Second chances loom Large

Yesterday’s season-ending Weasel Pyle in Wayne had just about everything you could ask for: A thrilling race for the Weasel of the Year award, redemption on the second-chance board, patio trivia, significant jockeying among the top seven, at least a thousand rounds of bbs and pellets, a zip line, a powerful rendition of the club’s Battle Hymn, and a surprise visit from one of the club’s most colorful characters from the early years. Did I miss anything?

We had 18 players for the Pyle, so our plan was to start two games at 11 (actually closer to 11:30), and then a third game at 1:30 with the four sidelined players plus three whose hopes and dreams had been crushed on one of the first two boards. Ulysses Peterson, Dan Burgess and I volunteered to sit out, and Christian Kline joined us on the sidelines by virtue of arriving last, as is his personal Pyle tradition.

Our featured board for the day was Game No. 218, played in host Eric Brown’s two-story library designed by Eric with Diplomacy in mind. Peter Lokken even brought his hand-crafted Diplomacy board for this game. On this board, we placed our top two Weasel of the Year contenders, Matt Sundstrom and Nate Cockerill. Only seven points separated the two of them at the start of play. We rounded out the board with five of our club’s biggest names.

The game ended by draw vote in Spring 1908 in the following center counts:

Game No. 218
Austria (Peter Lokken): 9; 32.400 points.
England (Paul Pignotti): 0; 0.000 points.
France (Josh Heffernan): 9; 32.400 points.
Germany (Kevin O’Kelly): 6; 14.400 points.
Italy (Matt Sundstrom): 6; 14.400 points.
Russia (Don Glass): 4; 6.400 points.
Turkey (Nathan Cockerill): 0; 0.000 points.

For Lokken, the shared board top salvaged a disappointing season in which he was eliminated four times and finished with one center three times in 11 games. And for Heffernan, the game yielded enough points to improve his place in the final standings.

Cockerill’s poor showing as Turkey freed him to play on the late-starting board, where he was joined by Pignotti.  His first attempt to catch Sundstrom for Weasel of the Year had failed. But now he’d have a second chance.

In the dining room, we fielded our carebear board for the day. It featured four players who had joined the club in the past 17 months, including three who were virtual novices at the time, along with three of our vets, only one of whom was a paid-up member and thus had a shot, albeit a long one, at the Royale.

The game ended by draw vote in Spring 1913 in a three-way draw. It wasn’t the carebear board we expected. The final center counts were:

Game No. 219
Austria (Tony Ardolino): 8; 15.842 points.
England (Eric Brown): 14; 48.515 points.
France (John Ritz): 12; 35.644 points.
Germany (Kevin O’Kelley): 0; 0.000 points.
Italy (Mike Morrison): 0; 0.000 points.
Russia (David St. John): 0; 0.000 points.
Turkey (Brad Harrington): 0; 0.000 points.

This game was highly enteraining. The fun started during the Spring 1901 read. First, the setup: As we were announcing the boards, Paul Pignotti loudly questioned the exclusion of Eric Brown, our Season Two Weasel of the Year and one of only eight soloists in league history, from the featured board in the library.

Now flash forward about 25 minutes to the read, and after the Austrian Tony Ardolino had read two sets of orders and A Paris to Picardy from France’s set, Brown slapped his forehead, and said, "I forgot to write orders."

Indeed, he had turned in his booklet with just the starting British positions listed. After a good laugh, we dubbed his variant of the Yorkshire Pudding the Chamberlain Opening.

Brown immediately appointed a more competent Prime Minister, and by game’s end, he was topping the board with 14 centers.

Newcomer David St. John, a DroidDippy player playing his second game with the Weasels, was topping the board by 1905 with 10 centers. His stab of Austrian ally Ardolino backfired, however. He never built again after that 1905 turn and instead pulled every year until he was eliminated in 1911.

Brad Harrington in Turkey died a much quicker death. He was eliminated in 1902. Italian Mike Morrison fared a little better. He was gone by 1906, but not before exacting some measure of revenge on his erstwhile allies in the East. On three successive turns, he helped convoy French armies to Syria.

Harrington, of course, was in for the second-chance board, having been eliminated after only an hour and 10 minutes of play. Morrison also wanted to play, so Prime Weasel Dan Burgess graciously agreed to sit out.

That put second-chance players Cockerill, Pignotti, Harrington and Morrison in Game No. 220 with Kline, Peterson and me.

That game finally started at around 2:30, and for Harrington and Morrison, the game literally was a second chance. Each drew the same power he had played in Game No. 219. This time, they agreed not to fight as Italy and Turkey, and they pulled in Peterson in Russia to make short work of my Austria.

Harrington was the beneficiary, growing to nine centers by 1903 and 12 by 1905. But that’s as far as he got.

In the West, Cockerill was beset by an E/G, but true to form, he slithered out of their clutches and eventually turned the tables. Then he oozed from five centers in 1903 to seven in 1904, eight in 1905, and 11 in 1906.

When time was called at 9:15 p.m. (we needed to be out of the house by 10 and had to get through a lengthy awards ceremony and the striking of the Regimental Choir), Cockerill was topping the board with 14 points. The final center counts were:

Game No. 220
Austria (Jim O’Kelley): 0; 0.000 points.
England (Christian Kline): 7; 12.564 points.
France (Nate Cockerill): 14; 50.256 points.
Germany (Paul Pignotti): 0; 0.000 points.
Italy (Mike Morrison): 1; 0.256 points.
Russia (Ulysses Peterson): 0; 0.000 points.
Turkey (Brad Harrington): 12; 36.923 points.

The board top netted Cockerill about 16 points, pushing him past Sundstrom for his first Weasel of the Year title and the top seed in the Weasel Royale, date to be determined. Harrington, who had led the board for six of the eight game years, settled for second. But that was enough for him. Going into the Pyle, his third score was a paltry 1.739 points, so he netted about 35 points here, enough to vault all the way into third place.

You can check out all the supply center charts from the day here.

When we weren’t playing Dip or shooting air guns, we were answering Burgess’ trivia questions on the patio. Heffernan distinguished himself during that phase of the day and eventually admitted to having run a trivia game of his own while living in China.

At around 6 p.m., Bill "Large" Small dropped in on us. Large played eight games with the Weasels in our first three years before eventually moving to Minnesota. He was en route to Indiana and planning to stay with Burgess for the night, so he joined the Pyle in progress. His visit was a nice surprise and worthy of an award. During the awards ceremony, we gave him one of the five special Pyle awards, a commemorative pen declaring him to be the Mecurial Minx of Weasel Pyle Eight.

The other special awards went to:

  • Kit of the Litter: Kevin O’Kelley
  • Tenacious Stoat: Tony Ardolino (the Pyle Seven’s Kit of the Litter)
  • Ruthless Ferret: Eric Brown (for eliminating the Kit of the Litter)
  • Dominant Polecat: Nate Cockerill (for posting the top score of the day. And for stinking.)

The Pyle Best Country pens went to:

  • Austria: Peter Lokken
  • England: Eric Brown
  • France: Nate Cockerill
  • Germany: Kevin O’Kelly
  • Italy: Matt Sundstrom
  • Russia: Don Glass
  • Turkey: Brad Harrington

We all received pens commemorating the Ocho. Thanks again to Eric, who pays for these awards and all the expenses of hosting the Pyle out of his own pocket.

After the Pyle awards, we awarded the Season Eight Weasels, which I’ll document in a separate article. And then we closed with the traditional singing of Come Now Weasels, the Regimental Battle Hymn, accompanied by Ulysses Peterson on the grand piano.

We have some great traditions at the Weasels. The Pyle is our oldest and happiest. The general tone of the day is a tribute to our host Eric Brown, a founding Weasel and all-around great guy (even if he did eliminate my 12-year-old son). As our club’s Chief of Public Information, I’d like to publicly thank the Browns again for hosting the Pyle.

At one point during the awards ceremony, Eric turned to me and said, "Can you believe we’ve been doing this eight years?"

No, I can’t.

Eric, Dan and I were there for the first game back in September 2005, and now here we were for our 220th. It’s pretty hard to believe. But, we’re all looking forward to another great season of Windy City Weasels Diplomacy. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I can’t wait to celebrate it next year in Wayne.

I’ll close with these words from Eric during the awards ceremony:

"Diplomacy is a game of fun and fear, of love and hate. Without all these emotions, we’d be the Potomac Tea & Knife Society."

See you in Season Nine!

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