Out Of My Depth

Thoughts from A Tournament Novice

by Richard Horton

Introduction and Background
by Ted Miller, 1999 World E-Mail Masters Tournament Director

Mr. Horton has written a vibrant article which well depicts his entry into the 1999 World E-mail Masters Diplomacy Tournament. Hopefully, he will keep his promise and submit follow-up articles. I thought I would briefly outline how the tournament got started for readers unfamiliar with it.

Maurice Jean of the Cat-23 community sponsored a team tournament in 1997 & 1998. This brilliant idea was well received. However, despite having players from all over the world, it was never heavily promoted as a World tournament. In 1999 Ray Setzer (Mr. Cat-23) and Emeric Miszti combined to organize and publicize a truly world-wide tournament. There were strenuous efforts to recruit from around the world, and to bring Judge players into the tournament. (Up until then, the judge and human moderated e-mail player communities were largely separate.)

They succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. The organizers hoped for 40-50 teams; no less than 79 teams signed up, and several more would have if we hadnít run out of time. The seven-man teams meant 553 players had signed up, with many more composing a reserve list, hoping to enter as a substitution.

These 79 first round games are administered by volunteer GMs, many using Judges for adjudication. The 49 highest scorers will enter the semifinals, which is also the first round of the individual tournament. A seven player final will determine the tournament champion.

Next year we anticipate many more entries. I hope to see you there!

And so, with no further ado, here is what Richard Horton has to say....

It all started with an e-mail announcement I found in my box this summer. It seems there was a e-mail Diplomacy World Championship coming together out there somewhere, and I was cordially invited. I'd like to say that my imagination was fired from the start, but it wasn't. While I had played a good deal of Diplomacy, both on the Judges and FTF, I had never taken part in an organized tournament of any kind. As my professional life had taken me further away from those friends I used to spend afternoons with plotting the fate of Belgium and Greece, I had toyed with the idea of attending a FTF tournament, but nothing ever came of that. Part of this was due to the busy life I had accidentally created for myself, but I must admit that I found the idea of competing in a FTF tournament a little intimidating. I'd read the accounts of various tournaments in the pages of the Diplomatic Pouch, and while they sounded like glorious fun (particularly when it was Australians and New Zealanders doing the Dipping), the thought kept occurring that I might find myself completely out of my depth!

However, I could think of a few reasons why an e-mail tournament might be a different beast all together.

  1. I had plenty on experience playing Diplomacy on the Judges.
  2. The e-mail format gives you plenty of time to devote on your diplomatic overtures and tactics.
  3. The chances were greater, or so I reasoned, that most players in a world e-mail tournament would be complete strangers to one another. I wouldn't be singled out as some sort of interloper by a cadre of players familiar with one another.
All in all it looked like the perfect opportunity to ease myself into the world of tournament play. So I took the plunge and signed myself up on the tournament bulletin board, and waited.

It took awhile to get going, but as October 1st neared (the tournament entry deadline) things started hopping. I was assigned to team USA East II, which was later re-named the XYZ Affair. (Most of the other players organized their own teams and entered en bloc.) None of my teammates expressed much interest in specific countries so I'm not even sure how it was decided who would play which. I was assigned France and I was pleased with that. My best Judge results had come while playing France. I'd never had a solo win on a Judge, but I had been a part of two three-way draws. Both times I was France. Things were looking good!

It was at this point that I discovered some interesting things. It seems that one of my teammates, Stephen Koehler was well known in the world of Diplomacy. For this reason the early scuttlebutt about the tournament placed the XYZ Affair as one of the "Teams to Watch." That's just great.... Here I am trying to get my feet wet and now I'm worried about dragging my whole team down. The pressure had already started, and I hadn't even been placed on a board yet. And then....

I was placed on a board. Not just any board but a board that was picked one of the "Boards to Watch." There was not one, but three players of noted reputation on the board, including a former European Champion and another who runs one of the better known Diplomacy zines. I wanted to wet my feet and I found myself swimming with the sharks! It is a good thing I can roll with the punches (as opposed to reel with the stabs), as this offers me a golden opportunity to get a feel for what tournament play really entails.

As I write this, the game is entering its second year. I won't go into much in the way of details as this is an on-going game, but I feel pretty good about the way things have started. Germany and my France have moved against England, and, despite a balky Russia, the rest of the board is looking lively. In future issues of The Pouch I'll update my progress in the game, as well as giving my evolving opinions on e-mail tournament play. Who knows, maybe I'll scratch my way into the second round. I wouldn't bet the farm on that, but I've got as good a shot as any. (Famous last words, anyone?)

Richard Horton

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