Monday, March 19, 2018


Blitz Tournament - March 16, 2018

I’d like to start by saying that all the 28 players of this episode of the 20th running of DAC Blitz Tournament were all terrific sports, and took all the handicapping that was thrown at them in stride and kept the squabbling over those numbers to an absolute minimum. So I thank you for sparing me the rod and abuse! Maybe that tub of beer pacified everybody’s worries…?
Greg Jones and Brandon Tasco. The finalists.

Apparently, my “handicap-o-meter” was malfunctioning somewhat, the ‘under-estimator’ gauge was set way too high and the ‘guess-o-dial’ suffered a blown gasket. It wasn’t defective in every case of course, but we did see an abnormally high number of blow-out games which is indeed the very reason the tournament has its name. A ‘blitz’ happens very quickly, some of the games had the players walking off the court almost before the door had been closed after they had just walked on.

One of the attractive characteristics of the Blitz Tournament is that the top ranked player doesn’t always win. It does encourage the lower levels players to not only enter but also try that little bit harder to chalk up a potential win against members that they normally do not ever get the chance to compete against.

It was glaringly apparent that many of the stronger players did not know how they should tackle a situation where they were giving up a significant lead to start the game. The mentality seemed to be ‘over-cautiousness’. Extra pressure is created. So afraid to commit an unforced error that the game becomes a pure defense tactic is a dangerous ploy. Remember, the ‘underdog’ is throwing caution to the wind, running harder, more desperate, can see the finish line just a couple of points away and a lucky miss-hit or bounce is all it takes. Also, being too careful, trying to be too controlled can actually cause you to hit more errors as well. Underestimating is also an easy trap to fall into. Not thinking that you have to run much or that you shouldn’t have to run much makes you lazy and flatfooted. So who were the victims and who were the heroes? Rather than spend time going through group by group, I’ll just handpick a few high(low)lights…

Andy Adamo clearly makes it on the ‘victim’ column. Under normal circumstances, if he were to play any of the members that were in his group a normal best-of-5 match, he wouldn’t drop a game. But Andy looked lost in his first 2 games and only won 4 points combined! Oops. He did get some momentum going in the last 2 contests, he lost them too, but they were at least a lot closer.

Ryan MacVoy also found himself wondering what type of strategy he should have employed. He gave up 9 points to Justin Winkelman and then they went point-for-point until Justin won 15-6. He did the same thing against Mario Ferrini and his 7 point advantage. He did win the other 2 matches - although the 15-14 against Dan Ritter was certainly touch and go for a while. Speaking of Justin Winkelman, he surprised himself this evening by winning all 4 of his group matches and advancing to the finals. I mention this especially since he has played this event umpteen times and even though I don’t have all the records, I am sure Justin could tell you how rare it is for him to reach the knock-out portion!

Jeff Gembis started off his campaign in Andy Adamo’s footsteps. His first opponent Chuck Doyle took a 9 point lead to start off and ended up needing minus 6. Jeff obviously hadn’t gotten the motor running yet, and he almost stitched himself in the second game against Alex Nitsche, but the 15-14 win there saved him from finals elimination. Had he lost that game, Alex would have ended up advancing.

Henry Gembis quickly turned into one of the dark horse favorites for the title, and I blame him (with a couple others) for my throwing my “handicap-o-meter” off kilter. He tore through his group winning all his matches, the closest score being 15-12, and the ‘easiest’ score a 15-6 against the much higher ranked Riley English. So much for logic. Riley, like Alex Nitsche, was just one rally away from advancing to the finals as well. His 14-15 loss to Greg Jones - a loss not even a full dive could save him from at 14-all - would have seen him take Greg’s place in the knock-out round.

We have never had a result end up 15-0 in this tournament and until Andy Adamo we hadn’t had one end up 15-1 either. John Rogers was kind enough to not let Andy hold that unwanted badge of ‘honor’ on his own and unselfishly recorded a 15-1 loss of his own to Brandon Tasco. I’m not sure if John and Andy were trying to outdo each other, but John’s night ended with the same record as Andy as well. Brandon, however, was a man on a mission. Handicaps be damned, the took them like I was insulting his mother and systematically dissected his opponents, dropping just 17 points total in his 4 matches. He was taking a sledgehammer to my “handicap-o-meter”.

Matt and Andrew Peleman. Not sure which is which.
Drawing straws to see who advances to the knock-out rounds happens just about every event. One of the groups had three players with 3 wins each, but since only 2 can advance, it was to come down to pure luck. Poor Han Peng. A 33% chance of failing, he drew first and chose poorly. Another group had 3 players tied for second place, and again the straws were pulled out. This time, it was a 33% chance of succeeding and it was ironically one of Han’s training buddies Matt Peleman who ended up choosing wisely. I’m sure there was no trash talking between the two.

One more mention before I move to the finals. On 2 occasions, both players agreed to ditch the handicap and play straight up. Ian Edwards wanted every part of David de la Torre, surrendered his 6 point advantage and went on to lose 15-14. Brave call, ended up being the right call, but it did cost him the win. The other match also involved Ian - Jeff Rogers could have taken his 5 points to start but insisted on abandoning it. Jeff just lost 15-13 so it also ended up being a good call, but it cost him the win as well. Not that it mattered. Oddly, both Ian and Jeff advanced anyway!

We won’t analyze every finals match, but we’ll start with the “handicap-o-meter” demolisher Henry Gembis. Six points over Julie VandeVusse? How dare you! Seven over Chuck Doyle? You offend me! Giving me 3 points against Brandon Tasco? … Ummm… can I please have some more? The buck stopped there for Henry - in the semifinals. Brandon - one of the other “handicap-o-meter” smashers, had his own grudge to grind and made the 3 points his gave up into what should have been 10. Thanks, mate!

JC Tibbitts and Henry Gembis
Brandon was in the final and chomping at the bit. The other half of the bracket took a lot longer to play out as for some reason, the handicaps were coming into a lot more clearer focus. Greg Jones needed all of his 4 point lead over Jeff Rogers as he crept his way through with a 15-14 win, then didn’t need any of the advantage I gave him over Justin Winkelman winning that 15-8. His next opponent was JC Tibbitts and JC wasn’t even given even 30 seconds rest after his 15-14 win over Jeff Gembis, a game they started at 0-0 and was the longest one of the evening. Straight back into the fray, JC started 9 points back, and I will thank Greg for saving me from complete humiliation, restoring my faith that maybe I wasn’t utterly losing the plot as another 15-14 result came in. Greg wining the sudden death rally surprising himself more than anyone else.

The 3rd / 4th play-off once again gave JC less than half a minute to regain his breath and chug a beer, and another 9 point head start to Henry. Henry was very anxious at this stage since he had tickets to the State basketball game that had just started at the Little Caesars Arena. He was torn between bailing the squash or missing most of the first half… squash won out. And luckily for him. Not because he actually ended up losing the game 15-13, but because I have him in for a lesson next week and now Henry is permitted to bring his squash racquet with him and leave his running shoes at home.

I gave Greg a 3 point lead to start the final against Brandon. This proved to be Brandon’s biggest test and challenge of the night. Greg had a harder path to get this far and had already 3 sudden death 15-14 victories that would have ended his campaign had he lost any of those rallies, would his good fortune hold out just one more time? An entertaining affair, unfortunately missed by most as the lure of March Madness was a little too attractive. Greg was the underdog but even though he had run probably three times as much on the court as Brandon by this stage he wasn’t ready to quit now. Brandon had the pressure, but could smell his opportunity. The hustling didn’t stop and the deciding factor was just a couple of errors at the end of the game. I’ll take credit for this handicap - Brandon Tasco is our new Blitz Champion, winning the final 15-13!

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