|Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Rating||Games||Rating|
Well, we did things a little differently this year, but the comments I've been getting back indicate that it went well and participants were happy. All decisions were made by acclamation, so I'm glad it worked out for us all. Here's how the tournament was run:
I liked how the four-game schedule worked. It kept anybody from having to play "extra" games just to fill out the schedule, and decreased the amount of time needed to play the tournament. By the end of the ice-offs the 11-minute games took place within 30 minute slots with judging, score recording, rotating, and decompressing taking up the intervening time.
Personally, I think 11 minutes is too short. I was the only one who voted for 15 minutes, but I saw (had) too many games end with pieces on stash pads. Next year, I'd like to see a vote between 11 and 13 minutes for games.
I used a spreadsheet to record scores and calculate ratings for the ice-offs. I had a few problems with the spreadsheet after I had to expand it from 16 to 20 games. The spreadsheet is fixed now, and if anybody wants to use it for other tournaments, please contact me. It also enabled me to do some what-if analysis. I re-did the ratings based on dropping each player's lowest non-winning score, and it really does make it so that the players with the most wins have the highest ratings. I now fully agree that counting all scores rewards consistently better play and is a superior way to calculate ratings.
The tournament was huge this year. During the demo period before the tourney, we had four to six tables of Icehouse going at any given time, and the tournament had five tables going in each round. The last time the IIT had that many players was at least ten years ago. Thanks to Dan Efran for coming out of unofficial retirement to round out the player list.
Many congratulations to Liam Bryan on his marvelous win. This is the third time Liam has competed in the tournament, and the third time he's made it to the finals. I'm glad he finally got a chance to come out on top. Capping that with the CTI is delectable icing on a delicious cake.
Congratulations also to Dan Isaac, who pretty much kicked major butt all the way through the ice-offs, and started kicking butt in the finals, too until the other players settled his hash. I don't think anybody will believe that, "I'm not a very good player," shtick any more, buddy.
Jacob, a always, keeps the tournament interesting, but gets mentioned here mostly for things he does wrong, like forgetting to bring the scepter. Jacob has been a finalist every year for a long time, and continues to keep everybody on their toes by not letting up for a minute.
I don't want to fail to mention Ryan McGuire, who made it into the finals this year, his second tournament ever. He also contributed greatly to the tournament by writing a program to generate the schedules I used to seat everybody for the tournament. They made running the tournament much easier.
Before I forget, I need to thank Kristin and the Origins staff for making a special effort to get the small round tables for the lab. These tables are great for Icehouse, and having them made a big difference. Also thanks to the judges, John Cooper and Zarf for their hard work judging five tables between the two of them. Lastly, thanks to everyone who participated in the tournament and the demo sessions for showing the world that this old game is still very much a vibrant part of the Looney Labs community!
I also could not believe the size of the tournament. That's a whole lot of people "using duct tape to repair ducts"!
I greatly appreciated the four-games-drop-none format. Last year's approach almost *demanded* that someone win 3 games to go to the finals &emdash; I think one person, IIRC, squeaked in with a mere 2.5 wins.
I noticed that both of us Berkeley folks got the exact same rating as another player -- and I guess I can't feel too bad about my showing, if I did precisely as well as you did.
"I'm not that great of a player," shouldn't work as an excuse after *one* finalist medallion. I was on to you by the last game of IIT 12, Isaac.
WRT the scepter, Jake had talked about being too sheepish to win (although some speculation arose that he would once again feel that he *had* to win, to keep it). If that's him playing sheepishly, I don't know what to say, other than "oy vey." But it should be pointed out publicly that, as reigning champion, he had *ONE* responsibility... and he blew it! No justice in the world; he still made the finals, just didn't get his customary yellow medallion/stash.
I also made an effort (when prompted by ECE) to drop by the GAMA table in the exhibit hall and thank them for the small tables. I'm not sure that I passed this advice along to more than one other person. Icehouse is a physical game, and its players are very into the physical details (stashes, tables, etc)... so it's worth appreciating the people responsible, when we get accommodated so well.
P.S.: Eeyore, thank you for adding the WCI's to: http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/~what/icehouse/tourlist.html I definitely noticed, and it made me feel good.
Ah, the 13th International Icehouse Tournament, the XIIIIIT (I say that simply to fit as many "I"s as possible into an acronym, and I won't get to do that for another five years).
I liked the choices that were made this year. Incredibly mad props to Eeyore, who created sanity from this madness, as well as to Zarf and CooperJohn, who were blessed with the headache of scoring such tight games. There were some incredible plays (I remember one in particular by Josh) that I would never have believed possible.
The only choice I disagree with is the 11-minute timer. I think the best solution would be a 10-minute-plus-1d6-minus-1-minute timer, the exact value of which is hidden from the players. This solves the "sing a song in my head" problem of time calculations, and makes things just a little more tense. There were two Ice-off games I played in where even five more seconds would have completely changed the game. In one, I would have been a solo winner, in the other, I would have lost.
I understand the desire to keep the tournament close to the rules of Icehouse: the game ends when all pieces are played. However, I have an odd gut feeling that the longer the rounds, the more people will stodge in the opening.
The number of new people was fantastic. Julian, BJ, Josh, Jooolia, Denis, Tim, Jason, and Shaun are all really cool people who deserve a round of applause. I sincerely hope to see them again, year after year.
Dan Isaac did do an incredible job, especially considering his complete lack of sleep the previous night. I didn't get to play against him in the Ice-offs, so I can't comment on his style of play that much. It seems to be of the "don't look at me while I win" variety, which is a perfectly viable and subtle psychological strategy. I also think he's a werewolf.
None of the finalists, save Dan and Jacob, had played each other in the Ice-offs. This made for a very first tense round, as we were all making feints, trying to lure our opponents' strategies to light. Dan's invisible strategy worked well for that.
Ryan is a very strong all-around player and I am glad I had a chance to play against him. He has an excellent command of strategy, adapts quickly, and quite a good diplomat. The even spread of his scores tell me that he will probably be in the finals many more times, and I, for one, look forward to seeing him again.
The two times that I played against someone in the Icehouse, the Icehouse call was snatched from me, even though I had carefully noted how close someone was to an Icehouse call. I then found a useful strategy: Overice the icehoused player, and ask them to pick up the icehouse caller's attack piece and let it die on their stash pad.
I was surprised to find myself Cooler Than Ice. I suppose that my demonstration of using, practicing, and shutting down the Shotgun strategy (the one I use) to a group of people in the tournament helped.
I was very sneaky in the finals, starting with where I sat and how I placed my stash pad. I purposefully sat on Jacob's right side, since he is left-handed, I am right-handed, and we both Shotgun. This way, since we played with our dominant hands, our path did not naturally intersect, and our spreads did not overlap. I also slid my stashpad to the left, to give myself more shotgunning room. I also stated the "let's-kill-Jacob" strategy and left the other two players to battle Jacob while I went off and did something else. The last sneaky thing I did was to overice a piece of Ryan's that he totally wasn't paying attention to. It got me a few more points, but didn't lower his any further, so I didn't feel too bad.
The last round deserves its own few paragraphs. Public scores were good, because we found out that the winner of this round would win the tournament, except myself, who had to beat Jacob by a certain margin (2 points). The table was blank for a tense few seconds until Ryan bravely put down the first piece. Then pieces began to be plopped down in a four-person Shotgun. Dan seemed to become immediately paranoid of being put in the Icehouse and never played eight of his pieces, which hurt his score considerably.
I felt time slipping by. I noticed that Jacob had played most of his pieces, but I still had three or four on my pad. I put out enough pieces to get a lead on him (it is very easy to count scores when shotgunning), keeping a single small on my pad. I played my last medium, picked up that small, and looked across the board as to what was going on.
10 seconds later, the timer went off.
I put down my piece. I knew I was in the lead. Jacob had too many squandered points, at least two mediums. I had two smalls squandered. It hit me like a slow-motion bullet fired from the table into my head. And I completely lost it.
I started bawling, right there. This was too much for me. Not only had my nineteen fellow competitors said that I was a cool player, but I had just won the most coveted award in the Wunderland community. I am still fairly young, so I'm slightly embarressed to say that this is probably my best accomplishment to date, or at least the one I am most proud of. I knew I could graduate from high school and college, I know I can find a job, but I never *knew* that I could win. I'm the third to win the triple crown and it is a high that I still haven't come down from.
Most people that were there and saw my reaction agree that it was a good thing that Jacob forgot the scepter. I was weeping with joy for what seemed like an hour afterward, lost in a stupor of endorphin and lost adrenaline. I felt closer to the community than I had ever been before, so I apologize to all those who were offended by my blubbering and wanton hugs.
You are all wonderful people, and I can't wait to see who will be the one to steal the scepter away from me.
Of course, retiring as an undefeated champion would work, too. :)
I also prefer slightly longer games, but I must admit that Liam is right: waiting to play until some time has burned helps. Playing 9+d6 minutes may be a good solution.
I won only two of the four ice-off games, so I was worried that I would not even make the finals. I had been cursing myself for losing the other two games, because I could have done far better if I had been thinking about it. In my last game, I had a prisoner and simply failed to play out my pieces onto the table, letting them die on the stash.
I watched Dan play a slow game on the first round of the finals, while Dan and Ryan bought into the "kill Jake" strategy. At one point, I almost traded prisoners with Ryan, but then he balked.
On the second game, I was determined to squash Dan. He many times claimed to not know how to use prisoners, so I encouraged people to ice him freely, since he would not squander their attackers. Liam and I watched carefully as he tried to play his seventh piece into a tight spot, knowing that if he succeeded, we would need to ice it to put him in the Icehouse. He crashed, and that meant that he no longer owned the piece, so I called Icehouse. Having so many prisoners, I could not help but win that round.
It was great to see that everyone still had a chance on the third game. Heck, if we had played four games, it would *still* have been anyone's game, since the scores were so close. Liam and I both did a full bore shotgun, trading prisoners with each other early in the game to virtually assure that one of us would win. After Dan and Ryan saw us squander their attackers, they were afraid to attack either of us. Half way though, I saw that one of my medium pieces was on Ryan's stash, and one on Liam's, and I couldn't think of any way to get them off. I thought about conniving it out of either of them, but I didn't think either would buy it. In a casual game, maybe, but not in the last game of the finals. I tried very hard to beat Liam.
When the timer went off, I knew that Liam was two points ahead of me. Had I won, I would have been happy and content, but as soon as I saw Liam's reaction, I knew that his victory was far sweeter for him that mine would have been for me. As Eeyore mentioned before and after the tournament, neither he nor I had to prove anything. Liam had practiced for the tournament, used my own strategies but with his own modifications and his own flair, and had simply outplayed me in both the ice-offs and the finals. I was very happy give him a challenging game, and I can't think of a better final result.
In the Cooler Than Ice voting, I selected Eeyore. He ran the tournament smoothly and with good humor. He demonstrated good sportsmanship in the game that he and I played together, which was a vicious round for us. It can be hard to deal with people assaulting your pieces because of your reputation, and Eeyore did so with cool confidence. I did not play Liam in the ice-offs, so my vote does not reflect Liam's sportsmanship, which I am sure was equally good.
I look forward to Liam moving to the DC area and properly presenting the scepter to him.
Might as well post my brief anecdotes from the Referee's Corner... Well, not anecdotes; more on the lines of "how to make best use of your friendly referee."
A few cases of people using the I-word when they did not mean to make an Icehouse call. I was lenient about this. It's still better to be careful about this -- if some player takes you literally and stops play, I am likely to be equally literal and hold you to the call.
At one point someone asked, "Is this attack successful?" I looked carefully at it, and judged it was not -- it was pointing at another attacker. Under current tournament practice, that means the play is incomplete and the player can move or retract it. So he did. No problem there. This is most of a referee's job.
Then the player asked, "Can I ask if this attack is *possible*?" The answer to that is "no". I can't rule on what you *might* be able to do -- that's up to your skill. I can't even rule on what's geometrically possible, because what if I'm wrong and then you make the attack anyway? (Should I rule it out of order on the grounds of violating my judgement of impossibility? That would be silly.)
Make the attack, and I'll tell you what it points at.
Another time a player asked, "What is this piece pointing at?" while he was still touching the piece. I can't rule on an incomplete play. (You might jiggle it removing your hand; besides, your hand is pretty darn opaque. But more than that -- it's not my job to help you decide when to commit to a play. Commit, then we'll talk.)
Note that, under current rules, if I rule an attack squandered it might very well be incomplete. (If it's pointing at an attacker, or a piece of your color.) In that case you'll get to take it back anyway.
Similarly -- I won't call a meltdown until you actually take your hand off the piece. It is not illegal to move an incompletely-played piece around the board in a pre-meltdown-like way. :) The one time I saw this, Jake (coolly) warned the player of the meltdown *before* the play was completed, thus preventing the illegal play entirely.
The funkiest case I saw this year: I made a floss call on an attack (I ruled it successful, I believe). A few minutes later, someone called Icehouse. We looked at the board and noticed that that attack was squandered -- it had clearly been crashed at some point, and nobody noticed. I conferred with the Master Pyramologe (aka John), and determined that the correct reaction is to fix the crash and then work out the results of the Icehouse call.
Finally, please stick around the table until I have the game scored. I am not the greatest Icehouse scorer in the world -- particularly in a tournament like this, where each ref has several tables and thus can't watch the whole game. I prefer to hear your account of your score, and make sure it tallies with mine, before I turn in the scores.
I thought that the Icehouse tournament in particular went very well. I think that the 4 round, drop none format went great. The only people who ever met more then once during the whole event were me and Jake, and that wasn't until the finals. I also thought that the 11 minute timer was great. It forced people to play more near the beginning of the round rather then sit back and wait for later on. (Although, even with 11 minutes, people were sitting back for a while in some cases.) The smaller tables were great, and we had just the right number of them to go around. (Perfect!) I like the ruling about misplaced attackers being allowed to be replayed or even picked up. It removes the intention issue, and simplifies the rules. I did in fact use this a couple of times during the Iceoffs. Once I was able to place/adjust a piece a couple of times to ensure that I was in fact attacking the intended defender, and another time I was helpfully told that there was no way to get the attacker thought the space that I was attempting. I thought that both of these rulings were fair and helpful. I am still surprised that I have been doing so well in the Icehouse tournaments. I really do feel that I need to work on my strategies and in particular my use of prisoners and the shotgun. I basically just have been using the standard, get a fortress early, and then try to ice some defenders. Luckily, I think I did have people not noticing me earlier on in the games, otherwise I could easily have been toast. It was great to get into the finals again this year and play against some of the best and most innovative players around. It was great knowing how the scores were falling between rounds and that whoever won the last round would take the prize. And it was great to see Liam during the wrap-up of that final match when he realized that he had just become the 13th International Icehouse Champion. From his expression, I could tell just how much it had meant to him, and I knew that he was the right one to win it this year. Congratulations. (It actually reminded me a lot of last years Zendo finals when Eric came upon the realization of the rule at just the perfect time during his turn. It is a great moment to witness.) I do hope that no one got the wrong idea about me claiming the Yellow medallion for myself this year. I had not recalled that Jake normally has taken that color in the previous years, and I only chose it because I had been playing Gold throughout the IceOff's. Otherwise, I would have been just as happy with Red. (I already have Blue, and being a bit colorblind, I don't find Green all that stimulating.) Oh well.