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.
Eighteen players showed up at American Legion Evanston Post 42 for our 13th annual Weasel Pyle, the club’s oldest, and happiest, tradition. Four over is the worst possible place to be when seeding boards. Three is too many to have playing on two boards; four is too many to ask to sit out. We chose the latter as the lesser of two evils, and gracious host Pete McNamara joined more willing volunteers Jim O’Kelley, Ben DiPaola and Brian Shelden for a couple of games of Splendor while waiting for enough second-chancers to field a third board.
So, Pyle 13 started with two boards at around 11:20 a.m., with the Diplomacy Tournament Manager assigning the players. Fogel drew Austria. His two closest rivals, Jake Langenfeld and Christian Kline, drew Italy and Russia.
“That was random?” Fogel asked under his breath. Then he went to work.
Here’s how the games went down.
Game No. 373: O’Kelly Lays Up
Of the four WotY hopefuls, Kevin O’Kelly came in with the best shot. He had only played three previous games this season, and his low score was a paltry 1.538. He only trailed Fogel by about 23 points at the start of play, so he was looking for any kind of decent result. Add to that the other tree contenders were on the other board, and he was sitting pretty.
By the end of 1904, O’Kelly and two others were tied at 7 for the board-top. He proposed a draw, deciding to bank the points and stake his claim to the title. Surprisingly, or maybe not–Diplomacy players tend to be a pessimistic lot–the draw passed. The final center counts were:
Austria (Ravi Betzig): 4; 7.843 points.
England (Kevin O’Kelly): 7; 24.020 points.
France (Eamon Driscoll): 7; 24.020 points.
Germany (Tony Prokes): 4; 7.843 points.
Italy (Braden Lenz): 5; 12.255 points.
Russia (Ali Adib): 0; 0.000 points.
Turkey (Jake Trotta): 7; 24.020 points.
The bid left O’Kelly just about a point short of Fogel. Now, he needed Fogel to tank on Board 374 so Fogel’s leftover average would drop. The reigning Bull Weasel, however, chose not to cooperate.
Game No. 374: It’s a Bull Weasel’s Market
Despite drawing the game’s most vulnerable country positioned between two guys who needed him to die, Fogel did what he’s been doing since Season 11. He dominated. And he posted the only result that would ensure that no one could take his title.
Game No. 374 ended after the Fall 1908 turn in an Austrian solo. The final center counts were:
Austria (Brandon Fogel): 18; 100.000 points.
England (Jorge Zhang): 4; 0.000 points.
France (Bryan Pravel): 3; 0.000 points.
Germany (Paul Pignotti): 3; 0.000 points.
Italy (Jake Langenfeld): 6; 0.000 points.
Russia (Christian Kline): 0; 0.000 points.
Turkey (Gus Spelman): 0; 0.000 points.
Fogel’s solo was the club’s 10th in league play and the first since the late Nate Cockerill’s mythical bar game solo in September 2013, nearly five years ago. Nate went on to win the North American Diplomacy Championship at Tempest in a Teapot a couple of weeks later, soloing in that affair as well. Will history repeat itself?
The solo ended our longest solo drought, a streak of 151 games.
Game No. 375: The Streak Continues
Speaking of streaks, club founder Jim O’Kelley’s streak of appearing in every Weasel Royale club championship game (10 total) was in serious jeopardy. After nine games, he was mired on the second board with a high single-game score of just 27.350. And now, he was relegated to the sidelines (where he would lost two games of Splendor), hoping the get a spot on a third board.
By 2:30 p.m., Game No. 373 had ended, and there were plenty of players seeking a second chance. So, a third board, began, and on it, O’Kelley finally got his big result…and secured a spot in his 11th straight Royale.
Game No. 375 ended by draw vote during the Fall 1905 turn, after a failed draw vote in the Spring, in the following center counts:
Austria (Ali Adib): 5; 10.246 points.
England (Jim O’Kelley): 11; 49.590 points.
France (Brian Shelden): 1; 0.410 points.
Germany (Jake Trotta): 0; 0.000 points.
Italy (Ravi Betzig): 6; 14.754 points.
Russia (Tony Prokes): 6; 14.754 points.
Turkey (Pete McNamara): 5; 10.246 points.
Note that Ben DiPaola did not get in this game. The former Sneak member showed up to play if needed but preferring to play other games and even do other work. We can’t state strongly enough how helpful it is to have guys like DiPaola show up to either sit or play as needed. Making multiples of seven is hard work. But it’s work we’ve been doing pretty well for 13 years, thanks to guys like Ben.
Game No. 376: Weasels Never Say Die
Weasels, like Goonies, never say die. At around 3 p.m., Matt Sundstrom, the club’s most decorated player, showed up to take his shot at a 10th Royale appearance. With Fogel driving toward his solo and Langenfeld stuck trying to stop it, Kline jumped on this board in search of a huge result. It was rounded out by other refugees from Fogel’s game plus a couple of guys who sitting around, rehashing Game No. 373, which had ended so early.
At this point, DiPaola and O’Kelly were the only Weasels not engaged.
Kline probably needed a solo of his own to possibly catch Fogel, and even that might not have been enough. Never one to throw in the cards (at least when he’s playing Dip), he gave it the old college try. But the game ended by time limit after the Fall 1905 turn. The final center counts were:
Austria (Matt Sundstrom): 5; 10.776 points.
England (Gus Spelman): 2; 1.724 points.
France (Christian Kline): 9; 34.914 points.
Germany (Braden Lenz): 5; 10.776 points.
Italy (Eamon Driscoll): 9; 34.914 points.
Russia (Jorge Zhang): 4; 6.897 points.
Turkey (Paul Pignotti): 0; 0.000 points.
For Driscoll, who paid his dues and played his only two games of the year all on the same day, the result was enough to wrest Best Italy from Bryan Pravel.
And thus ended Season 13. We played just 23 games, our lowest total since Season 3, with 46 players participating, our lowest since Season 2. But, it was a good year, with lots of entertaining games.
Fogel, of course secured his third straight Weasel of the Year title. The Amanda Baumgartner Rookie of the Year award went to Ravi Betzig. An online player, Betzig is a student at Brown University who was in town for an internship. He may be back next year. Regardless, he leaves Chicago hooked on face-to-face Diplomacy. He wants to find players at Brown and hopes to attend WDC over Columbus Day weekend in D.C.
The Best Country awards, which featured images of WWI troops (see Fogel’s award in the photo above) went to:
- Austria: Brandon Fogel, solo in Game No. 374.
- England: Kevin O’Kelly, 17-center board-top in Game No. 364.
- France: Christian Kline, 11-center board-top in Game No. 354, which was Opening Night.
- Germany: Matt Sundstrom, 9-center shared board-top in Game No. 371.
- Italy: Eamon Driscoll, 9-center shared board-top in Game No. 376.
- Russia: Jake Trotta, 10-center board-top in Game No. 370.
- Turkey: Jake Langenfeld, 12-center board-top in Game No. 355.
Note that Fogel would have won three of these if not for our rule limiting players to one Best Country award in league play. That rule required us to drill down pretty deep on one of the awards.
Fogel was also the season’s Top Weasel, posting four board-tops in just nine games. Adib and Mick Johnson were recognized as our best recruiters, each having introduced the club to three people. In all, we had 15 new Weasels on the year, so our slash line for Season 13 is 23/46/15. That’s 23 games, 46 players, 15 new Weasels.
Not bad, but we know we can do better.
The Bar Room Brawl Championship Game is set for August 21 at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square. Come on out and watch! The competitors will be:
- Jake Langenfeld
- Christian Kline
- Brandon Fogel
- Kevin O’Kelly
- Jim O’Kelley
- Bryan Pravel
- Chris Kelly
Note that fifth seed Jake Trotta, the two-time defending champion, declined to participate. First alternate Kelly has been tapped to play, and O’Kelley and Pravel each move up a seed.
The Weasel Royale club championship game has yet to be scheduled. The seven qualifiers are:
- Brandon Fogel
- Kevin O’Kelly
- Christian Kline
- Jake Langenfeld
- Jim O’Kelley
- Chris Kelly
- Jake Trotta
The first three alternates, in order, are Bryan Pravel, Matt Sundstrom and Ali Adib.
Brandon Fogel and Brian Shelden were reelected to join Ali Adib, Bryan Pravel and Jim O’Kelley on the 11th Sneak. Also elected were Old Guardsmen Christian Kline and Kevin O’Kelly. The latter ran a write-in campaign. The 11th Sneak will meet soon to form its government.
Opening Night for Season 14 will be September 12 at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square. Hope to see you there! But first, there’s Weasel Moot XII, our premier tournament, which this year will be at 400 East Randolph on September 1-2. Make your plans to join us!