|| Tak has had a phenomenal year in 2021. I would even go so far as to say that 2021 has been the best year of Tak, even beyond the crazy amounts of activity we saw around the Kickstarter launch in 2016. There were 13 tournaments, new tools and resources created by the community (Tak University anyone?), and the community created some of the coolest Tak sets ever. Let’s dive in.
Oh man. We had some pretty cool tournaments this year. The first tournament of the year was the Chandrian Invitational that I had the good fortune to be a part of (and I even inaugurated the Simmon Tak YouTube channel with videos from it). The tournament was special because it was the first Tak tournament to ever be played on a 7x7 board. The time controls were a little short at 15+20 and it used a Komi of 3 to avoid having to play two games against an opponent, though there were also only 7 participants. This actually worked pretty well, as the win rate for black and white was basically 50/50. The second capstone was brutal and tough to figure out. All in all, there were some really great games. NohatCoder and Abyss tied for first in the Round Robin and ended up playing six tiebreak 7x7 blitz games until NohatCoder came out on top.
This was an interesting tournament for a few reasons. First, it was an asynchronous tournament, so games were played over multiple days, not having a time limit and played through the Discord TakBot. It was called the Fisherman’s Tournament because it employed the Fisherman’s Opening variant. After the tournament ended, there was a strong consensus that the player advantage flipped from first player to second player with most players saying they preferred to play as Black.
Ghost Tak Invitational
This was another tournament with an experimental opening, though this one was played over Playtak.com with a 30+30 time control. Ghost Tak is an experimental opening idea where players are given a random position start. The first two moves for each player are randomly selected from a list of hypothetically balanced board positions and then the players continue the game from there.
Tak Ryder Cup/Trans-Atlantic Tak Tournament
This one was a long time coming - a USA vs Europe Tak Tournament! This was something that the community had been wanting for ages and was just a blast to play. We had 13 participants from each region of varying skill levels. The matches were 6x6, 15+20 time controls, and a komi of 3 - one single game per match. With the exception of Abyss defeating Syme in the #1 matchup, Europe swept the top 5 positions and then it was basically alternating wins down the board. Europe ended up winning 8 games to 5 for a decisive victory. I covered my own against Ally on the Simmon Tak YouTube channel. You can find the other results from the tournament here.
Mind Sports Olympiad
This was new for Tak! The Mind Sports Olympiad is an abstract strategy game tournament that has been around since 1997. Usually held in London, the MSO was moved online for 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic and Tak was added for the 2021 competition. A number of new players joined in order to compete and some existing community members also competed, though the turnout was small due to the schedule - all games played over 7 hours on a Monday. Morten ended up taking first place, Abyss took second, and Reimen took 3rd. I did partially participate in the tournament, but didn’t get a chance to record any.
USTA hosted three blitz tournaments this year and this kind of tournament is a completely different animal for a few reasons. They are just a different skill set altogether. You have to think quickly on a 3 minute timer with a 5 second increment and battle the clock as much as your opponent. Additionally, the blitz tournaments this year started and ended in one day! That’s right, each tournament lasted around four hours. All three tournaments also included a small cash prize for 1st and 2nd place.
The February 2021 Tak Blitz Open was the first of its kind, featuring a 9-round swiss system and a single-sitting, 4 hour window to play all the games. This tournament was crazy for a number of reasons. We had some veteran competitors like NohatCoder, Applemonkeyman, Ally, and myself (Simmon). One of the big surprises, however, was PlutoTheBrave, who was a newer player and considered to be of average skill at the time. But he absolutely surprised everyone when he tied with NohatCoder for first place, splitting the prize money down the middle. I recorded all of my blitz matches and some of the other matches - all with live commentary - over in this video with time codes in the description for each game.
The April 2021 Tak Blitz Open was a whole new affair. People had seen what happened in the first blitz tournament and interest had grown. More top competitors joined and we saw the likes of NohatCoder, Fwwwwibib, Ally, PlutoTheBrave, Simmon, Rabbitboy84, Syme, and more. Competition was stiffer this time, and we saw an 8-round swiss tournament take place where Syme shocked everyone, winning game after game. He was the only competitor to be undefeated by the end, NohatCoder and Fwwwwibib coming the closest with two losses each. I recorded all of my matches and some of the other matches over in this video. Notably, this is also the tournament where the phrase “more flats more better” was coined while I lost my mind over the course of the tournament, documented in this video.
The June 2021 Tak Blitz Open rounded out the blitz tournaments for the year. This one had less interest due to scheduling problems and only had five competitors. Due to the small turnout, it was run in a double round robin system where Ally eventually came out on top over all other competitors with PlutoTheBrave just behind him in points.
The beginner tournaments were a ton of fun and provided an amazing opportunity for loads of new players to join the community and get competitive with Tak. Also, the amount of improvement we saw between a player’s first game and their final game of a tournament was sometimes astronomical. That experience really paid off and many have gone on to be tough competitors on the main stage!
The second beginner tournament was a ton of fun, also. One of the most amazing outcomes was the brand new player, Gueenee, who learned Tak a week before the tournament began, went on to finish in second place! And that’s when he was pitted against Phase_spaced and Skolin (Alff). Phase_spaced eventually came out on top, and has been climbing the official Playtak.com rankings ever since. You can find all of the semifinals and finals matches with my commentary in this playlist.
The third beginner tournament had quite a few people who had played the game in years prior but never really stuck with it. This made for some interesting competition where players who learned of the game only a month or two prior were competing against players who had first played 5 years before. And yet, in most cases, the newer player ended up having more games played than the veteran. Of the current regulars in the community, Eranor was able to make it to the final four, but couldn’t get past Daenyth, to make it to the finals. Thai510 ended up battling it out against Daenyth in such an even match that they had to play blitz tiebreaker games to decide the winner. It was such an even match-up that they played not just two blitz games, not just four, or even six or eight - but ten tiebreaker games before Daenyth finally came out victorious. No one can say that these two players had an uneven matchup. You can check out the recordings of the finals match and the 10 tiebreaker games with commentary over on this playlist.
This was a really great tournament. It gave a chance to win a tournament for players who, at the time, weren’t quite in the top 10 but were still beyond the beginner level. The participants were the top players from the first Beginner Tournament and others that the USTA deemed qualified to compete at the Intermediate level. The tournament had prizes for first and second place; the custom Fire and Ice Capstones and custom Coffee and Donuts Capstones. This tournament also had the first instance of a cheater caught in a USTA event, who was quickly found out and banned for life.
The tournament had an interesting format with a 3-group swiss system to determine the top three players and a final fourth spot for the best overall 2nd place player from the gorups. There was a 3-way tie for that final position that included Nqeron, Nitzel, and Gowellja and Gowellja would eventually go on to the playoffs.
The semi-finals matches were fascinating, as each match was a best of four games, with a special tie breaker clause. If the players are even after the four games, they must play one tiebreaker game with 10 minutes and a 5 second increment, and 3 komi to black. Both players would need to agree to the color they wanted to play or the starting colors were picked randomly. We saw this come into play twice; once between Asceric and PlutoTheBrave and a second time between ManaT and Gowellja.
The finals were tough, but PlutoTheBrave ultimately emerged victorious over Gowellja and now both players are among the top 10 players on the Playtak.com rankings. I did recorded commentary for a lot of the games and you can find those in this playlist. Also, the incredibly talented community member, TheAlan, made some phenomenal short videos around the finals games and you can check those out in this playlist.
The 2021 Tak Open was such an awesome tournament. There were so many good games and so many great players competing. Check out the Tak Times Round 1 Report, Round 2 Report, Round 3 Report, and Final Report from the tournament. There was some absolutely stunning drama around the final four spots near the end, and it was a doozy.
I had the good fortune to be able to record all of my matches and tons of top-level matches throughout the tournament and you can find those in this playlist, with the final ones coming out at the end of February 2022.
New How To Play Video
Greater Than Games acquired publishing rights for Tak in 2019, but just this year put out a second printing of Tak and released a new How To Play video. It’s under 3 minutes long and covers all the rules to the game in a simple, succinct way. This is now my go-to way to teach Tak, since I have the tendency to over explain and ramble. Who would have thought?
Simmon’s YouTube Channel
That’s right! I started my YouTube channel at the beginning of the year and, by the end of 2021, will have published 95 videos of tournament commentary, tournament self-commentary, strategy tips, resource guides, and more. That’s almost 2 videos per week! And I have 15 more already scheduled to be released in 2022 and plans for some excellent new videos beyond that to try and grow the online Tak scene.
One of the most popular series on the channel is the Tak University series where I cover basic Tak strategy and some other insights I’ve gleaned over the years. There are more videos forthcoming in the series, by the way.
One of the most popular videos on the channel, however, is the video of me and my wife unboxing the Artificer’s Travel Tak Set made by Bill Leighton, author of Mastering Tak: Level 1 and current president of the USTA. It’s absolutely amazing. And one of the coolest sets to come out of the Tak community, if not the coolest. Unfortunately, I was just testing it out and had to send it back to Bill. But you better believe I want one!
As noted above, I also covered games from the following tournaments: Chandrian Invitational, Beginner Tournament Q1, Beginner Tournament Q2, Beginner Tournament Q3, Intermediate Invitational, Two of the Blitz Tournaments, and the Tak Open. A lot of the tournament commentary videos even included special guest co-commentators from the community.
Fwwwwibib’s YouTube Channel
Fwwwwibib started a YouTube channel! He began streaming earlier this year and did some commentary on a few games and some guest player streams. It’s a new channel, but I have high hopes for the reigning Tak Champion. He was also nice enough to co-commentate with me a couple times over on my channel.
Skolin (Alff) put together a Tak wiki! There’s a lot of work to be done and new information to be added, but the bones are all there and I encourage everyone to help keep it updated with, above all else, tournament information.
This is one of the coolest new developments of the year. You can play asynchronous games right through the Discord. It’s awesome! ManaT was able to get this Discord bot to use ptn.ninja - a tool that community member and developer Gruppler has been turning into an amazing analytics tool for years - for play right through the Discord chat! The initial design worked well, but updates to it from ManaT and Gruppler have been made over time and it is a big success, allowing people to play together even if they only have a few minutes each day.
New Playtak.com Bots
Some new bots on Playtak.com were also developed and you can play against them online. Player Morten joined the community this year and has developed a few new bots, including Tiltak_Bot which is now considered the strongest Tak bot! In addition to playing on Playtak.com, there is also an analysis feature that you can use through the Discord to have a completed game analyzed by the bot where it will tell you how good it thinks your moves are and how likely each player is to win the game per move.
SlateBot was also created by Morten is one of my new favorite bots. It helps to bridge the gap between IntuitionBot and the higher-difficulty bots like TakticianBot. It’s a good deal better than IntuitionBot, but not nearly as punishing as Taktician. Personally, I like it because I can have a challenging game but I still feel like I should be winning each one (even though I often blunder and lose to something easy).
CobbleBot is another bot from Morten. It plays on 5x5 and can sometimes be very easy to beat and is generally just inconsistent. But it can be fun if you like a little low-difficulty chaos.
Lastly, CrumBot was created by top-ranked player Ally, and is the first 6x6 bot to play blitz time controls. It is ranked rather high due to the controls, though it’s not a bad bot in its own right. This bot is a new favorite for players to try and boost their Playtak.com rating.
Simple Puzzle Generator
This is a tool that is just plain cool. Community member Nitzel came up with the idea to run through Tak games on Playtak.com and automatically pull them and turn them into Tak puzzles. It’s the coolest thing and I have no idea how he did it. But it’s a great tool for new players to just cruise through situations that happen all the time in games. The puzzle repository is just awesome, especially for new players who want to try out their Tinuë skills.
Updates and Official Rankings on Playtak.com
Last but not least, as part of NohatCoder's tweaking and updates to Playtak.com as a whole (which are just too numerous to list) he added official rankings based on a player's performance on the website. The website also has some new features like komi, ranked/unranked games, some aesthetic changes, and some other more minor features and improvements.
A Great Year
This truly has been a great year for Tak. A second printing of the game, loads of community-made resources, tons of tournaments, community growth, and more. The Discord server is growing, community members are volunteering their time and skill to make more improvements to online gameplay through Playtak.com, ptn.ninja, and the Discord Tak bot. As a community, we’ve played more 6x6 games in 2021 than any other year. I call that a success! With this momentum, let’s make 2022 even better.