Risk Legacy 12/13/14

Warning; if you are working through Risk Legacy, this post takes as a given you have opened all but 2 packets. There are major spoilers throughout.

The Second game of Risk Legacy was a smash hit. I had founded a major city in New Guinea to make it a tough place to start for anyone other than Fixed Dice or myself...we can each take it with the loss of but 2 people, anyone else loses 4.

I got 2nd placement, first turn again. K-Pasa Man started in Mongolia, Fullur in Eastern United States and Bearded Wonder in Iceland. Yes, you read that correctly...nobody started in either South America or Africa.

Naturally I took all of Australia on turn one and expanded into Southeast Asia. Fullur moved as far north as Greenland to take advantage of the mercenary sticker but on his turn Bearded Wonder took it and posted a strong force.

About the third turn K-Pasa man had a couple guys posted up in China; with a major city and Mercenary, it is valuable real estate. I went to attack him with my 8 guys in Southeast Asia. I rolled 3 dice, he rolled 2. I was going to lose 2 but used a missile to make it so I would win 2...and Fullur 3rd-partied us. He wanted to see what was in the 3 missiles pack.

In his defense, he asked if it would bother me. I thought it was funny and, costing him his last 2 missiles, I did not care.

Until we opened the packet.

I lost the 3 guys I attacked with and K-pasa man lost his 2 defending units automatically. No worries yet.

Except...Fullur, having played the 3rd missile, got to select the location of the fallout blast. He picked Southeast Asia. So I lost the full 7 or 8 guys I had there. Then I lost everyone I had in Indonesia as well.

And to leave Australia I would lose half the troops plus one at the end of the turn.

Devastating. And Awesome.

Meanwhile, the next turn I took a chance and took the continent again, but only had 1 guy left in Indonesia...and naturally the next person flipped an event that took it away again.

The next turn I did get it back though and soon was building up 5 troops a turn there. Of course, my turns consisted of place 5 guys on board, see how many I would have left after losing half to the fallout  and going to India. The answer kept coming up 2, 4, 6...while K-Pasa Man was sitting there with strong forces. So if I went to early, he would properly wipe me out and make me do it all over again.

On the far side of the world Bearded Wonder was making great use of building resources by expanding into cities, but he kept leaving 1 guy in cities and losing them to events. Fullur was taking South America and working towards Africa. Finally K-Pasa man went to take all of Asia to get the star for having a continent bonus of 7.

It spread him pretty thin, so I knew I could get 12ish guys up to India and out of the trap. I would actually be a threat in 2-3 more turns.

I busted out, taking India for good measure. Now I was well set up; it would be very tough for anyone to cross the fallout with enough guys to take out my 5 guys sitting in Indonesia, I had 12ish guys in a weak part of the board, would be adding 5 guys per turn and resources aplenty.

So Fullur went on a rampage, having accomplished the 6 cities mission, he took a huge number of casualties working through Bearded Wonder's powerhouse Greenland army, taking out his HQ, working across Europe towards Mongolia.

I had to intervene of course. Twice I flipped combats from K-Pasa Man losing 2 to Fullur losing 2. He fought on. I expended my last missile. They got down to 1 on 1, nobody had missiles, Fullur rolled a 4, K-pasa man rolled, it spun, it was a 2...6...5...stopped on...3!

On his last guy Fullur won. Had the die roll gone elsewise I had a clear path of 1 troop territories to take out all 3 HQs.

What a game.

The nuke was awesome. Turned it from a game I had a solid chance of winning to a wide open game that at one point K-Pasa Man was on the verge of winning, Bearded Wonder had a long-shot he did not take, and Fullur taking a massive risk, powering through Bearded Wonder's missile and my missiles to take an intensely close win.

As an aside, the next game was decided by this game; We all read the mutant powers, we all wanted to try them, and I rolled highest. Whereas the last two nights over to this point 5 games I had always tried to take 1st placement, 1st turn...this time I picked the faction.

I also took a chance. Between the 2 Major Cities and the fallout, Australia is a horrid place to start for almost every faction, so I took 8 troops and 2 coins.

It worked beautifully. I had the population first turn, got 3 bonus guys to an event, and in about 3 turns the game was over. I was adding guys from population and the fallout sticker and in a heartbeat I had so many guys it was academic. best part? Nobody had time to even enter Africa the game ended so fast. And decisively.

So arguably, being able to pick placement late and having lots of truth, I was able to build an unassailable position in about 2 turns, long before anyone could even think about breaking into Australia. I gained troops so fast the outcome of the game was probably a foregone conclusion by turn 3, definitely by turn 4.

Arguably, the game was decided by the nuke that happened in the PRIOR game. That is how momentous that event was.

We played one final game; K-Pasa Man got to choose his faction first and took the Mutants. I ended up with Enclave of the Bear; this works because they have a comeback power allowing them to place recruited troops outside of occupied territories.

I started in my now-beloved New Guinea. K-Pasa man and his mutants started in Brazil. Fullur, for the 4th consecutive time, in Eastern United States, and Bearded Wonder in Iceland.

I started slow, twice losing my continent to events that, with it being next to the fallout, wiped out troops in adjacent territory. Eventually, however, I got it and then plopped 4 guys in Western Europe. Why? Because Northern Europe and Russia are fortified and Ural had mercenary. So I spun up to Ural and started adding a troop per turn.

While this was going on Bearded Wonder and Fullur had a brief battle over Greenland, won by Bearded Wonder. Fullur was now caught between a too strong to overcome force in Greenland and the Mutants in South America.

K-Pasa Man expanded into Africa, but he was slowed by having to keep a powerful presence in Venezuela. Fullur had a strong force in the fortified Central America but also had to expand slowly as Bearded Wonder had 8-10 guys sitting in Greenland.

Meanwhile, Bearded Wonder again used Resourceful to expand into a city. He had a chance to found the World Capital but instead opted to take the 4 resources into hand, building toward 30. He was saving his missile at all costs.

The MAD (mutual assured destruction) going on between those three saw K-Pasa Man slowly start moving up towards Bearded Wonder. Fullur was trying to take all of North America. I was slowly building up forces up in Asia but too slowly. I was mostly picking off weak territories to gain the resources.

Then Kamchatka, bizarrely and inexplicably with 4 coins, turned up. Bearded Wonder used the expand into a city trick and sent guys flying toward Kamchatka. This time the World Capital was founded. Cool pack opening. Excitement ensued.

The problem is, this gave him 3 stars. he was now a threat to win at any given moment. Furthermore, he had 4 cards in hand, so the game was his on his next turn.

I could do very little directly, but I did use my stealthy ability to land in Yakutsk and seize the world capital...and I had chosen the Urban Troop surge mission. Pointless, but we do what we can, right? I simply had too little power to do much of anything. 4 guys in Ural, 4 in Kamchatka, a few in India, and the rest in Australia, separated from the world by a massive nuclear strike.

K-Pasa Man had a chance to win, so he turned in his resources and went after Bearded Wonder, trying to work through his HQ and down to Fullur's. He was foiled when Bearded Wonder made a mighty stand and wore him down to far. He had to pull in his horns but would have a long-shot chance to win again the next turn.

Seeing he had a potential win, Fullur did some math and figured out he could not win this turn but he could probably knock out the Bearded Wonder. K-Pasa Man had worn him down far enough to make that realistic.

He did so with about 2 or 3 guys to spare but was spent. His guys were separated pretty far, but he picked off 7 resources from Bearded Wonder. In other words, next turn either he or K-Pasa Man would have a really good shot to win.

I sat there on 6 resources and studied the board. I had 1 star, my HQ. I could not get both HQs in the north and fight down through all the power to K-Pasa Man's HQ in Peru. I could not knock out Fullur and steal his cards.

I needed to take 2 HQ and accomplish a mission. Hey...I held the World Capital and major cities in Indonesia and New Guinea. Fullur's capital was a city. If I turned in my resources for 13 it would give me 19 guys...I did the math. 6 countries, most with 1 guy. So 13 to attack with. But wait...Ural, it now had 5 guys. I started there. Attacked Russia first.

Fullur had one guy in the fortified territory. First roll he wins, I could win with a missile, but 2/3rds of the time he will roll a 4 and I like my odds of only losing 1 or 2 guys. Bearded Wonder will say, "Want to use a missile? for the next 6 rolls as Fullur rolls a 5 or 6 on every what seemed a probable win seems unlikely.

I roll through Europe, taking out the one guy in Iceland. I now have 2 HQs. I take Greenland. I get down to eastern Canada before they figure out my plan...if I take Eastern US, it is an HQ...3 stars...and instead of taking a card...I fulfill the mission.

Fullur has 4 guys there. I have 8 attacking. 6 attacking. He has 2. I have 4. I missile him away and win by the margin of the extra guys from Ural. When I made the move it was a still one, trading 4 guys to get a mercenary card. In the won the game, because those guys were all I had left on the final turn.

Once again I spent the entire game no threat...everyone else looked likely to win at some point, I never did until I made a desperation move and pulled it out.

Was incredibly fun. Great group of guys, three close one games, one blow out...I love me some Risk legacy.


Risk Legacy 12/13/14

Fullur, noticing this was 12/13/14, the last 'special date" like that to happen in our lifetimes, he thought that was as good an excuse as any to all get together and play some games. We brought a pile, probably had 25 or 30 different games with us.

Started out Fullur and I playing Doomtown while K-Pasa Man and Tim played some space game while the Bearded Wonder read up on something and we waited for Fixed Dice. He still was not there so we switched to Risk Legacy...and never left it, playing 4 games on the day.

Warning: If you are playing Risk Legacy, this post has MAJOR SPOILERS for deep into the game.

The first game I was last to draft. 10 troops were gone...Imperial Balkania was gone...something else. I took first placement, first turn. When it came back to me I took 2 coins. K-Pasa Man started in Australia. I started in Brazil, where I had founded a Major City previously. Fullur started in Eastern US where he had founded a major city. The Bearded Wonder started in India.

So early on it was obvious Fullur and I would be butting heads while K-Pasa Man and the Bearded Wonder would be going at it also. Here is where my nefarious plan came to evil fruition. With taking first turn, I turned in my 2 coins which enabled me to take South America and expand into the Fortified Central America with a strong force.

Fullur and I have dueled often and it has seldom turned out well for him...the dice turn on him at key moments, he fluffs easy wins, not through his own fault etc. So he took the city in Western America and started moving north.

It took K-Pasa Man a couple turns to get Australia under control while the Bearded Wonder expanded throughout Asia, hemming him in. With nobody contesting me I was able to start taking Africa.

It became a self-perpetuating event; Fullur headed north and then south into Europe, I took Africa, K-Pasa Man and the Bearded Wonder fought a war of attrition that favored K-Pasa Man and his 5 per turn over the 3 per turn Bearded Wonder got.

With my population advantage, soon I had both Africa and South America and it was a matter of time. Fullur was really strong but I completed a mission and was able to blast through the depleted Bearded Wonder and K-Pasa Man to take their home bases and win.

Next up: Perhaps the funnest game of Risk legacy I have ever played.


Risk Legacy

Spoiler Alert; if you happen by this blog on a search for the words Risk Legacy, this post has spoilers from pretty deep into the game.

Harold, Bill, Shawn and I got together Friday night to play a bit of Risk Legacy, a game I dearly love. I have been fairly dominating on this board; Shawn has one I believe 1 or 2 times, Kevin has won once, I have won...8.

First game Shawn jumped on my favorite starting place, Australia. However, he made a couple mis-plays.There are major cities in two of the 4 lands, plus a Bio Hazard card. So his first turn he moved into both cities, leaving one guy in each...which meant he lost the continent when the bio-hazard removed his last guy.
On the far side of the board I took South America first turn and put a strong force in North Africa. Harold tried to fight out of Africa but my troop advantage kept him in check. Bill moved cautiously, trying to take half of Europe and half of Asia. I felt it was an obvious strategic mistake but I was firmly entrenched up as far as Eastern and Western United States and had a toe in Europe so he was not getting any continent bonus.
When Shawn took the last city in Australia the second time, there was an event...major cities...and he lost his troop there. So it was the 4th turn before he collected for that.  By then I had troop and Resource advantages and won super easily...for a 9th missile.

Game two, they saw how hard it was to hold Australia. Shawn picked first, so he went to South America...and I took Australia because I was able to start in a major city and go I only lost 3 guys to take Australia instead of 5 and did not self-remove by forgetting the bio-hazard sticker.

 Then things got ridiculous. Flipped over next card...event. I gained 2 guys in each city. Next persons turn, they also caused an event, I added guys turn, even, 2 guys in each city...over the first 2 rounds I picked up an additional 16 guys besides the 3 guys per turn and the 3 for Australia (I named the continent). I had a massive numerical advantage and just expanded like mad, they could not muster enough power to stop me even with all three guys ganging up on me and it was an easy victory. 4 straight population events granting bonuses decided that game.

At this point we are only playing on that board to finish one off because I think I now have 10 missiles?  Just too much for them to get through.

We switched to the other board. Coming in there were 4 games played, 4 different winners and i was none of them. I had to choose starting position 4th. Shawn took South America, Harald took South Africa and I was left with...Europe. Impossible to win with. Every game played so far has been won coming out of one of the 3 southern continents on these two boards.
Shawn took all of S, America on turn 1. Harold took all of Africa. Bill took all of South America. I expanded into one territory, putting 3 guys in it.
Soon the game devolved into Shawn expanding strongly into North America, unable to take it all but only 1-2 countries short at any given time. 
 Harold and Bill battling over Africa with Bill keeping Harold from ever getting the continent bonus while I took my 3 guys and took one territory a turn, then taking out Harold once in battle to get a card with 2 resources.
Then I struck, turning in 6 resources (about 8 turns into the game) and taking all of Africa and finishing my conquest of Europe. I knew I could not hold them, but it was a distraction...with my red star, HQ, and now owning Harald's HQ I only needed one more star to win, but they were thinking about denying my continental bonuses. Harald was too crippled to do anything (he started again with 4 guys in Irkutsk, well away from the action).
Shawn lost a titanic battle and could not break into Europe. Bill, however, took out Egypt and Northern Europe. But he DIDN'T take Madagascar, so I still had 3 stars...and 3 resources. With 12 territories, I took a (wait for it) Risk, placed them all in Ukraine, went down and battled through his Siam and took Bill's headquarters out with 2 guys to spare, winning a game I was never a threat in...until neither he nor Shawn protected their bases. Had I not gone after Bill I would have had 14 guys to take out 6 countries, each with 1 guy in it, to win.
Everyone had a chance to win, and as Shawn proclaimed about 12 times (accurately), he would have won next turn. Easily. Bill also had a chance but made strategic errors. Harold was never in the last game but had the first one in hand for a while. He just played too cautiously.
I love Risk Legacy. So different from Risk, so much more strategy, still some wild swings...ooooohhhhhh yyyyeeeeaaaaahhh

Doomtown Reloaded

Way back when the Starving Crazed Weasels used to play a bit of Doomtown. Never as much as we did Raw Deal, Ultimate Combat or Battletech...but we played it a few times, enjoyed it. Unfortunately it died and so we moved on to other games.

A few months ago K-Pasa Man found out it was coming back in the Expandable Card Game (ECG) format. We instantly planned to pick it up and start playing it as fond memories rushed to the fore.

As soon as we had the release date we set aside the first available day to crack it open and play again. Friday, Sep 12 2014 was the day.

After some nonsense where the game store I pre-ordered it at went through ownership change, I went in and reconfirmed the order with the new guy, he then did not order it (despite the other people allegedly not placing orders was the reason for the split :-( )so I was gameless.

Worse, my second choice store was sold out, my third choice did not have it in yet and when they did get it in only got enough for pre-orders, and a fourth had never heard of it. Fortunately, Rainy Day Games got a second shipment in, I picked up their last two boxes Wednesday after work and sleeved the cards that same night.

So Friday I headed straight to St Helens, loaded up on pretzels, Cheetos, Mt Dew, we ordered a couple pizzas and settled in.

While waiting for Fullur to read the rules, Fixed Dice and K-Pasa Man to get off work and arrive and CrisAsUsual to arrive, I started tweaking the Law Dogs deck I elected to start with. I went with an Ace through 6 model trying for straights, full houses and maybe the odd four of a kind and feel like there were some holes in the deck but it would be good for a start. Hard to tweak a deck for a game you have not played in 15 need some experience.

While waiting I built a Morgan Cattle Company (MCC or Morgan) Deck at the other end of the spectrum...9s and higher, lots of deeds out of town and a good variety of dudes.

Then while Fullur was doing the play-through, I fiddled around with a stupid joke-deck, the Sloan Gang on a "dudes and deeds" concept where everything was either a dude or a actions, no gadgets or weapons or hexes.

K-Pasa Man arrived, ready to play so I broke out the Law Dogs against his MCC. He made a key error, adding Steven Wiles. He is cheap, but that upkeep is murder, so he started out with a wasted Ghost Rock, a ghosted posse slot and never really caught up. Neither of us left ourselves much Ghost Rock so the first few turns were building some up. I got out a deed, he did not contest. I got out a second deed, he did not contest...and suddenly I had more dudes, more deeds and could contest everything he put on the board, leading to him being forced to accept a disadvantageous shootout which I won pretty handily.

Too bad I called him out at home...

Second game I picked up my Sloan Gang. I knew the way I built it had major holes so figured he would win. However, i had learned the lesson of holding back some ghost rock and not sure he had picked that up. So by turn three I was able to put Sloan on the table herself due to all the deeds I had. He had several dudes but no deeds yet and every time he twitched I would call him out, gun him down and soon he was all but dead. Again I called him out in his home, slaughtered his last guy and "won".

Then I read the rulebook again while he played one of the other cannot call somone out in their home.

Next up I pulled MCC against his Fourth Ring. Now he held back some ghost rock. Unfortunately, he could not pull a deed to save his game life, and while he had about 7 dudes out, I had about 6 deeds AND seven dudes out as my production simply obliterated him. Using the MCC ability and the Pharmacy to keep unbooted dudes everywhere I needed them I was able to and won a couple smaller shootouts, forcing him into an attempt to take some of my control points. With better shooters and a tighter deck construction (he was using one of the pre-constructed with maybe a couple modifications of his own) I won the shootout handily.

Sloan v. 4th Ring was a slaughter. He got a couple deeds out, I got a couple deeds out but was adding control point in the Town Square every turn, with stronger shooters to protect my dude while he was limited somewhat. Finally he had to make a move, I called him out knowing I could move Sloan and several dudes unbooted, if he did not do MAJOR damage in the shootout it was still over.

Had I been cheating he would have won a couple rounds, but I consistently drew non-cheating flushes as the deck is designed to do and finished him with a timely four of a kind. Had I been cheating on either of the first two rounds I believe he would have won the game.

One more game Law Dogs v 4th Ring. Ultimately on the key turn I played Sheriff Dave Montreal just before the key shootout, turning his perceived advantage into an advantage for me. Again, my legal 5 of a kind hand was the difference as his cheating cards could not hurt me. Furthermore, knowing the anti-cheating abilities I had, he could not afford to cheat and it put him between a rock and a hard place.

The key in each game was I was able to build and early economy lead, back it up with solid shooters. I believe I only lost one shootout round and that was a tie...with superior production in every game, plenty of dudes to cover the town it made it real tough for him to get going.

Then Fullur took on playing my MCC against the Fourth Ring as played by K-Pasa Man. What an epic game. Early on the Ring was popping dudes out left and right, but MCC was deeding up. Then MCC started popping out dudes while the Ring started developing their own deeds. MCC started moving around, denying control to the Ring, slowing their production...the Ring was in decent position but behind. Passed. Had Fullur passed he won...three consecutive actions he took. Thinking the game was over, I pointed that out. He took one more action...

K-Pasa Man moved to the center. Fullur reacted. A shootout developed. Mistakes were made. Bad luck happened...a 10 card hand was beaten by 5+2 redraws. 9 card hand can only beat 5+2 by one. then with just The Ghostly Gun, K-Pasa Man used his ability to make his hand better, but that removed his last dude, ending the shootout and making his hand rank irrelevant...but Fullur had nothing left to do.

So despite having 3 booted dudes on the table, he could not contest any control points. He had 6 influence and 6 control points. K-Pasa Man had zero influence, zero dudes, 9 control points...and a huge, epic, awesome come-back win.

So much fun. Love this game, cannot wait to play more.


Racquetball update

I had gotten really into racquetball to the last couple years. I was playing 4-5 times a week. Singles, doubles, cutthroat, even some 1 on 2.

As I learned the game I got more and more aggressive. I learned the corner pinch and it became a very deadly weapon...which was needed because of two of my regular opponents.

Tim doesn't have the quickest first step but what he does have is exceptional positioning. He does the best job of any of us of clogging up the center court and standing so far forward that if the ball bounces up at all he gets it. Against him I try to use passing shots, but his positioning is so good it can be tough to get it past him. As a result, I go to the ceiling ball to drive him back and then try to pinch in the front corner. While he may not have a lightning first step, he does have good closing speed and anything less than a perfect pinch he seems to get tom.

Meanwhile, Scott DOES have a lighning first step, he has fantastic closing speed, incredible reach and magnificent anticipation. His primary weakness is positioning. He is so fast he doesn't bother to get in position, instead relying on anticipation and speed to get to EVERYTHING. It feels like it takes a perfect shot to score against him.

The result is I was hitting the ball progressively harder trying for the perfect pinch to the point where the tennis elbow in my right arm got so bad I took a month or so off. After I came back I have been playing once or twice a week, with a noticeable decline in my game.

Note that does not mean I am bad...simply that my accuracy has declined, I leave the ball a bit higher on the pinch shots, my passing shots hit the sidewall too soon...

But there is still a clear hierarchy in our group. We have a pool of 10 of us that mix it up pretty regularly. Scott and I are the top of the ladder, Tim is slightly behind us, Steve and David a bit behind him, and the rest are pretty close to even.

Thing is the differences are small but that the difference between any two players might just be one specific shot a person can (or can't) hit, but that person will beat the next a large majority of the time.

For all the good things I said about Tim above, I have lengthy, months-long winning streaks against him sometimes. David got me once this year (though to be fair I had been playing 2 hours and he came in fresh...other than that he has not gotten me). Other than that, only Scott can beat me, though we are pretty close to .500.

Every so often one of us will develop a new shot. Until the other adjusts and adds it, the first guy wins a lot of games. For example, I was the first one to start taking shots from deep in the court and plastering it hard off the sidewall in a poor mans imitation of a splat shot. For a couple weeks I won 2 of 3 or even 3 of 4 games in singles and cutthroat with Scott involved. Then he developed it and we were back to even.

Then he started hitting a tennis-looking overhead shot from the back left corner that turned into a really good corner pinch. Since my defensive default is a ceiling shot to the other guys' backhand, that played into his new weapon and he was winning 2 of 3, 3 of 4...which led to me developing a 3-wall shot that went horizontal instead and took that shot away from him.

There have been a lot of other shots developed, the pendulum has swung back and forth. Most recently I added a little wrist snap to my drive serve that added 10-15 mph to it. He is catching up to it but I am scoring a pretty high percentage of either aces or returns weak enough to give me easy set-ups which I convert at a pretty high percentage.

However, as the amount of our playing has declined the quality of our shots has as well. Scott has only been able to play twice this month. The first time was cutthroat with Tim. I won the first two games. The the third game, Scott had a decent lead and both Tim and Scott had 10 or more points while I was stuck on 4.

When I am behind and want to "make it respectable" I have another gear. My first step is just a bit quicker, the velocity on my shot a notch higher, the hustle to get those seemingly ungettable balls more present. Before you knew it I had 10, Tim 11 and Scott 14. After a couple service rotations I got to 14 and ended up winning 15-14-12.

We only got in 3 games and only played an hour and a half, as all three of us are in much less of a good racquetball shape due to our less frequent playing.

Before and after that games have involved people other than Scott and as a result over the first 16 days I was 22-0. Thursday Scott and I got in some singles.

Playing less, counter-intutively, has resulted in heavier, more tired legs. I was not sure I could complete the first game. From a scoreboard standpoint it was a fantastic, back and forth affair with several lead changes that ended with him winning 15-14.

From a quality standpoint it was awful. My pinch shots were coming back knee high to the second line...which is not a good thing against mediocre players and is devastatingly bad against someone like David, Tim or Scott who is going to punish me for mistakes like that.

I shifted gears to a passing shot oriented game but two things made that difficult; first, I was hitting the sidewall with an uncomfortably high number of them, giving him a hair more time and a few precious inches to get to it and second, he is so fast he was getting to everything.

I went to a lot of ceiling shots and aggressively pursuing balls myself to stay in the game and was helped by him grounding more than a couple shots that are usually automatic. Otherwise he would have blown me out. Regardless, the first game was nothing that will be on either of our highlight reels.

The second game he started hitting his shots. I had one brief stretch where I took my biggest lead, 11-8. He proceeded to not miss a shot the rest of the game. It was a classic Scott display; I was moving him side to side, back to front, scraping the walls and he was getting to EVERYTHING. His serve was also giving me issues...I was having a hard time picking up the red ball off his blue shirt...I cannot explain that one. It directly cost me a couple points when I could not even return serves that were not his best, and another point or two when my return was quite weak. It did not matter though as he so badly outplayed me in that stretch I never had a chance and he ran off 8 straight over three or four service turns to win handily.

When you have not lost a game in over two weeeks and then lose two straight and the second you are dominated in the money portion of it, it can be a real mental challenge. You start to question yourself when you are hitting sub-par shots but even when you hit a good shot the other guy gets to it and puts it away.

So by game 3 I was just hoping to get one game off him. I was concentrating on attempting the right shot, on staying low, hitting passing shots that bounced twice before the back wall without coming off the sidewall.

In game 1 everything was a lob serve. Game 2 I was mixing between lobs and my standing up 3/4 speed serve. This time I was dropping low, flicking the wrist, mixing up my serves between drives to the corner, z-serves, and an occasional shot to the forehand to keep him off balance.

Early on he was returning everything and I was moving him around a lot. If he was against the left wall I would go for the right corner or pass down the right wall. If he was up front a ceiling ball or passing attempt was the answer. If he was behind the dotted line I tried a pinch.

And he was getting to them. Just barely sometimes, but getting there. After something like 7 service changes the score was 0-0. Even though I could not score on him, he could not score on me either.

He started building a lead. 1 point here, 2 there, anotehr one here...suddenly it was 8-1, he was crushing me.

I found that extra gear. He lost a step. I don't know what happened, but I began fighting my way back. I was gasping an wheezing all the way but I pounded his backhand, avoided bringing them off the wall, started drilling my patented corner pinch.

I caught him at 10, again at 11 and ended up winning something like 15-12. What a huge relief to get that can't beat Scott monkey off my back. I had thought for sure I was going to be down 3 games and not have been competitive from the mid-point of game 2.

There was carryover in game 3 as suddenly everything that was not working early now was. I was getting him out of the service box early and often. I was scoring a point or two every time I ws up. My pinches were dropping in front of him, my serve creating weak returns to give plentiful chances at them, my passing shots got past him, I got to his passing shots, I was getting into and winning long rallies...I toasted him 15-4. That was a shocker.

Knotted at 2 we decided to play a tie-breaker. I was winded and tired but so was he.

Early on he built a lead but I caught up and took one of my own. He came back to be up by a point or so and then suddenly I made a slight adjustment on his serve. He had 4 or 5 straight weak returns and a close game became a rout.

Looking back I cannot believe I even won a game. He was faster, more accurate, hitting better shots and getting to more of them. I think I had better positioning, a better serve, and he was not putting away some shots he normally does. If I played the way I played this time as a general rule he wins virtually every game. This time he was just enough off his feed that I got him 3 of 5 tries.

It was very entertaining and fun. I went through 2 sets of head and wrist bands and they were SOAKED when I took them off and ultimately that is the sign of a great game.