As the saying goes, a tie is like kissing all three of your sisters. Last night's game at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square was as tight as can be, with Clockwork Chris Kelly's two-dot lead evaporating in the final year.
Game No. 385 ended by time limit after the Fall 1907 turn, naturally, in a blurry photo finish. The final center counts were:
Meanwhile, in the equally hard fought, if shorter and colder, Undercard game, Johnny Mercado, playing in just his third game with the club and first since last April, earned the board-top. This game was played on Bryan Pravel's back porch, an intimate space heated meagerly by space heaters. Game No. 384, the Undercard at the 2018 Weasel Royale championship game, was played on March 3, 2019. It ended by draw vote during the Fall 1908 turn in the following center counts:
Last-minute sub Ali Adib won the hard-fought 2018 Weasel Royale club championship game, which was finally played yesterday at Bryan Pravel's home in West Town. The game ended by draw vote during the Spring 1913 turn in the following center counts:
Jake Trotta has stepped back his play considerably since barnstorming through the league over a 2 1/2 year stretch. The Young Wolverine burst onto the scene in July 2015. Through February 2018, he played 44 league games and captured three major titles, including the Bar Room Brawl championship twice.
A five-month hiatus followed, and since then, only an occasional game.
Still, every now and then, he'll pounce on a board and cripple it for life. Such was the case on Sunday in Game No. 383, another boardless affair at Ali Adib's home in Avondale. The game ended after the Fall 1907 turn in the following center counts:
We're six months into our 14th season, and for those of us who have been here since the beginning, it can be difficult to recall which wave of players the current surge represents. We've had many over the years.
Last Wednesday at the Red Lion in the Lincoln Square, the club played its 382nd game, a contest pitting players from three distinct waves: Don Glass and Ted McClelland, vets who joined the club in our fourth season; Brandon Fogel and David Spanos, the vanguard of the New Guard, who joined in Season 10, along with Bryan Pravel, who started playing with us the next year; and two members of the current wave, Brian MacWilliams, playing in his second club game--and second game ever--and Braden Lenz, who joined us in Season 13.
For most of the evening, it was the newcomers' night. MacWilliams was holding his own in the East, and Lenz led everyone as Germany--no easy feat considering that one of his Western neighbors was three-time defending Weasel of the Year Brandon Fogel.
The holidays can be dark days for the Poultry of Europe, what with all the feasting and leftovers and general overeating. But the New Year promised a fresh start for Turkey, and guided by the stern hand and steely resolve of #Season14 newcomer Eber Condrell, the yellow pieces splattered the clean slate with the blood of their enemies.
After a two-month holiday hiatus, the Weasels were back in action last week for Red Wednesday at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square. It was just the fifth the game of the season and first since November 14, and a few of the players played as if they were still sleeping off a family gorging. But not Condrell. When Italy employed the Byrne Opening--Venice to Tyrolia, Rome to Venice, named for the postal hobby's fiercest practitioner, the late Kathy Byrne Caruso--and a Western Triple swamped Russia and the Mediterranean, Condrell seized these opportunities to ruthlessly gobble every lightly defended dot he could reach. He finished eating all three of his neighbors in 1904, and belched his way into a 14th dot by game's end. It was an impressive blitzing of three of the club's veteran players.
Game No. 381 ended by time limit after the Fall 1906 turn in the following center counts:
You keep lyin' when you oughta be truthin'
You keep losing when you oughta not bet
You keep samin' when you oughta be a'changin'
Now what's right is right but you ain't been right yet
In addition to being a catchy jingle, Nancy Sinatra's classic song is filled with great advice for Diplomacy players of all stripes. The song also comes to mind while reviewing the Spring 1901 moves from last Wednesday's game at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square. Specifically, these orders:
At the 11th hour* of the 11th day of the 11th month, seven Weasels gathered at club founder Jim O'Kelley's home in Little Italy to relitigate the rivalries that sparked a war that failed to end all wars. This latest effort, the club's 379th attempt to make sense of that tragic and futile conflict, started badly for Austria and England.
In the East, the Austrian (Jorge Zhang) stuffed an Italian (Pete McNamara) bid for Trieste, but the Turks (David Spanos) bounced him out of Serbia while the Russians (Christian Kline) marched into Galicia in the Fall. The Austrian position collapsed in 1902, as he lost centers to each of his tormentors, with Turkey picking up Serbia to boot. In fact, had in not been for a timely German (Jim O'Kelley) tap on Tyrolia that prevented Italy from capturing Vienna, Jorge would have been knocked out of the game.
Game No. 378, played last night at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square, nearly didn't happen. One player, en route from afar, dropped after seeing that we had a seventh without him. But that seventh had never played before and was intent on merely spectating. Meanwhile, reliable standby Christian Kline was stuck at work and uncertain of his status.
"Maybe 50 percent," he told me at 4:35.
Fortunately, he got out in time to salvage the game, which was another tight match.
Playing Austria, Kline jumped out to eight centers in 1902 but was knocked back to six the following year. Bryan Pravel in Turkey grabbed the lead at eight in 1904, the penultimate year, but Ali Adib in England and Mick Johnson in France were on his tail with seven, and Kline still had six. That set up a classic final year, with all four players scrambling for the top.
The game ended by time limit after the Fall 1905 turn in the following center counts:
Fresh off his win last month in the Bar Room Brawl Championship Game (not to mention a top-board finish at Weasel Moot), Christian "The Scorpion" Kline kept rolling last night at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square, topping on Opening Night for the second straight year. This top was much more modest than the whopper he pulled off in the Season 13 opener, but it was harder fought. In fact, rather than relying on his deadly sting, Kline showed off other elements of his game. He eked out the board-top with stolid defensive play and a charm offensive.
The game ended by time limit after the Fall 1905 turn in the following center counts:
"All decisions made involving 12-packs work out."--Chris Glassburn
The 12th installment of our Weasel Moot, played September 1-2 in the meeting room at 400 East Randolph, Prime Weasel Brian Shelden's condo building, was like a party pack from your favorite brewer. There was enough variety to please every taste, including one game that only ended after the players were serenaded into submission at a Karaoke bar.
When the fog machine cleared, Eric Grinnell, on the strength of monster board-tops in the first two rounds, including a near solo as Austria in Round 2, was holding the brass ring. Grinnell was playing in his seventh Chicago tournament, and the win was the first of his long and colorful career. All hail the Alpha Weasel mu!
Christian Kline walked into his first Weasels game--No. 3 way back in January 2006--like a gunslinger. Later that year, in August, the player known as The Scorpion soloed at the first Weasel Pyle to claim the very first Weasel of the Year title. (In its first installment, the Pyle was known as Weasel Moot; we wouldn't attach that name to our premier tournament until the following summer.)
In 12 seasons since then, Kline hasn't stopped shooting. But while he has finished on the podium in our tournaments, topped more than 23 percent of his league games, and won Best Country awards, a second major title eluded him. In fact, the drought dragged on for so long that some wondered whether The Scorpion was trying to fashion his Dip career into a more natural habitat.
And then Tuesday's Bar Room Brawl Championship Game at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square happened.
The drought is now over. Let it rain.
Brandon Fogel entered Season 13's final day of play with a tenuous hold on an unprecedented third straight Weasel of the Year title. His three closest pursuers also were playing at the Weasel Pyle, and any one of them could unseat him with a strong result. A poor showing by Fogel, thus hurting his sparkling leftover average, would make their jobs even easier. So the stakes were high.
But one does not win a Weasel of the Year title, let alone two in a row and a Royale championship to boot, by blanching in the face of high stakes.