2019 ODC Finals (retrospective)

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swordsman3003
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2019 ODC Finals (retrospective)

#1 Post by swordsman3003 » Mon Jan 20, 2020 11:49 pm

I am guessing that this should be its own thread, so apologies if that is not the case.

I wrote a post about what led me to the finals, and my thoughts on getting there. I hope everyone can enjoy.

https://brotherbored.com/2019-online-di ... ip-finals/

I wish I could go into more detail about the three matches I haven't kept a journal for, but there's only so much time in a day, you know?
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Your Humble Narrator
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Re: 2019 ODC Finals (retrospective)

#2 Post by Your Humble Narrator » Tue Jan 21, 2020 9:05 am

Not your fault, Swordsman, but I notice (and I note here for posterity) that the Round 1 records do not currently reflect my one solo, which put me at 100 points and in qualification for the Semifinals. As it stands it looks like I snuck into the Finals without qualifying for the Semifinals.

Great write-up, and I'm looking forward to duking it out with you again in the final match.
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The Belgian Bulldog
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Re: 2019 ODC Finals (retrospective)

#3 Post by The Belgian Bulldog » Tue Jan 21, 2020 9:20 am

Your Humble Narrator wrote:
Tue Jan 21, 2020 9:05 am
Not your fault, Swordsman, but I notice (and I note here for posterity) that the Round 1 records do not currently reflect my one solo, which put me at 100 points and in qualification for the Semifinals. As it stands it looks like I snuck into the Finals without qualifying for the Semifinals.
There is an error for both you and VillageIdiot in the ODC scoring section on webDip for Round 1. I was confused as well when I saw that. It is whispered that Ogion and Chesney have more information on how this happened.

With permission, I will also add a retrospective later to this thread with some thoughts (using Octavious' template).
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Re: 2019 ODC Finals (retrospective)

#4 Post by Claesar » Tue Jan 21, 2020 9:23 am

I'm not even included in the tournament :-(
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Re: 2019 ODC Finals (retrospective)

#5 Post by swordsman3003 » Tue Jan 21, 2020 2:10 pm

Shoot, I must admit I did not appreciate the scoring problem. Is there a list somewhere that shows the true scores? I will happily amend the article with the correct data.

And please, go ahead Belgian.
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Re: 2019 ODC Finals (retrospective)

#6 Post by VillageIdiot » Tue Jan 21, 2020 6:19 pm

“One of the tournament rules is that no player may be assigned the same country more than once for the duration of the tournament”

I think you may be mixing this up with the Masters. For this one you’re only assured not to get assigned the same country in a given round.
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Re: 2019 ODC Finals (retrospective)

#7 Post by swordsman3003 » Tue Jan 21, 2020 10:14 pm

VillageIdiot wrote:
Tue Jan 21, 2020 6:19 pm
I think you may be mixing this up with the Masters. For this one you’re only assured not to get assigned the same country in a given round.
Yes, I got mixed up somehow. Thank you for correcting me; I have updated my post.

If someone can direct me to the correct scoring data for the Preliminary Round, I would update that as well.
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The Belgian Bulldog
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Re: 2019 ODC Finals (retrospective)

#8 Post by The Belgian Bulldog » Tue Jan 21, 2020 10:33 pm

Here is my retrospective on last year's road to the ODC finals. (Now that I re-read what I've written, it is actually a retrospective on starting to play on webDip, I fear...)

  • Registration for ODC 2019

It was shortly after New Year 2019 when Durga announced to be running the Online Diplomacy Championship this year. Participants were required to be reliable, have played at least 10 diplomacy games, and a ghostrating was asked when playing for webDip.

*flashback to little more than a month earlier*

Mid November 2018, some real life friends and I planned to play Diplomacy. At the time, I only played FtF with friends and never online. Although we tried, we did not play more than once a year. And when we played, the game would often not last beyond 1907.

In November 2018, and despite my efforts, attempts to play Diplomacy failed again and I was getting a little tired of it. So I looked online whetherand where I could play and, after some 'research', chose to register on webDiplomacy.

I quickly started playing a couple of games (most 1 day/phase), and by the time Durga announced the ODC, I had completed six games at a pace I would never repeat again after that.

*flashback ends*

So when looking at the ODC criteria, I considered myself to check some, but not all boxes. I definitely consider myself 'reliable', both in general and for the game... But I had played 10 games only if my real life experiences counted as well, and I had no ghostrating yet (it would be published a couple of days later). I wrote to Durga about my background and willingness to participate and I remember her answering (or perhaps I just looked it up and copy pasted it here): "You don't want to rep the f2f community instead?"

And so I was registered not just for my first online full press Diplomacy tournament ever, but actually for my first Diplomacy tournament ever... As a FtF player which is even disputable.

Like BrotherBored, I thus entered the tournament with a feeling of uncertainty, a lot of uncertainty in my case.


The first game, I drew France. Given my lack of experience, my goal was to survive and be part of a draw. I didn't even think of soloing at the time. Luckily, I had France, one could say.

As expected, the quality of players was impressive. Particularly 0k0k0 playing as England and Skidmarks (normally on PlayDip under the name of Tarsier) playing as Russia were impressive, in terms of politics, tactics and strategy.

0k0k0 could play only the first R1 game and would try to get through based on that game only. Unfortunatly, he failed, but until today, I am rather certain that he would have if he had been able to play two games.

Skidmarks solod in his other R1 game as Turkey, and ended 5th after R1. In R2, it appears he accidentally drew one game, and still ended 10th.

I think they are still of the strongest opponents I have played against.

Russia, England and I found each other rather quickly, and we ended up dealing with all other players on the map and sharing the draw. Although I did not start with any hopes for a solo, it started to grow on me that it could perhaps be possible. But before actually considering specific moves, England had already concluded his analysis, tried the same and came for me before I could come for him. The fact that he could only play one game was relevant in his decision, he told me later.

Eventually we drew as we all felt that two of us fighting would allow the third one to run away with a solo. I was very happy with that result, considering playing against / with thanks to 0k0k0 and Skidmarks.


Given a stable start in the first R1 game, I was a bit more confident already when my second game started, but now I drew Austria. Reset of my goal survive the first two years, and take the game from there.

I quickly had an alliance with Italy and immediately after with Russia as well, allowing the three of us to take Turkey out immediately. In the process of taking Turkey out, I moved against Russia, which started with just a tap actually based on the info I had. That broke up our relationship quickly and got me to continue a strong Italy/Austria alliance.

I moved against Italy later, around the same time when the English-German alliance fell apart in the west. I had one turn where Germany would move away from the stalemate line and told me so, and where I could have secured Mun and next Ber. But with Italy still too much alive still, I would have been unable to hold them and I also hoped Germany would keep his vulnerable position and continue to reatliate against England. So I chose to wait for another turn, but made a mistake doing so.

A draw with 17 Austrian centers was the result. I was very happy although I felt I had passed on the small opportunity of a solo.

  • Interim conclusion after Round 1

I ended Round 1 in fourth place, with 122.2 points.

I was very, very happy with that result, which was much more than I had hoped for at the start. But I also felt that players who had been able to solo, and there were quite some in that first round, deserved to be ahead of me. SoS scoring wasn't doing them right was my feeling, and based on some comments I wasn't alone.


The first game of Round 2 was definitely the most hard-fought game of my tournament (thus far). I played England this time and both Germany and France were willing to side with me from the start. But I picked the wrong ally first when I went ahead with Germany, who focused solely on his own growth was my feeling. I quickly noticed my mistake and changed sides to ally with France.

It was only a miracle France never tried to stab me anymore after my early stab, something he could have done until 1908. That happened for three reasons I think. First of all, Johnny Big Horse is definitely one of the most loyal players in the game. Secondly, in an attempt to survive, Turkey, although unsuccessful in his survival, had been successful setting up the eastern RIA block against the western EF block. Thirdly, the two blocks ended up in vicious circle, with unfortunately some arguments spiraling out of control as well.

Overall, I was happy with the result. In terms of general satisfaction, the game ranks rather low among others due to the inability to overcome a five way draw and the discord for which I was partially responsible as well. At the same time, it allowed me to have a decent position after one game to reach the finals. Given that it is still a tournament, I was not unhappy and very grateful to France in any case.
Last but not least, I was dealt Turkey to play my second semi-final game. It was a game with in my opinion several high quality players, diplomat554 playing Austria who finished second in R1, Vom Kriege playing Italy who finished third in R1, Chesney playing Germany who finished only a couple of points shy of the finals and who would have been in the finals had it not been for the solo in this game, and many more even...

It was a game where Austria and I entered into an unusual alliance. Vom Kriege is definitely one of the more pleasant players I have ever had the honor exchanging press with. That press and a strong sense of Wintergreen resulted in our alliance being formed quickly and, after some cautious and defensive positioning at the start by us both, even very succesfully. We grew to be two of the dominant powers on the map after a couple of years already.

In the meantime, I knew that if I ever wanted to solo in ODC, now was the time. I intended to be on the lookout for a stab of Austria for the solo only in the final line. But a combination of factors incentivized me to make a move more quickly : the west in tatters trying to stop France from growing too powerful, Italy spiteful in respect of Austria, and Austria asking at that point in time for a defensively more secure set-up.

I stabbed rather successfully and played very carefully and slowly from there. Eventually I was able to walk away with a solo after France and Germany alternately not sufficiently trusting one another.

  • Conclusions after the Semi-Finals


1. It is said that luck plays no part, and I largely agree. I do consider nonetheless I had my fair share of luck leading me to the finals already. You need to come accross the right allies to execute a certain plan with, and I have certainly have been in positions where things could have turned out differently and for worse but for the allies I was able to rely on.

2. I am very grateful to have met and played with all of my opponents, perhaps with a specific mentioning of five players: 0k0k0, skidmarks, Johnny Big Horse, Vom Kriege and Chesney. Thank you to all.

3. When one looks at the GhostRatings, it is remarkable what impact the Tournament has had on most players and definitely the ones reaching the finals:

- Prior to ODC 2019, the January 2019 full press GhostRating only had Napoleon of Oz at #29, Swordsman at #89, and me for my first entry at #133. Your Humble Narrator appeared #344 in April 2019, and teccles and Brumark entered the list at #434 and #692 as new entries in June 2019. Only VillageIdiot was ranked top tier, although hidden, and re-appeared in June 2019 as #1 after his solo in R1.

- At the start of the Finals, the amazing result is that, in the January 2020 full press GhostRating the players are ranked Nos 2, 3, 13, 18, 51, 57 and 60.

This to me shows the importance of participating in tournaments, which are the best way to allow you to be lined up against other top rated players, while a TD does the work in arranging and reshuffling all players and games for you.
So perhaps also a last word of sincere gratitute to the TDs: Durga for starting and running this, Dargorygel for supporting, captainmeme for taking over now, and also goldfinger for running the Masters (different forum but still).

And finally of course thanks to all for reading (or scrolling) until the very end !

TBB
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Re: 2019 ODC Finals (retrospective)

#9 Post by VillageIdiot » Wed Jan 22, 2020 12:50 am

The Belgian Bulldog wrote:
Tue Jan 21, 2020 10:33 pm
Skidmarks solod in his other R1 game as Turkey, and ended 5th after R1. In R2, it appears he accidentally drew one game, and still ended 10th.

I think they are still of the strongest opponents I have played against.
My fav Skidmarks game was Cloaks and Daggers 2. Very high profile match with very impressive participants from a bunch of difference sites. By end of 1905 Skid was having a rough time, knocked down to his final one center. 13 years later he would go on to solo the game in the greatest Diplomacy comeback I’ve ever seen.

I reference this game regularity when i encounter players going through a rough patch in a game and ready to give up. Skidmarks is awesome.
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Re: 2019 ODC Finals (retrospective)

#10 Post by jay65536 » Wed Jan 22, 2020 2:52 pm

The Belgian Bulldog wrote:
Tue Jan 21, 2020 10:33 pm
Skidmarks (normally on PlayDip under the name of Tarsier)
Did not know that was the same person. Of all the online players I've actually played against (excluding the ones who I also know from the FtF community), his game is the one I respect most. I played one game against him in the 2017 ODC; he torched my chances in the tournament.
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Re: 2019 ODC Finals (retrospective)

#11 Post by teccles » Wed Jan 22, 2020 10:13 pm

Here is my route to the finals! Some wheeling, some dealing, a lot of luck, and many lessons learned.

----

R1 G34
I started playing Diplomacy in March 2019, shortly after the ODC tournament started. I was quickly hooked, and subbed into R1 G34 of the ODC. At the time, I had no thought of qualifying; this merely seemed a quick way into a high level game.

I took over a fascinating position; the England I inherited had 7 centres, but look destined to collapse horribly when I took over in Spring 1907; particularly as the previous England has managed to annoy everyone in the game. I think it’s very plausible England could have been eliminated from that position. I turned this around in the first year:
  • I convinced Italy that the better long term prospect was to ally with me, stabbing Germany (opening negotiations with an unconditional offer to get out of the Med).
  • I persuaded Turkey to hold off on taking St P, which would have also lost me Norway and any chance of winning a war against Germany.
  • I guessed well against Germany to take a build off them.
This is the perhaps the year of Diplomacy I’m most proud of. With four German fleets on the board and several centres at risk, there was no chance of stagnation here; I had to turn things around this year, and I did.

After 1907, I might reasonably have played for a four way draw. The Turkey-Italy alliance was strong, and if I fought Germany we could expect it to roll over us; but if we held the line we had a stalemate position. It was at this point I asked the TD whether subs could qualify. On hearing the answer yes, I knew what I had to do; I agreed a truce with Germany, and broke it to set up Germany’s collapse.

In 1909, Italy attacked both me and Turkey, catching me by surprise - though perhaps it should not have done; there were aspects of Italy’s press that confused me a great deal, and in retrospect their upcoming attack was the natural explanation. Still, Turkey and I rallied quickly to defeat any possibility of Italy soloing. After this, the game became a bit of a grind. Italy and Turkey both wanted a draw, and didn’t care about SoS, and France was clinging on for dear life. I exploited these incentives through a series of petty stabs, annoying everyone but reaching the qualification threshold, ending with a 17-11-6 draw.

R2 G4
This was the game that delivered the points I needed for qualification. I was playing as England. I opened to the channel, in a phase where France only started communicating a few hours before deadline (France was diplomat554, a skilled player who unfortunately didn’t have the time to do themselves justice in this game). But my allies (Germany and Italy) both bounced in their own attacks, and suspecting a setup I pivoted East. In Spring 1902, an ambitious attack on Germany was aborted when Russia got cold feet, and I ended up heading North with some regret. In 1903, I planned with Germany to attack France; but they stabbed me. This was perhaps the most frustrating point of the game; Germany all but told me that they didn’t expect this to go well for them. And indeed it didn’t; France and I were essentially forced to ally.

After France and I finally got on the same page, our alliance lasted a long time, with a lot of negotiation on both sides to keep things safe. We seemed at one point to be heading for a roughly equal 4-way draw between Russia, France, Italy and me. But Russia attacked Italy, who did brilliantly to rally France and me to their side, with the agreement that we would stamp out Russia and have a three-way draw. Russia reacted badly, and offered to aid me towards a solo. I attacked France, but was outguessed on a series of turns (and made at least one outright tactical blunder, in Sprint 1911).

Very fortunately for me, Italy (Brumark) was doing well enough in G8 that they didn’t need to take any risks, and we came to an agreement that kept us both far from a solo and gave us both what we needed. The resulting 16-14-4 draw gave me 54.7 points; together with scraps from the other game, this gave me enough to be very confident of qualification.

----

R2 G7
This was the first Diplomacy game in which I’ve been essentially eliminated (gaining less than 1% of the pot), and it changed my view of how well a good player can deceive others. As France, I formed what I believed was an extremely close alliance with Germany (Swordsman). We pulled off a textbook Sealion, leaving England all but dead after 1901.

After we had taken out England, I planned to go after Italy. I made a massive error in judgement, thinking that swordsman would not stab me; there were various reasons, but one core one was simply that I didn’t think he could have as strong a relationship with any other power (I also misjudged the strategic situation in a number of ways; as a fairly new player, I find the strategic layer to be by far the hardest to master). This in turn led to a major tactical error of telling him much about my moves in a key turn; and then, in one dreadful turn, my game was over.

From there, I am proud of my play to survive in Iberia; I persuaded Germany they were better off with me alive, and kept that true until the crucial moment when I frustrated their solo ambitions. I believe I was also useful in making sure the other powers held the line against Germany.

Though the lesson was painful, and almost cost me my chance of qualification, this game opened my eyes to the deceptions that good Diplomacy players are capable of. I believe I am a much better player for it, and I hope to put those lessons to good use in the final.

----

Many thanks to Durga and the mod team for running the tournament, and to all the other players for making it great fun to play in.
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Re: 2019 ODC Finals (retrospective)

#12 Post by DipPlayer88 » Fri Jan 24, 2020 8:33 am

teccles it is impressive that you started playing diplomacy so recently, yet managed to play at such a high level so quickly. How did you do that?
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Re: 2019 ODC Finals (retrospective)

#13 Post by teccles » Fri Jan 24, 2020 8:04 pm

DipPlayer88 wrote:
Fri Jan 24, 2020 8:33 am
teccles it is impressive that you started playing diplomacy so recently, yet managed to play at such a high level so quickly. How did you do that?
Good question. I'll try to answer it by breaking down the skills of Diplomacy into political, tactical and strategic (as in Brother Bored's treatment), and talking about how I improved at them, and/or my thoughts on what's important in that area.

Political
The political layer of Diplomacy is fascinating; it feeds off general life experience in a way that is unique among all games I've played. I suppose that I have a few principles which I play the political layer by, though I've never put them into words before.
  • First, and above all, always think about things from the perspective of the other player. What are they trying to achieve? What do they currently believe? What would they have to believe for them to act in the way you want them to? Answering questions like these is essential in sending purposeful press, and judging when people are deceiving you.
  • Be nice to everyone. Everyone prefers to be allies with nice people. There are probably situations where it's politically wise to be unpleasant to someone, but I haven't been in one yet.
  • When you can, be open with people (except where this means not being nice). This includes uncomfortable truths like "I'm deciding whether to attack you, and may have to unless you do X".
  • Fake it 'til you make it. Never tell anyone you've never played as France before; they are looking for a reliable ally, not someone who has never heard of a Sealion (if you enjoy telling twisty truths, phrases like "I've almost never seen an E/F alliance end well for France" are fun). [Apologies to those players who I've deceived in this way; I hope you never regretted trusting my competence].
  • When you need to tell lies, act identically to the way you would if they were true. This may seem obvious, but I've seen a number of players who radically change style (or just go quiet) before they stab you.
Many these apply to life as well as Diplomacy, and for the large part I learned them there, or in other games (most notably social deduction games like Mafia).

Finally, the political layer rewards spending a lot of time on the game. More frequent communicators, who can respond more fully, do better. In the games I've played well in, I've just spent a lot of time on the game.

Tactical
This is the easiest component to analyse. I'm good at the tactics of Diplomacy because:
  • I've played a lot of board games. The skills of planning out turns transfer well to Diplomacy.
  • I am well versed in game theory, so the more unique aspects of Diplomacy (particularly simultaneous moves) I already understood on at least a theoretical level.
  • I've played a bunch of 1v1 games.
Also, backstabbr sandboxes are awesome.

Strategic
Strategy is by far the weakest part of my game. The ability to know how strategies will play out over several turns is one that comes primarily through experience. Diplomacy has an added complication, which is that you must consider how the incentives will change as the strategies play out (it is one thing to know whether R/T will overrun A/I; it is another to know whether Russia will get an irresistible opportunity to stab halfway through).

Despite this, I think I'm good at one important thing: I always have a strategy. You need an long-term strategy in order to make short-term decisions. It's better to have a strategy that is unrealistic than none at all; because you can be damn sure most of the other players' strategies don't end well for you.

I've also patched up my strategic weakness in a few ways:
  • I've read a lot about Diplomacy. In particular, lots of Brother Bored, which is really excellent. And when I start a new game, I read everything I can find about playing as the country I've drawn. This can tell you standard pieces of strategy (openings, Juggernauts, Lepantos, who does well in various alliances) which are very hard to deduce without it. It also makes it much easier to seem competent when that is necessary in an alliance.
  • I've played a few gunboats, where the strategic concerns are at least kind of similar.
  • I've talked to people about strategy (and other parts of the game), and learned a lot.
Luck
A disclaimer: I've had more than my share of luck to reach the ODC final! Both my qualifying totals were modest, I've taken many risks, and it is easy to point to places things might have gone the other way, in ways that were not fully in my control.
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Re: 2019 ODC Finals (retrospective)

#14 Post by swordsman3003 » Sat Jan 25, 2020 12:58 am

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Re: 2019 ODC Finals (retrospective)

#15 Post by DipPlayer88 » Sun Jan 26, 2020 9:11 am

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I always had the assumption that it would take many years to play Diplomacy well. But perhaps that's not always the case.

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Re: 2019 ODC Finals (retrospective)

#16 Post by jay65536 » Sun Jan 26, 2020 7:32 pm

Some people can definitely start getting good results fast. It has to do a lot with how you are at negotiations. That's something it's possible to be good at right away, and if you are good at that you usually will get off to a good start.

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