2021 SPI Blue and Gray Tournament Results


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Here it is – the final wrap up of this groundbreaking effort!
This was the first tournament promoted by the SPI Opponent Finder services, at SPIGames.net.




Recall, the tourney was slated to be finished when 1 player stood alone undefeated, having played in all the rounds up to that point.  Thus, added rounds were for the enjoyment for the players, and to allow me to use tie breakers to decide the finishing structure.

With 29 total players, Stephen Oliver completed 4 rounds for a perfect 4-0 score. When his only competitor who was still undefeated lost his third round game, Oliver was elevated to the championship!

Second place is a tie of everyone with only 1 loss through the third round .

Today, all but one of the games have finished, Below is the score sheet and final position at the end of the tourney! These are the results:


Thus, OFFICIALLY, there is a tie for second, starting with David Waxtel, and reaching to Mark Schaeffer on this list.

That means positions 10 people are tied for positions 2 through 11!

With subsequent play and the use of tie breakers and the decision to continue to play added opponents, I can assess a closer position for your finish, and placed them on this list in that order.

But really, you should look at this sheet and say, based on my final score, I tied for ‘x’ place.

Stick with the number of wins to see where you finished!

To see how it looked round by round, check the bottom of this page!

(The order on this list is indicative of the tie break points – but again, that is highly speculative.)  And the only person that matters to is you. The finish is simply a snapshot at a moment in time. The next tourney? Or repeating the same one again? Only the result of the play on the board matters! On with rest of the numbers!

The Results by Game:

One more game of Antietam is unfinished, and that will be 49 actual games played!

I missed it by 1 game! Drat!! (I had predicted we should reach 50 plays of these 45 year old games! No matter how you slice that, it is still impressive.

Players taking part:

Why hold a Tournament? (Or Game Fest?)

Tournaments traditionally come down to us in the terms of the knights and their competitions. They are seen as being about competing to find out 'who is the best.' That rubs some people the wrong way, and I understand that.

Some feel tournaments are about 'being judged.' I see it more as a self assessment. As I said, the listing above tells you where you finished in THIS tourney. It does not judge you in any way. Sometimes we have days where everything goes our way - other times, NOTHING goes our way. You cannot anticipate that - you can only try to compensate for it.

But if that is the case, what good are tournaments? My answers:

1 – Tournaments (and Fests) get people to PLAY GAMES.

In the past 6 months I have sent out HUNDREDS of potential match ups for opponents – and I know some have found opponents and started playing. But the story of our hobby is even knowing there is SOMEONE else you can play, many people will NOT make the contact, or even if they do, they will not negotiate the terms that decide which game out of the hundreds that SPI produced, which person plays which side, or any other details.

However, I announced the potential of a tournament, and that moved almost 30 people to actually SIT DOWN AND PLAY, and they CONTINUED to play. Most played from July through December, and a few in January. Why? Because all they had to do was say, "I'm in." The Tourney Director told both sides which game was being played, who had which side, and when to start. Tournaments make the play of wargames HAPPEN.

2 – Tournaments give you a LOT of experience in a very short time.

And part of that is by giving you EXPERIENCE. Someone on the board said, ‘How can ANYONE LOSE Cemetery Hill as the UNION??’

Good point. The long standing belief is "Cemetery Hill is terribly unbalanced." OK, so, the question should be, how did the CSA win? A tournament can be a laboratory where we test games and possible solutions. One point people miss is that streams are fordable in Cemetery Hill. Thus, you can surround, and perhaps whip out at least two big Union counters outside Gettysburg. You should also learn in that lab that cutting the reinforcement hex nearest Gettysburg pays dividends, and the importance of forcing the Union to attack OUT of the advantageous terrain. LAstly, you should also learn that taking Confederate Cavalry off the board forces the Union to do so as well - and that helps the CSA avoid more surround attacks in the later part of the game when the Union is running the board.

And that same thing happens in every game. I often hear people grousing about this or that game being ‘unbalanced.’ It might be. Or it might be they have not found the key strategy or tactics that the Playtesters saw when they played it.

And that comes with EXPERIENCE, and tournaments provide that experience.

3 – Tourneys give you feedback. Instant Feedback in the form of a report card.

By their nature, a tournament gives you a general idea of ‘where you rank’ in a group of players.

Is that fair? No but it IS where you ranked in THAT TOURNAMENT. Meaning, you can use it as a goad to push yourself a little harder, to try to improve on that result.

Why does that matter? Because it means you can judge if you are learning anything. And like any other goal, even a modest movement TOWARD a goal is a reward, and reinforces good behaviors. So for example: "I keep doing attacks that then get me surrounded in the counterattack. Maybe I should make certain I am keeping units to my flanks so that doesn't happen!"

In short, a tournament offers you enough play in a short period of time that you can assess the similarities in you defeats - maybe you aren't paying attention to the victory conditions (setting strategy); Perhaps you are forgetting to make allowances for the opponent's options after your move, or overlooking what the opponent's intentions were after his move. (Tactics.)

Plus, you will play against people that might now something extra about the game, or have more experience with it. Watching how THEY play teaches you things, too. You can then apply those lessons learned NEXT game!

Not only might you have a better game next time - even if you don't win, it just ‘feels good’ when you KNOW you are LEARNING something!

Those three reasons are more than enough to say why I think tournaments are a good use of your time.

But I will give you one more:

4 – You now have friends, and potential future opponents.

Others focus only on other aspects of a tournament – and if they make you uncomfortable, I get that. No one says you HAVE to play in a tourney. But there is more to it than "did I WIN?"

Think about this:

You just met 28 other guys starting last June. I’d wager most of you didn’t know - likely you didn't know 25 of them! Some players found out they had someone living NEAR THEM. For SIX MONTHS, you had the ability to play an old game you might have loved in an environment RICH with opponents.

And better yet – six months later – RIGHT NOW --  or really, anytime this year, you could take ANY of the letters I sent, and send out a general note to someone on that list, saying, “We met in the B&G tourney. Want to try (name of game?)”

THAT, my friends, has an immense value.

And to wrap it up:

5 – You have an achievement to give you comfort. You faced down those who claim old games are only an exercise in nostalgia. You faced the nay-sayers that claim the good times are all in the past. You faced the doubts in your own mind that asks ‘why do I still have these games?’ You faced the coming darkness, lit a flare, and said, “Screw it – I am going to make this happen!”

And how you feel about that part has NOTHING to do with how you scored or finished in the tournament.

The person at the bottom still finished about EVERYONE that DID NOT PLAY AT ALL.


And yes, I feel that way, and I finished dead last in this tournament. I can take it. And there is no where to go but up!

It has been a pleasure to meet you all, and to work with you on this very worthwhile project.

Thank you all for being here, and for trusting me to make this happen.

Now let’s do it again. The 2022 SPI Napoleon At War / Napoleon's Last Battles GameFest is about to begin! Sign up here!

Best to you in 2022!

              ---Russ Gifford

Tourney explanation:

This tournament was a Swiss, where players received one point for each win. In a Swiss, players are never eliminated. They continue to play until the end of the tourney, if they wish.

In each round, players are paired against players with a similar Win record. If an odd number, the best player from the lower score group was paired 'up' against a player from the higher score group.

Example: At the start of round 2, 13 players had a score of 1, and 13 had a score of 0. The 13 in the 1-0 group were paired by taking the first six player's cards, and then pairing them with the next six player's cards. That left one player in that group unpaired. He would be paired against one of the players in the 0-1 score group, and then the next six of that group would be paired against the last six in that group.

Why pairings matter: As the rounds progress, you are playing people whose performance in the tourney is similar to your own. Thus, each player SHOULD be having more competitive games as the play proceeds!

For the record, in normal circumstances, a player would not play the same person more than once in the tournament. 

How opponents were chosen: Each round players gave their top three game choices out of the my Blue & Gray games available. They could also state the side they preferred to play. In each round, the Tournament Director compared the game choices of the players within a Score group, and if any matched at least one game, they were paired using that game.  

Example: If you both choose Chickamauga on your top three, and one person said either side and the other said CSA, you were paired. If both sides wanted the same side, the Tournament Director would decide who got the side by a die roll. 

Commitment: Players could drop out of the competition at any time, if they gave notice. It was expected that many players would leave after 1 or 2 losses but most players stuck around until the fourth round. Still,  16 returned to play round four, but only six continued on to the fifth round.

How the winner was chosen: In normal tournaments, play is for  distinct number of rounds, and at the end of that round, the player with the most wins is champ. However, knowing that many people would drop out as they got one or two losses, I frequently use the rule that at the end of any round where only ONE player is undefeated - and played in all the preceding rounds - that person is given the honor of saying 'they won.'

This makes the tournament more like a knock out tournament - i.e.,  the usual tourneys we see in everything from football to tennis to the March Madness basketball tournament. Thus we say this is a 'disguised' knock out tournament.

Why do it this way? The positive - people can continue to play every round. The drawback: a loss means you are no longer in the running for championship, but second. Why? With 32 people, you would need 5 rounds to have a single winner. (The number of rounds needed to get to a single winner is the exponent of the number of players expressed as a power of 2. So 16 players takes 4 rounds, etc.) To get a chance at someone with one loss to knock that guy off, that is one extra round, and to see that he didn't lose to someone else, that means a second extra round. Not likely to happen with wargames!

Unlike an elimination tourney, players can continue playing, and thus they are still competing, and still learning. Bottom Line? It works!

Any questions? send me a note at rgifford@russgifford.net

Russ Gifford has been participating in tournaments since 1970, and has produced large (128 people)  and small tournaments (8) for over 30 years. His writings on tourneys resulted in tournaments around the world. "It isn't as easy as it looks, but it isn't as hard as some people make it."

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