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General / Essen - My First Time
« on: October 11, 2022, 09:14:03 AM »
Before Essen

Having won the UK Championship in June, I qualified to represent the UK at the Carcassonne World Championships - wow, the unimaginable journey had begun!
I initially prepared for the tournament the month or two before the event by setting Arena aside and concentrated on playing highly ranked players in 'simple' games. This was good while I could find opponents (not always easy in the early morning that I usually play), but I often found myself get bored waiting for opponents, so started playing other games instead. With four weeks to go I switched back to Arena: although I had my fair share of less experienced opponents, so not particularly useful for world championship practice, I also found myself matched against really tough opponents, and that really was useful.


I flew to Dusseldorf from Heathrow in London, got the train to Essen and then the underground to Spiel. The German public transport seemed very efficient, but I was so surprised at the lack of automatic gates or inspectors to check the tickets. I think London Underground would go bankrupt in a week if they used the same system - Germans must be much more honest!

I arrived at the games fair at around 16:00. That only left me 3 hours to look around, but - and please forgive me for saying this - games fairs just aren't my thing, I wasn't that fussed. I really don't like the crowds and the noise, and I much prefer checking new games online from the comfort of home. However, it was great to meet-up with Dan, Tom and Willem for a drink and a chat, joined a little later by Melvin and his protégé, Erick. In the halls I also found the UKGE stand and collected their generous contribution to my expenses.
Spiel is HUGE and makes the UKGE event seem comparatively small. However, I'd say the UKGE has the advantage over Spiel in that it seems to have far more open gaming tables where visitors can play late into the evening, rather than being kicked-out at 19:00 as happens with Spiel.

The Big Day

At 06:45 on Sunday morning, the nerves and anxious energy finally hit me. I was initially surprised it hadn't started earlier, but, on reflection, I was much more concerned about the travelling: I hardly ever fly or leave the UK, so I admit that flying to a foreign country on my own and not being able to understand German filled me with trepidation!

We had to arrive before the main fair opened and make our way to the separate Germany Hall under Hall 1. Several players and supporters were milling around waiting to enter the hall. Since many of us had never met in person before, everyone seemed to be glancing at each other, wondering who they were. Tentative greetings started the process of getting to know each other. Once we had registered, we were given name badges with our name and flag on it. This was great, but most of us knew each other by our BGA nicknames. Many people had the advantage of recognising me since my face (in monochrome) forms my avatar and my name, Chris Wallace, is part of my wallaceprime nickname.

It was fantastic meeting so many lovely people, and still good to meet some of the less lovely people! ;) There really is a strong community spirit among many of the players.

The Games

The format of the tournament was 5 rounds of Swiss system (starting with random pairings, then winners play winners, losers play losers), followed by a knockout stage for the top 8 players.

My first game was against the Russian player Ivan Taranakov (but playing under a neutral flag). It was a close game and I won by 3 points. There was a little confusion immediately after the count-up of the farms since we were both under the impression that one of Ivan's un-joined farmers was attempting to steal a particular farm, not, which was the actual case, equalise the farm. We replaced his meeples where incomplete features had been, and all 7 meeples were accounted for, so we might both have been thinking that one of his cloister meeples was a farmer. Still, for me this was a great result - 'at least I'm not going home without winning any games' I happily thought to myself!

My second game was against Iceland's Narfi Jonsson. I won 105-83, but it was a much closer game than the score would suggest until I drew the pennanted 3-sided city with road as my final tile to complete a 20 point city and add 6 points to my farmers. Two games under my belt and I was starting to feel a bit more confident.

Round 3 was against Lithuania's Andrejus Svabas. I can't remember much about this game but I think I had the luck of the tile draw and won 90-75. Wow! I only needed one more win to almost guarantee me a place in the knockout stages. With 3 wins out of 3, this was going way better than I had predicted :yellow-meeple:

When the organiser read out the 4th round pairings, I felt a real glow of pride when he took the mickey out of me in a very good-natured way, with something along the lines of, "On table 1, Chris Wallace from... I can't believe it, Great Britain!! I can't remember Great Britain ever playing on Table 1!". Yes - I had reached the top table! My opponent was a good friend, Osvaldo del Arco from Mexico. We were very evenly matched, with 9 hits each from our 18 BGA games. It was a very good-natured game, with each of us liking and totally respecting the other, starting with sincere handshakes. This game didn't go so well for me; Osvaldo kept completing features and scoring points, building up a sizeable lead. With only around 5 tiles left, my only chance was to steal the large farm. I'd counted there was one road bend remaining after I played the one in my hand, so I placed a meeple on the outside of freshly placed road and crossed my fingers. They weren't crossed for long - Osvaldo drew the bend on his very next turn, sealing my fate with my first loss. Still, I couldn't get too disheartened - there was one game left to play and everything to play for!

My 5th game was against Gere Arpad from Romania. The game started pretty equally, with both of us getting a decent mix of city and road tiles and getting scores on the board. However, we got into a city fight that determined the whole outcome of the game. I was in the perfect position to block Gere's meeple from joining the big side of the city, but 3 turns came and went without me getting the tile to make the block. He then managed to protect it, but leaving just one 3-sided city with road to link himself in. The ruin was too big to ignore, being worth more than the difference in our scores, so I attacked it from two different points to minimise Gere's chances of blocking me from both. Fate was not on my side: Gere got the joining tile he needed and tiles to block both of my attacks. I can't remember the score, but Gere's ruin secured his victory and pegged me at 3 wins.

I was a bit deflated at first: after my 3 wins I really thought I had a good chance of reaching the knockout stages, but the two losses brought me savagely back to earth. However, I brightened considerably when I saw the results table and saw that I had finished 9th, only just under the cut-off. Ninth place amongst 35 national champions in the Carcassonne World Championship is something I am really proud of, particularly it being my first time participating.

I felt even better about my loss in the 5th game when my opponent went on to win the Championship - losing to the champion isn't so bad, particularly when just one blocking tile could have swung the whole game.


After such a phenomenal day of excitement, happiness, disappointment, the awards and certificates had been given out and the group photos taken. We had built a great sense of camaraderie and fraternity, but we had to break up our real-life fellowship and say goodbye to our friends - some we'd known before, but many new ones. But I know those friendships will continue to strengthen online.

However much I loved the day itself, when I got back to my hotel room (my flight home wasn't until Monday), it was absolutely exquisite to take shoes and trousers off and just sit and relax in perfect silence. I had not realised how much the senses had been overloaded during our long and exhausting day in the hall, but sitting there, on my own, my thoughts soon turned to... what do I have to do so I can do it all over again next year?  :yellow-meeple:

General / Luckiest Escape!
« on: June 20, 2022, 06:58:43 AM »
What your luckiest escape in a game of Carcassonne?

Mine might have been this lunchtime in the first round of a Single Elimination knockout tournament against a 100 Elo player.
She kept getting cloisters and completing them while I had to wait until my final tile to close a crucial city. Amazingly the result was a tie, so I only lost 9 Elo - phew!!
Due to the vagaries of the BGA system, I was put through to the next round  ;D
A lucky escape indeed!

Despite my pessimistic/realistic prediction yesterday on the morning of the tournament that I had probably less than 50 % chance of even making it to the knockout stages, here I am, the new 2022 UK Champion  :yellow-meeple:

I really thought with such numerous strong and high Elo opponents that I stood little chance of getting anywhere near my 3rd place position of last year.

It started well with a 1st round game against a relatively inexperienced lady who ran out of meeples after only around 20 tiles. I blocked all except 1 of her meeples and won by over 50 points.

My heart sank when I found my 2nd round opponent was Alexey_LV! We had never played before (he thought we had), and I thought 'here comes my first loss'! If I remember correctly, Alexey won the farms and completed a juicy city, but I had enough ruins to win by 2 points. Crucially - as I had no meeples by this point - I prevented him getting a 9 point farm by blocking access to it, so he could only get 6 points and I squeezed the victory. I don't know if anyone else noticed, but I spotted my hands were shaking during Alexey's game - stress/nervousness/excitement does strange things to you when you're under pressure.

All went well - wins against Uhome and Andrew Page (previous UK champion) - until I came up against evereverever in the 5th round. I made an initial poor placement of an awkward straight city splitter which ended-up with 2 of my meeples trapped for around 15 points. My second poor choice came when - with the same city - I had the chance to trap 2 of my meeples and 1 of Nic's for a net gain of 11 points. Instead, I was greedy and went for potential completion and an almost guaranteed win, and Nic immediately got the perfect tile to score 8 points, get a meeple back, and trap my meeples. I was utterly out-farmed and Nic deserved the win.

My last group round was against ted the notty bear, last year's winner, who had beaten me by 2 points in last year's group stages. Ven and I had an epic farming battle, but I managed to keep a few cities compartmentalised in my own farms so my ruins pushed me 2 points ahead at the end, and that gave me the 5th win required get to the knockout stages

My semi-final was against Chris Tucker, who had beaten me in last year's semi-final with a self-admitted lucky streak at the very end. In this year's game - and sorry if this is a bit of a blur - I recovered my Lucky-Godliness deficit from last year's semi-final o get a good buffer of points at the start that Chris couldn't recover from. Chris was just not able to get the tiles he needed to take control/equalise 2 separate farms, either of which might have changed the outcome, but both needed the same road bend... which I got >:D

The final, against Uhome, did not get off to a good start for me. I think he had over 30 points before I even got on the scoreboard. He had a couple of cloisters and an initial meeple in a decent farm. I was hoping to section-off his farm from another couple of cities, but he got the perfect bend to join them in. I eventually finished a decent city and road that gave me a meeple back to give me a fighting chance with 2 meeples in hand. Unfortunately, by this point he had a second farmer (to my none!) to protect a lucrative 7 or 8 city farm. It looked very bleak for me, but I got another meeple back and knew I had to get some more points before even thinking about attacking the farm. This worked well and I completed 1 city and got another nearly complete.

In the last few moves I got 1 farmer in and another waiting.  I was really hoping I was going to win by time default since Daniel had spent a lot of his time thinking earlier and had only around 1 minute remaining on his clock when there were 10 tiles remaining. However, Daniel played his final tile and meeple with 2 SECONDS to spare! My final (or possibly penultimate) tile got my equalising farmer in and, when the incomplete features were counted, I had won by 1 point! I had started the game, so if we had tied in points, he would have won since the first player is rightly deemed to have the advantage. It was a thrilling finale to the championship and one I can hardly believe. It certainly gave the spectators an interesting game to watch :yellow-meeple:

That win lets me represent the UK at the World Championships in Essen, in Germany, latter in the year in October.

General / Biggest game you've played?
« on: May 02, 2022, 08:49:04 AM »
Yesterday my son and I finished printing and sticking a whole bunch of forest and additional ocean tiles.
Today, we had our biggest game: we started with 497 tiles and it took 3 hours 15 minutes.
I think we could add another 100 to 150 tiles if we added the last felt-covered segment to our table.
What do the rest of you play your really big games on?

General / Ping!
« on: May 01, 2022, 08:39:26 AM »
Does it count as psychological abuse if, every time I score a point from the fairy at the start of a turn, I irritatingly exclaim, "Ping!"?
It makes my son wince every time I do it, if only because it reminds him he forgot to take control of the fairy on his previous turn, but I guess that's just one of the unspoken benefits of parenthood.

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