An Epic Pyle for an Epic Season

Season 12 was so massive that it couldn’t be contained by a mere 12 months. The annual season-ending Weasel Pyle, our club’s oldest and happiest tradition, spilled into Labor Day weekend this year, making the 2016-17 year the first to be book-ended by two Septembers.

That wasn’t the only first for Season 12. For the first time, the event was held in the city at Founder Jim O’Kelley’s home in Little Italy after a memorable 11-year run at Founding Weasel Eric Brown’s Castle Brown in bucolic Wayne.

We also set a new record for players at 84 while tying our previous high for games played at 44. Meanwhile, we fell just short of our all-time high for new recruits of 49, set in Season 7. We introduced 47 players to Windy City Weasels Diplomacy this year. Some of them are quick studies who have already elbowed their way into the club’s rising Young Guard.

But back to the Pyle, we had four boards on the day, with one being a late-starting second-chance game. A total of 24 players participated in the games. Three of them crashed the Royale party by capturing board-tops: Matt Sundstrom, Christian Kline, and Prime Weasel Brian Shelden. Members of the club’s vaunted Old Guard, Sundstrom and Kline advanced to the Royale from the same board at last year’s Pyle. This year, they did it from separate boards on different floors.

Host O’Kelley sat out all day, and two other longtime Weasels, Kevin O’Kelly and Ben DiPaola, showed up late (and with beer!) for the awards ceremony to help celebrate a remarkable season. O’Kelly made an impressive seven Old Guardsmen in attendance, all veterans of Season 1.

Here’s how the games went down:

Game No. 350: Sundstrom’s Charge

Playing on Peter Lokken’s custom board, Matt Sundstrom needed a solid board-top to avoid missing the Royale for only the second time. He got it. The game ended in Spring 1908 in the following center counts:

Austria (Ali Adib): 6; 16.514 points.
England (Eric Brown): 1; 0.459 points.
France (Matt Sundstrom): 10; 45.872 points.
Germany (Mike Whitty): 6; 16.514 points.
Italy (Nick Rohn): 5; 11.468 points.
Russia (Pete McNamara): 4; 7.339 points.
Turkey (Bryan Pravel): 2; 1.835 points.

For Pravel and Adib, members of the Young Guard and in fifth and sixth place, respectively, at the start of play, the result spelled trouble. Neither solidified his position, and they both hung around long enough to miss the second-chance start.

Game No. 351: The Kid Can Play

On a board with a mix of newcomers and teenagers figuring out the game, up-and-coming Young Guardsmen, and one cagey Middle Guardsmen who’s evil but in the most respectful and helpful of ways, Jorge Zhang demonstrated why many longtime players who have crossed pens with him have marveled at the player he’ll be in a few years. The game finally ended in Spring 1914 when the Grand Alliance’s desperate counter-attack secured a stalemate line to stop Jorge’s solo bid. The final center counts were:

Austria (Jorge Zhang): 17; 71.182 points.
England (Tony Prokes): 8; 15.764 points.
France (Ericson Brown): 2; 0.985 points.
Germany (Jake Langenfeld): 7; 12.069 points.
Italy (David Spanos): 0; 0.000 points.
Russia (Jake Dickson): 0; 0.000 points.
Turkey (Kevin O’Kelley): 0; 0.000 points.

A sidenote here: Langenfeld had to leave in 1911 or so. Prokes came out to the back deck where four of the Old Guard were doing what Old Guards typically do–staying out of the fighting–and asked for a replacement. After some discussion, we sent Paul Pignotti down to help stop the solo. And in Fall 1913, the master of the Pignotti Pull-Through sealed the line with a Pignotti Pull-Through.

Game No. 352: Kline’s Gambit

Christian Kline is famous for inadvertently helping other players kick himself out of the Royale field at the 11th hour. This year, he came to the Pyle on a mission to understand and play the standings. Playing most of the game with an outright or shared lead, he voted down draws until he held a 10-9 advantage, then stood pat in hopes the modest board-top would be enough. It was. The game ended by draw vote in the Spring 1907 turn in the following center counts:

Austria (John Gramila): 0; 0.000 points.
England (Don Glass): 0; 0.000 points.
France (Christian Kline): 10; 34.014 points.
Germany (Chris Kelly): 9; 27.551 points.
Italy (Gus Spelman): 8; 21.769 points.
Russia (Eamon Driscoll): 0; 0.000 points.
Turkey (Paul Pignotti): 7; 16.667 points.

With only the late game remaining, Sundstrom and Kline were now in the Royale field; Adib and Kelly were out. Pravel was now the low-hanging fruit in the seventh spot and could only watch Game No. 353 unfold.

Game No. 353: Shelden’s Race

“The ones who race out ahead of you, you let them go,” Prime Weasel Brian Shelden said earlier in the day. “They’re either going to come back toward you, or they’ll beat you anyway.”

He was talking about the bicycle stage of a triathlon. He could have been talking about Diplomacy.

John Gramila, the Captain of the Middle Guard and local hero of the 2016 WDC, needed a big result to crack the Royale field, and he bolted to the kind of start that Russian players dream of: four builds in 1901. Shelden’s two builds as Turkey seemed pedestrian by comparison.

Shelden is our Irregular. By definition, he’s Young Guard, but that moniker rings false for a two-decade veteran of the traveling tournament scene. He caught his fading Russian neighbor in 1903, maintained a slight lead for the next two years, and then sprinted to the finish. When the game ended by time limit after the Fall 1907 turn, he was the third hopeful to crack the Royale field. The final center counts were:

Austria (Don Glass): 0; 0.000 points.
England (David Spanos): 4; 4.908 points.
France (Brandon Fogel): 8; 19.632 points.
Germany (Pete McNamara): 0; 0.000 points.
Italy (Jake Trotta): 1; 0.307 points.
Russia (John Gramila): 7; 15.031 points.
Turkey (Brian Shelden): 14; 60.123 points.

All four supply center charts are here. Players, how about some endgame statements?

The annual awards ceremony followed at about 8:30. Jake Trotta took Top Weasel (5.5 board-tops) and Best Recruiter (seven new Weasels) honors. Gus Spelman won the rebranded Amanda Baumgartner Rookie of the Year Award. A former RotY, Amanda died unexpectedly last September. The Sneak promptly named the award after her.

War Weasel Brandon Fogel, the co-Captain of the Young Guard, repeated as Weasel of the Year. The other Royale participants, in seed order, are Jake Trotta, Jim O’Kelley, Brian Shelden, Mick Johnson, Matt Sundstrom and Christian Kline.

The Best Country Awards went to:

Austria: Mick Johnson

England: Chris Kelly

France: Ali Adib

Germany: Brandon Fogel

Italy: Jake Trotta

Russia: Josh Heffernan, whose first child arrived six days earlier.

Turkey: Brian Shelden

The Sneak election was hotly contested. We had five candidates for three slots: Jim O’Kelley, the only incumbent; Ali Adib; Christian Kline; Pete McNamara; and Bryan Pravel. Adib, O’Kelley and Pravel won the two-year terms.

The formal festivities ended with the traditional striking of the Regimental Choir, and I’ll be honest, the Choir needs some practice. Yeesh. After that, guests started leaving, but some of us were reluctant to close the book on perhaps are best season yet. Kline, Shelden and Glass debated politics for a good hour. Meanwhile, O’Kelley, O’Kelly, DiPaola and Pignotti played a couple of games of Pandemic.

The lights finally went out at 12:30. Season 13 starts on the 13th. See you at Opening Night!

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