happened if she had made this play instead. This forces another of her pieces, leaving just 6 tiles in the bag. If she then played her free move to force a lot of tiles, for example, by playing at the top right corner of the Tantrix, then there is a very high chance that she could have kept control of the game until the grrgbb tile came out, and Matt would have had to play his last gbg to join her lines. I believe she would have won this game by about 30 - 25 in this case.

Final score: 24-17 to Matt, 15.5-4.5 TPs. Matt leads by just 61.9-58.1 TPs after six games.


GAME 7 by 1999 World Runner-Up Jamie Sneddon:

Matt put his stamp on game 7 early, making a good move 8 to extend his line. Heli's response was to divert the perceived threat of a loop, further extending Matt's line.

Matt continued to build his line, and then at move 15 Heli blocked Matt's line at one end, and blocked a side which was waiting for two YY tiles to complete indirect links. Matt played a safe move to force out a few tiles and get a gap in his line filled.

Heli was lucky to pick up the tile she wanted for a forced space beside her line, followed by another fortunate draw which allowed her to add a significant amount to her line. With her free turn she added to her line and put Matt's line on a controlled side. Matt wasted green with his next turn, also using the tile draws to hopefully get the blocked space ending his line open. This wasn't to be, but when Heli filled a forced to increase her line by 2, a tile came free for it. Her free turn was wisely used to fill an indirect link in the middle of her line, making the scores equal at 17-17.

After playing forced moves, Matt was able to used with the obvious tactic of adding four to his line, which he did. It was a nice move, leaving an indirect connection to more of his colour at both ends of his line, assuring him of at least 4 more tiles added to his line.

Matt had too many YY tiles left to attempt to force them all out, and Heli chose to block one end of Matt's line.

Matt's next move was straightforward, completing the four-tile extension at the unblocked end of his line. After the remaining tiles were played, Matt had a comfortable 7-tile win.

Move 41 was probably the only one of note, though others will probably disagree. Move 8 was nice by Matt, a strong early move, and Heli got the lucky draw(s) of the game after move 18.

Final score: 27-20 to Matt, 15.5-4.5 TPs. Matt leads by 77.4-62.6 TPs after seven games.


GAME 8 by 1999 Pacific Champion Mike McManaway:

Matt started game 8 ahead by 77.4-62.6, needing just a single win from either of the last two games, or two single-tile losses, so there was a lot of pressure on Heli.

A strong move 3 gave him into a commanding start. Heli's reply was weak, further strengthening Matt's position (a better alternative for her would surely have been to add two tiles to her line at the top right.

By move 10 Matt was so far ahead that the game appeared won. Helly had some tough choices to make. It was a fascinating position and well worth a look.

All the tiles needed for Matt to complete a 32-point loop were out and this fact looming large in Heli's mind must have been the reason she defended rather than building her line. However, considering that at this point the size of Matt's win was not really relevant, both Britta and I would suggest alternative (though risky) options.

a) Ignore Matt's 32 point indirect loop threat for now: he'll need three seperate moves to connect up the indirect connections, so there's some chance of him ending up blocked with a score of 15 or less.

b) Britta suggested an obscure move - playing Heli's second tile (yellow bend) at the bottom left slightly turning Matt away and having the potential to add seven or more tiles to Heli's line if she's lucky.

In weak positions like this, players have to take risks to have any chance of winning!

Anyway Matt continues line building, then on move 18 Heli picks up the 'magic' tile (yellow sint) and then picks up the green straight and suddenly she's back in the game with a good chance!

However the luck switches back to Matt and what could have turned to custard becomes a dream for him as the tile needed to connect through to the bottom miraculously appears.

At this point Heli pauses to fill her indirect connection, probably wisely given that 15 of the 18 green corners were already out or played. However, again I would say that if the game margin is not relevant then she would have been better to take this risk and continue line building here. To play conservatively is to lose the game if you are already behind.

Then the last tiles out of the bag fall nicely for Matt, and Heli has no way to stop Matt's 7 point win, and the 4th World Tantrix Championship is decided!

Final score: 19-14 to Matt, 15.0-5.0 TPs. Matt holds a winning lead of 92.4-67.6 TPs after eight games.


GAME 9 by Northern Ireland No. 1 Simon Wright:

As the result of the match had already been decided at this stage, this game was not played with the greatest of care. It was also the fastest game in tournament history at 5 m 06 s, beating the previous record by nearly two minutes.

This showed as early as move 6 when Matt turned for a risky loop, adding two tiles to his line but blocking it in the process. At move 12, both players were facing possible loops - Matt's with 9 tiles, Heli's with 11.

Matt's move 12 looked good at the time, adding three tiles to his line, and blocking Heli's at both ends, but ultimately Matt would have to abandon this line.

Heli's move 23 turned out to be fatal, adding three to her line but blocking it at both ends, and she also threw Matt a lifeline with a line of nine at the bottom. With four tiles left in the bag, Matt had stretched his line to 15 tiles.

Heli's last lifeline, her loop at the top of the Tantrix, fell through when Matt found a lookalike space for the RGYYGR piece Heli was relying on. She could have prevented this (and therefore won the game) by playing the BGBRRG at the top, forcing Matt to close the loop.

The rest of the game was played out with Matt adding one tile, making the score 16-10.

Matt talked to me after the game about his "lucky room 12". He lost three of the first four games in the Final, then he switched to his 'lucky room' where he won the next four games in a row to win the match as well. He then gave Heli the choice of room for the last game. His words afterwards were, "And unluckily (for her), she decided to pick room 12!"

Final score: 16-10 to Matt, 15.3-4.7 TPs. Matt wins by 107.7-72.3 TPs after all nine games.


CONCLUSION:

MATT:

Many congratulations to Matt, the new World Tantrix Champion. Seemingly down and out halfway through his two matches against female opposition in Round 4 and the Final, he showed his class when it really mattered to turn those matches around and seemingly had little difficulty in despatching two higher seeded players and one of the Australian giant-killers in between. How good is he going to be when he gets over his nervousness with women? ;-)

The only player ever to have scored more than 100 TPs in a WTC match of any length, he has now done this twice, and that from 32.1-47.9 TPs down after four games of the Final! Matt says it was playing the last five games (all of which he won) in his 'lucky room 12' which did the trick.

It was third time lucky in the Final for Auckland and the country where Tantrix was invented. The score was a record margin in a Final (the first time it has been 6 games to 3 instead of 5-4, though this is still a fairly close match by anyone's standards), and it was the shortest Final in two senses, played over just two sessions instead of the usual three (both on the same day from Matt's point of view) and with 2 h 03 m of play, shorter even than one of the 5-game R4 matches (three guesses who was playing in that one ...) and less than half as long as last year's final.

This just amplifies the fact that the pendulum has really swung back to the teenagers / quick players / southern hemisphere again this year and the older, slower, northern hemisphere players (like me!) will be hoping the even-numbered years continue to belong to them.

RATINGS:

With one
TGM norm carried forward from 1999, Matt will for gain a second for winning the WTC and will be waiting with bated breath to see if his performance in the tournament merits a 2000+ rating and hence makes him the first player to win the magic third norm and hence the title. With most of the top players (against whom there is most chance of gaining lots of points) going out so early this year and not being involved in many matches, ratings from this year's WTC may be slightly lower on average than last year's and Plate players may do well in the ratings too, but I would expect at least one or two players to come out with 2000+ ratings for the tournament as a whole. All will become clear when the year-end ratings are published in December.

HELI:

Heli deserves plenty of praise too, both for winning five matches against tough opposition to get to the Final and for giving Matt such a scare in the early stages. She showed that she too was able to come good when it really mattered, surviving two very close QF and SF matches. Like Matt, she came into the WTC after having a dismal time in her continental Championship, which suggests that it may be easier to do well when expectations of you are not too high. I noticed that she reached the semi-finals of the Plate last year too, which should maybe have given us a warning of what was to come.

TOURNAMENTS IN 2001:

Over 1100 tournament games have been played this year, over 600 of them in the World Championship and Plate. This year's World Championship has without a shadow of the doubt been the best one so far (from an organiser's point of view anyway!), building on the successful continental championships played earlier in the year. The interest from those not directly involved in matches has been phenomenal this year, as evidenced by the increased spectator numbers, the fact that the WTC was being discussed in the lobby so often, the number of people looking at review games and the interest and active participation in the WTC reports page.

THANKS:

There are lots of people I would like to thank:

Phil Sneddon deserves special mention for running the most popular Plate and Fantasy competitions yet with help from Paul Martinsen, as does Jamie Sneddon for controlling the (more difficult) quarters of the WTC draw and for a lot of relatively unsung work assistant controlling most of the other tournaments too.

I'd also like to thank Dave Dyer - with very few exceptions, the applet has coped with the increase in numbers of games and spectators very well indeed.

The players deserve thanks for finally getting fully to grips with the rules, scoring and time zone issues, for their increased co-operation with opponents during tournaments and for some great games that got lots of people talking. The more experienced players in particularly seem to have been very good at helping the newbies to get to grips with it all. Amazingly enough, the number of defaults seems to be going down even faster than the number of entrants is rising, a trend which we hope will continue.

I would like to thank the illustrious team of reviewers whose work can be seen on this page - the standard of the reviews looks very high to me, and it is good to see people taking such an interest in other people's games and helping to push forward the standard of Tantrix play by sharing their ideas with the rest of the Tantrix world - I hope they do not all end up suffering the fate I did this year! :-) As well as those featured above (Ben, Bevan, Jamie, Mike, Shaun and Simon), the reports page for the earlier stages of the Championship received substantial contributions from Heli, Martin, Britta and others. Of course, I also have to thank all those who have been reading the reports pages and hence making them worth doing in the first place.

TOURNAMENTS IN 2002:

A preliminary schedule of tournaments for next year will be posted soon after Christmas, to include a new World Junior Championship along with the old favourites. We will be looking for new controllers and assistant controllers next year to cope with the demand too - more about that in an email sometime in December. I hope you all had fun in the tournaments this year, whether or not you felt you fulfilled your potential this time around, and I hope to see all of you entering the fray again in 2002.

P.S. Yes, I haven't forgotten, there are still a 3/4 playoff and the Plate Final to go - they will be covered on the other reports page.

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