The Tak Times (virtually) sits down with the recent champion: Fwwwwibib
Ask any long time Tak player to list the best players in the game and, without a doubt, you’ll hear (or see) an inarticulable name on the list: Fwwwwibib. Or “Fwwib” for short. He’s the 2020 U.S. Tak Open champion, having secured first place over his closest rival, NohatCoder. His victory was well-deserved, having taken first place in the 2017 Tak Open, second place in the 2018 U.S. Tak Open hosted by the U.S. Tak Association (USTA); tied for second place in the 2019 Tak Blitz Open, and took second place in the COVID-19 Cup.
Fwwib graciously agreed to sit down with the Tak Times for an interview following his tournament victory this past December.
Tak Times: What a thrill the 2020 U.S. Tak Open was! Re-watching the matches and working on articles for this issue have really emphasized how exciting Tak tournaments can be. Which match of yours was your favorite and why?'
Fwwib: I enjoyed invoking the “Dragon Clause” in my last game of the tournament versus Orfane, [that was wild - check out Simmon’s commentary here] but I’d have to say my favourite match was versus NohatCoder. In my opinion, he’s the best player out there - and my matches with him are always incredibly hard-fought. Stressful, but enjoyable!
T.T.: Your match against NohatCoder was, as expected, excellent. There is always so much to learn from two top players giving their all in competition. How do you think you became one of the top players in Tak?
Fwwib: I grew up playing board games of all types, and abstracts had never really grabbed me – I found I didn't have the patience for chess, and must admit I've never tried Go – but when I heard about Tak during the Kickstarter, I decided to give it a go and I loved it. I played a lot of games during the early days and I got to see the development of strategy within the community, which certainly helped my development.
Overall, though, the most important thing has simply been practice (I think I have the third most games played by a human on Playtak.com). The more games you play, the easier it is to recognise advantageous or disadvantageous patterns and positions. I'm quite an instinctive player, so I tend to rely on that feel for the game I've developed as much as on meticulous calculation.
T.T.: You’re right - at this time you have a whopping 2,627 games played on Playtak.com and only two other players have more games than you. With all that experience (which has clearly paid off) what advice would you give to a new or average player trying to elevate their skill?
The best and simplest level-up tip is place, don’t capture. If you do need to capture, try to do so with a wall or Capstone. For more tips, NohatCoder's primer and Bill’s (Rabbitboy84) book are both excellent strategy guides. Most importantly, play as much as you can, especially against other humans.
T.T.: Place a new stone, don’t just capture with an existing one - classic advice, but so hard to follow sometimes. Do you have any advice on what a strong, initial Capstone placement looks like?
Fwwib: That’s a good question. I always try to place my Capstone in a relatively central position, unless I have a compelling reason to place on the edge. I also prefer to place it adjacent to at least two enemy pieces, so that my opponent can’t run away and leave my Cap stranded without a capture to make. And if my opponent captures one of my flats with their own flat and I haven't yet placed my Cap, I'll almost always look to put the Cap adjacent to it – getting your Cap on a stack with your own captives gives it more reach, and is also a great way to get ahead on the flat count.
If you're looking to see this advice in action and for more tips, see 5 Tips on Capstone Placement from the 2020 U.S. Tak Open
T.T.: That tactic is definitely something we saw you put into practice in your tournament matches. What did you do, if anything, to prepare or train for the tournament?
Fwwib: As I mentioned, I mostly learn by playing, so that’s the main way I prepare. I came into the USTA Open pretty cold, to be honest, but made it through the first few rounds okay and those helped warm me up for the really tough games later on. I do go back and watch the commentary of my tournament matches, and could probably improve more if I really sat down and analysed my game, but life’s short and there’s no substitute for just playing the game!
T.T.: Shifting topics a bit - where do you see the future of Tak and the community headed? In your opinion, what does it need to grow?
Fwwib: I believe Tak is a good enough game that there’s a big potential audience for it, but whether it grows as much as it could will depend on getting enough investment. I think we may need to wait until the Kingkiller TV show/movie/game is (hopefully) released to see that. In the meantime, the USTA taking over Playtak.com is a positive step, and it’s good to see more tournaments being played and content like Simmon’s commentary videos and Nqeron’s puzzles engaging the community.
T.T.: Agreed. And don’t forget the Tak Times! Thanks for your time Fwwib. But one last question: what on earth is your username all about?
Fwwib: Long story short, it’s a quote from Johnny English (hence the avatar). I should really invent a more interesting answer to that question, as I get it a lot!