The Beginner Tak Tournament of Q1 2021 was a hit. Eighteen new players came together to provide us with some solid matches - and some
There were 18 competitors total, split into three groups of six to play a “Round Robin” where everyone plays each person in the group. At the end of the group stage, the top player from each of the three groups moved on to the playoffs - a double-elimination bracket that would ultimately crown a victor.
Some of the players had only been playing for a few weeks or months when the tournament began, like alpacascreed and Ineria. Not all of the competitors were fresh faces, however - Asceric(TravWest) has been in the community for around three years, but qualified under the USTA’s one requirement - a player can compete if they cannot beat IntuitionBot on Playtak.com 50% of the time. This particular bot has a very good board evaluation function, but only looks one move ahead - so it can be fairly easy to trap once you get the hang of it. Despite this, it’s not a guaranteed win even for even top players.
These three players were the finalists in the tournament. Asceric came very close to winning every single game in his group stage. He was the favorite to win after his strong group stage performance and long history in the Tak community, but he had his work cut out for him. He had to face off against Ineria - a virtual unknown who had only been playing Tak for about two months when the tournament began. When asked about the tournament, she said “I went into the tournament not really knowing what I should expect since I hadn't played online until then . . . Before I was only playing against my partner IRL.” She went on to deliver two decisive victories over Asceric, isolating his Capstone early in each game, and moved on to the next round against alpacascreed.
Alpacascreed was even newer to Tak, having discovered the game at the beginning of 2021. He had the lucky draw and made it to the second round of the playoffs without having to play anyone. He has high aspirations, though, with ambitious goals in Tak. Prior to the tournament, he shared that it was his goal to be a top-7 player by the end of the year. Ineria couldn’t be stopped, though. She finished both games with tricky stack spreads that alpacascreed struggled against.
All was not lost for Asceric and alpacascreed, however. Since the playoffs were a double-elimination bracket, they had another chance to play against Ineria in the finals, but first they had to face off against each other in the semifinals. It was a beautiful match. The two were so evenly-matched, neither player came out ahead after the two games of their match. They had to play a second 2-game blitz match where each player had three minutes on the clock with only a five second increment. After those two games, they were still even. It wasn’t until the end of the second overtime match, six total games, that Asceric came out ahead with a flat win. And with that, he gained his chance at redemption against Ineria.
The first game in the finals between Ineria and Asceric was epic. Asceric had the reins for the beginning of the game after Ineria failed to isolate his capstone as she did in her previous games against him. He pushed for better positioning and had the game’s momentum for over thirty turns. Ineria was forced to play wall after wall to keep him at bay. The game started to shift, however, as Ineria began to use those same walls offensively, capturing stacks and liberating captives at every turn. Both players took turns capturing stacks, liberating prisoners, making road threats, and blocking off others. But they were both running low on time. With every turn, the flat count lead was bouncing from one player to the next. Asceric had a big stack in a prime position to increase his flat count and take the lead back while also recapturing another stack, but Ineria had a wall looming nearby to liberate more captives and eliminate any threat he made. In the end, the time got the better of Asceric and his clock ticked down to zero, signalling his defeat. A terrible end to a terrific game, for sure.
The second game took place just a couple of minutes later, after both competitors were surely suffering from mental fatigue - I know I was, and I wasn’t even playing! The game began with a slightly unorthodox opening from Asceric, playing closer to his starting piece than the center of the board. Ineria played along his vertical line, eventually playing a capstone on one side of his pieces to cut off any eventual threat. Asceric continued the threat, however, instead of shifting to a horizontal one. This ultimately gave Ineria the momentum she needed as black to create her own threat. Asceric didn’t see that he was behind on momentum until it was too late, and he had to drop a wall on turn ten to stop her. This was then followed by another wall on turn thirteen to stop the continuous threats from occurring. After eight straight moves of continuous Tak threats from Ineria, Asceric’s fatigue caught up to him and he missed the renewed threat. Ineria was able to make a capture for a road and cement her position as the winner of the tournament.
Another big congratulations to Ineria for her victory in this tournament - it really was a blast to watch and have the opportunity to do video commentary on a lot of these games. Ineria received the Tak Travel Set, and Asceric got the Artificer’s Capstones for his second-place finish. The three finalists also graduated from their "beginner" status and were invited to the ongoing USTA Intermediate Invitational. All of the participants who played all of their matches in the tournament also received a copy of Mastering Tak: Level I: A foundation for success by Bill Leighton.
When asked about her win shortly after emerging victorious, Ineria said, “Definitely still feels a bit unreal to win and something that I did not expect . . . I think my main goal was just to not be the worst ranked person in my group phase. Though I was always thinking how it would be to actually win a prize.” Ever humble, she elaborated on her thoughts on the playoffs and finals, “For the playoffs I just wanted to have some fun games and still thought that I probably wouldn't win any more games. I'd say the playoff games were nerve wracking . . . and both Asceric/TravWest and Alpaca are very good players in my opinion."
This was quite the win for Ineria - her first ever tournament and first time playing online. This is also the third in a string of wins for the UK. Fwwwwibib won the USTA Tak Open in 2020, PlutoTheBrave won the USTA February 2021 Tak Blitz Tournament, and now Ineria wins the USTA Q1 Beginner Tournament of 2021. All players from the UK. Will the winner of the next tournament also hail from the UK, or will someone else step up and claim the title? Follow the results of the Intermediate Invitational to find out!