by Toby Harris

I met Toby at the first WDC in Birmingham, England in 1988 when I was one of four Americans to venture into the army of English players who had gathered for their annual gaming event, ManorCon. Toby came in 12th in the two round Diplomacy event. My score was so bad it didn’t even count — this beginning a pattern that has continued to this day. The following year I was one of two Americans that took part in the British Diplomacy Championship, called MidCon, along with 42 Brits and no other foreigners. This time I did a bit better, managing to get on the Top Board playing England (of all things) and even though the Brits took great fun in eliminating me I still managed to come in 20th in the tournament. Toby, on the other hand, played Italy for third place on the Top Board and came in 5th in the tournament.

Since those early years Toby has continued his quest for a WDC Championship and this year, in Milan, it finally happened. In that twenty-five year journey Toby became one of the hobby’s most respected, most liked and, need I say it, most feared players. You can read all the details of his well-deserved triumph in this issue, in Diplomacy World, and on the Facebook WDC 2015 site. Here are two items Toby wrote about his analysis of the other players on the Top Board before the game began; and his post-game commentary on what happened.

—Larry Peery

So, the players tomorrow.

The Australian Peter McNamara is quiet, shy and sneaky he is my flat mate this weekend. EDC champion and WDC finalist of 2010. massively underrated because he is a lot sharper than his portrayed innocence suggests.

Ruben Sanchez is an incredible player. strategist by nature but has now mastered how to be diplomatic and sneaky at the same time. very dangerous. Dave Simpson was an EGP winner who just keeps getting better. he will be comfortable with this table and easily capable of topping. Actually I think most of the finalists will trust him — oops!

Alex Lebedev is incredibly famous in Europe and always one of the danger players. this Russian Italian can win this table without the need of luck. Tom Haver is charming, strategic and focussed. his being the current world champion proves his ability, but against him is the natural desire ro prevent a WDC champ successfully defending his title. So history can be made… he can do it!

Cedrille… No… Just Cyrille Sevin alone this time. a massive outsider, having only won WDC the three times before. My heart bleeds for him smiley-face!

Actually i am sure to be woken… all three of my flat mates (Cyrille and Dave too) are in the final. i never saw this before — all four guys who shared a flat get to the final.

It promises to be fun.

Now that WDC is over, real life starts once again. Today I Have more than 500 emails to catch up on, a bag to unpack, some work to do and a family to spend time with. With my daughter’s rugby tournament yesterday not reaching the final, it is now safe to say I made the right choice to come to WDC instead. Thank you to all of the Italians for the wonderful welcome and hosting, amazing food and wine, creating a great atmosphere, a really efficient tournament, trophies which finally put the three bears of WDC 2006 in the shade, and in putting their foreign guests first by not stealing any of the top table places for themselves.

From my Diplomacy games, WDC Milan had a good feeling from the start. A second place Turkey in round one was enough to be on the right path. It was estimated that a win and two 2nd place results (or even a win, a 2nd and a 3rd) would surely be enough to reach the final from the first four rounds. The second game as England put me into serious contention, with what would be the highest score (from any single game) of the tournament. It was a strong table (if the “Wooooo”s at its announcement are anything to go by) but my play was effective, a slight change of style, no really nasty stabs, and (most importantly) keeping those thumb-screws tightly controlled. Watching the face of past WDC winners as control of the game slips from their grasp is very satisfying.

The second day had two more games, and just a third place from one of them would be enough to reach the final. However, it is not wise to count chickens before they hatch. Round three was the team round also. After realising my two team mates had both been eliminated, and the probability that I would now top this board and be in the final, I didn’t stab my game-long ally for three walk-in centres and plenty of treasures behind them. Instead this “new Toby” turned down a mad grab for what would have probably been a centre or two shy of an 18. A stab was not necessary.

The fourth and final game before the top table was never going to be a great result; EFG were the three highest-placed players at the time, and the only three who were guaranteed to reach the top table regardless of this game’s result. So I invited Italy to take Munich from me from the start; I have seen Germany win many games after losing Munich in 1901 to Italy. But historically I have never tried this. The game ended with two centres for me – it was fun but inconsequential.

Much of the top table was documented on Facebook, but my initial objective was to annex StP and then choose the next target. NWG-BAR in Fall 1901, after engineering no Russian builds, completed this task quickly. The mood of the board was in my favour too; it is only natural that a three-times past WDC winner would find a fourth WDC attempt more challenging, and the current champion has never successfully defended a WDC before. And because players at their first WDC top table sometimes make a small mistake or two, my chances were good. This was not a WDC final where really innovative play was required, and it did not need any moments of brilliance. What was needed was just steady play, no mistakes and the application of experience.

I am delighted to say that the trophies (including Best Diplomat and Best England) have been granted prime space in the front room at home; probably for just a few weeks though. Sital was really pleased to see this victory trophy — it is beautiful. 39 years is a long time to chase one of life’s goals, and it is so pleasing that so many of the World’s best players were there to compete against. It is also a very important message for my children; being nine years old when I started to play Diplomacy, this teaches and inspires them (especially because Mia is also nine) that goals can be achieved with dedication and perseverance. It does not happen immediately and sometimes all you can achieve is 2nd (2013) or even just an attendance ribbon like last year. Trophies do not win themselves — they have to be earned.

Thank you to everybody who gave kind messages, both at the WDC and via email/FB/SMS since. It is really appreciated.

Now I need some time with my family away from Diplomacy, but will be back soon with a FB page for the 2017 WDC in Oxford. Firstly to speak with Dan Lester about getting him onto Facebook and starting a project plan for the event.

There is also EDC in Manorcon in July. Please book here if you are coming:

Next year, I will attend WDC in Chicago for sure. One day somebody will successfully defend a WDC, and now it is my turn to try for this elusive accolade smiley-face.

And I will try a Chinese tournament next year too. With 1.4 billion newbies all itching to be stabbed by the new World Champion, this new “care bear Toby” style will probably not last for long.

Toby Harris,
c/o the Editor

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