2009 Arimaa Championship Final Game
The final game of the 6th annual Arimaa World Championship tournament will feature the current and two-time world champion Karl Juhnke against the 2007 world champion Jean Daligault. The current tournament started in January with the preliminary Open Classic swiss tournament. After 5 rounds the field of 18 players were narrowed down to 8 finalists. After five more rounds six of the eight finalists have been eliminated leaving only Juhnke and Daligault vying to claim the title of 2009 Arimaa World Champion based on the result of tomorrow's game.
Karl Juhnke of USA has an academic background in mathematics and is currently working as a quantitative analyst for Yahoo Inc. Juhnke has been playing Arimaa since June of 2004 and is currently writing a book titled "Beginning Arimaa" to tell the world about his favorite game which he believes will someday be played by millions. He is one of the highest rated players and consistently plays with his signature setup using four rabbits forward and a very aggressive but solid attacking style, which Naveed Siddiqui says feels like trying to punch a brick wall.
Jean Daligault of France is a PhD. student in theoretical computer science. Daligault has been playing Arimaa since April 2006 and learned the game so quickly he became the world champion within one year. Perhaps his background of playing Chess and Go helped him become one of the highest rated Arimaa players in such a short time. A master at creating complicated positions Daligault is often able to entice tactical and strategic mistakes from even the best of opponents. This explains why he is currently working on a book focused on teaching Arimaa tactics and strategies.
Will Juhnke retain his current World Champion title or will Daligault come back to reclaim it? Tomorrow's game will determine the outcome. Don't miss this exciting event as only one player can walk away the winner. Login to the Arimaa gameroom and scroll down to the "Scheduled Games" section to see your local game time.
For a more detailed analysis of this game, see the video link at the bottom of the page.
Fritzlein used his trademark silver setup with a decentralized camel on b2, except he had the gold pieces in this Championship final. Chessandgo placed his camel on g7 and opened with a dog on b7 rather than the customary horse (to avoid having a silver horse lined up against the gold camel). All of the strongest gold pieces opened the game aggressively with the gold horse advancing to e4 and the camel pulling a silver dog to b4 on 5g. Chessandgo used his elephant to save the dog and pursue the camel in the west while Fritzlein pushed a silver horse offside to g4 with his 9th move. Horses were exchanged on move 12, leaving the material situation equal but with the gold wing rabbits more advanced than the silver rabbits. Silver pieces on both sides of the board pulled the 2 gold rabbits further offside until both were threatened with capture. The gold camel charged ahead to save its western rabbit before it was frozen by the silver elephant. Fritzlein shifted his elephant to d6 to save the gold camel, leading to the downfall of the eastern gold rabbit on 20s. The strong western gold pieces worked together to pull a silver rabbit south along the b-file and the material balance was restored on 25g after the rabbit was captured. Chessandgo continued to hold a positional advantage after his rabbit was lost because the gold elephant was tied to a framed rabbit and the gold camel didn’t dare to advance to b6. With all the strong gold pieces tied down to the west side, the f3 trap was ripe for a counter-attack by silver. After move 27s, a silver camel, horse, dog and rabbit were in the southeast quadrant. The gold camel had to return to e3 to serve as a counter-weight to the encroaching silver camel. The silver elephant pushed the gold camel away on 29s and Fritzlein was only able to save his f3 dog by cleverly creating a goal threat along the d-file.
Though disaster for gold had been averted in the southeast, a weak gold rabbit and horse were left hanging in the northwest. Pieces shuffled all over the board in the ensuing tactical exchange: Chessandgo was trying to hold his grip around f3 while returning home with his elephant to smash apart the gold frame. The frame was finally broken on 35s, giving silver the advantage of an extra rabbit, but the board had become quite chaotic in the process.
Fritzlein once again evened the piece count on 37g by capturing the h3 rabbit. Chessandgo saved another silver rabbit from peril by shifting it west to c3 on 37s but it resulted in an awkward silver elephant on c2 after Fritzlein adroitly stopped any possible goal threats. For the third time in the game, the material advantage swung to silver after the e5 gold rabbit was captured on 38s; but the move was actually a tactical blunder. It was the f2 gold rabbit that should have been captured, and that would have left Chessandgo with a powerful advantage. The gold army had some real strengths to work with: the silver elephant was out of play at c2, the silver camel was frozen on h4 and the c6 trap was dominated by a gold horse. However, Fritzlein returned the favour to Chessandgo by also making a blunder on move 40g and the silver dog captured the f2 rabbit after all. With partial control of the f3 trap and a strong advanced rabbit, Chessandgo used his 41s and 42s moves to both fight for control in the southeast while generating ever more dangerous rabbit threats.
A gold dog and gold cat shifted to the d3 and d4 squares, respectively on 43g. A silver rabbit was threatened with capture in the c3 pit, which would have left Fritzlein with a great position, but the silver elephant was easily able to prevent the gold threat and the last 2 steps were used by the silver horse to hold a gold rabbit hostage at f4. Each player employed sharp tactics on the 44th move: the gold pieces created a d4 blockade to protect the c3 trap while also threatening the f2 dog; silver’s counter-response renewed the threat at the c3 trap, protected the silver dog and pulled the gold rabbit a step closer to the f6 trap. Over the next two moves the position was simplified as the exposed c4 gold dog was captured, each side exchanged rabbits and finally the silver camel hostage was trapped on 47g. The material situation was unbalanced but still very close: silver had an extra dog and 2 rabbits in exchange for the gold camel on the board. The board was also getting depleted quickly as gold had 9 pieces remaining versus 11 silver pieces (including 3 gold rabbits versus 5 silver rabbits).
With 47s, chessandgo once again went on the offensive with a rabbit advance to c3. Fritzlein halted the rabbit with his 48th move by placing strong pieces on b3 and c2. Chessandgo, in the meantime, rearranged his forces to push the gold camel offside and a surprisingly powerful silver dog occupied the g3 square. After move 50, the advantage returned to chessandgo and he patiently worked to build on that advantage. A gold rabbit was trapped on 51s (reducing gold to only 2 rabbits) and further west the silver elephant parked itself on d4 to protect the c4 horse that held the rabbit frame. Fritzlein needed counterplay on 52g and so he advanced a rabbit to c5 and camel to d6. Chessandgo immediately took the opportunity to create a goal-in-one threat along the nearly empty a-file. Gold had to use all 4 steps to defend against the goal threat, allowing the capture of the lone gold cat on 53s.
Fritzlein finally broke the c3 gold rabbit frame on 55g by pulling the gold horse west with his camel. This happened just in the nick of time as another powerful silver rabbit advanced through open territory in the eastern half, requiring the immediate attention of the gold elephant. The players traded rabbits on 56s and 57g, leaving gold with only a single rabbit against 3 silver ones. The gold elephant was able to halt the most advanced silver rabbit and so the other two silver rabbits pushed ahead, until all 3 occupied gold’s 3rd rank on 64s. It was impossible to stop all the threats and so Chessandgo was able to celebrate a second World Championship after a forced goal on move 66. This entertaining struggle certainly ranked as one of the best championship games to date!