2010 Open Classic Round 5
The 4th round of the tournament certainly ranks as one of the strangest on record. The games included a 14-move timeout (Fritzlein-Nombril), three missed goal-in-twos (ChrisB-fritzlforpresident), wild and eccentric positions (PMertens-Naveed), an elephant blockade followed by a near-comeback (Tuks-99of9), a no-capture traffic jam (Omar-Simon), a server overload, which later resumed with an exciting game (The_Jeh-Nevermind), an improbable comeback from the brink of defeat (Chessandgo-Adanac) and, unfortunately, a disconnect loss (Woh-Hippo).
It's been a refreshing change to have four rounds with no forfeits and no withdrawals but the server problems and disconnections were a big concern in the previous round. Let's keep our fingers crossed for round 5. And what a round it should be! So far 4 players have qualified for the Finals with 3+ wins and a fifth player (Toby Hudson, "99of9") has three wins and a high probability of advancing, win or lose. Six players have two wins and about half of them will advance. However, it is mathematically possible for 7, 8 or 9 players to have 3+ wins and so some players might fail to advance with 3 wins, or in an alternate scenario, clinch 8th place with only 2 wins. Check out the gameroom to see how it all plays out!
- Home Page: 2010 World Championship
- Previous Round: 2010 Open Classic Round 4
- Next: 2010 World Championship Finals, Rounds 1-2
Round 5 Standings
|Rank||Participant||Name||WHR [Seed]||Rd. 1||Rd. 2||Rd. 3||Rd. 4||Rd. 5||Wins||SoS|
|1||Adanac||Greg Magne||2319 ||G 7 W||S 8 W||S 5 W||S 3 W||G 2 L||4||1.5953|
|2||Fritzlein||Karl Juhnke||2568 ||G 6 W||S 13 W||G 3 L||G 12 W||S 1 W||4||1.4453|
|3||chessandgo||Jean Daligault||2561 ||G 14 W||S 9 W||S 2 W||G 1 L||S 6 W||4||1.4453|
|4||99of9||Toby Hudson||2227 ||G 8 L||S 7 W||G 13 W||S 5 W||G 10 W||4||0.7922|
|5||Tuks||Louis-Daniel Scott||2199 ||S 10 W||S 12 W||G 1 L||G 4 L||S 9 W||3||2.2484|
|6||The_Jeh||John Herr||1987 ||S 2 L||G 16 W||S 11 W||G 10 W||G 3 L||3||2.0348|
|7||woh||Hervé D’Hondt||1851 ||S 1 L||G 4 L||S 16 W||G 11 W||S 8 W||3||2.0348|
|8||Simon||Simon Lambert||1799 ||S 4 W||G 1 L||S 12 L||S 13 W||G 7 L||2||3.5547|
|9||PMertens||Paul Mertens||2004 ||S 11 W||G 3 L||S 10 L||G 14 W||G 5 L||2||3.1531|
|10||Nevermind||Antti Laine||1756 ||G 5 L||S 15 W||G 9 W||S 6 L||S 4 L||2||3.1531|
|11||Hippo||Vladan Majerech||1581 ||G 9 L||S 14 W||G 6 L||S 7 L||G 12 W||2||3.0032|
|12||Nombril||Eric Momsen||1753 ||S 15 W||G 5 L||G 8 W||S 2 L||S 11 L||2||2.9015|
|13||omar||Omar Syed||2012 ||S 16 W||G 2 L||S 4 L||G 8 L||G 15 W||2||2.6499|
|14||naveed||Naveed Siddiqui||1859 ||S 3 L||G 11 L||G 15 W||S 9 L||S 16 W||2||2.2484|
|15||ChrisB||Christopher Bovee||2095 ||G 12 L||G 10 L||S 14 L||G 16 W||S 13 L||1||3.2548|
|16||fritzlforpresident||John Hoody||1658 ||G 13 L||S 6 L||G 7 L||S 15 L||G 14 L||0||4.4850|
This game featured live commentary by Karl Juhnke.
The opening game of the 5th round was the most hotly anticipated, not only because of the exciting style of the two players, but also simple curiosity as to which of these dangerous competitors would triumph and which would be relegated to 2-3 (not mathematically eliminated in either case, but certainly on life support). The gold elephant spent most of the opening attempting to pull pieces on the west side while the gold camel had thoughts of attacking on the east side. However, when Scott used a phalanx of silver pieces to semi-blockade the gold elephant at b5 the gold elephant had to retreat. Incredibly, Mertens managed to drag a hostage cat down to b3 on 12s as his elephant completed its withdrawal. The silver cat was eventually framed on c3 but the box didn’t remain closed for long because the silver camel was a perpetual nuisance against the gold horse on the b-file. The gold elephant rescued its horse from peril but the larger trouble was that silver pieces continued to flood into the southwest quadrant, presenting endless challenges for the gold army. There were two major events back-to-back on 21s and 22g that shaped the coming battle (Diagram 1). First the silver camel obtained a very powerful b3 post on 21s, which gave silver a momentary advantage. But the dream of quick domination was immediately squashed by the gold pieces that formed a blockade at e3 and froze a silver rabbit at d4 to lock in the silver elephant. So the race was on: the gold camel had a reign of superiority over the entire eastern half of the board while the silver side had to rotate pieces to free the camel and cycle it over to the east. The gold camel’s job was made more difficult by the d5 silver horse, ready to pounce at anytime on the lynchpin e4 piece. As the gold camel jockeyed with the silver horse for position in the middle, a silver dog darted down the east side on 27s to further overwork the camel. It wasn’t until 31s that the silver camel was completely freed from the western swarm and had opportunities to challenge in the east. But in all that time, the gold camel was never able to inflict any real damage upon the silver position.
Mertens shifted his elephant further west on the 33rd turn, immobilizing a second silver rabbit at c4 in the process, true to his style. From there the elephant could help the b2 gold horse get re-established at its natural b3 post, or maybe even try to commence a western goal attack. On the other side, the silver camel reached its f4 destination on 33s and by then it was impossible for gold to capture in any of the four traps. The action started to heat up after 34s because the gold camel had to depart e4 in order to save a rabbit from the f6 pit. A gold rabbit replaced the camel at e4, but this weak defender became an immediate target for Scott. He pulled the gold rabbit away on 36s allowing the silver elephant to breathe freely for the first time in 14 turns. Silver now had what appeared to be a significant positional advantage because the gold camel was in the north half of the board not far from the mobile silver elephant. And the b2 gold horse had not yet occupied b3 meaning that any gold attack around the c3 trap was going to need a bit of preparation work first. But, despite the appearances, there was still plenty of fight left in the gold position. The first piece was removed (Diagram 2) from the board on 37g as the gold camel nudged the c7 silver rabbit in the south direction. But that camel was immediately jumped upon by the silver elephant. A gold rabbit briefly saved its endangered ally on 38g but that camel no doubt would have preferred its elephant to come to the rescue – that certainly appeared to be gold’s better long-term move. But Mertens still did a good job on the ensuing exchange, finishing with an extra cat and horse for the lost camel with 2 rabbits gone from each side.
The position was still very unclear as the silver elephant rammed its way through to b3 on 43s. The gold elephant then counter-attacked the b5 silver horse on 44g but moving the gold cat to b2 on the final step would have been a better deterrent for silver. Because the silver horse couldn’t be captured due to the strong a4 silver rabbit (hence the strength of a cat on b2), Scott flipped a rabbit to f5 on 44s without any worry of losing his b5 horse. Then on 45s the rabbit was kicked into f6 with a lone silver rabbit guarding the c6 trap. Again a vulnerable silver piece couldn’t be captured, this time because of the inevitable punishment for the gold horse that dared to do so. And so, the gold side simply prepared for a silver rabbit capture instead. The silver rabbit was framed on f3 on 47g and then immediately abandoned because it simply would have been too difficult to break the frame. The silver dog finally arrived at its long-intended g3 destination on 47s. With the gold dog dislodged from g3 it quickly became a target of the silver camel. The gold elephant tried in vain to save the dog but its removal was unavoidable once the silver camel regained its mobility. After 49 turns each side had lost 4 rabbits but silver had the double-bonus of camel + dog for horse + cat. The southwest elephant and horse made a renewed push for the finish on 51s. Scott had strong momentum in the quadrant but he still had time to allow a rabbit exchange on 53s and 54g (diminishing the risk to his own position) before getting his rabbit down to b3. After the 55th move only a pair of frozen gold cats between the silver rabbit and victory avenue. When the silver rabbit reached a2 on 56s it had become an unstoppable force and Scott clinched a berth in the Finals with his subsequent move. Mertens will only advance to the finals in 1 scenario out of 128 but he can take solace in the fact that his one hope is a very plausible scenario.
This game featured live commentary by Jean Daligault and Ned Bent. The recording begins after silver has completed his 16th move.
Each elephant got behind an enemy trap in the opening, with the gold elephant scoring a rabbit pull and the silver elephant sweeping all the way around to push a gold horse to b5 on 7s. That horse soon became the focus of the game as both elephants fought a positional battle and the gold camel joined the fray in the west. With the silver camel already positioned on the west side, the gold horse push had some extra bite. Silver had a strong position through the first 11 moves and had the option of flipping the hostage gold horse up to b7 on 12s. Laine decided to flip the gold camel to c4 on the 12th move and Hudson took a huge gamble by advancing that camel into the c6 trap square. Silver perhaps could have blocked out the c7 square on 13s to lock all the gold camel’s doors, other than the one it entered from. But gold’s position didn’t improve after 14g anyway after it had an escape route via c7, and the gold camel simply ran to the safety of b8 on the 15th turn. In the highly unpredictable position, with the gold camel temporarily out of play, the silver elephant pursued the eastern gold horse. Though the horse was easily saved the gold rabbit rescuer perished on 17s. Gold’s 18th move was very creative as he set up a dual threat of false protection in the northwest combined with a potential camel-drag to b4 (Diagram 3). The silver elephant stopped the first threat but not the second, leaving the silver camel very vulnerable after 19g. The hammer came down on 20g as gold executed a perfect silver camel threat at c4 while the gold elephant protected its own camel from c5. The silver camel couldn’t be saved and three moves later a silver horse was won for a gold cat & rabbit. And so gold had a lead of camel + horse for cat + 2 rabbits after 23 moves. Quantity is often better than quality, but certainly not in this case, and despite the gold camel hostage the game was effectively over, barring a miraculous comeback. Another flurry of trades on turns 30 and 31 removed the gold camel and a rabbit in return for a silver horse and dog. Silver’s only consolation was having 12 active pieces versus 11, but five of the seven strongest pieces belonged to gold. Laine’s last chance was a rabbit advance down the east side, helped by the arrival of the silver elephant on 37s, but the gold counter-thrust in the centre was much faster. A gold rabbit raced up the d-file and scored on 41g. Hudson is now guaranteed a top 4 finish while Laine can only hope for a miracle 8th place finish.
This game featured live commentary by Omar Syed and Ned Bent. There is a video synchronization commencing 55 seconds after the audio begins.
Karl Juhnke went on the attack first, threatening to pull the h2 rabbit with his silver horse. Greg Magne, who began with a balanced gold setup, brought his camel to the east to fight against the eastern silver horse pair. Despite the presence of the camel, a silver horse did register rabbit pulls on both 5s and 6s. The rabbit pulls were an early advantage for silver so the gold elephant moved up to e6 on 7g seeking some type of compensation in the middle. Two threats against the silver dogs were parried while the gold rabbit continued its involuntary journey to the north. A silver rabbit was hauled down to e6 on the 10th move just before the gold rabbit disappeared into f6. The eastern gold horse escaped the possible fate of being pushed to g5 (with silver elephant on g4 and silver horses on g6 and h5) on 12g but it found itself in new difficulties after advancing to h6. By the 14th turn the gold horse was being pursued by the silver camel on the east side and there were even some possibilities of the gold elephant being semi-blockaded at g5. The board opened up on move 15 after a silver rabbit was flipped onto f3 and the silver horse raced down to e3 to prevent it from being pushed further west. The gold elephant came back to e4 on 16g and the resulting horse trade relieved the underlying weaknesses from gold’s position. Also, with the northwest quadrant poorly defended, a gold elephant + horse counter-attack led to silver’s first uncomfortable position of the game, albeit with the rabbit material advantage still intact. Just as the gold attack seemed to be gaining momentum, Juhnke came up with a brilliant counter-stroke on 20s (Diagram 4), simultaneously freezing three gold pieces with his horse, protecting the c5 rabbit and unframing the f3 rabbit. Gold’s 21st move appeared to be the first critical error, leaving the horse vulnerable on b6 when it was better placed in the south. The silver elephant occupied the unconventional f2 square on 22s but, remarkably, it spent most of the remainder of the game there from whence it created numerous threats and goal opportunities (including the immediate goal-in-one chance). On the other side, the silver camel looped around first to threaten the gold horse on 22s and later set up a possible capture at c3 on 23s. But the real purpose of the camel’s journey was to defend in the southwest and fight for time before the f3 silver rabbit could advance.
The framed f3 rabbit was on the brink of coming to life on 24s with the approach of a dog down the f-file. Though gold seemed to have chances to push the silver horse to d2 on 25g, impeding the silver rabbit from reaching the powerful f2 square was Magne’s bigger concern. The gold pieces lined up on the first rank on turn 25 to prevent an elephant push to f1 -- with the silver rabbit on its tail -- but the silver elephant pulled the rabbit up to g2 on 25s which made it impossible to deny the f1 square on the 26th move. The alternate 25g move rf3n Ce3e Re2n Cd2e probably would have defended much longer and more effectively because of the obstacle gold piece in the f3 trap. The eastern rabbit was temporarily held back after a flip to g4 on 26g but Juhnke came up with another excellent idea on 26s, fighting for control of the f3 trap and moving his horse to c3, making it very difficult and time-consuming for the gold elephant to effectively threaten either of the strong western silver pieces. From this point, gold’s position fell apart rapidly. A cat which occupied had defended at f4 was pushed north to f5 while a silver rabbit joined the party at c4, creating a second significant goal threat. The gold cat was captured on 30s leaving silver ahead by a cat and rabbit and, just as importantly, with silver’s pieces well positioned to control most of the key squares. Another gold rabbit was taken on 31s and silver rabbits started to surge down the h-file prompting gold to launch a desperate counter-attack in the northwest. The gold camel was sacrificed on 34s to take a silver cat on 35g with goal-in-one. The silver camel easily halted gold’s rabbit but the eastern silver swarm could barely be slowed down at all by the few remaining gold defenders. A silver rabbit reached f1 on 37s keeping Juhnke’s hopes of a 1st-place finish alive. Magne will either finish 1st or 2nd depending upon the outcomes of the next 5 games.
For the third consecutive round Omar Syed charged out of the gates with an elephant + camel attack. This time, however, he made the mistake of advancing a third piece too close behind the camel, allowing Chris Bovee to simultaneously take camel & horse hostages from g6 with his elephant on 5s. A shrewd exchange by silver beginning with 8s won the gold camel for a silver horse. With no enemy camel on the board the silver elephant was content to re-freeze the gold horse hostage at h6 on 11s. After turn 13 gold’s hopes for a comeback were centered around the f5 silver dog. If that piece could be removed then a swarm of gold pieces should enable the gold elephant to rotate away from the f6 trap in future. The silver horse protectively crossed over to f4 on 15s which prompted the gold army to frame the dog on f6. Though the dog frame was fairly ineffective (unless the a2 gold dog could ever make its way to the northeast), there was a greater threat of a hanging horse on f4. The horse galloped to the west for safety then returned on 17s to re-protect the dog which was again being harassed at f4. Move 18s was an error because the silver dog could have been pushed into the f3 trap on 19g without a counter-threat against the f7 dog. Syed took his time, waiting until 20g to capture the helpless silver dog. The silver horse at e2 was also doomed, so the question was whether Bovee could do any damage at f6 before losing his 3rd significant piece. The simple horse capture was selected on 21g (Diagram 5) but this opened the door for some strong counter-play by silver. For example, 21s eg6w ef6s Df7s Df6x dd6s would have allowed another gold-piece capture on 22s with a potential gold cat capture and silver camel re-location to g6 to follow. The 21s actually played was weaker because it allowed the gold elephant to protect the f6 trap on 22g.
After 21 moves gold had a large lead because 2 horses are much more valuable than a camel, and the additional dog exchange likely helped gold further. The gold cat was not yet out of danger and the silver dog made an attempt to pull it west into c6. The cat escaped into the f6 trap where it was safe from a 24s frame because of the vulnerable silver dog. So Bovee switched his target to the gold horse which escaped on 25g thanks to a very well-placed d4 gold rabbit. Syed’s 26th move was very strong, challenging the strong and mobile silver camel, protecting his d4 rabbit and, of course, protecting the f6 trap. After turn 27, gold’s advantage had grown considerably and a very dangerous goal threat was developing along the f-file. By 30g silver’s position was nearly hopeless because of the material imbalance, more gold pieces than the silver elephant and dog could handle in the northeast plus the free gold elephant in the west. The silver elephant did try to fight for an advantage at f6 but gold had too many pieces: 35s df7s Rf5s df6s couldn’t have worked because the f8 gold cat could occupy f7. Regardless, gold’s material advantage had already increased by a rabbit and gold rabbits continued to advance. With a pair gold rabbits standing on the 6th rank on turn 36, silver’s clock ran out.
This game featured live commentary by Omar Syed. Ned Bent briefly joins the broadcast on the final move.
After just 3 moves Siddiqui had the initiative thanks to the disruptions of an elephant sweep in the southwest and a potential camel push to the north. Hoody held his own on the west side but when the silver camel wreaked havoc in the southeast his position began to unravel. Two gold horses tried to advance to mutual safety in the northeast but they were quickly cut down by the silver camel. Ten moves into the game silver was already ahead by the enormous sum of two horses. Gold pieces started to pile up around the silver elephant on the west side but even after 11g there wasn’t enough clutter to lock it in place. Leveraging his strong material advantage in the east, silver took control of the f3 trap and yanked a gold dog in with 14s. There was nothing left for the gold elephant and camel tandem to do but desperately try to squeeze a gold rabbit somewhere onto the 8th rank. But it was an impossible task and every time a silver rabbit was pulled south another slid across to take its place. Silver’s 19th move was a forced goal-in-two with no possible way to stop both the b5 and g2 rabbits on 20g. The inevitable silver goal arrived on 20s at the e1 square.
This game featured live commentary by Omar Syed and Ned Bent. Bent (RonWeasley) joins the broadcast on move 16.
Both players entered the game with guarantees of advancement, but order of finish and pride were still at stake. Jean Daligault was always the aggressor throughout the opening phase, advancing a horse on one side until the approach of the gold camel before switching the attack responsibilities to the opposite horse. The first rabbit pull began at b2 on 10s but the silver horse got pinned to a4 on 11s. The horse wasn’t too badly inconvenienced because the silver elephant kept the gold camel at bay via the c4 square. John Herr eventually gave up hope of saving his endangered rabbit and switched his elephant to the east wing for some larger prey. The silver elephant transferred to the east wing to protect its army and when the situation was stable the western silver horse sank the gold rabbit into c6. The gold camel engineered a new attack against the western silver horse on 18g which lured both elephants back to the west side. The camel got into a bit of difficulty in the northwest but it returned home to safety on 22g with the help of a cat (which itself returned to the safe confines of home on 23g). With the gold camel in the west, the eastern silver horse once again sprang to life on 23s. But after the gold camel, and then the gold elephant, indicated its intentions to track down the horse it again retreated to safety. With the strong gold pieces back in the east the western silver horse returned to the south side and, after a long series of pushes and pulls by both elephants, a silver elephant + horse attack finally developed in the southwest on 32s. The camel once again raced back to the west to disrupt the attack but the silver horse was able to retreat north while simultaneously pushing a gold cat into serious danger at c5. The horse was pushed back onto the c3 square by the gold elephant and then framed on 35g but that came at the price of the gold cat. Gold was now down by a cat and dog, but the horse frame provided a tiny bit of compensation.
From the 36th move, gold’s plan was to rotate his camel to the east in hopes of exploiting the silver elephant that was tied down to the horse frame. But, before the gold camel could make its mark in the east, the silver camel made use of the a4 rabbit and the three-repetition rule to pop the framed silver horse out to b3. Suddenly it was the gold horse that found itself in hot water on the west side and when its elephant sought to bail it out, the silver horse set up a goal chance on 42s. Herr was forced to take the horse hostage with his elephant and he even managed to return his gold horse to the south side, but the rescue operation stranded a gold cat in the north. The second gold cat was taken on 47s which left gold ahead by 3 pieces: two cats and a rabbit. The gold camel continuously tried to produce activity on the east side but by the 51st move the silver elephant had rotated away from the c3 trap and the gold camel was in trouble. A gold dog could have been captured on 52s but silver instead pre-empted the possibility of 53g Eb3n Eb4s dc4w Dc3n by placing a rabbit on b4 with his 52nd move. That bought time for the gold army to briefly regroup for a few more moves until the loss of material became inevitable after move 56. Smelling blood, Daligault made a double-capture move on 57s even though it left the b3 rabbit unprotected. But Herr didn’t bother to take the rabbit so that he could pursue a rabbit advance in the west. The gold rabbit didn’t make it too far, though, prior to an unstoppable silver goal-in-one move after 61s. Daligault will finish in 3rd place with a 4-1 record and it’s mathematically possible for this very match-up to occur in the first round of the next tournament.
Majerech, with the gold pieces, had a lot of supporters in this game as only he had the power to propel the highest-ranking 2-3 player into the Finals. Momsen’s only chance to clinch a berth was the direct route with a victory and a 3-2 record. Neither player had any chance to advance with only two wins due to their low strength of schedule scores. The game opened with a sharp gold horse charge to g6 on 3g. After a series of pushes and pulls, advances and retreats across the board, the largest tangible results after 9 turns was a silver rabbit pull to h4. But the rabbit pull held no advantage for the gold side after both eastern horses had swapped traps by turn 12. The silver camel inched towards the exposed gold horse on 13s which prompted the gold camel to counter-attack in the northwest. That in turn prompted the silver elephant to go camel hunting, relying upon the silver dog and horse to hold the fort at f3. The gold camel ran back to the safety of b3 but the gold pieces in the east were in danger thanks to silver’s dual threats against the f3 trap and the lone advanced gold horse. The safety of the f3 rabbit on the 17th move gave the gold elephant the luxury of leaving the f4 post to save its horse. As the silver pieces piled on the pressure in the southeast quadrant it became increasingly difficult for the gold elephant to fight a two-front war. Gold gained a small material advantage on the 19th turn (silver cat for gold rabbit) but silver’s sustained attack was much stronger in the long-term compared to gold’s one-shot capture in the north. A tactical threat against the h6 silver camel temporarily protected the f3 trap on 20g but a response such as 20s re7s rf8s rf7s rf6s should have held the northeast and led to further gains by silver. The 20s actually played was a small error which afforded gold the opportunity to fortify his f3 trap. A positional struggle ensued on the eastern half and silver once again gained the upper hand thanks to a horse hostage at h6 and a framed cat on 23s.
Struggling for survival, Majerech introduced a new dynamic by running a rabbit up the middle of the board on 24g (Diagram 7). The diversion worked like a charm, putting Momsen into a long think after which he made the ill-advised decision of relinquishing the b6 square to the gold horse. Silver did capture the framed gold cat on 25s but his dominant positional advantage had evaporated. In fact, after evading the silver elephant in the north the gold camel ran in a large circle before settling at f2 with a dual silver dog and horse hostage. Both players began to advance rabbits in the next sequence. The gold rabbit that had bolted ahead on the 24th move was framed on 30s but a new wave of golden bunnies had ambitions on the west side. Meanwhile a silver rabbit was looking for an opportunity via f4, where it was immune a frame barring the abandonment of the f6 gold rabbit, plus a second silver rabbit had plenty of open space from the c5 square. Gold gained a strong initiative on 33g by seizing control of the c6 trap with a goal-in-one threat from the b6 rabbit. Rather than defend the trap, silver distracted the gold defenders by shifting his c5 rabbit 2 squares west, first ensuring to keep the gold rabbit 5 steps from victory. The a5 distraction was only a temporary measure, however, because on 34g the gold rabbit marched to b7 making it impossible for silver to stop the goal without either sacrificing a cat or relinquishing the f6 frame. Once the formerly framed rabbit broke free on 36g the game was essentially over. The defending dog and cat were just able to fight off both advanced rabbits but the only way to save the silver horse from the western fork would have been to abandon the f3 trap at a considerable loss of material. The silver elephant refused to surrender the southeast trap which allowed the gold elephant to capture the silver horse on 37g and then create an unstoppable goal-in-three on 38g. Momsen lost his chance to qualify for the finals, opening the door for the highest-ranked 2-3 player to take 8th place.
Being in the last time slot of the final round clarified the tie-breaker scenarios for each player. Simon Lambert was guaranteed to qualify, win or lose, the only question was whether he would finish 6th or 8th. Hervé D’Hondt could clinch 7th place with a victory or an unsatisfactory 9th after a loss because Paul Mertens would grab 8th place with the tie-breaker advantage. Despite going head-to-head with Super Bowl XLIV, this game did draw a significant number of spectators who, for the most part, kept an eye on both events.
Like many games in this round, an elephant swept around a trap in the opening. But unlike the other games, this time the gold elephant came away empty handed after turn 6. However, a more conventional horse pull down the b-file eventually translated into a rabbit pull which later became a hostage at a3 on 11g. Two moves later gold took the piece for the first capture of the game. Silver had similar plans on the east side, but the rabbit-pulling idea hit a snag when the silver horse was frozen at h4 on 19g. The horse was revived on move 20 after the gold elephant had to attend to matters on the western front but the horse did not move and was later pulled hostage by the gold camel on 22g. D’Hondt’s position became critical on 27g because of a frozen camel in the west and a blunder on 27s. But the bullet was dodged when Lambert missed the crushing 28g Rh5w hg3w Mg4s Re1n. A gold rabbit was sucked into f6 on 28s but gold still had the opportunity for the killer horse frame on f3. It seemed that silver might find a tactical escape from the strategic bind on move 30, but the eastern gold pieces were determined to fight for control of f3 before the silver camel would be captured in the east. At least silver had a big advantage on the clock: gold had only 2:33 of reserve after 30 turns compared to 16:14 on the silver clock.
The silver camel was removed on 33g and because gold had effectively fought for shared control of the f3 trap, silver had no material compensation at all. But the battle for the fate of the f3 gold cat did provide one tangible positional benefit for D’Hondt: a silver rabbit advanced to h2 on 35s which gold had to defend against very carefully. An open path to the g1 square for the h2 rabbit briefly appeared on 37s but the route was instantly clogged by a pair of gold defenders on 38g. The silver rabbit, with plenty of help from a friendly horse, made its way over to f2 on 40s and then got pulled yet further west to e2 on 41g (Diagram 8). The rabbit was 5 steps from victory on 41s but there was no easy way to proceed because of the congested south. Silver replied in only 26 seconds pushing the gold camel down to the f1 square. Gold’s 42g led to an exchange or rabbits, which is always a safe decision with a camel lead and a badly placed enemy elephant. A much riskier (though far more restrictive for silver) alternative would have been 42g Rc1e Rb1e hf4n Ee4e. After seeing the monster silver rabbit traded off, the silver elephant continued to fight for space for two new rabbits that were advancing in the east. But there were far too many gold pieces obstructing the path and both rabbits were pushed aside. On 50s the silver elephant gave up the dream of a quick goal and instead pushed a gold cat up to f5. A gold horse saved the cat’s life before returning to the west to assist with a rabbit advance on 52g. However, turn 52 was actually a double-blunder by the two players as the c2 cat was left unprotected and the silver horse didn’t risk its own hide to clobber it. Silver’s position would have improved after 52s Dd2e hd1n Cc2n Cc3x hd2w 53g De2w Mf2w Dd2s Me2w 53s rd4s eg3n eg4w ef4w – the hanging f3 horse overshadows the false protection at c3 – but D’Hondt missed the opportunity. The silver elephant instead approached the vulnerable gold horse on 52s and then a dog harassed the exposed gold cat on 54s. Gold’s safest 55g, especially with a camel lead, would have been to remove the two lingering silver rabbits in exchange for the offside gold cat. A gold horse instead counter-threatened the silver dog that had menaced the g5 cat which gave time for the silver horse to protect the valuable d3 rabbit on 55s. The silver dog eventually scampered for safety and the southwest silver rabbit, which was gradually pushed from d3 to a3, became the primary object of interest for both players.
The silver elephant and horse tried but failed to advance the silver rabbit beyond a3. Meanwhile, the eastern gold camel was an unopposed force and once the western silver rabbit was halted in its tracks the camel had time to capture a silver horse on the 63rd move. At that point the game should have been essentially over but an unnecessary rabbit flip on 64g instilled D’Hondt with new hopes for a goal attack along the c-file. A positional battle ensued over the fate of the framed silver rabbit. The silver elephant reached the c2 square on 66s but the c3 rabbit needed the impetus of another silver piece before it could dream of the bottom row. A dog on c4 appeared to be the last hope but Lambert deftly pulled it back to d4 on 68s to extinguish the dream. A silver cat was blocked out from later reaching c4 and the game appeared to be won for gold after 69 turns (Diagram 9). But one of the most unbelievable reversals in Arimaa World Championship history occurred on the next turn as the c6 silver cat was captured with a pull rather than a push. The distinction couldn’t have been more critical as the wrong decision led to an instant goal for silver on 70s. Despite the surreal outcome, Lambert still finished in 8th place. D’Hondt miraculously earned the right to face Karl Juhnke in the first round of the Finals while Paul Mertens missed the cut after 110 minutes of agonizing uncertainty. Though this event didn’t quite have the same number of viewers as the Super Bowl (no, not quite), it definitely had more drama!