by Emmanuel du Pontavice, Defending Champion

Elsewhere in this issue you will be able to read (and see) how Emmanuel (Manu for friends) was able to prolong his title. Below is his account of the atmosphere surrounding the event amidst the terror attacks that struck the French capital on the eve of the tournament.

Friday 13 November. On this dreadful night before the start of the French Diplomacy championship, I spend the evening at home with Matteo Anfossi. We are chatting while watching the soccer match France-Germany without realizing what's happening just outside the Stade de France where the match is being played. Tired I go to bed, but just then the first alarms are raised and little by little we become aware of the scale of the attacks that are occurring throughout the city. I try to sleep a little, but we end up staying awake the whole night asking questions to ourselves, like: Were there any relatives, friends or colleagues among the victims?

The next day we reconnect to the Internet, learn the news about the current situation and spend our time reassuring people. By the way, thanks to everyone who expressed concern about our well-being, it was a great support.

Afterwards we try to get an update on the fate of the tournament. It's a complicated situation. It's of course difficult for people to find the heart to play. There are even some who cannot arrive at the venue at all, such as Frank Oosterom, whose bus turned around before reaching Paris, or others who stayed home out of prudence. At the logistic level it's one big chaos. The tournament organizer, Patrick Garnier, has a difficult decision to take. In the end he decides to cancel the first round, but to let the rest of the tournament go through in order to not disappoint the many foreigners that had come from far to participate in the final step of the European Grand Prix. The defining hashtag for the tournament is #notafraid.

Before arriving at the tournament venue Matteo and I had passed through an eerily calm Champs-Elysées, but now we find ourselves among family. The atmosphere is so fraternal and peaceful, as if the events of the previous evening had brought all who had had the courage to come, even closer together. For once the discussions were not about the Diplomacy games we had played in the past, but evidently on the events of the night before and the hardmanships sustained by each and every one.

The tournament then takes a start... When the first game begins, I put the whole outside context out of my head and put myself in tournament mode. The atmosphere in the games is luckily hardly any different from any other tournament.

After the end of the games, everyone goes his own way. There's no one with the heart or the courage to go out and drink a glass at a terrace outside. Together with Matteo I take the bus which we board at the Champs-Elysées, strangely deserted for a Saturday evening. The empty bus drives through empty streets and has to take a detour to avoid the area around the Eiffel Tower. When we arrive at our destination, the restaurants and bars are deserted as well. What a terrible atmosphere for a Saturday evening.

On Sunday Paris is still extremely calm. The tournament becomes an island of normalcy where we talk a little bit less about the events and a little bit more about Diplomacy. Especially when the tension on the top table in the final round starts to mount with incredibly close positions and the suspense remaining until the very end, we are even able for a few moments to forget about the tragedy that had happened this weekend.

In closing I would like to thank every person who has expressed solidarity with the people of Paris in these trying days. Thank you and see you soon.

Emmanuel du Pontavice

Translated by Mario Huys

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