Discovering the Religion of 'Donism'

Being an account of a Kiwi's first foray
into the Australian Tournament Diplomacy scene

By Brandon Clarke

Author's note: This article includes ribald accounts of lewd behaviour, drinking, carousing, and general loutishness. If you are likely to be offended by this, read on at your own discretion. All the events happened as reported, to the best of my recollection.

I have just returned from Australia where I competed in the sixth annual Don Challenge Cup. I had an fantastic time, both socially and in the competition. I can only urge other Kiwi Diplomacy players to make the effort to get over to a tournament in Australia -- it's well worth it. The games are great fun, and the Aussies are great guys. This article is written for The Diplomatic Pouch, since I promised Manus I'd write him a review. Putting it together is not a chore, though...I gladly share with everyone my experiences.

Why Go to Australia?

I decided in the middle of 1997 that I wanted to play some tournament Diplomacy. Unfortunately, the Diplomacy scene in New Zealand is not as healthy as it might far as I can tell. There are no Diplomacy tournaments here that I'm aware of; just small pockets of enthusiasts here and there that play amongst themselves. There are some games conferences, and some Diplomacy gets played there, but there are no dedicated Diplomacy tournaments. One of the things I want to do over the next couple of years is remedy that. This is an enormous task.

After posting to early this year looking for Diplomacy contacts in New Zealand, I received an email from Bob Blanchett (JudgeKeeper of AUME, a private Australian judge). Bob runs a mailing list called OZDIP-L which is aimed at the Australian and New Zealand Diplomacy scene...a general forum for discussion of Diplomacy. He saw my post and suggested I join the list. I did, and it has proven to be an excellent decision. The Australian Diplomacy tournament scene is pretty healthy, if limited in size. Through discussions (okay, read trans-Tasman slanging matches if you will) I 'met' several of the stalwarts of the Australian hobby. They encouraged me in my efforts to build up the New Zealand hobby. I'm determined to run a tournament in New Zealand, but since I had never played in one, I felt I needed to find out what they were all about. Hence my trip to The Don Challenge Cup.

History of The Don Challenge Cup

The Don is more than a Diplomacy tournament. It has a short, but very rich history. Perhaps I should explain....

Keywords: Greasing Train, Latex Fist, Choker Pants.

Clear? No, I didn't think so. Okay. Donism is a religion, founded by Ken Sproat (ex-president of the Diplomacy Association of Australia) and Anthony Swinnerton on a train ride to a tournament in Sydney in 1992, after World DipCon in Canberra earlier that year. What follows is Ken's account of the origins of Donism, as told at the head of a table in a little wood fired pizza place on Brunswick Street, Melbourne, late on the Saturday night of The Don this year.

Picture the scene: A crowd has gathered outside the venue for World DipCon in Canberra, Australia, 1992. It's the first morning...everyone is excited. People are mingling...renewing old friendships, eyeing up opponents, ribbing good friends.... Plenty of nervous repartee. Off to one side of the crowd stands a lone figure...Don Del Grande, an American player of some note. Let's just say that Don's fashion sense sets him apart from the crowd.

During the Tournament, all accounts were that Don didn't say much. His Diplomacy style was, errr...somewhat limited. Tending towards the "Yeah okay man," and not a lot else. He seemed a quite shy person. Completely the opposite to the big, brash, convivial stereotype we have for Americans down-under. Not quite what one had expected from someone who had made the effort to come all the way from the States for a Diplomacy tournament....

...Later that year, we find the scene has shifted to Ken Sproat and Anthony Swinnerton standing on the platform at Spencer Street Railroad Station waiting for a train to a tournament in Sydney. A train rolls by with 'Greasing Train' emblazoned on the side. Presumably, the Greasing Train was used to grease the tracks. In a few short minutes the beginnings of Donism was born....

[It should be pointed out that the end product, Donism, and all it's peculiarities, are no reflection or comment on Don Del Grande himself. His attendance at WorldDipCon just served as a catalyst for Ken and Anthony's repressed schoolboy imaginations to break free. From the most innocent seeds, something monstrous was born.]

...From the few foibles of the real Don Del Grande that were observed at the World DipCon, a new, some say mythical, Don was created in the minds of Ken and Anthony on that fateful day. Don was the high priest of Donism. His followers were called Donists. Don's preferred mode of transport to and from Diplomacy tournaments was the Greasing Train.

Don wears choker pants...those chinos that some men wear pulled up above their navels, at the expense of the correct leg length near the ankles. Don's pants are held up by red braces.

During the Sydney '92 tournament, Clive Lane turned up. He had no facial hair, in contrast to Don; Clive wore glasses, Don does not; Clive was a snappy dresser (again, in contrast to Don). It was immediately apparent that Clive was the Anti-Don, and that Clivism was obviously an overt threat to Donism. Donists and Clivists do not see eye to eye.

In one of the games in that tournament, Anthony Swinnerton was matched against Adrian Appleyard. It would be fair to say that if you described what Anthony did to Adrian in that game, and you used the term proctology, you'd be pretty close to the mark. The game was dubbed "Latex Fist," and so the latex fist symbol was forever woven into the lore of Donism.

That night, Adrian and Paul Appleyard, Neil Ashworth, and Anthony Swinnerton played "Don Scrabble," while Ken Sproat slept on the couch. In Don Scrabble, you may only use Don Words, and you must justify why they are to be considered Don words. From this game, many interesting facets of Donism were unearthed. Most particularly, it was discovered that Don has a pet Rhinoceros called Bertie.

Later the same weekend, an unfortunate Spanish restaurant in Sydney called 'Raphaels' was the scene of the first Donist drinking game. It went like this: The first player had to begin a story, and then each subsequent player would add to the story. When a storyteller said "Don," or in fact any word that contained the syllable "Don," such as Essendon, or Orthodontist, everyone had to make a noise like what you would expect to hear when Bertie was being mounted...a long, drawn-out, nasal, rhinoceros snort fitted the bill just nicely. The last person to make the noise had to consume the contents of his vessel, and then was obliged to continue the story....

Those are the essential elements of the birth of Donism.

Ken returned home to Jan Juc, just out of Melbourne, and set about organising the first Don Challenge Cup to celebrate the newfound religion of Donism. The tournament was held in November 1992. The way Ken tells it, the tournament was opened with the famous words:  "We welcome you to to the Don Challenge Cup, and as Bertie would say...[Long loud nasal rhinoceros snort...]."  Every person who stabbed during the tournament was given a latex glove as a trophy. However, certain anonymous witnesses who claim to have been there have no recollection of such an opening phrase, nor in fact of any gloves being presented. Perhaps these are just embellishments to the legend of The Don, or perhaps the more conservative, anal-retentive members of the hobby have selective memory when it comes to the more -- shall we say, risqué -- aspects of the hobby's history?

That was just the beginning. Since then, The Don Challenge Cup has been held six times. Each year, more flavour seems to have been wound into its history. One year an ambulance was called when a player collapsed after a GM made an unfavourable decision against him. I have been to Pabs Tavern, and stood on the spot of 'The Collapsing' can feel the ghosts. The Don has seen shirts removed and ribald songs sung. The Don Challenge Cup itself is presently in need of repair. There are rumours that an incident involving much drinking was involved in this coming to pass. Chants lamenting the inability of one to 'bugger the hedgehog' were not out of place this year in a certain Brunswick Street cafe.

I must say however that The Don's flavour really needs to be sampled through amber lensed goggles, in person.

Only three people have ever won the Don Challenge Cup:

Rob Wessles
Rob Wessles
Craig Sedgwick
Rohan Keane
Rohan Keane
Craig Sedgwick

Diary of The Don Challenge Cup 1997

The Anticipation...

Friday November 28th. I set off for my first Diplomacy tournament. It is also my first visit to Melbourne.

When booking my trip I knew The Don was on Saturday the 29th and Sunday the 30th of November. The question I asked myself was: Do you want to go across just for the weekend and the Diplomacy tournament, or should you take the following three weeks off work and follow the New Zealand cricket team around Australia for the first half of the One Day series against Australia and South Africa? Any of you who know much about cricket probably think that's an easy decision...go for the weekend, and come home and do something enjoyable, right? (For those of you who don't know about cricket, New Zealand isn't exactly renowned for winning in recent years, whereas Australia and South Africa are two of the best sides in the world.) Well, call me a beggar for punishment, but I decided that the cricket trip was the way to go. I love the game, err, sorry, religion of cricket so much that the appeal of being at the Adelaide Oval for the first ever international game under lights, and the prospect of seeing New Zealand vs. Australia at the M.C.G. was just too tempting. More on the cricket later....

One amusing little tale from the flight to Melbourne: The plane took off at 7.30 a.m. New Zealand time. Consequently we were served with breakfast. One of the staple breakfast cereals down-under is Wheatbix. In case they're not so common in whichever part of the world you happen to be reading this, Wheatbix are biscuits of malted wheat flakes. The biscuits are about one inch across and three inches long, and perhaps half an inch thick. Accepted practice is to pour milk over them, maybe a little sugar, even some diced fresh fruit. The sugar and the fruit are optional. The milk is a required item. Without the milk, Wheatbix are extremely dry and unpleasant eating. Apparently the elderly Asian couple across the aisle from me had never been instructed in the art of Wheatbix consumption. She had a go first, extracting the first biscuit from it's wrapper. A quizzical look crossed her face. She examined it from all sides. She sniffed it. Then she took a bite...heroically, she chewed for over a minute, trying to produce enough saliva to allow her to swallow this thing. After that experience she obviously decided Wheatbix were way too bland on their own. Thankfully, Qantas had been thoughtful enough to provide her with a small sachet of strawberry jam! After liberally coating the remainder of the biscuit in strawberry jam, she seemed to enjoy her encounter with Kiwi breakfast cereals much more. What's more, she had a lovely jug of milk to wash it all down with afterwards. Her husband took a more artistic approach, using both of his Wheatbix like two pieces of bread in a sandwich, and using the fruit slices (oranges and mango) as the filling. He too seemed quite delighted with the result. I can just imagine the stories when they got home..."You would not believe what they eat for breakfast...."

In Melbourne, Bob Blanchett met me at the airport. After dumping my pack at his place we had a look around the inner city. We visited the Rembrandt exhibition at the art gallery. I'm not an art buff, but this guy was something else! The exhibition consisted of a selection of Rembrandt's work, and that of some of his more noted students who attempted to emulate the master's revolutionary use of light and shading. Even without reading the captions to the paintings I found that I could without fail identify the Rembrandts from the non-Rembrandts....his works were just so superior to those who tried to copy what he was doing. Following that, we went to the Melbourne Exhibition, which records the early growth of Melbourne in the 1830's through the 1870's. Of particular interest to me was the exhibit on the Melbourne Cricket Ground (M.C.G.) which I believe is now the second biggest cricket stadium in the world behind Eden Gardens in Calcutta. There were paintings there of when the M.C.G. was just a field with a few tents around the boundary.

That night we went to The Jamaica House, a little restaurant in Lygon Street, for the PreDon Dinner. Once everyone had settled in there were over 20 attendees. It was great to put faces to the e-mail addressees I'd been talking to for the past ten months. The guys were very welcoming, and I felt like I'd been part of this mob for years. Dinner was great too.

Saturday morning saw us all keen and eager at the Chess Club in Leister Street. A nice spacious room with good light, and over two dozen eager Diplomacy players...the sort of scene dreams are made of! (Well maybe...for some of the more hopelessly addicted members of the hobby anyway!)

John Cain was the GM for the tournament. There were two rounds played on the first day (Saturday) and a third round on Sunday. We had 27 players in the first round, playing on four boards (2 GM positions) and 21 players for the second and third rounds, making up three boards. There was a 'novice' board for the first round, for players who had never played in a tournament before. There were eight novices present, and unfortunately for me I was adjudged to be the 'least novice' of the novices, and so missed out on the 'easy' board. Take it from me I was arguing strenuously that I had no idea how to play the game, and that since I didn't know anyone there from a bar of soap I was already at a disadvantage...It didn't wash, and I was freed into the shark pool. Bugger! And what a shark pool it was...

Round 1

John read out the names for the first board after the novice board... Harry Kolotas, Rob Stephenson (a sharp in take of breath from around the room), Andrew England ("Ooooooo!"), Dugal Ure ("Gee! Whata board!"), David Ellory ("Oh Man!"), Brandon Clarke ("Ha! You poor Bastard!"), and Ross will play the GM's position. I looked nervously around the room. I'd heard of Harry Kolotas...he's known as "Uncle Harry" in the Australian Hobby. He's been around the hobby since the Ark, and he's got a new wing in his house that houses all his trophies. Rob Stephenson is renowned for for his menacing looks and style of negotiation -- Harry will tell you how Rob scared him into an alliance through sheer terror (or so Harry says, but he is a Diplomacy player)....I stayed at his house that night, and I've seen his trophy cabinet, but when we sat to play, I hadn't yet seen it. Andrew England hasn't been seen on the Dip circuit for a few years, but was recently referred to on OZDIP-L as "The Great Satan"...he too is a feared and revered exponent of the game. Dugal, and David are also of a calibre that no one seemed to think they were out of their depth on this board. And then there was errr, me!!! Whoopie! At least I'd get a long lunch break, huh?

I drew Russia, "The Great Satan" was England, Uncle Harry was Germany, and Rob Stephenson France. Dugal was Italy, David was the Sultan, and the GM was playing Italy. Immediately, Uncle Harry pulls me aside and begins his sermon: "There's a Western Triple; Rob Stephenson's idea you see. Andrew England has agreed to it, so I have to go along with it, don't I? If you dick us around, you're the first piece of toast we're gonna eat."

"Gee!" I think...maybe he thinks I'm new around here? I'm thinking "Screw you!" so of course I say, "You won't get any stress from me...I'm too worried about the Balkans! You and Andrew can have Scandinavia...I can't afford to worry about going there." ...Like you do right?

Next I gotta talk to this Rob Stephenson character..."What do you think?" He asks. Much more my style of play! I tell him I think Russia and France have heaps to talk about, and that generally the R/F alliance is underplayed. I told him what Harry had said, and that I suspected E/G were pretty tight, and that he should be cautious. I won an instant friend.

Perhaps encouraged by my "I'm not gonna worry about Scandinavia" song, England opened to the Channel, and Germany was going hard at France too. I opened: F STP-FIN, A MOS-STP, and A WAR-SIL. Things in the south were going just swimmingly too, with the Turk making a bee-line for the Aegean with his fleet, and the Austrian off to Greece in a big way. I had Rumania in the bag, and no stress down there either. Rob looked at me as the orders were read and mouthed, 'Thank you.' With an English fleet in the Channel, and a German army in Burgundy, he was a little uncomfortable.

The Grandfather and The Great Satan pulled me aside and said: "Look, this is how it's going to be. We're busy attacking France, so we don't need any hassles from you, okay? You can have Sweden as long as you don't bounce England out of Norway. Okay?" Poker-faced, I said, "Yeah sure. I faithfully promise not to bounce England out of Norway." ...Yeah right!

The fall moves are read, and Rob manages to defend the French homeland. My unit in Silesia probably helps. I take Sweden, and bounce England out of Norway. France breathes again. Immediately, I tell France that he owes me big as I have just made major enemies out of Germany and England. He says he's well aware of that, and if I call the tune, he'll dance to it.

Germany and England understandably turned on me, but with some aggressive counterattacking from France, Germany was soon eliminated, and England saw the wisdom of combining in a E/F/R to stop Turkey and Austria, who were growing quickly. The game ended in a 6-6-7-7-8 draw, with which I was more than happy, given the opposition. That night, Sultan David and I discussed the game over a few beers (more about that later...) and we agreed that he and I should definitely not have agreed to the draw, but rather should have turned against Austria together and pushed for a four-way draw or better. Still, I was happy to come away from a board of death with a respectable result, and the respect of some of the more prominent members of the Australian hobby.

Round 2

That afternoon Saw the turning point of the tournament. Craig Sedgwick was playing Germany, and Dugal Ure (Austria from my first round game) was England. Between them, they swept the board. In the midgame, the centre collapsed under sustained German pressure, and Dugal was unable to respond quickly enough to prevent Craig from getting the solo. This made Craig's chances of winning the tournament extremely good, given the tournament scoring system, KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid):

Solo victory:
Participation in  a draw: 1 point per SC at the time the draw is called, plus survival points earned (see below)
Survival points: Each player who is alive at the end of 1905 is awarded 2 'survival points'. In the event of a draw those players score these points in addition to their SC count.
Loss (survival, or elimination in a game where someone else gets a solo victory):

In my second round game I was Germany. Ken Sproat was England. Another newbie, Leigh Gold, was Russia. Phil Orme (known as 'The Good Orme'...his brother, Richard, being known as 'The Dark Orme') was France. Harry Kolotas was Austria, and Bill Brown -- the leader in The Bismark Cup* points before this, the final tournament of the year -- was Italy. Ian Van Der Werff, with whom I'd played in PBEM, was the Turk.

[*The Bismark Cup is an annual award for the best 'Tournament Diplomacy Player' in the Australian Hobby. Points are scored based on one's overall finishing position in each tournament throughout the year. The more players that attend each tournament affect the weightings given to the tournament, and thus how many Bismark Cup points are scored from it. A list of the tournaments, including their dates, locations and full details, that qualify for Bismark Cup points is available at the Diplomacy Association of Australia home page.]

I talked to Ken straightaway and asked him if he'd read Stephen Agar's article about prising the French snail out of it's shell. He hadn't, so I briefly explained it to him. Ken was keen, so off we went. However, when I got into Burgundy in Spring of 1901, we got greedy, Instead of me supporting him into Belgium as planned, I went for Paris and got it, while Ken was bounced out of Belgium. This was a grave mistake, as it galvanised Austria, Russia, and Italy against us. Phil was playing France, and was hurting under our attack. However, when the pressure mounted in the North-East, England and I patched things up with him and fought together against A/I which had taken out the Turk. Russia withered too, and then 'The "Good" Orme' Made a beserker move, stabbing me hard and completely shattering our line of defense against the growing Austrian. I then stepped out of the Austrian's way, welcoming him into Germany in order to ensure the rapid demise of France. I ended on one centre, but had seen France dragged down from 9 to 2. I was somewhat appeased. Again the game was an agreed draw, with Harry Kolotas' Austria on 15 SC's. Bill Brown put in another solid performance to finish on eight as Italy and so almost guarantee himself the Bismark Cup. Ken Sproat was the other survivor as England on eight SC's.

Saturday Night's Festivities...

That night, we all trundled around to a nearby pub, while we waited for Craig to grind out his eighteen centre victory. I went to the bar and said, "I'll have a beer thanks". Where I come from 'a beer' means a pint glass. Small children, women, and small, furry, domesticated animals drink out of small glasses. Men drink pints. The barman pours me a beer in what looked like a thimble to me, but as I was later to learn is the standard sized drinking vessel in Australian pubs. I just looked at him. He looked at me. "Better give me three more of those, mate, I said." He looked at me again. "Buying a round, are you?" he asked. "No, I just don't like walking." He looks at me again, blankly, shakes his head, shrugs, and pours the beers. When I get to the table the boys say "Oh good, you've bought a round!" I just roll my eyes and turn back to the bar... "Can I have a dozen of those beers mate?" "A dozen!" "Yes, 12." He looks at me again. I look at him, and he gives in and starts pouring...

Everyone enjoyed the pub. At about nine o'clock, the news came through that Craig had scored a solo. Many utterances similar to "Jarstad!" were heard, as we moved down Brunswick Street to the venue we had selected for dinner, a lovely little wood-fired pizza cafe. Everybody settled in, and the party got going. Craig was buying all the people who had lost to him Bourbon and cokes. They were gratefully accepting them, and muttering congratulations, interspersed with "Jarstard's." After two hours, I felt it was time to sing the song I had prepared for The Don. Taking my seat next to the founder of Donism, and alleged bare-bellied table top- singer, Ken Sproat, I prepared to sing. Those Terry Pratchett fans amongst you may well be familiar with The Hedgehog Song. For those of you who haven't got a clue who Terry Pratchett is -- God have pity on your souls -- it begins like this:

You can bugger the bear if you do it with care
In the winter while he is asleep in his lair,
Though I would not advise it in summer or fall,
But the hedgehog can never be buggered at all.

...and it continues in the same vein for a full seventeen verses. I was fitting in to this 'Don' scene quite nicely apparently. The Donists loved the song. The other patrons of the cafe were, shall we just say...bemused?

As the party began breaking up around midnight a few of us decided it was time to adjourn to Rob Stephenson's house in East Doncaster. East Doncaster is a suburb of Melbourne, I'm told. Kinda like Birmingham is a suburb of London! What seemed like an eternity later we arrived at Rob's, and had few VB Bitters -- the beer of choice in that part of the world. Not much 'attitude adjustment' was needed by that time of the night, and very soon a learned discussion about the pro's and cons of the 'novice board' concept was entered into. Rohan Keane, defending Don champion, and graduate of the 'Screw them ruthlessly, and then start the game' school of Diplomacy was very much of the 'let the newbies sink or's survival of the fittest!' line of thought. Others saw the desirability of making a conscious effort to retain new blood in the hobby. The main problem, it was agreed, was how to ascertain the level of noviceness if the 'novice board' was to be in the first round. The consensus was that it would be a sterling idea to retain novice boards but to hold them in the second or third round of the tournament to allow the GM a chance to gauge the noviceness of the new players. This discussion was raised as a certain Rob Hadliegh almost soloed on the novice board. (Rob went on to score second overall in The Don, and Best Russia.) It was agreed that on a novice board this was far more likely as the novices were less likely to bury the hatchet and get a coordinated defense sorted out before it was too late once someone inevitably broke open the midgame. It was argued that under the KISS scoring system, this skewed the tournament results too much. Interesting discussion.

Round 3

The next morning we all trekked back into Melbourne for the start of the third and final round. I drew Austria. Craig Sedgwick was Russia, and Rob Stephenson Turkey. Frank "The Collapser" Meerbach was Italy. (I didn't know the story of The Collapsing at that stage.) Rohan Keane was Germany, Bill Brown France, and Ian Van Der Werff England. First up, I agreed to a DMZ in Galicia with Craig. I figure with Craig and Rob on my borders it's a case of "Big Risks, Big Rewards, in the twighlight zone." Then I proposed a Key Lepanto to Frank. I erred in that I didn't tell him not to tell anyone I had offered it to him. I just assumed he would keep that quiet. Not so. Rob Stephenson asks me straight out when I talk to him..."Franky says you offered him a Key Lepanto. Did you?" I'm thinking "Firetruck!" but of course I say, "No way." Evidently I lie convincingly, as Rob believed me.

Lo and behold, Franky moves to Trieste. I pull off an apparently convincing "Prick!" during the reading of the orders. Rob is still willing to go with me, Craig is dodgy -- he went to Galicia after all. That'll teach me! I lie my arse off in the fall, and amazingly the Key Lepanto is still on track. Incredibly, Frank moves A APU-ION-GRE! Even though he knew I was moving A SER-GRE and F ALB S A SER-GRE. The best he could hope for was a bounce, if he got Turkish support. I just didn't see that move coming at all. I figured he'd take Serbia and Tunis, and we'd be laughing.

So now I'm screwed. I guessed wrong against the Russian army in Galicia too, so he's eating garlic sausage in Vienna! I plotted a Turkish stab of Russia, which would've hurt Craig, but given that I'd lied so convincingly to him earlier, Rob decided it was probably safer to dispose of me. I didn't make it to 1904 in this game. Never mind; it gave me a chance to watch a couple of the other games.

One thing I found interesting to note was that one of the games was being played on a board with wooden pieces, with the little national flag stickers on them. Now I've never really thought about it, but I've always stood the wooden army blocks on their ends, with the flag on the short face of the block. This set had the flags on a long face, and consequently the army blocks lay 'on their side'. I don't suppose it matters really, but it's funny that I had never ever considered placing them on their side. The flags seem so perfectly sized to go on the ends too.

I was one of two overseas players at the tournament, along with Bjorn von Knorring who had traveled all the way from Sweden for the tournament! Good effort that one. Bjorn was playing Italy in a Key Lepanto alliance in the final round. Bill Brown posted his thoughts on that game (in which he played Russia) to OZDIP-L in some of the post-tournament discussion...

I too had a previous game with Bjorn and was impressed with his diplomacy and tactical skills and didn't think he would do anything rash; therefore I was hoping for the possibility of a long term R/I alliance with him. From [Tristan, who played Austria], I was hoping to get in on an R/A/I alliance to take out the Turk and then have the possibility of a long term A/R alliance. In the West, I am a great believer that Russia has to "make a statement" sooner or later in the North. I would have loved to send an army north initially, but without a definite Turkish ally this became less of an option. I therefore "made my statement" by building north with the single build I received in 1901. I did this even though I saw that A/I were double-teaming Turkey and insincere about letting Russia be part of the division of Turkey, as there was little I could do to stop A/I and if you are losing the south you may as well try to have an impact in the north. This worked out okay as England was under pressure from F/G.

So the Key Lepanto had great success, but I would like to see how it fares against a solid R/T alliance, and especially against the "disguised steamroller" in which Turkey receives two fleets and there is immediate pressure on Austria via Gal-Rum-Bul???

As the game continued, Turkey and I went down as we lent each other moral support. I was lucky enough to retreat to Smyrna (a bad tactical error on behalf of the Italian) and this fleet lasted out the game, causing immense problems to A/I in their attempt to stop the F/G/R alliance. This alliance came about for various reasons: I was useful to F/G in removing England; when England was going down, A/I had moved so fast against R/T that F/G had to move east to circumvent the A/I alliance; as I lost centres to A/I, I disbanded my northern fleets, keeping my southern fleet alive and useful; Germany helped me stabilise the rest of Russia and very early on we had a secure line that Tristan couldn't break. Neither France or Germany ever approached me seriously throughout the alliance to attack the other.

At this stage James [the German player, playing in his first tournament] came to me and instead of just holding a secure line he wanted to take the attack to the Austrian, and even though this was against my instincts (I had the most to lose if Austria broke our line) I accepted his lead and we took immense delight in what I call "the Old Meat Grinder" in Sil/Boh. We'd blow up an Austrian unit, he'd blow up one of Germany's, we'd take it back and blow up one of his, etc., but eventually we got position and took Vienna. By that stage F/G/R had talked about dividing up the board 13-13-8 and we stuck by that (even though Harry [as in 'Uncle' Harry Kolotas] did his normal paranoid things like building a fleet in Brest and moving into what was supposed to be a DMZ in the English Channel). James did well to reply to this pressure by building and moving in a like manner, and tensions increased just like a Cold War! Thankfully (since I only wanted a eight centre draw to win the Bismark) we tidied up the rest of Austria quickly and the game was drawn.

What if Tristan had gone after Italy and stuck with me? I would have gone along with it for sure as at that time I had no other firm alliance. With my position in Norway and two fleets, I am sure I could have pressured Germany, and France would have had the choice to go Med or help attack Germany. The possibilities (for me anyway) would have been much greater than the actual game, where I was forced to look to Germany to survive the A/I. Tristan tried his best to get the German to break with F/R (especially to attack me I think), but James resisted the pressure well and I personally only doubted him once when I made a small stab for Sweden at one stage (which James was smart enough to cover against) but no harm was done. To combat Tristan's diplomacy against Germany, one season I made a point of making sure that he spent as much time as possible talking to me (knowing that I wouldn't be swayed by his diplomacy), but the drawback was that my allies got upset by me spending too much time talking to Tristan!

Overall the game had some good tactical play but it didn't reach a great level of diplomacy. The possibilities (Austria/Russia vs. Italy/Germany, France/Russia vs. Germany, Germany/Russia vs. France, or France vs. Germany) remained unexplored.

So, that was the Don Challenge Cup for 1997 from my perspective. There was a lot I didn't see.

The Results (as posted to OZDIP-L by John Cain)

1.57Craig Sedgwick
2.36Robert Hadley
3.33Robert Stephenson
4.33Harry Kolotas
5.30Bill Brown
6.29Ken Sproat
7.25James Bounsall
8.22David Currell
9.21Tristan Lee
10.17Rohan Keane
11.17Jason Whitby
12.13Bjorn von Knorring
13.12Brandon Clarke
14.10Ian Van der Werff
15.10David Blom (1)
16.9Dugal Ure
17.9Anthony Gray (2)
18.8Andrew England (1)
19.8Shane Beck (1)
20.7David Murnane (1)
21.6Mark Pollinger
22.5Phil Orme (2)
23.5Bob Blanchett (1)
24.4Ken Sandy (1)
25.2Leigh Gold
26.1Frank Meerbach
27.1Richard Orme (1)
28.0Ross Lay (1)
29.0Michael Pearn (1)
30.0Robert de Graff (1)
A number in (parentheses) after the player's name
indicates they played in that number of rounds.

Best Newcomer: Robert Hadley (2nd place)
Best Austria: Harry Kolotas (15)
Best England: Tristan Lee (8)
Best France: Harry Kolotas (13)
Best Germany: Craig Sedgwick (18)
Best Italy: James Bounsall (8)
Best Russia: Robert Hadley (17)
Best Turkey: Robert Stephenson (10)

Here is the statement by Tournament Director John Cain: I would like to thank Tristan Lee for organising the tournament, Frank Meerbach for organising the venue, Tristan Lee and Jason Whitby for dragging out new players, and Bill Brown for obtaining the trophies. Thanks to all those who attended, especially Bjorn von Knorring (Sweden), Brandon Clarke (New Zealand) and Anthony Gray (Perth).

The Rest of my Tour...The Cricket Leg

After The Don Challenge Cup, I spent a day in Melbourne just mucking around. Then I caught a train and a bus to Adelaide to begin my trek in pursuit of the New Zealand cricket team. Many of my readers will be Americans, so almost by default that means you either won't have heard of cricket, or if you have, you don't understand it. For those of you who are interested there is an excellent [read: accurate, but also entertaining] explanation of the game here. Let me explain: briefly.

Cricket is not a sport, it is a religion, a way of life. It is infinitely subtle. You've heard of Risk no doubt. I explain to people who have never heard of Diplomacy, that Diplomacy is like Risk, only for grown-ups. Cricket is like Baseball, only for grown-ups. [Editor's note: In passionate defense of the Great American Pastime, let me categorically state that baseball is to Americans as the church is to the Pope. And for good reason. --MH]

I got to Adelaide, and stayed in a backpackers lodge in the central city. Eleven dollars a night, including breakfast, and free apple pie and ice cream each night, and their restaurant/pub next door served dinners of the lasagna and salad variety for $3.50. Not too shabby at all! On the Friday night I was in the bar at the backpackers and this English guy wandered in. He looked a bit lost, so I bought him a beer. Turns out that his name was Tim, and he was from Millwall in London, and yes, he had a skinhead haircut too! Cool guy though. We got talking and I learnt he'd never heard of Cricket! A pome, and he'd never heard of cricket!!! (Apparently all they know about in Millwall is 'Fotbowl.') I told him that in that case he'd just have to come to the game the next day with me between New Zealand and South Africa.

I must say I was a tad bemused when I got up to my room that evening. There was a Buddhist style shrine there, with a small robed man chanting in front of it, clutching a copy of The Dhali Lama's Autobiography. Well! That was a contrast to the raucous scenes in the bar that I had just left! I feel asleep, and when I woke up the shrine, the book, and the little robed man were gone....perhaps I dreamt it?

N.Z. vs. South Africa, Adelaide Oval, Saturday December 6.

The next day we set off on foot for the Adelaide Oval, in completely the wrong direction, I must add. We ended up 5 kilometers south of the city centre near a race course. It turns out the Adelaide oval is north of the city. Dumb tourists I guess...A cab ride later and we arrived at the game. This was the first One-day International to be played at the Adelaide Oval under the new floodlights...a historic occasion at a wonderful historic ground. Yesterday, I saw some video footage of the Adelaide Oval from 1933 -- the ground looks exactly the same today as it did then. Same old grandstands, same wonderful old scoreboard surrounded by large old trees. It is a special place to watch cricket. New Zealand batted first, and did quite well, scoring 225 runs. Not a formidable score by any stretch of the imagination, but quite defendable. Then began the first period of play of the summer in which New Zealand excelled and actually got on top of the opposition! Hallejah! The drought is broken! We bowled South Africa out for 174, a comfortable win. Tim the Englishman had a ball! There were some very vocal South African supporters who didn't shut up all afternoon. They were waving their flags, singing songs, chanting -- the whole works...really getting behind their team. However once New Zealand started getting the South African batsmen out at regular intervals, they suddenly became quite subdued. I had a large Steinlager Flag with me (Steinlager being a prominent New Zealand brand of beer). Tim grabbed my flag and stood up on his seat and bellowed in the direction of the once vociferous South Africans:

It's all gone quiet,
It's all gone quiet,

This was met with rapturous applause from the bunch of Kiwis we were sitting with, and dark baleful stares from the targeted South African fans. Tim was an instant honourary Kiwi. After the game several of the New Zealanders and our honourary friend set off to find a pub, to watch the rugby test between New Zealand and England. New Zealand are generally seen to be the best rugby side in the world at the moment. They were expected to beat the English easily, and Tim was a tad reticent about going to watch the game with a bunch of rabid Kiwis. Nevertheless, he intrepidly came along. At half time England were leading 23-9. There were approximately twenty Kiwi's there absolutley aghast. This was unthinkable! Tim was sitting there like the cat who'd swallowed the canary. He was beaming!! Thankfully from our point of view the mighty All Blacks (the name of our national rugby team) came back strong in the second half and the game was drawn 26-26. It was one of the most intense, emotionally draining matches I've ever seen. A draw to England was a disasterous result for New Zealand, but thank God we didn't lose!

N.Z. vs. Australia, Adelaide Oval, Sunday December 7

What a game of cricket! The Adelaide Oval was jam-packed! You couldn't have got more people in there safely. Sitting on the embankment in front of the scoreboard I witnessed a special day's cricket. New Zealand got off to a flying start, slamming the Australian bowling attack to all parts of the ground. Glen McGrath, Australia's opening bowler, and arguably the best fast bowler in the world, certainly one of the best 5, had just bowled four overs for 32 runs (expensive bowling). He came down to field just in from the fence about ten metres in front of where I was sitting. Buoyed by the success of the New Zealand batters, and sick of taking it in the neck from the extremely partisan Australian crowd, I decided it was time to dish some back. Standing proud in my All Black's jersey, waving my Steinlager flag prominently above my head, surrounded by one-eyed Australian fans, I began to sing...
(To the tune of Ruby Tuesday...)
Cheer up Glen McGrath,
It's not as bad as it seems...
You're just a sh*t Aussie bowler,
In a sh*t Aussie team!!!

About then, plastic beer cups, many still partially full, began inexplicably raining down on me. The half dozen kiwis I was with loved it, but our cousins from the 'West Island' were not amused.

New Zealand went on to score 260 runs, and the scene was set as the sun set and the lights took over for a fantastic finale. And we were not disappointed! Mark Waugh, Australia's opening batsman, scored a beautiful innings of 104 (A very very good score for a batsman in one day cricket.) Just before he got out, Australia were coasting to victory. Then, in a way peculiar to the great game of cricket, the game swung dramatically, as New Zealand dismissed seven Australian batsmen for just 48 further runs. After a period where we had been very quiet, the small Kiwi contingent found their voice as the game welled up to a tumultuous climax. Into the final over, the game could go either way. Gavin Larsen, affectionately known to us Kiwis as 'Super-Gav', bowled the last over. And, he took a wicket! Yes!!!!! There was still hope...

In came Shane Warne, cricketing hero of a nation. The Australians think he is the new Messiah. The Australian crowd was chanting "Warnie! Warnie! Warnie!" Needing 2 runs to win of 5 balls, Shane Warne swung and missed. The next ball, he swung and missed again, and was bowled! He was out without scoring a run, and 'Super-Gav' had done it again! A deathly hush descended upon the Adelaide oval as 29,976 Australians stared on in disbelief, and two dozen Kiwis yelled their little hearts out and danced the fandango in one little secluded part of the ground. The euphoria at that moment was incredible. Mr. Miracle had been dispatched without scoring... Then in stepped Andrew Bichel, edged a ball past our wicket keeper down to the boundary for four runs, and the game was over in a flash. 29,976 Australians erupted in unison, and 24 kiwi's stood with hands held to heads thinking about what might have been!

Easily the best game of cricket I have ever attended.

Off to Tasmania, the Island State

From Adelaide I flew to Hobart, capital city of Tasmania. What a stunningly beautiful place! I found a nice little Bed and Breakfast right on the waterfront in Bellerive, looking across the Derwent river at Hobart itself with Mt. Wellington forming a spectacular backdrop. After spending a day looking around Hobart, I dropped into the Bellerive yacht club to see if there was any Wednesday evening racing. (After Diplomacy and cricket, yachting is my other passion). There was, so I found a boat that needed some crew, and went yacht racing. A great way to spend the early evening, before retiring to the yacht club for a BBQ and a few obligatory beers. Then two of the guys with whom I had sailed drove me up to the summit of Mt. Wellington. It's just over 4200 feet evidently, and since there wasn't a cloud in the sky that night we had a panoramic view of Hobart and the surrounding districts. The Southern Lights (Aurora Borealis) were visible too which was a bonus, as I'd never seen them before.

Next morning I got up and ate breakfast on the verandah overlooking the Derwent and Hobart. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the forecast was for 26 degrees Celsius (approximately 78 degrees in Yankeespeak). A short five minute walk around the shoreline had me at the Bellerive Oval where New Zealand were due to play South Africa. This was another wonderful game of cricket that went right down to the very last ball. South Africa scraped home to win by one run. I have to say that of all the cricket grounds I've been to, the Bellerive Oval is one of the prettiest, and it certainly wins the best catering award. The range of food available in the ground was astounding.

The BIG ONE! N.Z. vs. Australia at the M.C.G., Wednesday December 17

Ever since I was about ten years old, I've watched games of cricket on TV live from the Melbourne Cricket ground, and I've always said, "one day, I'm going to be there." I've dreamt of seeing N.Z. play Australia at the M.C.G. in a day/night match before a full house. The M.C.G. holds almost 100,000 people when full. The only cricket ground in the world with a bigger capacity is Eden Gardens in Calcutta. The M.C.G. is the high altar of cricket, though. Only Lords in London, the home of the Marylebone Cricket Club, oldest cricket club in the world, can rival it. However, as a stadium the M.C.G. is unrivaled.

This was the big day. I did a tour of the M.C.G. the previous Sunday, and visited the Long Room in the members stand, walked on the field, and sat in the dressing rooms. I met several friends outside the ground, and went in full of expectation. Unfortunately the New Zealand batting display was, that is too kind. We were never in the game. I did however enjoy the experience of the the crowd in the cauldron of the M.C.G. -- even if it was only a small 30,000.

Whenever a member of the crowd got ejected by the security forces the whole bay around them would stand up and chant "You're going home in the back of a divvy van!" several times over, interspersed with rhythmical clapping. (A 'Divvy Van' is Aussie slang for a police holding wagon.)

I did have one crowning moment of glory though. Shane Warne, cricketing hero of a nation, and Australia's new Messiah, came on to bowl. The day before he had stormed out of a press conference when a reporter asked him about his weight (he's put on a few pounds lately...). As he stood there waiting for the fielders to get into position, I stood up and took up the following cry:

Who ate all the pies?
Who ate all the pies?
You fat bastard,
You fat bastard,
You ate all the pies.

...And the sausage rolls,
And the sausage rolls,
You fat bastard,
You fat bastard,
You ate all the rolls!

...And the jelly donuts,
And the jelly donuts,
You fat bastard,
You fat bastard,
You ate all the do-nuts!!!!!

This was met by a warm round of applause by the crowd in my part of the ground. Shane Warne, who had heard me, didn't think it was so funny...he gave me the hairy eyeball!

Australia won the game easily, which was an unfortunate end to an otherwise perfect three weeks watching the cricket.

Brandon Clarke

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