Australian Masters and State Team Challenge 2017

(This article originally appeared in Across the Board Magazine)

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On September 9th and 10th, South Australia played host to the annual Australian Masters and State Team Challenge.  The reigning champion, Joanne Craig was in attendance and the top seeds on rating going in to the tournament were Andrew Fisher, current National Champion Russell Honeybun and SA’s Daniel Piechnick.  The event was held at the Unley Bridge Club and side tournaments were run on both days for those not qualified and the SA locals to take part in the event.  Barry Harridge was the fearless Tournament Director and computer operator.  Of course it wouldn’t be a major Australian event without a Dream Team event.  The reigning state team, WA, of David Vanzyl, Edie Mueller and Robin Andersen was represented by Ian Ting, Edie Mueller and Anne Zion.
After 3 rounds of play it was Joanne, Adam Kretschmer and Bob Jackman leading the field undefeated.  The round robin nature of the event means that every player will get a crack at the leaders.  By the end of day 1, Daniel Piechnick was on top with 8 out 10 wins and Joanne was a game behind on 7.  Daniel lost the lead in his game against Bob who got down 4 bonusses (SEATERS, ACOLYTES, VORAGOES, LEATHERN) and QUAY for 62 for a comfortable win.
That led to a logjam of top players.  By round 13 Joanne, Daniel, Ether Perrins, Andrew, and Trevor Tao were all within a game of the lead and a game and half clear of the rest of the competition.  It certainly looked like our winner would be from among these players.
With two rounds to go, Esther, Andrew and Daniel were all on 12 wins and it looked like whoever could get the wins in the final 2 games would take the title.  Andrew had a win while Daniel and Esther both lost putting himself in a great spot.  In his final game against Russell, Andrew was able to get away to healthy lead with VENTRALS, MYOSOTES and SEPTORIA in successive turns.  It was enough to win the game and the tournament.  Joanne came in second with Daniel third.
In the state team challenge, Tasmania (Dianne Brumby, Martin Rose, Keri Heart) dominated the first day finishing on 21 team wins ahead of the next closest state, Victoria (Norma Fisher, Carol Johnsen, Gwen Lampre) on 17.5.  On the second day it tightened up with both Victoria and ACT gaining ground on Tasmania.  In the final round Vic and ACT had big wins to both get to 31.5 wins.  Victoria had the superior spread to take the title.  The individual first place went to Edie Mueller.
One particularly remarkable game was Russell Honeybun against Bob Jackman in round 14.  Bob bonussed to go 102 points ahead.  Pulling the last tile from the bag, he found the Q and with 1 place to play it, Russell then began the the challenge of extracting over 80 points (plus the twenty from the unplayed Q) from his final rack of ACEEILN.  See the photo of the board.
Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to all those in SA who made it such a success.

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